3 Things Before You Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar

by Ivory Soap on 07/30/2012

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I see so many DIY recipes where people mix baking soda and vinegar together.  The main value of this is the immediate reaction.  It lifts and breaks up dirt, but after that, what you have leftover is just salt water.  That salt has no cleaning ability beyond the mild ability to suspend hard water deposits, which is only useful if you have hard water and then, only if you have another CLEANING agent in the mix.  Just under 1/2T baking soda turns 1 quart of vinegar to salt water.  

1.  Vinegar solutions in no way benefit from the addition of baking soda

Vinegar is an acid cleaner.  It suspends hard water particles without the soda.  It just so happens that the salt soda and vinegar make together is also good for that.  There’s no need to add soda to your vinegar bottle unless you just want to neutralize the cleaning power and make yourself work harder.  If you want to clean with acid, do it.  Don’t toss in the soda.

2.  Soda solutions benefit from vinegar.

Soda cleaners are base cleaners.  1/2 T turns 1 quart of vinegar to salt water.  This means if you do it on purpose, you can add 1 T baking soda per cup of fancy salt water and your cleaner has the cleaning power of baking soda with the suspension power of vinegar salt.  If you have hard water and you want to make sure that any deposits you generate stay suspended while you clean, you can put that “power” of vinegar salt in a baking soda spray bottle or in your laundry or in your dishwasher.  But, there’s no point unless you have hard water.  The resulting chip flavoring doesn’t actually CLEAN anything.  It just helps prevent redepositing.  And don’t forget that you have a limited time to use the solution.  Baking soda solutions lose power over time.

Baking Soda-Vinegar Cleaning Solution for Hard Water

1 cup store bought vinegar (%5 acetic acid)

1 T baking soda

Mix in a LARGE pot.  After it finishes foaming, there will still be lots of unreacted baking soda in the bottom (takes a gallon of vinegar to neutralize all that baking soda, you just reacted about 1/8 T of it)  Pour in bottle.  Will lose power over time.

3.  This Doesn’t Directly Translate to Laundry.

For each load of laundry (traditional machine) you need about 2 cups of vinegar per 10ppm of hardness to keep it all suspended in the wash water. (You can of course put it in the rinse compartment and that helps too. This is just if you don’t want it to deposit at all.)  Our water is 17.9ppm.  We would need almost four cups of vinegar per load.  In contrast, 1tsp of dry citric acid also takes care of it.  Since I get Lemi-Shine for $5 (~73 tsp/can).  But don’t forget that you have to pump up your washing soda if you do this or it all got neutralized and there’s nothing in there to get things clean, just to suspend hard water.  For each cup of vinegar or 1/4tsp of citric acid you add to the wash, toss in an extra  1 tsp of washing soda.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Dreena Tischler August 4, 2012 at 6:05 am

Useful reminders! Thanks. I do love shoving some baking soda in the garbage disposal and pouring in straight vinegar for a nice explosive smell removal. But I really appreciated the explanation of how the vinegar works. Thanks.

storm damage August 25, 2012 at 1:18 am

You can make use of vinegar by mixing one teaspoon of it with a cup of warm water. This will make a very potent cleaning solution that will help in removing dust, dirt, and stains on your tiles. Thanks for sharing above all the wonderful cleaning tips.

Sharon Pickerd January 15, 2014 at 7:42 am

I cannot get the hard water stains out of my bathroom sinks, any ideas?
I have tried soda and vinegar to no avail

Bill February 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Salt water? Nah, it turns into a weak solution of sodium acetate. Regular laundry bleach turns back into salt water in 15 minutes after being sprayed on surfaces.

You need to correct this article.

Ivory Soap April 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

Sodium acetate is a sodium salt.

Bobby April 24, 2014 at 7:09 am

Any strong acid plus any strong alkali gives a salt. Any weak acid plus a weak alkali gives a salt. A strong (acid or alkali) plus a weak (alkali or acid) gives an acid salt or alkali salt. In fact, these strong/weak combo salts are used as buffers. But they are still technically salts. Sodium acetate is an alkali salt. As a chemist I really don’t get why people mix sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate and vinegar (or citric acid) in DIY cleaners unless, for some reason, they really want sodium acetate (or sodium citrate). Maybe the bubbly reaction makes them think they are doing something. IDK.

Sebby February 13, 2016 at 3:17 am

I agree, mixing baking soda and vinegar PRIOR TO CLEANING is rubbish for anything except for mould; you might as well just buy a kilogram of salt and dissolve that in some water.

However, if you make a paste of bicarbonate soda and apply that, scrub away at any soap deposits in your bathroom you’ll find it has a similar effect to ammonia. Vinegar is virtually useless here. The soap scum will quickly be removed, and the pH increased to that of the baking soda, which will kill most bacteria.

Applying excessive vinegar to complete a chemical reaction and plummet the pH into acidity at this point will kill virtually any remaining bacteria and form hygroscopic salts that’ll help keep mold at bay when this all dries up.

In conclusion, I agree that mixing them prior to cleaning is pointless, but I think cleaning with baking soda prior to cleaning with vinegar is useful for removing soap scum and preventing mould.

Moira August 11, 2016 at 11:21 pm

Can you tell me the equivalent to English baking soda as we put ours baking soda in cakes is this the same please. H
Can you also tell me how to get mildew from around the shower please.

Daisy August 12, 2016 at 7:14 am

Moira–Yes, it’s the same as for baking.
I’ve never had any luck with the more “natural” solutions to bad mildew problems. To reduce the amount you have to slosh around, I’ve sometimes used a laundry bleach pen (they also make these for bathroom applications nowadays) to put a small bead of it exactly where you need it.

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