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Our Guide to Eco-cleaning – what does baking soda do?

zero waste baking soda

Washing soda, baking soda, soda water – are you not sure if these are all the same? In terms of chemistry, the difference between washing soda and baking soda is only a single hydrogen atom. Imagine – from baking soda you can easily make (bake) washing soda. Article by Kati Szirmay, our green household guru.

Öko-takarítás kisokosSo how green is it?

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is so harmless that most people are familiar with its food use. Baking soda is the active ingredient and main component of baking powder and has traditionally been used for baking – it is no coincidence that in English, for example, it is called “baking soda”. In your household, however, you can go far beyond just baking with it. Aside from cooking, baking soda has a variety of additional household uses and health benefits.

Öko-takarítás kisokosBenefits and Uses

Baking soda is less alkaline than washing soda, and is therefore suitable for human consumption. Also, baking soda has a more crunchy feel, making it an excellent abrasive. Another advantage is that it absorbs odours perfectly and dissolves in warm water sooner than washing soda. It neutralizes acids while releasing carbon dioxide. And each of the features listed here creates an essential function in the household. Check this out:

Do the laundry: Baking soda is often a component of household laundry detergents and dishwashing liquids. This is partly due to the great deodorizing effect – it can help eliminate unpleasant odours from clothes. In addition, it dissolves faster in water than washing soda, so when it comes to water softening, it works more quickly. For this reason, if it is added to your home-made laundry detergent or machine dishwashing detergent as a component, it will soften the water by the time the washing soda “gets there,” so this latter can have a better cleaning effect.

Soak: When added to washing soda in soaking water, mixed with a little baking soda, the cleaning effect can be enhanced. Soda bicarbonate soaking is the best against odours. Are you afraid that you will not be able to remove, for example, food odour or cigarette smoke by doing the laundry? Soak your laundry in baking soda beforehand! For soaking heavily soiled light clothes, use the stain remover salt – it is eco-friendly too. (An article on the stain remover salt is coming soon…)

Deodorize the refrigerator: Put baking soda in a bowl in the refrigerator. It neutralizes unpleasant odours. When you’re done, the baking soda can still be used for cleaning!

Clean your bathroom and kitchen: Baking soda is a fantastic abrasive. It is an excellent kitchen and bathroom cleaner: you can clean the toilet, the bath, the washbasin, the sink and stove with baking soda. After scrubbing with baking soda, wipe the surface off with vinegar to have it completely clean. You don’t like the smell of vinegar? Apply first the vinegar, then use the baking soda.

Eco-friendly detergents might be risky – and this is no scam

Greasy soap deposits or food residue on the stove? Mix baking soda with washing soda for a better degreasing effect. Try and soak the stove with a little water or a damp cloth – or even with a mixture of washing soda, baking soda and water, and leave it to stand for approx. 10 minutes. Skip scrubbing and simply wipe the surface off instead.

Clean the toilet: Put 1-3 tablespoons of baking soda in the toilet bowl, depending on the degree of soiling, and then scrub with the brush. Rub with vinegar or citric acid. (You may do it the other way around.)

In case some baking soda is left in the toilet, it will sparkle with the vinegar. The foaming of the carbon dioxide can move the deposits, but it will weaken the scale-dissolving power of the vinegar somewhat (since it reacts with baking soda instead of scale).

Save a scorched pot: Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the bottom of the pot and add enough water to cover the burnt areas. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let the mixture cool and see how the burnt bits will come off or, if not, they will easily be removed with a wooden shovel.

Wash-up: Baking soda is a fantastic abrasive and an excellent degreasing agent. Many people wash all dishes exclusively with baking soda, using a sink brush and loofah sponge (these have recently been tested!). Several people reported that while the first couple of times baking soda irritated their hands, it was not the case after just one or two times.

Clear clogs: Clogged toilet, wash basin or sink? If greasy deposits cause clogging, use the legendary vinegar & baking soda team. Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain, and let it sparkle. As those two react (with water), a lot of carbon dioxide is produced, and the foaming and sparkling will loosen the dirt.

If vinegar is added after the sparkling phase is complete, there is a good chance that the same reaction will occur in the deeper layers of the drain. After the sparkling phase, finally pour 1-1.5 l of boiling hot water down the drain – this will remove the dirt dissolved. After pouring the hot water, let a little cold water into the drain so that the hot water does not cause any damage.

Clean your tiles: Stubborn dirt on the tile can be rubbed off with baking soda on a damp cloth.

Shoe deodorizer: Put baking soda in a close-woven sock and leave it in the shoe for at least 6-8 hours. The smell evaporates – this is how you can skip spray shoe deodorizers!

Mattress and rug deodorizer: Cover the carpet with a thin layer of baking soda, wait a couple of hours and vacuum the residue.

Cosmetics: Baking soda is a raw material for many natural cosmetics. It doesn’t work for everyone though, as it can irritate the skin of those who are sensitive to it. Most people, on the other hand, are perfectly happy with homemade baking soda deodorant or tooth powder. Before testing, gather information or perform a skin test.

Baking soda is also often used by many for foot baths to treat dry heels and foot odours.

ikon szódabikarbónaBaking soda as air freshener or toilet fragrance

Pour 2-3 inches of baking soda into a small jar, then add 10-20 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Baking soda retains the scent for up to 2-3 weeks, while natural essential oil evaporates from any other surface after a few hours. Cover the top of the jar with a piece of cloth. Get some ideas from here. This is a 100% natural solution. Skip unhealthy fragrances! Extra: if the baking soda discolours from the essential oil after a few months, you can still use the mixture to clean the toilet.

Öko-takarítás kisokos ikon szódabikarbónaWarning

Baking soda is a brilliant abrasive – so do not apply it on very sensitive surfaces or delicate plastics!

ikon szódabikarbóna

How to store?

The baking soda used for cleaning can be stored in a jar with a perforated lid, or in a salt sprayer to make it easier to dispense whenever you want to use it for cleaning. Stir with washing soda only if the container has a lid (e.g. an empty spice jar), otherwise it will react with the water content of the air and harden.

Öko-takarítás kisokosLet’s do the maths

Baking soda can be purchased for just 499 ft/kg (check out Zöldbolt’s 2 kg baking soda), while a traditional scouring powder costs 1109 ft/kg (Tesco webshop prices) and contains hazardous substances that will get in contact with your bathroom and even with your kitchen surfaces. Edible baking soda is 658 ft/kg (check out Zöldbolt’s 500g baking soda), while baking powder is at 986-4083 ft/kg (based on Tesco webshop prices).

Öko-takarítás kisokosPackaging

In addition to non-degradable plastic, baking soda is also available in paper packaging. Go for the paper package!


Green&Safe LIFE-styles is supported by the European Union LIFE program and co-funded by the Hungrian Ministry of Agriculture. Project ID: ENV GIE HU000622 Green & Safe LIFE-styles.

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