There is nothing we love more than learning about new uses for common household products like Windex, dish soap, WD-40, and even Coca-Cola. Now, we're taking a look at baking soda, which you likely have sitting in a cabinet right now. We asked various experts: What are some surprising uses for baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) that people might not know about?
Use #1: Freshen Carpets, Mattresses, and Upholstery
"Sprinkle baking soda on your carpets to absorb moisture and eliminate odors," Sean Parry, a cleaning expert at house cleaning company Neat Services, tells Hunker. "This is especially helpful for those with pets at home! Let it sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming it up."
Use #2: Deodorize Shoes, Drawers, Garbage Cans, and More
Beth McCallum, a content creator for cleaning website Oh So Spotless, recommends using baking soda to freshen smelly shoes. "If your shoes are smelly, sprinkle some baking soda over the insoles. Let it sit for a few hours and then vacuum it out," she tells Hunker, adding that this is especially great for sweaty gym shoes.
You can actually apply the same idea to anything that's giving off a bad odor in your home. Top Cleaners London specifically recommends placing baking soda on a plate in smelly fridges, in a cloth bag in musty drawers, and on the bottom of your trash bin.
Use #3: Unclog Plumbing
Did you know that you can use baking soda to unclog your toilet and sink drains? "Pouring a cup of baking soda into the drain/toilet bowl followed by a mixture of vinegar and hot water will cause a chemical reaction like that of a school science experiment," Jake Romano, who works for plumbing service provider John the Plumber, tells Hunker. "Let it sit for up to 30 minutes and the clog should clear. This will also leave your toilet/sink cleaner."
Use #4: Clean the Inside of Your Oven
"The products required to clean an oven are all commonly found in your pantry: dishwashing detergent, white vinegar, water, and baking soda," Rocky Vuong, the founder and owner of Calibre Cleaning, tells Hunker, providing the following instructions:
- Remove the oven trays and racks. Soak them in a sink filled with hot water and dishwashing liquid.
- Combine baking soda, white vinegar, and water in an oven-safe bowl to form a soft paste.
- Use an old pastry or paint brush and spread the paste evenly inside the oven's interior. Pay special attention to corners. If you make a weaker solution, you can spray this onto the oven's interiors. Don't forget to put the remaining solution into an oven-safe bowl for the next step.
- Heat the oven to 100 degrees Centigrade/212 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the bowl inside the oven for 45 minutes. You can clean your oven racks while you are waiting.
- To clean oven racks, use a scouring pad. Rinse with cold water. If racks need heavy-duty cleaning, use a paste of ¾ cup baking soda and ¼ cup warm water. Soaking overnight works for extremely stubborn stains. Scrub with a scouring pad and rinse with water after soaking.
- Use a sponge to clean the oven as you would normally. You will notice immediately how easily the grime comes away from the oven walls. No hard scrubbing required. Rinse using a clean microfiber cloth. Be sure to rinse your cloth several times and to remove all traces of the baking soda paste before you use the oven. Avoid wetting the gasket in the oven when cleaning.
Use #5: Clean Aquatic Apparel and Hot Tubs
Jacob Pinkham — CEO of In Smooth Waters, a resource for water safety tips and sports reviews — tells Hunker that baking soda can be used to clean water activities apparel such as wetsuits, swimsuits, and life jackets. He offers the following instructions:
- Fill up a bathtub with lukewarm water and add a whole box of baking soda.
- Close any velcro fasteners on your equipment to avoid wearing them down. Add your wetsuit, swimsuit, life jacket, etc. and use a large object to weigh them down, ensuring they are fully submerged.
- Vigorously mix everything and let it sit for a couple of hours, giving it a mix every now and again.
- Rinse by leaving everything in the bath, draining the water, and refilling with new clean water. Repeat this process three times to really clean off the slippery residue of the baking soda.
Baking soda can also be used to clean your hot tub.
Use #6: Absorb Oil Spills
"Use baking soda to absorb oil spills, be it on a carpet or driveway," Davies tells Hunker. "First, use a damp cloth to absorb excess oil, but do not rub. Apply baking soda and let it sit for an hour — that will stop the oil from spreading. Then grab the vacuum cleaner and remove the baking soda."
Davies adds that there might be a stain leftover, but since the oil is gone, you can easily remove the stain with a cleaning product suitable for the surface you're working with.
Use #7: Neutralize Acidic Coffee
If your coffee is too acidic and makes your stomach ache, Colin Palfrey, the CMO of Majesty Coffee, recommends using baking soda to help. "Baking soda is alkaline, so it can combat the effects of a pot of coffee that's too acidic," he tells Hunker. "All you need to do to smooth out the flavor is add a little bit of baking soda to the grounds before you brew." As little as 1/4 teaspoon for an entire pot of coffee can do the job.
Use #8: Clean Grout
No one likes the look of grimy grout in their bathroom. The solution: "Make a simple grout cleaner by mixing together enough hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to form a paste," advises Parry. "Apply the mixture to dirty grout and scrub with an old toothbrush." This is also a great way to use those random toothbrushes you get at the dentist!
Use #9: Clean Your Vacuum Hose
One item you should be cleaning more than you normally do, according to McCallum, is your vacuum hose. "Vacuum hoses are full of gunk and dirt. If you want to give yours a thorough clean, mix together ½ cup of baking soda, two cups of vinegar, and some water," she says. "Disconnect your hose from your vacuum and pour the solution down the hose. The fizzing reaction, as well as the acid and alkaline from the vinegar and baking soda, will help to clean it out." Allow the solution to sit as long as possible, rinse, and let the hose air dry.
Use #10: Remove Crayon Markings
To remove crayon markings from your wall, all you need is baking soda and a sponge. "A damp sponge with baking soda on top will be very effective against your kids' masterpieces on the wall," Natalie Barrett, the cleaning supervisor and cleaning expert at Nifty Cleaning Services, tells Hunker.
Use #11: Clean Your Microwave
"Using baking soda to clean a dirty microwave is the most eco-friendly cleaning method you can use," Shirley Langridge, a professional kitchen and oven cleaner at Maggie's Oven Services, tells Hunker. "It's not only effective in removing grime and charred food from your microwave, but also deodorizes it as well." These are the steps she advises you to follow:
- Fill a microwave-safe bowl with water and two tablespoons of baking soda.
- Place the bowl in the microwave and set the timer to three minutes and the heat setting on high. The baking soda will deodorize the microwave while the steam from the mixture will loosen all of the charred food and particles off its interior.
- When the timer hits zero, remove the bowl out of the microwave using oven mitts and wipe the inside of the microwave using paper towels. By the end of this, you should be left with a microwave that looks as good as new.
Use #12: Remove Burnt Food and Stains
There is nothing worse than a pot covered in burnt food and stains. Fortunately, baking soda can come to your rescue. "To remove burnt food from a pot or pan, fill it with water and a bit of baking soda, and bring it to a simmer on your stovetop," says Parry. "Let it simmer for a few minutes to allow the food residue to soften up, and you'll be able to remove it much more easily!"
Barrett adds that a sponge sprinkled with baking soda can also be used to remove stains and smells from plastic food containers. "If this is not enough, soak the containers in warm water with 4 tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate," she advises.
Note: Though baking soda is great for a lot of cleaning projects, Top Cleaners London recommends that you avoid using it on:
- Ceramic stovetops
- Aluminium surfaces
- Serving plates with decorative insets
- Antique silver items
- China with a gold rim
- Marble surfaces like countertops
- Wood furniture and floors
- Painted walls
- Bathroom tiles
- Windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces
For these surfaces, use the appropriate cleaning product instead so that they do not get worn down or damaged.
Anna is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle and design content for Hunker. She's written for Apartment Therapy, the L.A. Times, Forge, and more. She previously worked as the lifestyle editor at HelloGiggles and deputy editor at So Yummy. Her email: firstname.lastname@example.org