Uses for Baking Soda in Laundry

Baking soda inside labeled glass container in front of folded white towels

The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

It may sound old-fashioned, but adding baking soda to laundry can 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. Mixing baking soda into laundry detergent also helps keep your machine cleaner. Read on to discover more ways baking soda can help your laundry look, feel, and definitely smell better.

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. Baking soda will 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:

Quickly rinse acid spills and then sprinkle baking soda on your clothing to neutralize the acid and prevent damage to the garment. 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 1/2 cup of baking soda to the wash load.

To Brighten Aged Linens

Baking soda can be very effective at removing stains from fine linens caused by age. Because it is a natural cleaner, you can trust that your old linens will be whitened and brightened rather than damaged. Regular detergents can damage linens, so the method here is to wash with baking soda alone, not as an additive to detergent. If your linens have spots, pretreat them by rubbing them with a paste made of baking soda and water.

As a Fabric Softener

Instead of using fabric softener, try adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle. Baking soda acts as a natural softener and is a gentler alternative to commercial fabric softeners.

To Remove Odors

Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle helps to remove odors from clothes (and shoes) and also softens them naturally. Try this trick with gym clothes, musty old towels that may have a lingering odor, and 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 to work as a deodorizer.

  1. Mix 1 cup of baking soda with 1 gallon of water in a bucket.
  2. Add your clothes to the bucket, and swirl them around to make sure they are fully soaked.
  3. 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 of baking soda and water and use it to wash the inside of your machine. Apply the paste to a cloth or sponge and scrub the inside surfaces of the machine; rinse when finished. 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.

Vinegar and baking soda can be used in combination to thoroughly clean and freshen your washing machine.

  1. Set your washing machine on the hot water cycle at the largest load setting, then add 2-4 cups of white vinegar.
  2. Allow the machine to run for about a minute, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda. Let the machine run for another minute, then stop the cycle and allow the water to sit in the machine for 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. If you wish, you can use the mixture in the tub to scrub the detergent dispenser and the sides of the machine while you wait.
  4. Once the tank has finished soaking, restart the cycle, allow it to complete, then run another hot water cycle to rinse everything thoroughly.

To Increase Bleach Potency

Adding 1/2 cup of 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.

Article Sources
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  1. Dobay O, Laub K, Stercz B, et al. Bicarbonate Inhibits Bacterial Growth and Biofilm Formation of Prevalent Cystic Fibrosis PathogensFront Microbiol. 2018;9:2245. Published 2018 Sep 19. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.02245