Can You Compost Baking Soda — Is it useful for gardens too

Can You Compost Baking Soda — Is it useful for gardens too?

I love composting and I love baking! I use a lot of baking soda! I don’t love cleaning, but again I do baking soda for certain jobs!

So, when my brain put these things together, my thoughts went down a big rabbit hole – can you compost baking soda? Is it okay to add it to my Bokashi bucket? Is it good for my garden?

adding baking soda
Can you add baking soda to the compost just like you add it to your cake batter?

From baking to cleaning, I always have at least one box of baking soda tucked in a kitchen cupboard or the back of the fridge. Normally, when I buy it, it comes in a big box and each use only averages about half a teaspoon!

This all-purpose powder is famous for being an eco-friendly alternative to harsh household chemicals like bleach or air fresheners. So it’s not a stretch to assume baking soda is safe to add to a compost pile.

Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) is non-compostable.

In fact, adding this mineral compound to your compost could stop the decomposition process in its tracks!

What Is Baking Soda?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a natural mineral compound that forms as crystals in the earth. It is closely related to soda ash (sodium carbonate).

Sodium bicarbonate crystals are crushed into a fine powder before being sold to consumers as baking soda. 

Is Baking Soda Safe For The Environment?

baking soda
Although not harmful, responsible disposal of baking soda is important

In the grand scheme of things, baking soda is relatively safe for the environment. But its use, creation, and disposal can still impact the earth in negative ways.

While sodium bicarbonate does exist in nature, much of the baking soda we use today is made through chemical reactions in a laboratory setting. Both mined and manmade baking soda rely on non-renewable resources. 

Small amounts of sodium bicarbonate can be harmful to some animals, particularly fish and insects. Research also suggests that large doses could affect the reproductive systems of select species.

There is some concern about how long sodium bicarbonate products take to break down in the environment. Proper disposal is key to keeping baking soda out of ecosystems.

Is Baking Soda Compostable?

No. Not only is baking soda not technically compostable but it can also do damage to your existing compost setup.

One of baking soda’s biggest selling points is its ability to clean and eliminate foul odors. 

This doesn’t happen via magic. Baking soda eliminates odors by killing the microscopic bacteria and fungi responsible for creating such smells.

Here’s the problem:

Baking soda will also kill off the beneficial bacteria and fungi that turn rotten fruit and dead leaves into usable compost.

If you eliminate the helpful microbes in your compost pile, the organic matter inside will cease to break down.

What Should You Do If Baking Soda Ends Up In Your Compost Pile?

big scoop of baking soda on wooden floor
Fear not! You can revive your compost if baking soda ends up there.

Did you or a loved one already add baking soda to your household compost pile?

All is not lost!

With a little work, you can revive your compost and start the decomposition process up right where things left off:

  • Remove as much of the offending baking soda from your compost pile as possible. This will prevent the sodium bicarbonate from killing off new microbes and ruining all your hard work. 
  • Ensure your compost pile stays consistently moist. Too much or too little water will smother decomposition.
  • Add fresh green and brown matter to your heap. The general rule of thumb is to add 60% green material (salad leaves, grass clippings, etc.) and 40% brown material (old leaves, dry grass, etc.).
  • Continue following these steps after reviving your compost pile for the best results.

What Is The Best Way To Dispose Of Baking Soda?

As far as household cleaners are concerned, baking soda is fairly innocuous. But it’s incredibly important to remember that it is still a non-renewable and non-recyclable resource.

kids making bath bomb using baking soda
Homemade bath bombs is a great way to entertain kids and use excess baking soda!

The best way to dispose of baking soda is not to dispose of it at all. Instead, the goal should be to reduce and reuse whenever possible.

Baking soda that has expired or which has been used to absorb home odors can still be used for cleaning. 

Small amounts of old baking soda can be used to clean surfaces, deodorize cat litter, repel insects, and freshen upholstery. 

Another great use for baking soda, if you have large amounts of it to dispose, is to make bath bombs! My kids absolutely love making them and seeing them explode in water! It also makes for a great little science project.

Yes, the baking soda will still end up in the environment eventually. Yet this is a far better option than throwing away an entire box of expired product completely unused (and running out to the store to buy a new one).

Best Ways To Dispose Expired Baking Soda

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Expired Baking Soda Be Used For Baking?

In an emergency, you can bake with recently expired baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate is still safe for human consumption even after expiration.

With that said, baking soda does become less effective over time. You can test the potency of your expired baking soda by mixing some with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar.

Is Baking Soda Safe To Add To Garden Soil?

Baking soda is commonly used to raise the pH of soil, kill common pests, and fight fungal infections. 

Sodium bicarbonate is safer for the environment than many other pesticides and fungicides. But you should still limit its use to only when necessary.