Baking Soda is a safe, effective, and versatile green cleaner that definitely has a spot on my caddy. There are 1001 books about the 1001 uses for baking soda around the house, but I tend to be very specific in how I use it during my workday.
Baking Soda Basics
Baking soda works in two different ways. Chemically, it encourages dirt and grease to dissolve in water. Plus, as a powder it acts as a mild abrasive to help lift off stuck-on stuff. (To be safe, I always assume it packs a wee bit of abrasive power even when dissolved.)
And there is one other important use: it’s a great teammate for hydrogen peroxide. They combine nicely into a cleaning paste, and the baking soda keeps the liquid hydrogen peroxide in place long enough to do its oxidizing work. A final scrub and rinse… voila.
On the pH scale, it’s a mild base/alkaline… which is why it has that entertaining science-fair volcanic reaction with vinegar, an acid, as they neutralize each other. (Still they can be used together; see examples below.)
For more information about what it is and how it works, read the first paragraph in this informative article, which also includes a long list of household baking soda uses.
Best Clump-free Storage
I buy the 5 lb Arm & Hammer resealable bag, which is usually on the bottom shelf of either the laundry or the cleaning aisle. It’s easiest to dive into for spoonfuls when refilling supplies, and it doesn’t get clumpy like an open box.
I carry baking soda in my caddy in a ‘parmesan cheese’ container. The dispenser works perfectly because it locks tight to keep the baking soda dry, and shakes out easily.
Baking soda packs some weight, so don’t carry more than you’ll use for the day. Usually a light sprinkle is all you need for any application; so a mini ‘3 oz’ cheese container might even hold enough for you.
Word of Warning
Baking soda is extremely safe and very versatile, but there are a couple of things you need to watch out for…
Damage Control: The most serious risk is the possibility you’d scratch a surface while using it as a powdery mild abrasive, which is why using it mainly for hard-sealed surfaces like glazed ceramic tubs and sinks, hard-sealed tiles and grout, textured shower floors, or stainless steel sinks is best. But if a softer surface like an acrylic bathtub has a cleaning challenge that calls for some extra oomph, let it dissolve a bit and use a lighter touch~ mostly it’s just about being aware.
Note: I’ve read that some manufacturers do not recommend baking soda to clean newer model ceramic cooktops because it might scratch.
Cleaning Sabotage: I’ve learned to avoid using baking soda on anything that I cannot rinse completely. It’s very easy to leave a trace when wiping it off, which doesn’t become visible until I’m long gone and it’s dried completely. A whitish haze all over bathroom chrome, vanity top and/or mirror is not the look I’m going for!
Also, watch your scrub sponge so you don’t spread traces of baking soda (without realizing it) onto other surfaces once you’ve moved onto a different task. I always keep an extra sponge so I can trade out.
In the Kitchen
Oven Glass: Baking soda is marvelous for cleaning the interior of a sooty toaster oven glass door; an easy way to wow first-time customers. It also works well on large oven doors (and even touching up oven interiors) if ‘projects’ are included in the job.
I spray the inside of the toaster oven door with diluted dish soap, then sprinkle baking soda. After letting it set a few minutes, I scrub with a non-scratch scrub sponge. (I usually add a bit of powdery baking soda for some extra oomph.) I remove with cloth or paper towels, and wipe well with water or vinegar to remove last traces of baking soda.
Sink: Baking soda is a great addition when soaking the sink bottom in undiluted dish soap and hydrogen peroxide (for food stains) or as a final scrub when soaking with dish soap and white vinegar (for rust rings or pan scrapes). Let a mix set a bit, then add some fresh baking soda for the final scrub before rinsing.
Plus it’s a big help when scrubbing the drain hardware and the garbage disposal rubber with a toothbrush.
If the drain smells like it needs freshening, pouring baking soda and vinegar in while other cleaners are soaking on the sink bottom is an efficient way to fizzle things loose in there before the final rinse.
In the Bathroom
Baking soda does its best work in the bathroom!
Tub or Shower Stall: If a tiled shower stall tends to be moldy, a baking soda/hydrogen peroxide mix to leave on shower walls is just the green-cleaning ticket. (Note: if the tiles are natural stone, the slight acid in hydrogen peroxide might be a problem… just use baking soda.) Apply the mix early on as you start cleaning the bathroom; let it set while you tend to other tasks in that bathroom.
- First, rinse walls with hot water, then spray from bottom to top with diluted Planet dish liquid (my general cleaner, which works well with both baking soda and hydrogen peroxide).
- Put a small mound of baking soda and a good squirt of hydrogen peroxide on a wet non-scratch scrub sponge, and go over problem areas where mold or soap scum have taken a stand. Re-load scrub sponge with baking soda/hydrogen peroxide as needed.
- Wait as long as possible. You can clean the tub below, or tend to other fun bathroom-cleaning chores
- It’ll dry quickly, and won’t rinse off completely without one more wet scrub. Squirt hydrogen peroxide on the problem areas until it’s wet and drippy, then scrub problem-area grout lines with a small brush.
- Go over remainder of walls with dripping sponge or brush
- Scrub shower floor with the wet, dripping concoction, adding more baking soda/hydrogen peroxide as needed
- Thoroughly rinse walls and floor (or tub)
Over time you should see a substantial improvement in the grout, with no need to worry about bleaching colored grout with a chlorine bleach cleaner.
And for a textured tub bottom, it’s fantastic. First scrub-brush the bottom with undiluted Planet dish liquid and water; then rinse. Sprinkle baking soda and scrub together with plenty of hydrogen peroxide and a bit more undiluted dish liquid. Let it sit for as long as possible before scrubbing wet and rinsing well.
(For a tiled shower floor that tends to be moldy, follow the above instructions but skip the undiluted dish liquid; the soap could actually feed mold if not rinsed completely.)
For a caulk line that becomes moldy, shaking a thin line of baking soda along the grout line will keep a squirt of hydrogen peroxide in place until you come back to it.
Toilet: Swish and flush first thing, then sprinkle baking soda in the bowl to set while you clean the tub or shower. It’s become my go-to toilet bowl cleaner.
Sink: Totally awesome if you need some extra oomph, and it leaves a glazed sink bowl gorgeous. Don’t use it on the faucet or vanity top; it’s too easy to leave a haze.
Extra Duties: Baking soda absorbs moisture and odors, plus is unfriendly toward mold growth… all very nice perks!
Nominated for ‘Best Supporting Cleaner’!
So, I’d encourage you to read all about the 1001 uses for cleaning with baking soda, and play around with it at work. As for me, I keep adding to the short list of tasks I use it for. It really is a great cleaner in and of itself, but especially valuable as a teammate that makes my other natural cleaners all the more effective.
I’m finding my mini ‘3 oz’ container is not quite enough these days!
What are your favorite house cleaning uses for baking soda?