About a decade ago, on Mother’s Day, I excitedly got up extra early to bake my mother biscuits for her favorite dessert — strawberry shortcake. Unfortunately, when it came time to serve up my strawberry confection, I discovered that my biscuits were hard as rocks. It turned out that the baking soda I used was to blame.
Baking soda does eventually go bad. However, it will stay good for up to a year after the day you first open the box. Afterward, the baking soda will begin to lose its potency and chemical properties, causing it to no longer be effective as a leavening agent.
Luckily, there are ways to test your baking soda and keep it from going bad for a long time. This article will detail everything you need to know about the shelf life of baking soda so that you can avoid serving up a strawberry disappointment as I did!
Does Baking Soda Expire?
Because baking soda is a natural product, it does have an expiration date. This date is about a year after the day the box is first opened. However, because it is so versatile and has so many uses, baking soda’s expiration date is not as cut and dry as other food items.
Here are some things to keep in mind when determining if your baking soda has expired:
- The expiration date on the packaging is a good starting point, but not the only indicator of whether or not baking soda is still good.
- Baking soda that has been opened and exposed to air will start to lose its potency over time. To prolong the shelf life of an opened package of baking soda, be sure to store it in an airtight container.
- If you’re unsure if baking soda is still good, try testing it with some water before attempting to bake.
Testing To Tell if Your Baking Soda Has Gone Bad
Precisely how long does baking soda last? Usually about a year, but, of course, there are exceptions.
If you are unsure if a box of baking soda is still good to use for baking, there is a quick and simple test that you can do to find out! All you need is a bowl, water, some sort of acid, and baking soda!
Here is how to test if your baking soda has expired:
- Fill the bowl with water. Not much is needed, just a half cup or so.
- Add the baking soda to the water.
- Add a few drops of whatever acid you have on hand to the bowl (you can use vinegar, squeeze a lemon, or lime juice).
- Watch for a chemical reaction!
If the baking soda dissolves and there is no change in the water’s appearance, then the baking soda is no longer working as a leavening agent and should be discarded or used for cleaning. If the water begins to bubble and fizz, then the baking soda is still good to use in your baking! The stronger the reaction, the more potent your baking soda is.
Why the Bubbles Matter
Baking soda is a single ingredient leavening agent. Baking soda works by releasing carbon dioxide gas when it comes into contact with an acid and a liquid. This carbon dioxide gas forms bubbles in the batter or dough, which makes it rise.
If it has been a while since your last chemistry class, a leavening agent is just any baking ingredient that helps dough or batter to rise through this chemical reaction. If you have ever baked a cake that turned out much denser than it should have been, this was likely due to an expired leavening agent!
There are several common leavening agents, including baking powder, baking soda, yeast, and egg whites. When it comes to making baked goods, baking soda is one of the most commonly used leavening agents. When baking soda is combined with liquid and acid, the chemical reaction will produce carbon dioxide gas.
Baking soda is the key ingredient in baking powder, which also contains an acid already mixed in. When baking powder is mixed with a liquid, the acid and baking soda react to produce carbon dioxide gas. The amount of carbon dioxide produced depends on the amount of acid in the baking powder. Baking powder with a higher acid content will produce more carbon dioxide gas and result in a greater rise in the batter or dough.
So, if your baking soda (or baking powder, for that matter) is falling flat in your test, its chemical structure has somehow deteriorated and will not have the desired results. Whenever you are in doubt, always check the potency of your leavening agent or risk serving hockey pucks at your pancake breakfast!
Methods To Extend the Shelf Life of Your Baking Soda
To extend the shelf life of baking soda, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Baking soda exposed to moisture or humidity can absorb moisture from the air and become clumped together and lose its potency.
Since moisture and high or low temperatures can cause the baking soda to expire faster, it’s best to store it away from the stove or other heated appliances. Other places to avoid are above the stove, even in the cabinets, since there is often a lot of steam that can escape upwards!
The best places for storing baking soda are in cabinets or pantries, away from direct sunlight and appliances that produce heat.
When stored properly, baking soda will remain potent for the better part of a year and sometimes longer! The OXO Good Grips (available on Amazon.com) brand of storage containers can be a bit pricey, but I have found them to perform way better than any of the other alternatives. You can often get a really good deal if you buy these containers in a bundle!
Uses for Expired Baking Soda
If your baking soda has gone bad, you shouldn’t use it for baking. It isn’t dangerous, but your baked goods would be better described as baked bads if you do!
However, bad baking soda can still be used for other purposes, such as cleaning and deodorizing! When water and baking soda are mixed, it forms a mildly abrasive solution that can remove dirt, grime, and stains.
How Long Does Baking Soda Last for Cleaning?
When stored properly, an unopened package of baking soda can last for years for cleaning. To clean with baking soda, simply make a paste of baking soda and water and use it to scrub surfaces clean.
When using baking soda for cleaning, keep in mind that it works best as a mild abrasive and is not meant to be a heavy-duty cleaner. Baking soda can be used to scrub sinks, tubs, and countertops clean, but it should not be used on delicate surfaces like marble or granite.
Additionally, you can stick the box of baking soda in your fridge, and it will absorb a lot of the odors that can come around.
If you are in the market to make your fridge smell better and a little bit cooler (pun intended), here is my fridge’s personal deodorizer — the Chill Bill Refrigerator Deodorizer (available on Amazon.com)! Just add some expired baking soda to his cute little penguin body and let Bill take care of the rest!
Baking soda should be a staple in any kitchen, regardless of how much baking you do. However, if baking is a rare event in your household, then it can be hard to keep track of how long it has been since you opened up that box of baking soda. With the information you have learned in this article about testing your baking soda and keeping it fresh, this won’t have to be an obstacle between you and some delicious desserts!