Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning with Baking Soda

updated Jan 22, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Of all the potential cleaners in your pantry, baking soda is one of the most reliable and versatile options, commonly used for anything from scrubbing down counters to freshening up the inside of your fridge. But what, exactly, makes baking soda such a powerful household tool?

Turns out, there’s science to it. Because baking soda is actually a salt, it’s a neutral compound, formed with a positively and negatively charged ion. But it’s also slightly basic in pH (the opposite of acidic), which makes it ideal for just about any cleaning job you can think of. 

Unlike air fresheners, baking soda actually absorbs odors instead of masking them. That’s because most odors are acidic, and baking soda reacts in the air to neutralize them. Baking soda is also slightly abrasive, so unlike soap, it has extra grit to remove stains and stuck-on debris from surfaces and dislodge particles from drains.

A bit of this substance can do tough jobs all on its own, but combined with other ingredients from your pantry, it can be even more powerful. Curious how to use baking soda to its full potential in your home? Here’s how to safely and effectively clean with the pantry staple.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

What to Know Before You Start

Baking soda is an abrasive cleaner, which makes it ideal for scrubbing away grime. That said, don’t use it on any scratch-prone surfaces you wouldn’t use other abrasive cleaners or tools on, especially glass (including mirrors, windows, and ceramic glass cooktops), stainless steel, wood, and marble. And avoid cleaning spots with deep grooves or crevices with baking soda paste, since it could leave debris behind. 

How to Clean With Baking Soda

The most effective way to take advantage of baking soda’s abrasive properties is by making a DIY paste. Just mix a half-cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water, adjusting the ratio of both until you have a spreadable paste. For some cleaning jobs, you can mix baking soda with other household ingredients like dish soap or hydrogen peroxide (more on that later). Baking soda is also a great deodorizer when you simply sprinkle the powder on a spot that needs freshening, like shoes or carpets.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

How to Clean the Oven With Baking Soda

According to cleaning experts Angela Bell and Georgia Dixon, Grove Guides with Grove Collaborative, a dirty oven is no match for baking soda. You just need the right ingredients and a bit of patience. For convenience, start this process in the evening after you’ve wrapped up any cooking projects.

  1. Clean oven racks: Remove your oven racks and use a sturdy brush or scouring pad to clean with dish soap.
  2. Make your cleaning paste: Make a paste with ½ cup baking soda and 3 tablespoons of water, adjusting ratios if needed until the mixture is spreadable.
  3. Spread in the oven: Spread the paste all over the inside of the oven, allowing it to sit for 12 hours. If your racks are particularly caked on, you can use the paste on them as well, says Dixon. 
  4. Wipe away paste: After 12 hours has passed, wipe away the paste with a wet rag or paper towel. (You may want to don some gloves to avoid the oven grime.)
  5. Scrub residue: Use a scrubber sponge and a little elbow grease to take care of any remaining residue. 
  6. Spray with vinegar: With a vinegar-based cleaner (or straight white vinegar in a spray bottle), break down any remaining buildup in the oven. Wipe down with a clean microfiber cloth to finish, then replace racks.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Clean Carpet With Baking Soda

Since baking soda effectively absorbs scents, you can also use it to freshen up your carpets and rugs. For an extra punch, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the baking soda before sprinkling the carpets. Here’s what Dixon and Bell recommend: 

  1. Sprinkle baking soda: Add a thin layer of baking soda to your carpet or rug, allowing it to sit for a half hour or so. 
  2. Vacuum: After the baking soda and essential oil do their job, vacuum your carpets as usual.

How to Clean Clothes With Baking Soda

Baking soda can be a great agent for removing stains and odors from laundry. Plus, it’s color safe, so while this method is especially effective on whites, it can also be used on colored clothing.

Here are three ways you can clean and freshen up your clothes with baking soda:

1. How to remove stains from clothes with baking soda:

Mix baking soda and hot water in equal proportions in a small bowl. Then apply the mixture directly to the stained area of your clothing. Allow it to sit for at least ten minutes before rinsing, repeating if necessary for stubborn stains. For lingering odors (think gym laundry), you can add ½ cup of baking soda directly to the washing machine when laundering, says Bell.  

2. How to whiten white laundry with baking soda:

You can also use baking soda and vinegar (one after the other — not together) to whiten your white sheets and towels, too. Just add about a half cup of baking soda to the drum of the washing machine and then add distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser, and your white laundry will come out brighter.

3. How to “strip” your laundry with baking soda:

Laundry stripping is one way to effectively remove the build-up of grime that comes from over-dosing your laundry detergent. And you don’t need to soak your clothes in the tub to do it: Just add a couple of cups of baking soda in a load of laundry is an effective way to remove build-up on your clothes and towels, according to laundry expert Patric Richardson.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

How to Clean Shoes With Baking Soda

Use baking soda’s odor-absorbing superpowers to deodorize smelly shoes. Just sprinkle the powder directly into your shoes, let it sit for several hours or overnight, and tap out before wearing. 

You can also brighten white shoes made out of a canvas or similar material by making a paste of equal parts baking soda and hot water, plus a few drops of dish soap. Just rub the paste into the cloth part of the shoe and let dry for several hours. Once the paste has dried completely, brush away any leftover baking soda from the shoes. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani/Kitchn

How to Clean the Bathroom With Baking Soda

Baking soda comes in handy when you’re cleaning the bathroom, too, but make sure you’re pairing it with the right tools to properly stave off germs. “Baking soda is an abrasive cleanser that can help physically remove dirt and soap buildup, from bathroom surfaces, but it will not disinfect or sanitize germs and bacteria,” says Bell.

Instead, use baking soda in a paste form as an abrasive additive when you clean grout, tubs, and sinks. Just apply the paste, let sit for 15 minutes, then wipe away with a wet rag or paper towel.

You can also mix two parts baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide for a super-powered grout cleaner that will restore even the dingiest-looking tile. Just make a paste, let it sit on your grout for 30 minutes, and then scrub and wash away.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Can You Mix Baking Soda With Vinegar? 

We don’t recommend cleaning with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. You’ll see this cleaning tip a lot, but after the bubbling ends (remember your science fair volcano?), the basic baking soda and acidic vinegar cancel each other out — and the reaction really just produces water, salt, and carbon dioxide gas. (Plus, if you mix the two in a closed container, the vinegar can cause the baking soda to foam up and possibly even explode.) But that’s helpful to know, too: You can apply vinegar after you apply baking soda on your surfaces to neutralize the baking soda and rinse it away.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani/Kitchn

Can You Mix Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide? 

Yes, in fact, this combination is especially useful when it comes to cleaning bathroom tile or grout.

Can You Mix Baking Soda and Lemon Juice?

Lemon juice and baking soda is great for removing stubborn smells in musty-smelling water bottles, say Dixon and Bell. Just fill the bottle with a few teaspoons of lemon juice and hot water, then let it sit overnight before scrubbing with a bottle brush.

You can also use this combo to get the funk out of garbage disposals. Simply make a solution by adding lemon juice to baking soda until a paste forms, dump into the disposal, and let sit for 30 minutes before running the water to rinse.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Cleaning With Baking Soda: Here’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know