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What Is the Difference Between Sandblasting vs. Soda Blasting?

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.

What Is Sandblasting?

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 its 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 soda blasting also has a more common name: baking soda!

I actually have it on good authority, via Tony Heyblom of United Soda Blasters, 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

Positives of Soda Blasting & Sandblasting

Soda Blasting PositivesSandblasting Positives

Soda blasting is environmentally friendly and biodegradable

Better for industrial applications

Soda blasting is gentler than sandblasting

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

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Negatives of Soda Blasting & Sandblasting

Soda Blasting NegativesSandblasting 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 Sandblasting

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 it 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 Sandblasting

Sandblasting is cheap, quick and effective. The range of materials that can be used for sandblasting is 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 get a basic setup 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 in using it to clean rubber. Likewise, soda blasting is more environmentally friendly, but it's generally too expensive for small 'backyard-type' projects.

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

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Jared Miles


Jes on July 27, 2019:

Use it to clean spark plugs works great.

Nathan on August 08, 2018:

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.

Kyle on March 19, 2018:

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

Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on January 15, 2018:

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

shotblasting on June 29, 2017:

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

Jayesh Jani on October 17, 2016:

Nice Post !

Thank you for sharing this post

runnermaze on September 27, 2016:

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: 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

Steve on September 18, 2016:

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

Steven Ramon on February 29, 2016:

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 from Earth on May 05, 2015:

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!

Tim Allen on April 30, 2015:

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 (author) from Australia on July 27, 2013:

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

Mrinal Saha from Jaipur,India on July 27, 2013:

Thanks for the great article

Jared Miles (author) from Australia on July 22, 2013:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 21, 2013:

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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