Why Baking Soda and Vinegar Are Great Cleaning Agents

Bottle of vinegar and jar of baking soda on wooden table and white background

Eskay Lim/ Eye Em/ Getty Images

Take a look at the label on many household cleaning products and you'll see sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid listed among the ingredients. Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, and acetic acid, also known as vinegar, are both effective cleaners if used correctly.

Baking soda is a naturally occurring mild alkali (base) that helps dirt and grease dissolve in water. The powder acts as a gentle abrasive to help loosen stuck-on grime without damaging surfaces. It also deodorizes by transforming both acidic and basic odor molecules into a more neutral, odor-free state.

Vinegar (acid) is produced through the fermentation of fruits and vegetables. Distilled white vinegar is a five percent solution of acetic acid that is mild enough to dissolve greasy molecules without harming most finishes (do not use on natural stone).

If you've ever made a science fair project volcano, you know that when baking soda and distilled white vinegar are combined there will be a chemical reaction—foaming. According to Anne Marie Helmenstine Ph.D., the reaction produces carbon dioxide gas. The gas created during the foaming action is beneficial when cleaning because the reaction helps loosen stuck-on grime in clogged pipes or surfaces.

Once the foaming (reaction) stops, there is still the benefit of the abrasive texture of baking soda particles for removing grime but the mixture is not as powerful as using baking soda and vinegar separately for most types of cleaning. That's why you should not mix the two in advance to have them on hand for cleaning.

Learn how to use baking soda and vinegar together and separately for cleaning around the house.

  • 01 of 05

    Unclog Drains

    pouring baking soda down a drain

    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

    To unclog slow-running bathroom or kitchen sink drains, pour at least one quart of boiling water down the drain. Add one cup of dry baking soda to the drain followed by one cup of distilled white vinegar and one cup of hot water. There will be foaming. Let the mixture react and work for at least 10 minutes. It is fine to let the mixture stay in the drain overnight. Finish by flushing the drain with another quart of boiling water.

  • 02 of 05

    Clean Dirty Oven Racks

    scrubbing oven racks with a sponge

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

    If you don't like using commercial oven cleaners, you can clean your oven with baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda and water make an excellent paste to clean oven walls and doors. Combining baking soda and vinegar creates the bubbling action that helps loosen the baked-on grease from oven racks so it can be scrubbed away more easily.

  • 03 of 05

    Make Toilet Cleaner

    DIY toilet bowl cleaner

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    You can make your own toilet cleaner with baking soda and vinegar but they should not be mixed until you are ready to clean.

    In a sealable glass container (essential oils can pit metal and some plastics), combine two cups of baking soda and one teaspoon of essential oil (tea tree, lavender, and pine all have disinfecting properties) stirring until all of the oil is well-distributed. This mixture will last for around 30 cleanings.

    When you're ready to clean the toilet, add one tablespoon of the baking soda mixture to the toilet bowl. Pour in two cups of distilled white vinegar. The solution will fizz up. Allow it to work until the fizzing stops or at least 15 minutes and then scrub the bowl with a toilet brush and flush.

  • 04 of 05

    Remove Hard Water Stains From Glass

    Glass rinsed with clean water and microfiber cloth

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

    If you live in an area with water that has a high mineral content or "hard water", you may find shower doors and even windows coated with stains from the minerals left behind from water after it dries. The acid in distilled white vinegar helps dissolve the minerals so they can be wiped away. For excessive build-up, use some baking soda on your scrubbing sponge to create the reaction you need to help lift the minerals away from the glass and add some gentle abrasion to scrub them away.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Freshen a Smelly Dishwasher

    Glass bottle of vinegar sitting on opened dishwasher door with tray of dishes behind

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    No one needs foam spewing from the dishwasher but using distilled white vinegar and baking soda in the right order can clean and freshen a smelly dishwasher. With the dishwasher empty, run a wash cycle with one cup of vinegar in a small bowl on the top rack. The vinegar will help cut through any greasy deposits that are clinging to the interior walls of the dishwasher. Once the wash cycle is complete, sprinkle one cup of baking soda inside the dishwasher and run a quick wash cycle to deodorize the interior.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sodium Bicarbonate. NIH National Library of Medicine

  2. Acetic acid. NIH National Library of Medicine

  3. Baking Soda - The Everyday Miracle. University of Wisconsin Extension Service

  4. Equation for the Reaction Between Baking Soda and Vinegar. Anne Marie Helmenstein PhD, Thoughtco.com