The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Soda Blasting

Soda blasting is an incredibly effective tool for cleaning, degreasing, and deodorising. But, it might not be right for you or your project.

Soda blasting has many amazing benefits, including being safe for a range of substrates and much better for the environment than other options. But there are some scenarios where you need to choose other options or take special care.

The Good of Soda Blasting

There are huge benefits to using soda blasting over other forms of blasting.

Soda Bicarbonate is a Rust Inhibitor

After blasting, leaving the soda on the metal will help inhibit rust formation. While nothing will be as effective as primer application, soda can help to extend the life of metal items.

Removes Bad Smells

Soda is an odour inhibitor—how many fridges worldwide have a small plate of soda in them to remove smells? This means that if you use soda to remove smoke and fire damage or grease build-up, the soda also removes the lingering smells. Sweep up and remove the soda afterwards, and the smell goes with it.

No Problematic Chemicals

Soda is pretty much the same stuff you have in your cupboard at home. It’s ideal for use around the home and in food preparation areas because there is no harm to humans or pets from it. Other blasting and cleaning chemicals can be problematic.

  • Crystalline silica (quartz), which is found in sandblasting media, creates tiny microparticles that can be inhaled and cause silica-related diseases such as silicosis, COPD, and cancer.
  • Metal slag in sandblasting media can contain heavy metals, arsenic, cadmium, and beryllium, which are all carcinogenic.
  • Surface prep for other blasting types often utilises solvents such as acetone or methyl ethyl ketone. These are highly effective but also can be harmful to humans and animals if inhaled.

Soda Blasting Does Not Damage Glass, Fibreglass, and Rubber

Because the blast media is so soft, soda can be used on cars, window surrounds, and many other surfaces with no risk of damage or harm.

The Bad of Soda Blasting

There are several scenarios where soda blasting will simply be ineffective, or the surface will require priming and profiling in order for it to work. Smooth surfaces may not respond well to the softness of soda blasting, and soda may dull a shiny finish on aluminium.

It’s very effective for minor rust removal but not for established and deep rust. It also may struggle to remove highly durable coatings and finishes. Also, unlike other forms of blasting, it does not harden the surface; the soda is too soft for peening.

Because soda blasting creates a fine dust, you will need to use a respirator while blasting. While it does not harm the lungs, it may make you cough and sneeze if you do not. Also, soda must be removed very thoroughly before applying any fillers or coatings, or they will not stick. Often, a vinegar/ water wash is highly effective as the mild acid will help to negate the alkalinity of the soda.

The Ugly of Soda Blasting

The absolute worst thing about soda blasting is that every man and his dog think that because it’s so safe and simple, it’s something they can attempt themselves. They either buy a cheap soda blasting cabinet and machinery or make their own soda blasting equipment and don’t bother using a cabinet- because, after all, it’s environmentally friendly, right?

A few things to note if you are attempting to soda blast yourself, or using a non-professional system, include:

  • The soda can not be re-used. Because it’s soft, it explodes on impact, rendering it useless on the second round, as well as clogging the gun and the cabinet. Not only that, but the fine dust reduces visibility to zero.
  • Soda is a ‘natural’ product and isn’t harmful to the environment, but it’s not exactly good for it either. Large quantities of soda running off into the soil can damage or kill plants because it’s alkaline. Soda runoff going down the drain in large quantities can also be harmful to ecosystems and waterways. So, if you are soda blasting, you should ALWAYS collect the residues when possible and use it as effectively and minimally as possible. Sweep it up when possible.
  • While soda can be used as a wet blast media too, once it dries on a surface, it sets like a rock and can be next to impossible to get out of cracks. It attracts moisture, which can lead to rust.
  • Baking soda from the supermarket isn’t quite the same as the one used in soda blasting. Ensure you buy the correct type of soda.

If you DIY or adapt an existing blasting machine to use soda, it may not work as intended. The soda particles may not be applied evenly, and the machine will be prone to clogging.

The Good News

The good news is that 100% of the bad and ugly parts of soda blasting can be avoided by using a professional. They have the correct equipment and skills to ensure even, thorough and efficient application with no problems or issues. If you’re in Wellington, Nelson/ Marlborough, Christchurch or Dunedin, give us a call on 0800 101 234 to chat about what you need and how we can help.

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