Baking soda and white vinegar have become the staples of eco-friendly household cleaning. Everyone and their dog is using them. And when you mix them together, you get a concoction so powerful that it makes dirt disappear on its own. Chef’s kiss!
Except, this isn’t the case at all. Mixing baking soda and vinegar isn’t the miracle cleaning agent you’ve been led to believe. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still great when used separately. In fact, most of our eco-friendly cleaning guides revolve around these two substances. And we even sometimes use them together. But there’s a catch.
Let’s dust off our chemistry books for a second. We’ll be talking about a chemical reaction, after all.
We don’t often think about it, but many of the natural products we use have chemical properties. Baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda) is a base. This means it’s a substance that can “accept” protons.
White vinegar, on the other hand, is an acid. In other words, it’s a substance that can “donate” protons. All of a sudden it’s becoming apparent why this is a match made in heaven.
Bases and acids naturally react with one another, and baking soda and white vinegar are no exception. In this interaction, the white vinegar “donates” a proton to the soda. A chemical reaction ensues (this is the fizzing you see when you mix the two substances). This reaction is called neutralisation.
When the dust settles, what you’re left with is water and sodium acetate. In other words, glorified seawater. Not the be-all, end-all cleaning solution.
The good news is that both baking soda and white vinegar are powerful cleaning agents when used on their own. Baking soda is great for removing stubborn dirt, grease, and other organic sticky substances.
White vinegar is awesome at breaking down mineral deposits and when combined with lemon juice – disinfection. So both compounds have their uses. One question remains – does it ever make sense to mix them?
When you pour a bit of white vinegar on baking soda, you unleash a chemical reaction. One of the things that happen during that chemical reaction (and the reason for all the fizzing) is carbon dioxide escaping the scene.
The fizzing is actually pretty useful for loosening dirt and grime. That’s the way you should use this mixture – directly on the surface. While it’s bubbling, the mixture is still slightly basic, so this should add to the effectiveness against grease.
You can, in certain scenarios. However, a better approach would be to let the baking soda do its thing. When I’ve written about mixing vinegar and baking soda in other guides, I’ve always shared the advice to let the soda sit for a while before pouring white vinegar on top.
The reason is simple – the bicarb soda’s done its part and now it’s time to remove it. And we might as well use a bit of that carbon dioxide to further loosen any stubborn grime. It’s an elegant solution (pun intended).
Mixing baking soda and white vinegar is not the be-all, end-all cleaning solution. Used separately, both substances are great. Together, though, they cancel each other out.
Yet, there are still ways to use them effectively if you know what you’re doing. As you can see, cleaning is not as simple as it seems, but we’re here to help you learn.
Hi, I’m Atanas - brand consultant and writer. I’m helping Samyx Cleaning create the best cleaning company blog on the Internet. Join us on our journey and learn how to live a cleaner, healthier, happier life in the process.
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