Keeping plenty of your most needed supplies and foods on hand is a good practice, but you should anticipate that the very things you have stockpiled might be a contributing factor to one of the most common and devastating disasters: house fires.
If a small fire manages to reach some kind of accelerant, your whole house could go up in flames before you can react.
For this reason, you’ve got to know what things you have in storage are and are not flammable. Some things will surprise you! Let’s look at baking soda for instance. Is baking soda flammable?
No, baking soda is not flammable in any practical way, and is not a fire risk at all.
Some of you out in the audience probably knew that already, and might have even learned growing up that baking soda is actually a pretty good fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
This is true, but in any case, no matter how much of it you have stashed, you don’t have to worry about it being a fire hazard.
Keep reading I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it…
Is Baking Soda Combustible?
No, baking soda is not considered combustible by OSHA or NFSA standards.
Does Baking Soda Ignite at Any Temperature?
No, not practically. Baking soda is not a substance that easily ignites. It’s actually quite the opposite!
Its ignition temperature is extremely high, making it an unlikely candidate for combustion under normal circumstances. That’s why baking soda is considered a safe substance to use for all sorts of tasks, and also in recipes.
When cooking or cleaning with it there’s no risk of it catching fire whatsoever.
Does Baking Soda React with High Temperature?
Somewhat, but not dangerously. While baking soda does not ignite, it does undergo a reaction when exposed to high temperatures. This reaction, however, is not negative or hazardous.
When heated, baking soda gradually decomposes at temperatures ranging from 176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
To be clear, despite this reaction baking soda does not combust or catch fire. The resulting chemical transformation is both safe and, in some instances, beneficial depending on the application.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that baking soda can and will react with many other substances, which I’ll tell you about later.
Is Sodium Bicarbonate Flammable?
If you’ve ever strolled down the cleaning aisle at your local grocery store or visited a hardware store, you might have come across sodium bicarbonate.
This is simply another name for the common household product we know as baking soda. Despite its more “scientific” name, it still won’t catch fire. It’s not flammable at all because it literally is just baking soda.
How About Bicarbonate of Soda?
Just like sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda is just another name for baking soda. Though this term is somewhat antiquated and is rarely used today, it is as non-flammable as ever.
Sodium and Carbon Can Both Burn, so Why Not Baking Soda?
When anyone with knowledge of chemistry thinks of sodium and carbon, they will likely associate them with reactivity and flammability. Sodium reacts exothermically with water, while carbon fuels our fires.
However, when these elements come together in the compound we know as baking soda, they both lose their individual flammability. Why is this? Why isn’t baking soda more flammable?
This is due to the way atoms bond and react in a compound. In baking soda, the sodium and carbon are bound together with other atoms (hydrogen and oxygen) in a stable configuration that doesn’t easily break apart under normal conditions, including exposure to extreme heat.
This stability prevents the compound from burning, as the energy required to break these bonds and release flammable elements is much higher than what’s provided by a typical flame.
How About Baking Powder? Will it Burn?
Contrary to baking soda, baking powder does burn when exposed to heat. Baking powder is a blend of an acid (often cream of tartar), a base (usually baking soda), and a filler (like cornstarch).
When heated, these components undergo a chemical reaction releasing gas, generating heat, and causing the mixture to ignite.
One major risk also associated with baking powder is dust combustion. When baking powder is dispersed in the air as dust and comes into contact with a flame or heat source, it can burn pretty much all at once.
This is because the particles are surrounded by oxygen and have a larger surface area to volume ratio, thus facilitating dangerous combustion.
Therefore, in all cases, handling baking powder around open flames should be done with caution.
Will Baking Soda Make a Fire Worse?
No, not at all. Your baking soda will not worsen a fire, no matter how much of it is exposed to the flames. In fact, it can often be used to help extinguish a fire! When baking soda is heated, it decomposes to produce carbon dioxide gas.
This gas is heavier than air and displaces the oxygen surrounding the fire, effectively smothering it.
Moreover, in the presence of certain acids, baking soda releases additional carbon dioxide, further depriving the fire of the oxygen it needs to continue burning.
Therefore, baking soda can be an effective tool for controlling small fires, especially in the kitchen. But, you shouldn’t try to use it to fight larger fires- stick to your fire extinguisher for that.
Is Baking Soda Reactive with Other Substances?
Yes indeed, baking soda is known for its high reactivity with other substances, particularly acids. When baking soda comes into contact with an acid, it undergoes a chemical reaction to produce carbon dioxide gas, water, and salt.
These reactions can be quite energetic, often resulting in lots of fizzing and foaming, which can be fascinating to observe. Remember that volcano project from grade school? Same thing!
But these reactions are typically harmless and almost never present any kind of fire or other hazard.
How Should You Deal with Baking Soda Exposed to Fire?
In the event of a fire threatening any quantity of baking soda, there’s no need for special measures. As explained previously, baking soda will not intensify a fire, and might actually aid in extinguishing it.
However, you should still treat the situation as you would any other accidental fire! Use a fire extinguisher or water, as appropriate, to manage the blaze if you can.
But don’t get complacent: always prioritize safety, and call 911 right away if the fire grows beyond your immediate control. Don’t wait!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.