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Clever Cleaning Solutions to Replace Baking Soda

Glass jar spilling baking soda on table.

​If you keep up with our blog, you already know 1,001 ways to use baking soda around the house. At this point, it should be a go-to cleaning essential, and for good reason! It’s safe, eco-friendly, powerful, versatile, and cheap — exactly what you need when you’re trying to battle the never-ending cleaning chores of a hectic household.

Baking soda always seems to be on hand, which is why you never realize when you’re running low. If you’re all out of this all-purpose cleaning staple, here are the top baking soda replacements to help you manage household messes right now.

What Can Baking Soda Do?

Before we talk about baking soda alternatives, let’s review what we’re replacing. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a mildly alkaline salt, an odorless powder with a pH around 8-9. Between its physical structure and reactive qualities, baking soda has all the traits of an ideal cleaner in several areas.

The gritty texture of baking soda makes it one of the best cleaning scrubs when you need to break off stuck-on grime and buff out stains. Baking soda’s fine particles are powerful enough to dislodge dirt but gentle enough to prevent scratching on delicate materials. You can use it for just about any surface, from restoring a smooth shine to metal fixtures to lightly clearing gunk off of grout.

It’s an excellent scrub, but the main reason people love baking soda so much is its chemical characteristics. With a slightly basic pH, baking soda reacts with an acidic ingredient to form carbon dioxide gas and harmlessly removes it. In cleaning terms, that’s helpful for several reasons:

  • Neutralizes odors in the air
  • Reacts with vinegar to fizz, lifting dirt and stains
  • Breaks down grease and food particles
  • Removes stains from fabric in the wash
  • Softens washing machine water to improve the detergent’s efficiency

Baking soda can make your house look, smell, and feel better in countless ways. There’s no single solution to replace baking soda completely, but a few everyday household items can do the trick.

Cleaning with Baking Soda Alternatives

Sodium bicarbonate isn’t the best for cleaning mold and mildew, but it is a more practical option in certain areas than many abrasive cleaners like bleach and vinegar. Here are some popular baking soda uses and sensible substitutes to try when you run low.

Surface Cleaners

The gentle abrasiveness of baking soda is perfect for surfaces and materials that could be worn down by a more acidic cleaner. You won’t want to use vinegar on grout, for example, but a light scrubbing with baking soda can clean and brighten tilework in no time. It’s also an excellent way to prevent scratching and fading on sensitive surfaces, ideal for removing porcelain stains and hard water deposits on metal to restore a like-new shine.

So what can you do to replace baking soda? If you’re dealing with dirty toilets, tubs, or sinks and stubborn stains from hard water, you can use white vinegar in a spray bottle instead.

Mix white vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio in a spray bottle and spray it on your sink, countertops, or metal surface stains. Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it clean. Just be sure to rinse any lingering vinegar with plenty of water. One of the biggest mistakes when cleaning with vinegar is letting it sit too long and allowing the acetic acid to not only degrade stuck-on grime but also the surfaces underneath.

For tile and grout, try using 3% hydrogen peroxide instead of baking soda. The fizzy liquid breaks up grime without wearing out the material. Spray some on your tile and let it sit for 30-60 minutes before rinsing and wiping clean.

Drain Cleaners

On their own, vinegar and baking soda are fantastic cleaners, and some people have built a misconception that you can combine them to make an even more effective cleaner. In reality, mixing the two creates little more than carbon dioxide (which immediately dissipates), water, and a little bit of salt.

That’s hardly a cleaner worth mixing in a spray bottle.

But as you may know, the instant chemical reaction when you combine vinegar and baking soda is almost explosive, which is pretty handy on a clogged drain. Pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain, dump in some baking soda, and cover the hole to let the combo break up and force out the clog.

Outside of a commercial drain cleaner, it’s hard to think of a baking soda substitute that can have the same kind of impact on clogs. But with a couple of basic ingredients and household tools, there are a handful of alternatives that are just as safe and effective at clearing a sink:

  • Try a cup plunger on standing water clogs
  • Pour ½ cup of vinegar, ¼ cup of table salt, and ¼ cup of Borax down the drain and flush with boiling water
  • Put a few drops of dish soap in boiling water and pour it into the drain to break down grease clogs

You lose some of the convenience with these substitutes, as you may need them to let them sit for 30-60 minutes before rinsing out your drain. But in a pinch, it beats running to the store to grab a fresh box of baking soda.

Carpet Cleaning

Baking soda is perfect for liquid stains in carpets because it’s absorbent, odor-neutralizing, and oxidizing when mixed with an acidic ingredient. Still, it’s hardly the only DIY carpet cleaner to try after a spill.

If you need something to only absorb liquid, try sprinkling salt or cornstarch on the spot. After a few hours, they will have absorbed all of the moisture, so they will be easy to scrape and vacuum away.

Baking soda is great at absorbing oil and grease. To lift these kinds of stains, you can use several liquid alternatives to baking soda. Instead of going for a carpet cleaning product, try these household ingredients:

  • Club soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Vinegar and dish liquid
  • Rubbing alcohol

All you need to do is pour or spritz the cleaner on the stain, let the liquid sit for a few minutes, and blot it up with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Replacing Baking Soda in the Laundry

Sodium bicarbonate provides a powerful boost when you’re washing loads of laundry. It helps reduce odors while improving the effectiveness of your laundry products. Clothes emerge from the washing machine smelling fresher, feeling softer, and looking brighter, and you won’t have to use as much detergent or bleach.

All out of baking soda but still need that next-level clean? Try these solutions instead:

  • Whiten clothes and remove musty or sweaty odors by adding a ¼ cup of white vinegar before the rinse cycle
  • Pre-treat stains by spraying with white vinegar and letting it sit for an hour before washing
  • Add a cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washing machine before starting it to get whiter clothes
  • Brighten clothes by slicing up two lemons, adding them to boiled water, and pre-soaking clothes in the hot water for an hour before washing
  • Add a tablespoon of Borax to the washing machine before starting a load to boost your detergent’s cleaning power

Deodorizing Without Baking Soda

From the fridge to the floor, baking soda is a classic solution to odors all around the house. As a base, it counteracts the acidity of airborne particles to neutralize them and destroy foul aromas.

When you’re all out of baking soda and need to get funky stinks out of carpet, clothes, and mattresses, white vinegar makes a superb alternative. It breaks down dirt particles trapped in fibers and helps minimize odor-causing bacteria. And if you’re concerned that you’ll only be replacing one bad smell with another, the vinegar smell will disappear once it evaporates.

Eliminating Fridge Odors

Refrigerators produce and circulate a bunch of food odors, and a box of baking soda is essential for many of us trying to keep our produce fresh and the fridge smelling good. When you’re out of baking soda, these alternatives are just as effective at absorbing foul smells:

  • Dry coffee grounds
  • Dry oats
  • Vinegar in a washcloth
  • Unscented cat litter

Put any of these in a bowl toward the back of your fridge, and it will start smelling better in record time. If you want to freshen the scent after deodorizing it, you can use cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract.

Baking Soda Scrub Alternative

The gentle scrubbing power of baking soda is perfect for retaining flawless surfaces, and there aren’t many household ingredients that can give you an identical delicate touch. Table salt is an effective abrasive, but it can be too coarse for many materials used in countertops and fixtures. 

The best baking soda substitute when you need a light scrub is white toothpaste, which usually contains some baking soda anyways. The abrasive crystals in white toothpaste make it a miracle solution for whitening and removing stains from all kinds of materials. It can make crayon marks disappear, polish metal, whiten rubber on shoes, and even buff out minor scratches.

Try Out Baking Soda Alternatives Today!

Try out these different cleaning methods to see which ones work best for you. You may even find that one of these clever substitutes works better than baking soda for your cleaning projects! No matter what, you’ll be ready for any chore that comes your way.

We know that sometimes all the baking soda in the world won’t solve your cleaning problems. Anita’s is here to lend the helping hand you need in those dire moments when time is scarce and the mess is massive. Contact us today to learn how we can help you find top-rated local cleaning professionals to fit your life!


Anita's Housekeeping Editors