It may sound like an old wives tale, but adding baking soda to your regular amount of liquid laundry detergent truly will make your colored clothing brighter and your whites whiter. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and cleanser, and it also softens the water, which means you can get away with using less detergent. It also helps keep your machine clean too!
The Chemistry of Baking Soda
Baking soda (technically known as sodium bicarbonate) is very similar to the compound known as washing soda (sodium carbonate) and can serve the same function in the laundry.
It is a very mild alkaline powder that slightly raises the pH of water when it is mixed in. It is also a mild antiseptic that will discourage bacteria growth.
To Brighten Whites and Bright Colors
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the wash when you add your regular liquid detergent. The baking soda has been known to give you sharper whites, brighter brights, and odor-free clothing.
To Neutralize Acid
Acid spills and stains on clothing can come from various sources, including:
- Drain cleaner
- Battery acid
- Toilet bowl cleaner
Quickly rinse acid spills and then sprinkle baking soda on your clothing to neutralize the acid and prevent damage. If the acid is already dried, you can still neutralize it with baking soda before washing to prevent further damage to your machine.
To Remove Crayon Stains
If crayons have accidentally been washed with a load of clothing, there may still be hope for removing the art.
Rewash the clothing in the hottest water that is allowable for the fabric and add a 1/2 box of baking soda to the wash load. Because baking soda has an alkaline pH, it will help neutralize acids.
To Brighten Aged Linens
Baking soda can be very effective at removing stains formed by age. Because it is a natural cleaner, your you can trust that your old linens will be whitened and brightened rather than damaged.
As a Fabric Softener
Instead of using fabric softener, try adding a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle. Baking soda acts as a natural softener and is gentler for household members who have skin sensitivities to the chemicals found in commercial fabric softeners.
To Remove Odors
Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle helps to remove odors from clothes and also softens them naturally. Try this trick with gym clothes, with musty old towels that may have a lingering odor, as well as with bathing suits that smell of chlorine.
If your clothes smell like sweat or smoke, it's best to let them soak in a baking soda solution overnight. Soaking gives the baking soda time to go work as a deodorizer.
- Mix a cup of baking soda with a gallon of water in a bucket.
- Add your clothes to the bucket and swirl them around to make sure they are fully soaked.
- Leave the clothes overnight and launder them the next day.
As a Water Softener
In regions where the water supply has a high mineral content (hard water), baking soda added to a load of laundry will prevent the dinginess in clothes washed in hard water. Add 1/4 box of baking soda to each load of laundry to soften the water. If you have a water softener, baking soda is unnecessary.
To Clean the Washing Machine
Make a paste baking soda and water and use it to wash the inside of your machine. The next time bubble gum or candy canes accidentally get loose in the washer, use baking soda and a plastic tool to gently scrub the stuck-on surprises off the machine. The same paste can be used to gently scrub stains off the enameled outside surfaces of a washing machine or dryer.
To Increase Bleach Potency
Adding 1/2 cup baking soda in top-loading machines (1/4 cup for front loaders) will also increase the potency of bleach, so you need only half the usual amount to get the same efficacy.