If you're an infrequent baker, you probably have a box of baking soda sitting in your pantry that's been there for … an indeterminate amount of time. The problem is, baking soda actually expires. If it's in your cupboard for too long, your baking soda might not be able to produce the leavening effect you're looking for when you do decide to make cookies or other baked goods. Plus, if the box has been in a spot where it can absorb other odors, it can pass along those odors into your food, making it taste weird. No good!
Don't be so quick to toss it, though! The expired stuff can't be used for baking, but it still has all sorts of uses around the house.
First, Check to See If Your Baking Soda Has Expired
There are a couple ways to tell if your baking soda has expired. Your first clue is to look on the box — the expiration date should be printed right on there. Usually it's about 18 months from when you bought the baking soda.
"Arm & Hammer baking soda typically has a shelf life of about two years, as it stays pure if it's not contaminated by water or other pollutants," says Dr. Steven A. Bolkan, director of research & development at Church & Dwight (Arm & Hammer's parent company). But if you open the package right away, variations in your storage conditions (like exposure to heat, odors, or moisture) might shorten its shelf life to as little as six months or even one month, if it's kept open in the fridge.
And be aware that that expiration date has to do with the packaging, too, if it gets wet or otherwise damaged. "The integrity of the container can lessen too," Bolkan adds. So test it: Drop baking soda into a water-vinegar mixture, and see if it fizzes. If it doesn't, it's toast. (Or, rather, won't make toast.)
See our tutorial: How To Test if Baking Soda or Baking Powder is Expired
But before you chuck an expired box, consider using your baking soda for other purposes! While its leavening effects are diminished, it's still a fine abrasive — good for scrubbing — so it can certainly have a little more life as a cleaning tool. Here are a few of our favorite uses.
1. Clean the oven.
Make a paste from baking soda and water to lift grease that's stuck in the oven.
See the steps: How To Clean an Oven with Baking Soda & Vinegar
2. Freshen your drain.
Use baking soda to break up grease and deodorize a drain.
See our tutorial: How To Make Your Own Drain Cleaner
3. Clean pots and pans.
Bolkan recommends adding two heaping teaspoons of baking soda to a sink with detergent and water and letting pans soak for 15 minutes. We even use it to clean burnt stains off enameled cookware.
Keep reading: Even More Things You Can Clean with Baking Soda