8 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda and Vinegar

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
Woman cleaning a kitchen worktop with natural cleaning products lemon, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.
Baking soda and vinegar, together or separately, have lots of uses in the kitchen or laundry room. Dougal Waters/Getty Images

Natural, non-toxic cleansers are all the rage, and white vinegar and baking soda are popular options in this area. Most people know that baking soda is a helpful cleaning and deodorizing agent, and that vinegar packs serious antibacterial and rust-fighting powers. But while each substance on its own is an effective cleanser, put together they pack an extra punch.

You may have made a homemade volcano by combining baking soda and vinegar as a kid. The two products generate quite a reaction. When vinegar (dilute acetic acid) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) mix together, the pair "foams up" to produce carbon dioxide gas, as well as liquid water, acetate ions and sodium ions. The carbon dioxide gas is what produces the bubbles.

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Once the liquid water evaporates and the solid baking soda dissolves, sodium acetate remains. This effective cleaning agent shows up in more than just household products, however. It's a key ingredient in textiles, cosmetics and even as a food additive!

Now that you know a bit of the science involved in this impressive reaction, it's time to find out how to use it to your advantage. Here are eight excellent suggestions on how to use baking soda and vinegar together for maximum effectiveness.

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1. Clean Pots and Pans

The next time your food burns on the bottom of a pot or pan, turn to baking soda and vinegar to rectify the situation. Add some water and 1 cup (240 milliliters) or so of vinegar to the bottom of the pan, then heat it up to a simmer. Remove the pan from heat and then add 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of baking soda. Allow the pan to soak until there are no more bubbles. Then, scrub with a scouring pad and watch all the crustiness fall away.

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2. Clean the Dishwasher

Some dishwashers get gunky with food debris, not to mention covered in rust stains. Fortunately, vinegar and baking soda are ideal for taking care of these problems. Simply put a measuring cup filled with 1 cup of vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher. Then, run a hot water cycle. Once that's done, liberally sprinkle some baking soda along the bottom of the appliance, then run a shorter hot cycle.

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3. Clean the Washing Machine

Washing machines can build up soap scum, limescale or even mold over time. Although you can buy a commercial cleaner or use bleach, here is a cheaper alternative that is also safer. Put 1/2 cup (32 grams) of baking soda in the machine (for a front-loading machine) and fill the fabric softener tray with 1 quart (1 liter) of vinegar. If you have a top-loader, you can just put both ingredients in the drum. Run the machine on hot water for a full cycle.

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4. Unclog the Drain

This will remind you of that science experiment we mentioned earlier and works just as well as a commercial drain product. First, pour some boiling water down the drain. Then pour 1/2 cup of baking soda and let it sit in the drain for three to five minutes. Next, add 1 cup of vinegar, followed by 1 cup of very hot water. Let the whole thing sit for five to 10 minutes. Then flush it out with more boiling water.

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5. Get Grout to Sparkle

Grout gets stained over time, especially in the kitchen area where sauces tend to spatter. To get your grout back to "like new" status, sprinkle some baking soda over the affected area. Next, using a spray bottle filled with vinegar, spritz some of the wet stuff on the grout. Give the mixture some time to fizzle and pop, then scrub away at the grout using a scrub brush, toothbrush or something similar. Rinse the utensil as needed, and wipe up excess dirt with a clean, wet rag. (Note: this should only be done with grout that has been sealed. If your grout is unsealed, just use baking soda and scrub.)

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6. Clean the Kitchen Sink

To bring back the shine on a stainless steel sink, get the sink nice and wet. Then sprinkle it with baking soda. Scrub using a brush or cloth and then rinse it off. Next, soak some paper towels in white vinegar, and place them all over the sink. Allow the towels to rest for 20 minutes, then remove and rinse the sink again.

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7. Deodorize the Toilet

Even the cleanest toilet can benefit from this hack. Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the bowl, then top it off with a 1 cup of vinegar. (Some people try this with a half cup of each product.) Close the toilet lid and let the bubbly mixture sit for about 30 minutes. Then use a toilet brush to scrub it clean.

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8. Revitalize Towels

Towels can become stiff or smelly thanks to repeated use of detergent and fabric softener on them. Soap residue can make towels dry less effectively, so they may take on a funky smell or feel rough. Restore them with baking soda and vinegar. To do this, first wash your towels with 1 cup of vinegar and a hot water cycle. Don't add any detergent. Then wash them a second time in hot water and 1 cup of baking soda. Finally, run them through the dryer without using a fabric softener.

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