Whether you’re preparing a car for painting or stripping another surface for cleaning or refinishing, abrasive blasting techniques are commonly used. Soda blasting and sandblasting are two popular methods, though there are some big differences between the two. Understanding how they compare to one another will help you determine which method is best suited for your application.

Soda blasting blasts sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) onto surfaces, usually for cleaning. Sandblasting uses sand, glass beads, crushed shells, or other media for stripping, sanding, and rust removal. Sandblasting is best for industrial use, while soda blasting is better for wood, plastic, and glass.

Soda Blasting Versus Sandblasting

Soda blasting and sandblasting are both techniques used to prepare a surface for painting or refinishing, clean industrial surfaces, or remove rust and heavy-duty buildup. Though there are many similarities between the two processes, they’re still very different in their application.

In some cases, only one of these methods would be appropriate, while in other applications you may be able to use either one based on your preference. Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Soda BlastingSand Blasting
Pressure20+ PSI70 – 120 PSI
Common ApplicationsCleaning, smooth surfacesSurface prep, rust removal
Blasting MediaSodium bicarbonate (baking soda)Sand, silica, glass/plastic beads, walnut shell, coconut shell
Environmentally Friendly?YesSometimes
AbrasivenessLess abrasiveMore abrasive 
Pricing/CostMore expensiveLess expensive 
Heat (Friction)Doesn’t generate heatGenerates heat 
PowerCompressed airCompressed air

Sandblasting is typically used at higher pressures than soda blasting. The media is highly abrasive and it’s the more aggressive technique of the two options. 

Sandblasting performs the same way that manual sanding does, except on a much stronger level. Using a sandblaster, you can do large surfaces in a short amount of time. It will also have an even finish compared to sanding by hand.

Because of its abrasiveness, sandblasting is commonly used for rust removal and tough jobs that other methods aren’t well suited for. However, you should be mindful of the potential damage sandblasting may cause on delicate surfaces.

Soda blasting uses a much softer material than sandblasting. It’s less abrasive, so it’s commonly used on more delicate surfaces like wood, plastic, and chrome. 

Soda blasting is good for cleaning and smoothing out surfaces to prepare them for painting or refinishing, but it won’t be as effective for tough rust removal compared to sandblasting.

What is Soda Blasting?

Soda blasting uses the same technique as sandblasting in that it involves a blasting medium being forced against a surface at a high speed using compressed air. However, instead of using sand or other materials, soda blasting uses sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). 

The technique has been around since the 1980s and came about as a less abrasive alternative to traditional sandblasting. While sandblasting will blast away rust, paint, and anything else on the surface, soda blasting is a bit softer and can be used for cleaning applications as well. 

Soda blasting may be used on surfaces that can’t withstand sandblasting. Softer and more delicate surfaces like plastic, wood, and chrome are common applications for soda blasting.

Advantages of Soda Blasting

When deciding whether to use soda blasting or sandblasting, it’s helpful to know the pros and cons of each. Here are some of the advantages of soda blasting.

  • Less abrasive
  • Environmentally friendly (baking soda isn’t harmful to the environment)
  • Safer to use (baking soda is non-toxic)
  • Doesn’t produce heat (safe for softer metals and surfaces)
  • Can help prevent rust
  • Can be used on softer surfaces
  • More effective than blasting water alone
  • Sodium bicarbonate is effective for cleaning mold and removing odors

Disadvantages of Soda Blasting

Whether you choose soda blasting or sandblasting, there are pros and cons for each. Here are some of the potential disadvantages of soda blasting.

  • May not be effective for rust or heavy-duty jobs
  • May be more expensive
  • Can leave a film that needs to be cleaned before painting
  • Baking soda can get into small crevices 
  • Must be stored properly to prevent moisture absorption

What is Sandblasting?

Sandblasting is the catchall name for abrasive blasting using a variety of media and materials. Using compressed air, sand or other small materials are blasted against a surface to strip away paint, rust, grease, and other debris. 

Sandblasting may involve materials other than just sand. In fact, there are many kinds of blasting media that are more popular than sand. You can use glass or plastic beads, silica, crushed up walnut shells, coconut shells, and other materials depending on the application.

Advantages of Sandblasting

Sandblasting is one of the most common methods out there for preparing surfaces for painting and rust removal, so there are plenty of advantages to using this technique. 

  • Quick and efficient 
  • Highly abrasive
  • Less expensive than soda blasting
  • Better for industrial applications and heavy-duty jobs
  • More effective for dealing with rust
  • Readily available materials
  • Many options for media

Disadvantages of Sandblasting

Even though sandblasting is the method of choice for many industrial applications, there are still pros and cons to consider. Here are some of the disadvantages of sandblasting.

  • Too harsh for some materials
  • Not ideal for wood, plastic, glass, or chrome
  • Friction produces heat which may affect surfaces
  • Produces particles that are dangerous to inhale
  • May be harmful to the environment if mishandled

When Should You Use Soda Blasting?

Soda blasting is better suited for cleaning surfaces and removing surface debris before painting and refinishing. The materials are softer and less abrasive than sandblasting, meaning you don’t have to worry as much about damaging the surfaces. 

So, if you’re treating wood, plastic, glass, aluminum, or chrome surfaces, you should definitely consider using soda blasting. 

However, if you need to remove rust or do heavy duty stripping and sanding, soda blasting might not be effective. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t use soda blasting to treat rust problems. Soda blasting can remove light rust spots and leaves a protective coating behind that will help prevent it from recurring.

Soda blasting is also effective for dealing with mold, mildew, and smoke damage. Plus, the sodium bicarbonate helps to remove the unwanted debris and treat the area. It can help remove odors that would otherwise be left behind. 

Soda blasting is also a good method when heat is a concern. If you’re blasting soft metals or other surfaces that could be warped or damaged by the heat during sandblasting, soda blasting is softer and produces less friction. That means it will generate less heat during the process.

Other considerations include environmental impact and health concerns. Soda blasting should be your go-to if you want to use a method that will have less of an impact on the environment. Plus, the airborne particles are not as dangerous as sandblasting byproducts like silica.

When to Use Sandblasting

Sandblasting is the best option when you need a stronger and more abrasive blasting media, or if you’re dealing with a heavy-duty job. Sandblasting is typically better suited for industrial applications and some automotive projects. 

If you’re dealing with a lot of rust, need to strip down a steel surface, or removing significant buildup from heavy machinery, sandblasting may be your best bet. 

Sandblasting is often more efficient with these types of jobs, and it will strip away everything on the surface so you won’t have to go back and remove anything that soda blasting may leave behind. 

There’s also a lot of versatility with sandblasting, since you can choose different materials for the job. For example, if you need something that’s less abrasive you can use crushed up walnut shells or even corn cobs ground into a powder form. Or, you may want to use glass beads or steel media to treat very hard surfaces. 

Anytime the job requires a strong and very abrasive medium, sandblasting is probably the best choice. 

Plus, there are materials which can be recycled and reused, minimizing their environmental impact. And if you’re concerned about health and safety, using biodegradable and non-toxic materials will improve the conditions while you do the work.

The Bottom Line

There are many similarities between soda blasting and sandblasting when it comes to the kinds of jobs they’re good for and how they’re used. Still, there are enough significant differences so that one technique may be better than the other for a specific application.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, so the best thing to do is consider the job and your desired outcome. If the goal is to strip everything away from a very hard surface as quickly as possible, sandblasting may be the way to go. 

However, if you need to work on softer surfaces or you only need to remove grease and debris, soda blasting may be ideal.

The two methods are fairly comparable when it comes to cost, though soda blasting may be slightly more expensive in the long run. However, when you weigh environmental and health factors, soda blasting may be better if that’s something you’re concerned with.

Knowing the similarities and differences between soda blasting and sandblasting can help you choose the right technique for your project and ensure a successful job.