Mixing baking soda (often known as bicarbonate of soda) with vinegar might produce lots of impressive-looking bubbles that look like they should clean well. However,here’s why you should never mix the two ingredients when cleaning.
As someone with more than a passing interest in green cleaning, I have spent a lot of time in natural cleaning spaces on Instagram and Pinterest. And I have lost count of the number of times I have seen well meaning people recommend making natural cleaning products that combine vinegar and baking soda.
Whilst combing these two ingredients does generate some mighty impressive looking bubbles that look like they should clean really well, in truth they don’t. Combing the two ingredients is not a good idea. It’s a waste of two green cleaning ingredients that work perfectly well independently of each other. And secondly, combining the two does not make for an effective green cleaning solution.
Let me pop my best chemistry teacher hat on, and explain why.
By the way, I’m the UK. I do prefer the term bicarbonate of soda rather than baking soda. However, I know a lot of readers find my posts with the search term ‘baking soda’, so that’s why I’m using this particular term today.
Why You Should Never Mix Baking Soda With Vinegar When Cleaning
Ok, are you ready for your chemistry lesson?
If you think back to early secondary school science lessons, you might have learned about acids, alkalis and bases. In case you missed that lesson then here’s a useful summary.
How is secondary school chemistry relevant to green cleaning? Well, it’s important to know that vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base. A base is any substance that reacts with an acid to form a salt and water only. This means that when combined, acid and bases neutralise each other to create a roughly pH neutral salty water solution.
This means that when you mix vinegar and baking soda, this reacts to form water and carbon dioxide and salts. So, in other words, you get a weak salty sparkling water solution. Have a look at the full chemical reaction to see what happens when the two ingredients are combined:
You wouldn’t deliberately clean your kitchen with weak salty water and expect great results. There are definitely more effective ways to clean than with mixing vinegar and baking soda.
Why Do People Mistakenly Mix The Two?
I’m certain that when people see vinegar and baking soda fizzing when they react, then they assume that mixing the two ingredients creates oxygen bubbles that lift the dirt away.
Alternatively, as vinegar makes for a great natural cleaner, as does baking soda, then people think combining the two multiplies their cleaning superpowers.
I think most people that adovate mixing the two ingredients would be disappointed to hear that they are cleaning with nothing more than salty water.
What Should I Clean With Instead?
I am absolutely not discounting these two ingredients. Vinegar on it’s own, or mixed with appropriate ingredients, makes for a fantastic natural cleaner. And baking soda can be used in many different homemade cleaning products. In fact, there are myriad ways of effectively cleaning your home using natural ingredients that don’t involve making salty water.
As a starter for ten, here are a few of my favourite tried and tested natural cleaning products to make that really work:
And to find out more about using vinegar for cleaning, including more on what you can and can’t mix vinegar with, then do check out my ultimate guide on everything you need to know about using white vinegar for cleaning. Vinegar is quite the anti-social ingredient, and doesn’t like to be mixed with many things. As such, I’d really advise checking out this guide out before making any vinegar based cleaning products. In some cases, it can even be downright hazardous to your health to combine vinegar with certain products so do make sure you are well informed.
Let me share with you my favourite environmentally and eco-friendly cleaning products from eco-conscious brands, that actually work, updated for 2021.
The eco-friendly cleaning products market can be mind-boggling. From what products actually work, to what products are actually environmentally friendly and what products are simply greenwash.
To help cut through the noise, I want to share my favourite eco-friendly cleaning products that I use on a frequent basis in my house. These products have been independently verified through certification schemes, and I find that these products either match or exceed the cleaning performance of their harsher counterparts.
The Best Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products That Actually Work
Here are my favourite brands and products that are the real deal when it comes to their eco-friendliness and effectiveness.
In order to help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.
Eco-Friendly Dish Washing Products
For The Dishwasher
For the dishwasher, I haven’t found a way to make my own dishwasher detergent that works, so I like to use Ecoleaf Dishwasher Tablets (£13.49 for 70*; or £5.45 for 25*). These are a great eco-friendlier AND plastic-free dishwasher detergent. These dishwasher tablets are designed to leave your dishes sparkling clean. They have a built-in rinse-aid, degreasing agents, and powerful cleaning action. I’ve been using them in our soft water area and I concur. I have found that they perform great on our dirty dishes and glassware. I’ve also had no issues with their cleaning ability.
In terms of ingredients, it’s 99% good news. Made from plant-derived ingredients, the dishwasher tablets are free of phosphates, SLS, SLES, parabens, triclosan, and synthetic fragrances. They are also certified cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. The one downside is that they do contain palm oil. However, as in all aspects of ethical living, it is practically impossible to find a product that is 100% perfect in every way.
Each tablet is wrapped in a water-soluble wrapper, that dissolves as your dishwasher starts running. I initially worried that this wrapper might break down into microplastic. The good news is Grist says no. The wrapper simply breaks down to carbon dioxide and water. Panic over!
Although I make a lot of my own cleaning products, making effective washing up liquid has always eluded me. As such, for handwashing dishes, I have been using Bio-D washing-up liquid* for years and years now. I was initially skeptical the first time I used the washing-up liquid as it seemed quite watery. My fears were unfounded as I found it’s got great cleaning power. So much so that it is now the only liquid we use. It’s around £2.50 for a big 750ml bottle, and often available in Oxfam shops, as well as natural food stores. If you’re into bulk buying, it’s only £9.30 for 5 litres at Ethical Superstore*. My favourite scent is the pink grapefruit one.
I mostly make my own laundry powder, but when life gets just too busy, I do admit I sometimes use shop-bought laundry powder. I, therefore, keep a bag of Bio-D laundry powder* under my kitchen sink. I’m really happy with its cleaning powers at 30°C. I even used it on my daughter’s washable nappies for over two years, which was a real test of its cleansing and freshening powers!
Speaking of washable nappies, I also found Bio-D’s laundry bleach* fantastic at sanitising and keeping washable nappies looking clean. It’s an oxygen-based antibacterial and sanitising in-wash whitener odour and stain remover, that does not contain chlorine bleaching agents. Even though we are well beyond the nappies stage, I still use the laundry bleach now to remove stains and to keep whites light and colours bright. Don’t be frightened by the term ‘bleach’ – it’s great for stains or smells, even on colourfast items.
All of Bio-D’s environmentally friendly cleaning products are vegan, certified cruelty-free, are made in the UK. What’s more, all of their ingredients are natural and plant-derived. This means they are free from triclosan, phthalates, petroleum derivatives, formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, genetically modified ingredients, and synthetic fragrances. They are also palm oil-free too.
For washing wool and delicates, I’m a fan of the Clothes Doctor range of detergents. The wool and cashmere laundry liquid* (£14) is a bit spendy, but this stuff really takes care of your best knitwear.
This specialist laundry liquid is made in the UK with plant-derived and cruelty-free vegetarian and vegan ingredients. And it’s packaged in a plastic-free and recyclable metal bottle. And what’s more, it is lightly scented with delicious-smelling sandalwood and patchouli. As a useful extra, these scents are natural moth deterrents so help to deter pesky moths from nibbly on your knitwear.
If you wear silk clothing, their silk wash* (£14) also does a top job of looking after your silk garments.
If Clothes Doctor is too high above your budget, then KINN Living is another brand to look at. Their delicate laundry liquid*, suitable for naturally cleaning delicates such as silk or wool comes in at £7.75 in a 1 litre refill pouch. Use this pouch to refill one of your own empty bottles. Alternatively, you can buy one of KINN Living’s recyclable metal bottles that you can refill time and time again.
This delicate laundry liquid is made from plant-based natural ingredients and fragrances. It’s also free from sodium laureth sulphate, parabens, phthalates, musks, toluene, phosphates, PEGs (polyethylene glycols), enzymes, chlorine bleach, optical brighteners, or formaldehyde. It’s also certified vegan AND made in the UK. There’s a lot of good going on here. And it’s great at cleaning your delicates the eco-friendly way, so it’s a win-win!
I do make my own surface cleansing products because it’s so quick, cheap and easy. However, again, when life gets busy, and I’ve run out of ingredients, I do keep a bottle of surface cleanser under my sink just in case.
We’re hand-down Miniml fans when it comes to cleaning surfaces. I love their French Lavender eco anti-bac surface cleaner* (£12 for a 5L refill carton). It smells lovely and cleans easily. You get a lot for your money in comparison to some other cleaning product brands, and I use it all around the house. I even dilute it in water to mop my floors. Basically, if I’m not using vinegar then I’m using this. Lavender is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal so it meets all of my needs.
Miniml is a refillable and environmentally friendly cleaning product brand. As well as being able to order Miniml* products online, they also offer a great refillable and reusable cleaning system. To help support this you’ll find eco-friendly refill stations around the UK, for things like washing-up liquid and surface cleaning. And for those shopping online, bulk delivery containers can be returned and reused. What’s more, all Miniml products are vegan, cruelty-free, and completely biodegradable.
The Brands I Avoid
There are many supposedly environmentally and eco-friendly cleaning products brands that I avoid.
Ecover and Method, for example, were bought over by consumer goods giant SC Johnson in December 2017. SC Johnson owns household cleaning brands such as Duck, Shout, Glade, Pledge, and Windex, none of which use environmentally friendly ingredients or take action on single-use plastic. What’s more, Ethical Consumer Magazine says SC Johnson has been linked to animal testing, tax avoidance strategies, unethical palm oil sourcing, and more.
In the past two years or so, there has also been a proliferation of dissolvable cleaning product brands pop up – from dissolvable sachets to dissolvable laundry sheets. I have tried a few, including Smol and Ocean Savers and Iron & Velvet, and I have been disappointed. Some don’t use eco-friendly or plant-based ingredients, some don’t have Leaping Bunny cruelty-free certification, and some simply don’t work. One dissolvable laundry sheet product made a terrible sticky mess of my washing machine. I don’t have any recommendations at present, but if this changes I will update this post!
So there you go, a round-up of some of my favourite environmentally friendly cleaning products, and my not so favourite ‘eco’ products. Any favourites you want to add? Any you were disappointed by?
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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