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Can Baking Soda Go Bad?

If you’re not much of a baker, and pancakes and cookies aren’t regularly on the menu, a single package of baking soda lasts for months in your house. And at some point, when it’s nearing its best-by date, you might be wondering: can baking soda go bad?

And it’s a valid question because you sure don’t want to add the powder only to find out that it did nothing. The batter didn’t expand, the texture stayed the same, and those pancakes aren’t going to happen.

Fortunately enough, it’s easy to check if your baking soda is still potent. To learn how to do it, or what’s the shelf life and how to store that popular baking ingredient, read on.

A package of baking soda
Image used under Creative Commons from kafka4prez

Can Baking Soda Go Bad?

Baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate) is a powder, so it doesn’t spoil on its own like most food products. However, if moisture gets to the container, there will be wet clumps, and sometimes even mold. If you see any discolorations or wet clumps in the package, discard the whole thing. Dry clusters are quite normal, and you can break them down with a fork or sift them.

That doesn’t mean that baking soda lasts forever and you can use it whenever you want. Like baking powder, it loses its potency over time. That means than an old baking soda won’t do its job as a leavening agent for your baking, and it’s best to use it for cleaning.

How To Test If Baking Soda Is Still Potent? 1-Minute Baking Soda Test

Baking soda reacts with acid ([WIKI]). That acid can come from a variety of sources. For cooking and baking, the most popular ones are buttermilk, yogurt, lemon juice, or vinegar.

Cookies and coffee
(credit: Huyen Nguyen)

To test the potency of your baking soda, all you need to do is to check if it still reacts with acid. The simplest way to go about that is to:

  1. Pour three tablespoons of vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice into a glass. Vinegar is the cheapest option, and most likely you have some on hand at all times.
  2. Add one teaspoon of baking soda.
  3. See if the mixture bubbles. If it does, sodium bicarbonate is still potent enough to use. If there are no bubbles whatsoever, or the reaction is hardly noticeable, use that powder for cleaning.

That’s it for the test. It’s super simple and takes about a minute to perform. If you’re about to use old baking soda in your next baking project, take that minute to make sure it’s okay to use. It’s well worth it.

How Long Does Baking Soda Last?

Every manufacturer places a “Best By” or similar date on the label. Those dates tend to differ between various manufacturers. It’s pretty safe to assume that an unopened package of baking soda should be potent for about two to three years, assuming you store it in the right conditions. And even if it is past its date by a couple of months, it can still be potent. Just run the test outlined above before you discard it.

Once you open the packaging, baking soda should maintain its potency for at least half a year. Again, give it a check before you throw it out, as it can be good enough to use for much longer.

Fluffy pancakes
(creidt: Luke Pennystan)

How To Store Baking Soda?

When it comes to storage, no surprises here, keep baking soda in a dry and dark place. Room temperature is just fine, so a cabinet in the kitchen is a perfect choice.

Once you open the package, remember to seal it tightly after every use. If it comes in a resealable container, that’s not an issue. If, on the other hand, it comes in a paper or plastic bag that isn’t resealable, consider transferring the powder to an airtight container. Such a container will take care of keeping any moisture at bay. The longer you expect to store the leavening agent, the more sense it makes to transfer it. If you’re going to finish the package within a couple of weeks, don’t bother with it.

In a Nutshell

  • If there are any discolorations or wet clumps in the package, discard it.
  • Test old baking soda for potency before using.
  • Baking soda lasts about 2 to 3 years unopened and retains potency for at least six months after opening. If often stays okay to use much longer, so always test it before throwing it out.
  • Store baking soda in a dry and dark place. Seal it tightly after every use.