We Tested It: Cleaning With Baking Soda

By Noah Garfinkel, Networx

However reluctantly, I have timidly stepped into the world of “natural products”. I still like fast food and aerosol cheeses, but as I get older, I am finding myself somewhat more apt to buy “organic” foods and a lot more likely to be unreasonably impressed by products with fewer than five ingredients. There is one particular area, however, in which I still demand harsh and dangerous chemicals: cleaning. I associate cleanliness with the smell of deadly fumes. So, when I see someone promoting castile soap by saying it is so safe you can literally brush your teeeth with it, I don’t see a lot of appeal. I want my cleaning products to be able to kill me along with any other smaller organisms that might be living rent-free in my apartment (maybe my NYC exterminator knows me by name, or maybe he doesn’t). Nonetheless, I decided to explore the possibilities of cleaning things with baking soda. It went… kind of okay.

When you start doing research into the uses for baking soda, you’ll immediately come across a number of long lists. “51 Uses for Baking Soda” for example. And, that sounds very impressive right up until you start reading the lists. Basically the lists just tick off different things you can clean. It’s like reading a long list of uses for body soap that begins, “1. Wash your arms! 2. Wash your shoulders! 3. Wash your torso!” That’s just one use, soap list. Relax.

Baking soda really only has two easy non-baking uses, and those are cleaning and deodorizing. As for deodorizing, baking soda works really well. I am constantly chopping garlic and onions, and even after washing my cutting boards with soap and water, they seem to retain at least a little odor. Baking soda took care of that in just a couple of minutes. I sprinkled some baking soda on the cutting board, rinsed it off shortly after, and it was entirely odor free. I could go on listing other things you could remove odor from with baking soda – I could probably even make it to 51. Your kitchen drain! Your freezer! But, you get it. It takes the smell out of things. Use it on whatever. We don’t’ need to fetishize it. (Fun Fact: you can find no Google link relating directly to a baking soda fetish.)

As for baking soda’s cleaning/scrubbing uses, I had mixed results. First, I tried using baking soda to scrub my bathtub because I was long overdue for a bathtub cleaning. Really, really long overdue. I was as overdue for the bathtub cleaning as I am ashamed that I let it get to this point.

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I’m so sorry you had to look at that. I am normally a clean person, but my roommate and I recently got into a weird, unspoken standoff when it came to scrubbing the bathtub. We both just kept waiting for the other person to do it, and neither of us did. Fortunately, this confluence of events provided me with a perfect test for baking soda’s cleaning effectiveness. Are our tiles so gross that only a tile contractor could fix them?

It worked out reasonably well. I don’t know if there’s anything about the chemical makeup of baking soda that made it effective. It seemed to work about as well as any abrasive powder would. Sand I’m pretty sure would have just as efficiently scrubbed away the scum. But, I live in a tilted apartment that causes shower water to pool right in front of the drain and leave a stain. The baking soda did not at all help remove that stain.

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I had to resort to Comet to fix that.

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For the final test of baking soda’s cleaning powers, I attempted to use it to make toothpaste. This was a particularly scary undertaking considering this disclaimer was written under one of the recipes I looked at: “The basis of homemade toothpaste is baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Either one in huge does can be dangerous, so DO NOT INGEST!” Cool! Sounds fun!

I mixed six parts baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide.

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I then put some on my toothbrush and went for it.

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It was horrifying. It was truly terrible. It tasted like I poured a salty poison over a 9-volt battery and then licked it. Actually, that’s not quite vivid enough. Let’s try again. It tasted like the melting face of a troll. I immediately spit it out and brushed my teeth with real toothpaste.

So, to review, baking soda worked really well as a deodorizer, kind of well as a bathtub cleanser, and really unpleasantly as a tooth cleaner. It’s certainly worth having around, but it’s not something I plan on using regularly in place of “real” cleaning products or toothpaste.

148 comments

Karen Foley
Karen F.2 years ago

Hahahaha the description of the toothpaste is rather amusing. Methinks it is probably the peroxide which is the truly bad taste.

Connie S.
Connie S.2 years ago

I often used baking soda as toothpaste and it is not "horrifying"! It's helpful to drink mixed in water to balance the body's PH. It's OK to write about your experience, but use ownership language!! it's just your experience and you don't have to add the drama which serves no one.

Scott Pingel
Scott Pingel2 years ago

I have been brushing with baking soda for YEARS....I also drink it with water 5 days of the week too.

Judy Apelis
Judy Apelis2 years ago

Thank you!

Freddy Jones
Freddy Jones3 years ago

Nice article made me smile a little... I guess the use of baking soda as a toothpaste is pretty unpleasant, since I have tried it myself.

Kay Redmon
Kay Redmon3 years ago

Couldn't help but smile at the description of the teeth cleaning article. I was raised by a Mother who would never use anything other than Castile soap, baking soda. epson salts & white vinegar as cleanser's for everything, including teeth, but mixed with a little commercial toothpaste as well. I must say I have tried a lot of those horrible smelly & dangerous cleaners, but always resort back to the trusted three. Coffee, red wine, tea, beetroot can always removed easily with baking soda, sprinkle a little on each dampened stain & the baking soda will lift them without any need to scrub, which only makes the stain worse as you are actually spreading the stain even further. Silver also cleans beautifully with baking soda & the dreaded job of oven cleaning. A paste of baking soda & white vinegar brushed onto a warm oven & left overnight, will wipe off easily the next morning. Thermos flasks clean up like new with BS, as do many other kitchen appliances, especially stainless steel. Wipe on with a dampt cloth, leave for 10 minutes & it will come up as new. BS, rosehip & grated Castile soap makes a lovely fragrant alternative to expensive Bath salts. The only thing I have had trouble with is the shower, as much as I don't like to use these harsh chemicals I do resort to Exit Mould for the tiles. Epsom salts is also excellent to clean the dishwasher & washing machine, cleans off all the soap residue from the pipes... Sorry to hear your experiment

Michael H.
Mike H.3 years ago

Be sure to use a different brush for the toilet and your teeth.

Tammy Baxter
Tammy B.3 years ago

i love cleaning with baking soda but I'm going to skip using it to brush my teeth. thanks for sharing!

Kate S.
Kate S.3 years ago

good info

Pinke A.
Pinke A.3 years ago

Have to try the bathroom cleaning,but I think I'll skip the toothpaste test =D