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OK guys…Today I want to talk about something that really bothers the science me…mixing baking soda and vinegar for cleaning.
I started thinking about living more naturally when my (now) toddler was just a bun in the oven. Up until then, I saw the cleaning chemicals we use daily as “normal.” In fact, I accidentally spilled benzene all over myself in the lab when I was working in a lab in college…How bad could your regular ol’ cleaning products be compared to that? *blushes sheepishly*
Fast forward several years to when I was pregnant. It dawned on me that- although I may not have cared about the effects that the products I use have on me-they would affect my baby much more. Enter mama bear: I wanted him to have the healthiest start in life that we could give him!
So, as most people do these days, I turned to the internet to find non-toxic, eco friendly cleaning solutions. And while I found a lot of interesting ideas, one idea came up repeatedly that irked me: recipes that mix vinegar and baking soda.
“Oh my gosh!” I thought, “People are cleaning with salt water!”
Yup, that’s exactly what’s happening. Fortunately it’s not dangerous like mixing vinegar and bleach (please, please, PLEASE do not mix vinegar and bleach!), but I feel it my civic duty to explain why mixing baking soda and vinegar isn’t a particularly good choice for cleaning. Ready for a quick science lesson?
Let’s recall what happens when we mix baking soda and vinegar:
The solution to an organized home life.
CH3COOH(aq) + NaHCO3(s) → CH3COONa(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l)
acetic acid (vinegar) + baking soda → sodium acetate + carbon dioxide + water
So the bubbles you see from mixing baking soda and vinegar is the carbon dioxide that has formed and released (think of how bubbles release when you open a bottle of soda) . While it looks cool to watch, carbon dioxide isn’t a particularly good cleaning agent. Neither is water on its own. And while the acid “version” of vinegar (acetic acid) has mild disinfecting properties, the base version (sodium acetate) does not retain this property. So like I said above, we just made a type of salty water. It’s certainly no scrubbing bubbles.
But have no fears! You can still use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning. It’s just a matter of how you use them. Here are a few general tips:
1-) Use baking soda to remove grime
Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it will help scrub away things like grime buildup. To use it, either sprinkle it dry where you want to use it and add enough water to make a paste, or make the paste and then start scrubbing away!
Note: baking soda dissolves really easily in water, so you will only need a little bit of water to make a paste. If you add too much water and all the baking soda dissolves and is no longer abrasive. When this happens just add more baking soda until it becomes a paste again.
2-) Use vinegar to dissolve any remaining baking soda
Wash away the baking soda once you’ve finished scrubbing your surface. However, chances are that you’ll miss some. Once you’ve rinsed as much as you can see away, spray vinegar all over where you used the baking soda. The vinegar will serve two purposes: a-) to let you know that you missed some baking soda (you’ll hear/see bubbling), and 2-) to dissolve the baking soda you missed
3-) Use vinegar to disinfect
If you don’t need to scrub away grime then you can just spray your surface with vinegar and wipe dry to disinfect. If you want some scent you can add some essential oils, but I have found that it takes a lot of essential oil to mask the scent of the vinegar. So now I just embrace the pickle smell! But really, unless the smell of vinegar makes you gag, you’ll likely get used to it.
Note: Do NOT use vinegar on stone surfaces… it can react with some of the minerals in the stone. Instead, stick to a basic soap with a warm wet rag or a daily granite/stone cleaner for stone surfaces.
4-) Mix vinegar and baking soda for mild drain clogs
There is one exception where mixing vinegar and baking soda has it’s merits. If you have a minor drain clog, the physical bubbling that occurs (rather than the chemical properties of the vinegar and baking soda) may help dislodge the clogging “agent” and allow the flow of water again. Keep in mind though, you will likely need something stronger if you have a major clog.
I hope this helps you understand why you haven’t had much luck if you’ve been trying to mix vinegar and baking soda to clean! Go ahead and use them both to clean….just use them individually. Your arm muscles will thank you 😉
Share this post and spread the knowledge if you know someone who has tried mixing baking soda and vinegar to clean!
For more cleaning advice check out how to remove almost any stain with just two ingredients and how to make bath time cleaner and healthier! And if you haven’t already, join our community and receive additional exclusive tips and advice delivered weekly. You’ll also get access to my mini planner completely for FREE! Simply sign up in the box below to join!