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 in 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 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 who advocate 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 its own, or mixed with appropriate ingredients, makes for a fantastic natural cleaner. And baking soda can be used in many different homemade cleaning products. You can read my full guide to everything you need to know about cleaning with baking soda. 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:
- How to unblock a drain naturally
- How to clean stainless steel using vinegar and olive oil
- Make your own natural cleaning wipes
- How to make homemade cleaning spray
- Make citric acid cleaning spray
You can find more natural cleaning products to DIY this way.
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 an anti-social ingredient and doesn’t like to be mixed with many things. As such, I’d really advise checking out this guide 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.