Does Baking Soda Go Bad?

So you have this big container of baking soda that’s sitting in the cabinet for who-knows-how-long. You know that it has a quite long shelf life but aren’t sure what exactly that means.

Does baking soda go bad? Will it still work in my baking? Such questions are quite usual if you find baking soda that you store for a couple of years.

In this article, we go through all sorts of information about baking soda: storage, shelf life, and potency for baking. If you’d like to learn more about any of these topics, read on.

Baking Soda
(credit:[F]oxymoron )

How To Store Baking Soda

You should store baking soda similarly to baking powder or cornstarch. That means you should keep it in a dry and relatively cool place. The pantry is the obvious choice, but a cabinet in the kitchen works too. The most important factor here is that the area should be dry, and there shouldn’t be even a remote chance of moisture buildup.

Once you open the container, remember to seal it tightly after each use.

Tip

If the soda came in a plastic or paper packaging that isn’t resealable, pour the powder into an airtight container. The last tip is especially useful if you want to store this leavening agent for the long term.

How Long Does Baking Soda Last

Some packages of baking soda come with a “best-by” date or another date-related term on the label, but that’s not always the case. If your container doesn’t come with such info, you can assume the shelf life is about three years.

If you’re using soda for baking and it’s already pushing that date, it’s best to check its potency before using. That takes only a minute or two but allows you to avoid a baking disaster. Of course, if it’s already past that date, you can still use it for cooking, provided it’s still potent.

Cookies and coffee
(credit: Huyen Nguyen)

Once you open the package of baking soda, it should retain its freshness for about half a year. Air circulation makes the soda lose its potency a bit quicker, but it won’t make it unsafe to eat. Again, if you’re using baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate) for baking, check its potency before using if it sits in the cabinet for a long time.

 Pantry
Baking soda (unopened)Best-by or 3 years
Baking soda (opened)6 months

Please note that the periods above are for cooking and are only rough estimates. Always test old baking powder for potency before using for cooking.

How To Tell If Baking Soda Lost Its Potency Or Is Bad

As I’ve mentioned earlier, when it’s stored well, baking soda doesn’t go off in a way it’s unsafe to use in baking or otherwise. However, if any moisture will reach it, the product will become useless. If you store the powder properly, none of the mentioned can happen.

Baking soda loses its potency for acting as a leavening agent. That loss happens gradually, so when the powder is old enough, it won’t do what you expect it to do in a baking project.

How to tell if baking soda is fresh? There is a simple test. Get a cup and pour three tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice into it. Now add a teaspoon of baking soda. If there are some bubbles on the surface, the powder is still potent. Here’s how that looks like:

Bubbling baking soda
Bubbling baking soda

If the mixture doesn’t bubble, the product is stale. You can, however, use it for any other purpose, like cleaning. For cleaning, soda stays safe pretty much indefinitely.

Info

We use vinegar or lemon juice, instead of water, because baking soda reacts with acid.