Difference Between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate (With Table)

Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate are some of the most commonly used inorganic substances of the world. Although they are composed of the same chemical element i.e. sodium, they serve different purposes.

Sodium Carbonate vs Sodium Bicarbonate

The difference between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate is that sodium carbonate is mainly used for industrial purposes. It is composed of acid and sodium and is designated by the formula Na2CO3. Sodium Bicarbonate, on the other hand, is mainly used for day to day household purposes like cleaning, cooking etc. Along with sodium and acid, it also contains hydrogen and therefore is designated by the formula NAHCO3.

Sodium Carbonate, commonly known as soda ash is a chemical compound made from one carbonate anion (CO3-) and two sodium cations (Na+) and therefore is denoted by the chemical formula Na2CO3. It is mainly used for making glass, cleansers and detergents.

Sodium Bicarbonate, also known as Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, on the other hand, is an inorganic compound made up of a bicarbonate anion (HCO3-) and a sodium cation (Na+) and therefore is denoted by the chemical formula NaHCO3. It is mainly used for household purposes, especially cooking and cleaning. In layman’s language, it is called as baking soda.


 

Comparison Table Between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonSodium carbonateSodium bicarbonate
CompositionSodium and acid.Acid, sodium and hydrogen.
FormulaNa2CO3NaHCO3
Common nameSoda AshBaking Soda.
Mainly used inIndustrial processes.Household purposes.
Nature of BaseStrong BaseWeak Base

 

What is Sodium Carbonate?

Also known as soda ash, it is a strong basic compound that is made up of two positive ions of Sodium (Na+) and one negative ion of carbonate (CO3-). It may be extracted from nature or one can manufacture it artificially.

It is found in nature as mineral deposits and needs to be drawn out from its hydrated salts like natron, trona, natrite etc. Some of the major mineral deposits of sodium carbonate are found in Botswana, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda and the United States.

It is produced artificially by applying four different types of processes. Among them, two processes are especially noteworthy. These are:

  1. Leblanc process: Know by the last name of its inventor Nicholas Lebnac, this process was used in industries to produce sodium carbonate or soda ash in the nineteenth century. Under this process, sodium carbonate was produced after going through two important stages. At the first stage, Sodium sulfate was extracted from sodium chloride. After it was produced, the sodium sulfate was made to react with calcium carbonate and coal which ultimately led to the formation of sodium carbonate. It was abandoned after the invention of the Solvay process.
  2. Solvay process: Also called as ammonia-soda process, it was developed by Ernest Solvay in the 1860s. It is known as the ammonia-soda process because, in this process, sodium chloride is mixed with ammonia to produce sodium bicarbonate.

Apart from these processes, electrolytic and dual-process is used to produce sodium carbonate. It is white in colour and caustic in nature. It appears solid having a density of 2.54g/ml and is available in dried and crushed form.

It is a weak acid and therefore dissolves in Ethanol but does not mix with alcohol. It diffuses with water quite readily and consequently produces sodium hydroxide and carbonic acid. It is a major water softener but produces some dangerous reactions when mixed with certain acids. Under higher temperatures, it decomposes and produces disodium oxide (Na2O).

It is important to handle Sodium Carbonate with care as it is highly corrosive. When touched with naked hands, it can lead to skin damage and if someone by chance inhales it, he may suffer from severe coughing and breathing problems.

 

What is Sodium Bicarbonate?

Also known as sodium hydrogen carbonate, it is a chemical compound composed of one positive ion of sodium (Na+) and one negative ion of bicarbonate (HCO3-). In common man’s language, it is referred to as baking soda and is usually used for kitchen purposes.

Like Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate can also be either found in nature or may be produced artificially. It is extracted from nature by forcing out hot water from mineral deposits. One of the major natural deposits of Sodium Bicarbonate is found in Piceance Basin, Colorado. Sodium bicarbonate got deposited in this basin due to high levels of evaporation which used to occur from time to time.

It is artificially produced by employing the Solvay process which at the initial stage produces sodium carbonate. When sodium carbonate comes in contact with some acidic solution, it produces sodium bicarbonate.

It was Austin Church and John Dwight, who for the first time discovered the potential of Sodium bicarbonate as the fermenting agent. The two bakers then opened the first factory for the production of baking soda at New York in 1846.

Today, baking soda is not only used for cooking and cleaning purposes but also used for medical purposes. It is considered as one of the essential medicines for reducing acid levels in bloodstreams. It is used for heartburn and indigestion as well. It can also be used to treat an aspirin overdose, insect bites and plant allergy.

Sportsmen use it as a supplement and sometimes it serves as a supplement for cattle as well. It also used in toothpaste and fire extinguishers.

It appears white with a crystal clear appearance. It is a weaker base than sodium carbonate and unlike the latter does not dissolve in Ethanol. However, it may dissolve slightly in acetone and methanol.


Main Differences Between Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate

  • Both Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate are made from acid and sodium. But Sodium Bicarbonate contains an additional ingredient and that is hydrogen.
  • Sodium Carbonate is used for making cleaners and washing powder. While, Sodium Bicarbonate is known as baking soda and is used for cleaning and cooking.
  • Sodium carbonate is diprotic which means it lets go of two protons or hydrogen atoms for every molecule when released in an aqueous solution. Sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, is monoprotic meaning it lets go of only one hydrogen atom or proton for each molecule when released in an aqueous solution.
  • Sodium carbonate is a stronger base than that of the Sodium Bicarbonate.
  • In the human body, sodium bicarbonate plays an important role in reducing the high levels of acid flowing in the bloodstreams. While sodium carbonate mainly works for the various reactions or processes found inside the body.

 

Conclusion

Both of the chemical compounds contain sodium and acid. They are basic in nature and white in colour. They appear solid and are often found in dried and crushed form. They can either be manufactured or may be found in the nature itself. These similarities between the Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate may create confusion among people.

However, when observed closely, it is very much possible to differentiate these two compounds as sodium carbonate is more caustic than sodium bicarbonate.