Vinegar and baking soda have long been among my favorite natural cleaning ingredients. With a slightly alkaline pH of 9, baking soda is great for cleaning messy and greasy surfaces, especially when combined with liquid(s) to create a paste. (Check out my all-natural “Soft Scrub” cleanser for more on that!)
Vinegar, on the other hand, is quite acidic with a pH of 2-5, depending on how concentrated it is. Many kinds of vinegar can be used to clean, deodorize, and sanitize household surfaces (though there are certain things you shouldn’t clean with vinegar!) Vinegar breaks down mineral deposits and hard water stains too, without the need for harsh chemicals.
We all know these two powerhouse cleaning agents can be combined to make a pretty killer volcano, but that fizzy reaction can be useful outside of science experiments, too. In this post, we’ll explore some of the best ways to use white vinegar and baking soda for household cleaning.
What Happens When You Mix Baking Soda And Vinegar?
Combining vinegar and baking soda creates a fizzy chemical reaction that can help dissolve stains and loosen up gunky messes. This makes them a handy cleaning combo, even though the actual solution left behind is basically salt water!
In order to understand when it makes sense to combine baking soda and vinegar and when it doesn’t, it helps to understand what happens when they react. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a base (like washing soda, but even more basic). On the molecular level, bases want a proton, while acids like white vinegar have a proton they want to get rid of.
The fizzy chemical reaction that occurs when baking soda and vinegar meet is the result of those molecules exchanging protons. The reaction forms carbon dioxide gases that are released in the form of bubbles, and what’s left behind is mostly water.
Using This Chemical Reaction For Cleaning
Can you use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning? Yes and no. Yes, if we’re talking about the actual chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. The bubbling action can indeed help to break up gunk and grime, which can be useful for certain cleaning applications.
The “no” part of the answer kicks in as soon as the chemical reaction ceases. Like I said, after the reaction has taken place, what’s left behind is essentially just water, so it will only be as useful to you as plain water would be. (A vinegar and baking soda mixture isn’t something you can mix up ahead of time and keep in a spray bottle!)
That being said, there are some situations where it’s better to clean things with baking soda and vinegar separately or consecutively. You’ll see both methods featured in the list of effective cleaning tips below. (Just be sure to use white vinegar or cleaning vinegar for the best results!)
10 Ways To Clean With Vinegar And Baking Soda
1. Clean Shower Heads
If you have hard water, I’m sure you know all too well how quickly limescale and mineral deposits can form on your shower head. Luckily, you can use baking soda and vinegar to eliminate hard water stains, mineral buildup, and soap scum from your shower head overnight. Just place it in a large ziplock bag, pour enough vinegar into the bag to submerge the shower head, then seal the bag and let it sit overnight.
In the morning, remove the shower head and sprinkle some baking soda over the surface. Wait until the fizzing stops, then use an old toothbrush to help remove the loosened gunk from your shower head. Rinse with warm water before replacing.
2. Deep Clean Your Dishwasher
Cleaning your dishwasher once a month or so can help keep it in good working condition, which means cleaner, spot-free dishes. It’s not hard, either — just check the drain, run a hot wash cycle with a cup of vinegar, then run a second hot wash with a cup of baking soda!
3. Clean Toilet Bowls
To clean a toilet bowl, spray the inside with white vinegar until wet, then sprinkle a fair amount of baking soda over the wet surface, adding more vinegar as necessary to initiate the reaction. Let it fizz up for a minute or two, then scrub the bowl thoroughly with a toilet brush.
To keep your toilet bowl clean, you can make an inexpensive DIY toilet bowl cleaner using baking soda, borax, and Castile soap. If stains under the rim are a problem, soak a few paper towels in vinegar and tuck them under the rim, or use duct tape and vinegar to clean the siphon jets.
4. Clean Greasy Stove Tops
One easy way to clean a glass stovetop involves spraying the stovetop with vinegar, then sprinkling baking soda over the top. While the fizzy reaction starts loosening up the grime and grease, dampen a kitchen towel with hot, soapy water, then drape it over the stovetop.
Let the steam and soap work their magic for about 15 minutes, then remove the towel. Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to scrub away any lingering gunk, then rinse and dry.
5. Remove Pet Stains From Carpet
You can even use baking soda and vinegar together to remove pet stains from your carpet! Saturate the affected area with vinegar, then sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the top. Leave the spot alone until the baking soda and vinegar have dried completely, then vacuum the area. The stain will be gone, along with the smell.
6. Polish Silver Effortlessly
Here’s an easy way to clean and shine silver and silver plated items. Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of your sink, then fill the sink with hot water and add a tablespoon of baking soda and a splash of vinegar. Place your silverware (or other silver items) into the water and let them soak for a couple of minutes until the tarnish disappears. Rinse the items well and buff with a soft, dry cloth.
7. Unclog A Drain
Commercial drain cleaners can be caustic, hazardous, and can even damage your plumbing, but the fizzing reaction of baking soda and vinegar can help you safely clear clogs. To clear a drain with baking soda, sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, then pour in 1 cup of white vinegar, cover the drain, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Next, pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush out the loosened drain clog. This is a handy way to fix a slow drain, but it may not be enough to clear a serious clog. (Should that be the case, be sure to check out my other clogged drain remedies and tips for preventing clogged drains.)
8. Clear A Slow Toilet
The same method I just described can also help unclog the drain in your toilet. If the water level in the bowl is higher than normal, start by using a cup or container to bail some of the water out. Then add 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar to the toilet bowl, and let them sit for half an hour.
Pour a kettle of hot water into the toilet bowl, then flush and your toilet should clear out more readily. (If that doesn’t totally fix the problem, there are 4 more ways to unclog a toilet that should get you sorted out!)
9. Eliminate Laundry Residues And Odors
Baking soda and vinegar can both make valuable additions to your laundry routine. Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your wash load to brighten colors, dissolve buildup or residue, or to soften hard water. Add one cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as a fabric softener and odor remover!
I also use baking soda and vinegar to freshen smelly towels and help restore their absorbency. (The process involves separate baking soda and vinegar wash cycles, because as I mentioned earlier, adding them both to your load of laundry wouldn’t be all that useful!)
Vinegar can even help keep your bedsheets soft and clean. Just toss the sheets in your washing machine along with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to eliminate body oils, odors, and detergent or fabric softener residue. Repeat once a month or as needed to keep your sheets soft and clean.
10. Clean Grimy Grout
Vinegar and baking soda can dissolve grime on grout lines, too. Make a paste of baking soda and water, smear it onto grimy grout, then spray with vinegar. Give it a good scrub with a small scrub brush, then rinse with water or a damp cloth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Difference Between White Vinegar And Cleaning Vinegar?
Standard distilled white vinegar contains about 5 percent acetic acid, while cleaning vinegar is around 6 percent. This makes cleaning vinegar slightly more effective at cutting through grease, soap scum, and other messes, but the regular stuff works just fine in most cleaning applications!
Are Baking Soda And Vinegar Safe For Septic Tanks?
According to Septic Tank Pros, baking soda and vinegar are both biodegradable and thus safe for septic tanks. (This sets them apart from bleach and other cleaners that can kill the enzymes that keep septic tanks working properly.)
Can I Use Baking Powder Instead Of Baking Soda?
I wouldn’t advise it! Baking powder includes both cream of tartar and cornstarch alongside baking soda, so it won’t be as effective (and it’ll be more expensive too!)
Can I Use Apple Cider Vinegar Instead Of White Vinegar?
You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Apple cider vinegar is less acidic than white vinegar, so it’s better for cooking than it is for cleaning.
Is It Safe To Mix Vinegar And Baking Soda?
Absolutely! The only gas they produce is carbon dioxide gas, which is the same stuff we all exhale on an everyday basis. (The vinegar fumes can be a bit pungent thought, so you may want to use them in a well-ventilated area!)
Is It Safe To Mix Vinegar and Dish Soap?
Is It Safe To Mix Baking Soda And Hydrogen Peroxide?
Yep! I use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to clean sheet pans, bathroom fixtures, and plenty of other items and surfaces around the house.
It Is Okay To Use Old Baking Soda For Cleaning?
After putting a new box of baking soda in your fridge to absorb odors, there’s nothing wrong with using the old box for cleaning purposes! But if you’re planning to combine it with vinegar, keep in mind that the reaction may be less fizzy due to the age of the baking soda, or it may not fizz at all. (If that’s the case, you can still use the baking soda for scrubbing out sinks and the like!)
Do you use baking soda and vinegar to keep your home clean?