Baking Soda May Be Your Secret Weapon Against Stains and Clogs – Here’s the Science Behind Its Cleaning Power – YP

After cooking all day and enjoying a hearty feast with friends or family, it’s inevitable that your kitchen will need cleaning. You might have stains on your stove or a clogged sink drain with food debris. But what if your cleaning solution bottles are all empty?

Don’t panic! Your pantry might have one simple ingredient that can help clean up most things in no time.

Whether it’s removing stains in your oven, unclogging drains, or getting rid of unpleasant odors in your refrigerator, baking soda is an excellent cleaning agent with a wide range of uses.

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What is Baking Soda?

Its chemical name is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). It exists as a white crystalline solid or as a powder.

Baking soda can be obtained in different ways. It can be extracted from nahcolite, a natural mineral. It can be produced by refining soda ash, called soda ash, from mined trona stones. It can also be made by passing ammonia and carbon dioxide through a solution of sodium chloride.

A barge pumps soda from the bottom of Lake Magadi in Kenya. Photo: Shutterstock

Crystals that remove stubborn stains

Baking soda is made up of sharp, hard, fine crystals, so they are mildly abrasive.

When baking soda is mixed with water, the paste can easily remove dirt from an object. Some people even brush their teeth with toothpaste that contains baking soda.

To clean surfaces in your home, spread a paste of baking soda and water and let it sit for a while before rubbing it with a damp cloth or sponge. But avoid using it on mirrors, windows and ceramic surfaces as the crystals could scratch the glass.

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Alkalinity is key

Baking soda is slightly alkaline, which means its pH is above seven. Its alkalinity is the main reason for its versatility as a cleaning agent.

Fat is made up of fatty acids, and when these come into contact with baking soda, a chemical reaction called saponification occurs (see graphic). This process makes baking soda very effective at removing grease stains.

The pH of baking soda also makes it an effective air freshener. Some unpleasant odors on clothes or plastic containers are produced by acids, which are low pH solutions. Baking soda can neutralize acids to eliminate bad smells. Some cat owners even mix baking soda with litter to absorb the smell of their pet’s urine.

Mixing baking soda and vinegar creates another incredibly powerful cleaning agent that’s perfect for unclogging drains. Baking soda is a basic solution because its pH is nine. Vinegar, which has a pH between two and three, is an acid.

Add baking soda down your drain, then pour in vinegar. When these two substances are combined, the chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide bubbles through the clog, breaking up the material. After about 10 minutes, add pressure by pouring boiling water to flush the drain.

There are many other uses for baking soda. What others do you know?

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