Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Baking Soda: Salt or Base
Name: Anna
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: HI
Country: N/A
Date: March 2006

The textbook says that baking soda is a salt and that salts are always neutral, but don't we always use baking soda as a base? I am so confused.


The chemical composition of baking soda is NaHCO3. You can imagine that this could have been produced by the acid-base reaction of the base, Na2CO3, with some acid, H+. As such we can consider NaHCO3 a salt (by the definition that the product of an acid and a base is a salt). However, since NaHCO3 can still react with another H+ to give H2CO3, then by the definition that anything that reacts with an acid must be a base, then NaHCO3 can be considered a base.

In the end, all these definitions are not as important as your understanding that salts are the product of acid-base reactions, and that a base (or an acid) is not to be defined by its chemical composition but rather in how it reacts or what it reacts with.

Greg (Roberto Gregorius)

Click here to return to the Chemistry Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory