Does Baking Soda Contain Aluminum?

aluminum in baking soda

I think we can all agree…

… that baking soda is pretty magical stuff. Of course it’s what makes our baked goods rise and get all fluffy, but it’s also good for deodorizing stinky stuff, cleaning carpet spots, making DIY cleaning pastes, and scrubbing messy ovens too.

Lately when I’ve posted recipes calling for baking soda, (such as this DIY Coconut Oil Deodorant) I’ve been getting comments from folks concerned about the presence of aluminum in baking soda and the possibility of it absorbing into the skin.

When I hear the word ‘aluminum’ in regards to my food or personal care products, I definitely start paying attention, because aluminum is not something I want to be using or consuming on a regular basis.

What’s the Big Deal with Aluminum?

Aluminum is a common addition to some processed foods (especially certain baking mixes) and hygiene products (such as anti-perspirent deodorant).

The problem?

Aluminum is a neurotoxin that may lead to neurological disorders (1), and certain studies have even linked it to Alzheimer’s disease (2).

There’s still some controversy in the scientific community over the exact health dangers of aluminum, but the available evidence is enough to make me say ‘No thanks.’ Therefore, I make a point of avoiding aluminum cookware and any food or personal care products that contain the metal.

Since I don’t cook with processed food items, avoiding aluminum in that space is pretty easy. BUT, there is an ingredient that I frequently use in my kitchen that can be a big offender when it comes to aluminum—>

Good ol’ baking powder.

The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

This is where it can get a little confusing–since baking soda and baking powder are both white, powdery substances that we use in baking. But there IS a difference:

Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. It comes from soda ash, which can be produced synthetically or harvested from natural sources.  Generally, recipes that call for baking soda also call for some sort of acid, which helps to boost the leavening process and remove the slightly bitter taste that baking soda sometimes lends to recipes. If you are interested in the science behind the manufacturing process, this page is jam-packed with info.

On the other hand, Baking powder contains some sodium bicarbonate, but also has other ingredients that act as acidifying agents. This means that you don’t have to add extra acid to your recipes to get the leavening action. The acidifying agents can come in the form of cream of tartar or an aluminum-based acid (3).

**Ding Ding Ding**

And that’s where aluminum makes its entrance.

Thankfully, not all baking powders contain aluminum-based acids–it just depends on the manufacturer. It’s easy to avoid the aluminum varieties– simply look for the “aluminum-free” designation on the label.

There are several varieties of aluminum-free baking powder at my local health food store, or sometimes I grab it off of Amazon.

Buy aluminum-free baking powder on Amazon (affiliate link)

But what about baking soda?

Baking Soda was Framed

The concern over baking soda is actually a case of mistaken identity.

Baking soda, by definition, is sodium bicarbonate, and there is no reason for it to contain an acidifying agent–aluminum-based or otherwise.

Lemme say that one more time–

Baking soda does not contain aluminum.

I even called the Arm and Hammer (the “famous” baking soda company) to double check, and they stated very definitively that their baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate and contains zero aluminum.

Whew. It’s kinda nice to have one less thing to worry about, huh?

It seems that this whole confusion started because certain manufacturers have labeled their product as “aluminum-free baking soda.”

That would lead one to believe that there IS indeed varieties of baking soda that do contain aluminum, however, that is not the case. I believe the reasoning behind this labeling was because they were probably getting a bazillion calls each day from people who were confused by the difference between baking soda and baking powder–so they stuck the label on there to put everyone’s mind at ease.

However, all baking soda is aluminum-free, even if it is not labeled as such.

So to Answer the Question…

No, baking soda does not contain aluminum, but some varieties of baking powder can.

So look for aluminum-free baking powder the next time you are at the store, but don’t worry about the baking soda. You can buy the big bags of the cheap stuff–no problem.

baking soda aluminum, baking powder

Sources:

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2198876

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/737258

3. http://verygoodfood.ca/2009/01/28/does-baking-powder-contain-aluminum/

 

 

Comments

  1. Sarah Auzina says:

    Whew! That’s a relief. And given that you can make your own baking powder with baking soda and cream of tartar- no worries about aluminum there, either! :)

  2. Thanks for the research! Now I can go back to buying the cheap stuff…the aluminum free has a huge markup. thanks!

  3. Stacey Beck says:

    Baking powder also is very effective for chelating heavy metals. I have depleted uranium in my body from the military. Studies have proven this to be effective. Thank you for the heads up on the aluminum and I will be sure to look now for the aluminum free label.

  4. What are the proportions of baking soda and cream of tartar to make baking powder?

  5. I’m so glad you wrote this article! People keep insisting that I have to use aluminum-free baking SODA and I keep telling them that *all* baking soda is aluminum-free. And no one believes me. But I bet they will believe YOU! ;)
    ~ Christine

  6. Thank you so much for clearing this up!!
    I love reading your blog!

  7. That clears up A LOT! I hadn’t heard Baking Powder could contain aluminum. What a shock. From now on I’ll be sure to read more labels! Thanks Jill!

  8. Great post, thanks for the info! I’ve always been a label reader, but I didn’t know about aluminum in such detail:)

  9. Here are my findings for DIY baking powder:

    You can mix 2:1 Cream of Tartar:Baking Soda + 1 part corn starch or potato flakes (if not using immediately). The corn starch is a filler that will help keep the other ingredients free of moisture, however, using immediately is still best.

    If you want a double acting (double acid) powder in your recipe, you can additionally add buttermilk or lemon juice.

    Voila! Aluminum-free baking powder!

  10. Lyn Misener says:

    You say that you don’t cook with aluminum. I was wondering how you would cook baked potatoes on the barbecue if not wrapped in foil?
    Thanks Jill.

    • I just put the potatoes right on the grill, I love the way the skin burns a little, tastes great. Keep on top shelf if making other things that take awhile.

  11. Well done! My food science professors would be proud of you ;) I didn’t realize there was so much confusion over baking soda and baking powder!

  12. Yea, Trader Joes is aluminum free!

  13. You are absolutely correct about baking soda vs. baking powder. I have to follow a renal diet and use a homemade baking powder that does not use the aluminum…. It is located here: http://www.davita.com/recipes/sauces-and-seasonings/homemade-phosphorus-free-baking-powder/r/5089

  14. Yes, the ‘aluminum free’ baking soda is kind of like having fat-free jello, or sugar-free oil.

    I use aluminum foil for some things, but try to use glass and stainless steel and cast iron pots, especially when something acidic (like spaghetti sauce) is being cooked. Baked potatoes shouldn’t absorb the aluminum from the foil, imho.

  15. Thank you for the information.
    Just fyi the deodorant that you advertise in your market place contains, `aluminum-free baking soda´ :)

  16. This is a great article – thanks for making the distinguishing information so clear and actually taking the time to call Arm & Hammer. Now that you mention it, I’m having a “duh” moment and realize how I got pulled into the labels without thinking them through!!

  17. Cream of tartar is a byproduct of wine making. Some baking powders would include alum in them. Alum could also be found in the spice aisle. Here is an interesting article about alum and it’s effects. If too large a quantity (1 oz) is consumed, according to this author’s research, it can kill an adult. On the other hand, so can nutmeg. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1397/what-is-alum-and-will-it-make-someones-mouth-shrink-like-in-the-cartoons

    The reason people are concerned about products containing aluminum in their deodorant is that it has been proposed that women who put on deodorant containing aluminum directly after shaving are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Some bloggers suggest using bentonite clay for homemade deodorant to eliminate the aluminum / cancer risk. In researching bentonite clay, it nearly always contains aluminum naturally.

  18. Thank you for your post, it is good to learn something new everyday especially when it concerns your health. I buy organic baking powder, do you think it contains aluminium?

  19. 1. Naturally sourced baking soda contains many naturally occurring trace minerals which can include aluminum. In insanely minute amounts
    2. When baking soda is manufactured aluminum equipment can possibly add trace amounts of aluminum to the baking soda.
    Neither are hazardous amounts, but aluminum may still be present.

  20. Just make your own baking powder, baking, soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch.

  21. I try to buy the natural baking soda for cooking/baking, and use the cheap synthetically made stuff for cleaning. I can tell a difference between a brand like Bob’s Red Mill (natural) and Arm and Hammer. The natural kind is almost shimmery.

  22. I did some research a while back on this same subject. At one time, I THINK I read that the baking soda is actually naturally aluminum free, but it became aluminum laden because of the processing and machinery that is used. So buying the aluminum free kind was still the way to go. Can you please advise on this? Much appreciated!

  23. alissa andrews says:

    Hi Jill, I am new to your blog and have a question. Are you all able to homestead without a supplemental income?

  24. alissa andrews says:

    Thank you very much for an honnest answer. I have read a lot of homestead Information but none seem to give straight forward information on this. I have calculated out our own living situation (any sort of mortgage, taxes, required healthcare, car costs, kids, etc.) And all of a sudden, even after you make/ grow everything, you have to make quite a bit. So then the question is, how do you generate some sort of income if you want your husband at home as well (which we do). Any thoughts?

  25. I recently wrote to Bob’s Red Mill to ask why they removed “aluminum free” from the packaging on their baking soda, and received this response from them:

    “Thank you for your email. We changed the labeling on our Baking Soda almost two years ago. It is exactly the same Baking Soda that we have always made. Years past some companies added aluminum as an anti-caking agent. We never have, and ours is very pure, mined in Colorado . In the excavation of the sodium bicarbonate, the surrounding sediment showed traces of heavy metals. One of them was aluminum. These factors determined our decision to remove the aluminum free from our labeling. We also wanted to emphasize that this was an all natural product.”