What Is the Difference Between Sand Blasting Vs Soda Blasting?

Updated on August 24, 2017
Sandblasting requires the full use of protective clothing to reduce the risk of contracting silicosis.
Sandblasting requires the full use of protective clothing to reduce the risk of contracting silicosis. | Source

What Is Sand Blasting?

Sandblasting is the colloquial name often used to describe the wider field of abrasive blasting. Abrasive blasting is the process of applying an abrasive material, such as sand, to an object at high pressure. It is often used to strip paint from machinery and metal, but it has many other uses. Despite it's name, sandblasting is not confined to the use of sand.

Other common varieties of abrasive blasting include:

  • Glass bead blasting
  • Soda blasting
  • Walnut shell blasting.
  • Coconut shell blasting

Sodium Bicarbonate

You may recognise the chemical Sodium Bicarbonate that is used in sodablasting also has a more common name: Baking Soda!

I actually have it on good authority, via Tony Heyblom of United Sodablasters, that once the Sodium Bicarbonate has been used, you can still use it in cooking! After you pick out the paint and grease...of course.

What Is Soda Blasting?

Soda blasting is a relatively new technology in the field of abrasive blasting. While it is technically used as an abrasive, many professionals in the field consider soda blasting non-abrasive. Specially granulated sodium bicarbonate is applied at high pressure upon a surface, to remove contaminants or smooth the surface.

Because sodium bicarbonate shatters on impact, it is much gentler than sandblasting or media blasting. It is suitable for use upon chrome, plastics and even glass if applied correctly. Soda is also used to a lesser extent to remove mold and smoke damage, as sodium bicarbonate is a natural deodorizer.

These Hat Creek Radio Observatory dishes were soda blasted to make them less optically reflective
These Hat Creek Radio Observatory dishes were soda blasted to make them less optically reflective | Source

Positives of Soda Blasting & Sand Blasting

Soda Blasting Positives
Sand Blasting Positives
Soda blasting is environmentally friendly and biodegradable
Better for industrial applications
Soda blasting is gentler than sand blasting.
More effective at removing rust than soda blasting
Does not produce excess heat. Will not warp or pit metal surfaces
Quicker cleaning than soda blasting
Removes grease and paint up to 15x quicker than industrial hydro-blasting
 
Sodium bicarbonate cleans mold and deodorizes smoke fires.
 
Non-toxic and water soluble
 
Prevents further rusting
 
Soda blasting can be applied on plastics, chrome, and wood
 

Environmental Effects of Soda Blasting

Similar to walnut-shell blasting, the use of sodium bicarbonate is relatively environmentally friendly. Soda is water soluble, and will not build up in soil or residential areas, whereas sand or glass will not dissolve.

While you can safely breathe small amounts of sodium bicarbonate while soda blasting, it is recommended you wear a breathing apparatus such as a quality gas mask, or employ the use of a professional soda blaster, who will wear one.

Costs of Soda Blasting

The running costs associated with soda blasting (The cost of chemicals, machinery, and labour) are marginally higher than the costs of sandblasting, so you can expect to pay a bit more for the environmentally-friendly option.

Soda blasting is quicker and easier to set up. Because you don't need to isolate easily damaged parts such as windows or plastic frames, time is saved compared to sandblasting. And remember, time is money

Whereas sand and other materials such as garnet have a strong chemical structure, sodium bicarbonate does not. Once soda has been used, it shatters into a fine powder because of friability. For this reason, it can only be used once, and the running costs of soda blasting increases.

Handheld sandblasters can be used to etch glass or sandstone, as is happening above
Handheld sandblasters can be used to etch glass or sandstone, as is happening above | Source

Negatives of Soda Blasting & Sand Blasting

Soda Blasting Negatives
Sand Blasting Negatives
The running costs of soda blasting are higher
Not recommended for softer materials such as glass, wood or plastics
Can leave a white film on the surface being cleaned
Generates heat through friction
 
Can warp or damage softer materials, depending on the medium used
 
Will not sanitize or deodorize like soda blasting
 
Inhalation of sand particles can cause silicosis

Environmental Effects of Sand Blasting

Abrasive blasting generally lends itself well to a host of environmental impacts, none of which are positive. However, the use of abrasive materials such as walnut shell and coconut are biodegradable, and hence more environmentally friendly.

The detrimental effects of sandblasting really depend on the medium actually used. When choosing a medium, take care to make a choice that will not clog or harm local water supplies, and ensure that is free from heavy metals.

The use of a booth removes almost all environmental effects of abrasive blasting. The curtain on such a booth captures the dry material used in blasting, so that it can either be reused, or disposed of carefully.

The environmental impact of sandblasting is entirely dependent on your choice of medium, and how you choose to contain it. So choose carefully.

Costs of Sand Blasting

Sand blasting is cheap, quick and effective. The range of materials that can be used for sandblasting are not simply limited to sand. Almost all of these materials can be reused, and are cheap when bought in bulk amounts. These factors make it a cheaper, albeit more time-consuming, option than soda blasting.

Sandblasting is more suited to heavy industry. Time is not wasted removing glass or plastics from heavy machinery, so it becomes a cheaper option than soda blasting.

I've seen industrial soda blasting equipment sell for upwards of $50,000! If that's a little out of your budget, you can watch the video above, courtesy of Garage Night, and knock one up for yourself for around $25 - $30.

Which is Better: Sandblasting or Soda Blasting?

From the tables above, it is clear that soda blasting is a more versatile option than sandblasting. Having said that, there are arguments representing both points of view, depending on the intention of the blasting methods. For example, sandblasting may be cheaper, but there's no point using it to clean rubber. Likewise, soda blasting is more environmentally friendly, but it's generally too expensive for small 'backyard-type' projects.

Aluminium

Soda blasting is a preferable option to sandblasting in the cleaning of aluminium sheet-metal, because it is gentler. Sodium Bicarbonate shatters on impact, so it does not warp or damage the softer metals like aluminium, or react chemically with it's surface.

Heavy Machinery

Sandblasting is often preferable to soda blasting in the cleaning of industrial equipment. It removes grease and paint quickly and indiscriminately. Because it is cheaper, it is best used in long-term contracts or where consistent work can be found.

Car Detailing

Many cars today are sandblasted, as this is the cheaper option. As to which option does the job better, it really comes down to the abilities of the blaster. More care should be taken with sandblasting a vehicle however, as there is a risk of damage to the car body or windows.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Nathan 

      3 months ago

      Soda is a base, so yes it will react chemically with acidic things. As for being more environmentally friendly than sand?... Your kidding right? You do know that sand occurs naturally... in nature... literally everywhere. Sodium Bicarbonate not so much.

      And NEVER tell people they can eat industrial waste!!! How do you get chemical material dust out of dust?!

      Hey, try washing down your soda blasting station with vinegar.

      And yes, baking soda and aluminum react.

    • profile image

      Kyle 

      8 months ago

      Does a sand blaster and a soda blaster use the same nozzle?

    • EricFarmer8x profile image

      Eric Farmer 

      10 months ago from Phoenix Arizona

      I have never heard of sand blasting or soda blasting before. This Hub was a nice read.

    • profile image

      shotblasting 

      16 months ago

      Great post keep up the good work.Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Jayesh Jani 

      2 years ago

      Nice Post !

      Thank you for sharing this post

    • runnermaze profile image

      runnermaze 

      2 years ago

      This one really worth reading, I was searching for tumble blasting and got this blog. This one is a really good page , it provided me a good idea about the blasting services. I found these tumble blasting, throughput blasting, automated inline pipe blasting and table blasting are also commonly used blasting techniques in the current industry. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrasive_blasting if possible please try to include a detailed blog on these topics or expand current blog.

      This site also provide information regarding different blasting techniques http://www.automaticcoating.com/services/blasting/

    • profile image

      Steve 

      2 years ago

      Can I use soda blasting on my swimming pool tile calcium deposits

    • profile image

      Steven Ramon 

      2 years ago

      Yup, I second that. Great article. I'm needing to restore an old wrought iron sign, and sand appears the way to go. Thanks!

    • leakeem profile image

      leakeem 

      3 years ago from Earth

      I heard of sand blasting done on concrete slabs to prepare it for Polyurethane floors but this is the first time I heard of its other applications. And it's good to know an environmentally friendly option. Now if only contractors value the environment more than money...

      Anyway, great hub!

    • profile image

      Tim Allen 

      3 years ago

      More of a question than a comment. Can soda be used is a pressure type sand blaster?

      Are there changes that need to be made if so? Thanks TALLEN

    • Jared Miles profile imageAUTHOR

      Jared Miles 

      5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks receivetipstricks for commenting on my article, im glad you enjoyed it

    • receivetipstricks profile image

      Mrinal Saha 

      5 years ago from Jaipur,India

      Thanks for the great article

    • Jared Miles profile imageAUTHOR

      Jared Miles 

      5 years ago from Australia

      Many people don't know what soda blasting is Bill, so don't feel left out :) I have a mutual friend who does I professionally and he says it does wonders for cleaning everything from machinery to smoke damage :) thanks for the comment Bill, I look forward to hearing from you again and I'm glad you learned something about soda blasting

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I normally wouldn't even read a hub on this subject, but I was curious what soda blasting was....and you told me clearly. Thanks for the education.

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