February 3, 2021

Spring Cleaning: In Praise of Baking Soda

I've always tried to be conscientious about my cleaners, especially since we sometimes use our greywater for watering things like fruit trees, corn, and bushes during a long, hot droughty spell. In fact, I did a blog series several years ago, analyzing the cleaners I used and what I could purchase locally that would be greywater friendlier. At the time I was looking mostly for ready-made products to buy. Turns out, it was a whole lot simpler than that. Here's what I've learned.

First spring cleaning project - bathroom. Here's my tub. 

Bathtub before

Some of you may remember when we remodeled our bathroom (back in 2013). The bathtub was original to the house, which was built in the 1920s. It's an old clawfoot style, and while we liked it, the original finish was chipped and scratched. The surface underneath was rough and stained. Dan bought a kit and refinished it. It looked great for several years and then started to chip off. The surface underneath was terrible to keep clean. I've been using Bon Ami on it for years, but it still always looks dirty. This time, I decided to try something different. 

My tub cleaner was a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

I dabbed it on, let it sit for awhile, then scrubbed hard.

For cleaning rags, I like old cotton socks. These are the ones that are too far gone to darn, so I cut off the toes to mend more salvageable socks and use the rest for rags. The loopy inside of the sock is pretty good for scrubbing. Here's what the tub looks like after cleaning...

I was thrilled at how well this worked! So
much better than my commercial product.

After the bathroom, it was on to the kitchen. I found the baking soda made a wonderful scrubbing cleanser alternative for the kitchen sink. Then I found a video on using baking soda to clean the oven. I was really impressed with her results and had to give it a try. 

Oven before.

First, I swept out crumbs, then I made my baking soda paste.

It's just baking soda and water, mixed to a spreadable paste.

I blopped it on with a clean paintbrush.

I let it sit and work for about 24 hours.
It's recommended to keep it damp.

The back, sides, and door wiped up easily. The bottom,
however, required some scrubbing and scraping.

Can't argue with the results!

I've always hated cleaning the oven because of oven cleaners. I've been burned because they are so caustic and they smell terrible! It's such a relief to find something effective and safe. Plus, baking soda is a standard pantry stock-up item for me. Cheap, and with only a cardboard box to deal with as waste; better on both counts than the stuff in a spray can! 

I also use a lot if vinegar when I'm cleaning (learning how to make my own!). It works great on mirrors and sinks. If the sink needs scrubbing, I use baking soda. Washing soda is fantastic for a perking cycle to clean the coffee pot. Salt is my favorite for cleaning cast iron skillets and cutting boards. And I'm not so lazy that I don't mind applying a little old-fashioned elbow grease. 

Do you use natural cleaning products? What are your favorites, especially for stubborn areas?


Ann said...

Wonderful! I have been eyeing my dirty oven and wondering when it will be warm enough to open the house and run a self-cleaning cycle (next May maybe). I get big bags of baking soda from Costco. Time to give this a whirl!

Ann said...

Just want to add one thing about the bottom of the oven. I put one of those silicon oven liner things on the bottom rack. You can just wipe it off and it saves the big spills from burning onto the bottom of the oven. Even an old cookie sheet would do.

Gorges Smythe said...

And then there's vinegar and salt for some things.

Living Alone in Your 60's said...

My SiL used to paint a clean oven with baking powder paste and just leave it. This would absorb all the fat and grease etc making it easier to clean.

Leigh said...

Ann, I didn't even know silicon oven liners existed! I've been thinking about something for the bottom of the oven. I know aluminum foil isn't recommended because the shiny surface changes the oven temp(? never experimented with that one, so I don't know for sure!)

Gorges, that's a good idea too.

Frugal, another good idea!

Retired Knitter said...

Baking soda has a large list of uses. I use it to keep odor down in the cat’s litter box. I remember looking it up on the web ... uses for baking soda ... and it was impressive.

daisy g said...

Yes, I've been making my own cleaners for a while, mostly because our son has multiple sensitivities. Baking soda is a fabulous all-around cleaner and can also be used as an exfoliator for your skin. We are fortunate to have a self-cleaning oven, which amazes me each winter when it is used. I also use salt and lemons rinds (after squeezing out the juice) to clean the cutting board.

Your results speak for themselves! Great job!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I bear in mind the oven cleaning with Baking Soda. You are right, oven cleaners smell terrible - and cannot, possibly, be an overall good.

Kathy said...

Baking soda can be purchased in bulk for even cheaper than the little boxes at the regular grocery store. Try Sam's or Costco or other warehouse store or maybe restaurant (food) supply. Same for gallons of white vinegar or large box or bag of kosher (large flake) salt. Just be mindful of per ounce price and you'll find the best deal.

My favorite kitchen sink declogger is 1/2 cup baking soda (tap it down into the drainpipe on each side of double sink) and then add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. It will fizz greatly. Stick the drain plug in and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then let hot water run for 1-2 minutes. (I fill a pot with water while waiting for it to get hot from faucet.) This will unclog minor clogs. Can also be used once a month to keep drains running clear. Will not harm pipes or septic and is nontoxic.

Can't beat natural cleaners!

Mama Pea said...

A post (and comments!) FULL of great ideas! My oven looks worse than yours did before cleaning and I've just kind of ignored it because I refuse to use the horrible commercial oven cleaners. Now, look out oven, 'cause I'm attacking with your baking soda mixture!! Thanks, Leigh.

Ed said...

We use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning the tiles and grout in the bathroom before reapplying sealer now and then. In the kitchen, we mostly just use different textures of scrubbing devices for most things. For the oven, I'm just lazy I guess and use the automatic cleaning cycle which essentially incinerates everything into a fine white ash that is easily mopped up with a damp paper towel. The drawback is that it does use a lot of energy and can be smelly depending on how much crud is stuck on the bottom.

GiantsDanceFarm said...

I've used the baking soda/vinegar/boiling water trick for drains for as long as I can remember. I do it monthly and each time I change the baking soda box in the fridge.

I use the baking soda paste trick to clean the oven too. Our stove is new-ish, so I make a point to clean it about once a month to keep it from getting too bad. I use the baking soda paste, let it dry as long as possible - I try for 24 hrs. then I hit the bad spots on the bottom with a spray of lemon vinegar. it bubbles everything up and is really impressive. Since our stove is a glass top electric (we don't have natural gas available here, nor reasonably priced propane here) I used baking soda and water paste to clean and polish the top without scratching.

I've made my own cleaning vinegar for years. I buy unpasteurized cider and dilute it about 50% with water. The first time I made it I cheated and bought Bragg's cider vinegar and used some of the "mother" to start mine. I put it in a gallon canning jar, put several layers of cheesecloth over the top, and secure it with a rubber band. I put it in a cupboard - it doesn't like light.- and depending on the house temp it will start to turn within a few weeks. When it's smelling like vinegar I start a new batch with the mother, then begin adding the peels left from juiced lemon and let them release their oils for a few weeks. Strain, then run through the cheesecloth to remove all solids.

Here's a decent version of what I do, and it saved me from typing. ;o) How to Make Your Own Vinegar

How to Make Your Own Vinegar
While it's easy to go to the store and buy a bottle of vinegar, it can be very satisfying—and tasty!—to make it ...

I also have a recipe for window/glass cleaner using water, vinegar, alcohol. and a few drops of dish soap I'll have to look for the recipe for the quantities. I make a gallon once every 6-8 months and don't remember the recipe in between. I'll look that up later and post it.

I use that and a little baking soda to polish all the faucets in the house.

I'll confess I've purchased several gallons of white vinegar at the grocery store recently. We have a new puppy, and it's great for de-scenting where accidents happen, and I save and reuse the bottles in several ways because they are so nice and sturdy.

I also use vinegar with just a few drops of essential oils instead of softener when doing laundry. It both removes soap residue and helps limit static.

I'm sure there's more, but I have to get going and get something done.

Tami said...

I too have discover the joys of baking soda cleaning ;) I cleaned my oven last month. It is actually a self cleaning oven but I googled pros and con's. The heat goes up to 800 degrees in some models. You have to open windows/doors for a few hours while its on because of the fumes. Not for me, Thanks!

I also use BS and Vinegar in my sinks and garbage disposal. I used it this past summer when our huge trash can was getting stanky!

Kristin said...

Whoa! The results are amazing! Our shower is fiberglass (I think?) and it is so hard to clean. I've been making a paste out of baking soda and Dr. Bronner's but the results are no where near like what you've had with the peroxide. I just stocked up on peroxide so I think I'll try the baking soda/peroxide combo. I like to use an old toothbrush to really scrub the shower, then I finish it off with a quick spray and wipe down with a cloth.

I also looked at your other posts and wanted to comment on that too. I've had a devil of a hard time finding a good eco-friendly shampoo. I've made several through the years but my hair is not a fan of castor oil nor Dr. Bronner's. But you gave me an idea to make my own shampoo bar. Next time I pull out the crock pots for soap making I think I need to give shampoo a try. I also just found a tutorial on making your own 'Dr. Bronner's' knock off. That's on my list too.

Leigh said...

RT, isn't baking soda wonderful for that? It is so versatile. And edible! Can't feel much safer using it than that.

Daisy, I only had a self-cleaning oven once, and when I discovered it heats of to a bazillion degrees for the cleaning cycle, I was reluctant to use it. Does it make a difference on your electric bill?

TB, I'm thinking that now that I know how to do it more safely, that I'll do it more often. That would help a lot too!

Kathy, Thank you for sharing your sink declogger! I'm writing that one down.

I agree about keeping tabs on the per ounce price. Some "deals" aren't really deals. We don't have a Costco nearby and I don't have a membership to Sam's, so I'll have to content myself with 45 cents a pound at Aldi.

Mama Pea, you sound like me, lol. I did have to do some scrubbing and scraping on the bottom of the oven, but the difference is amazing! Well worth it.

Ed, I'll have to try that for my tiled bathroom floors. A plus on that is that we didn't use white grout(!) so the dirty spots don't really show!

You answered my question about the self-cleaning ovens. My current oven doesn't do that, but I probably wouldn't use it even if it did.

GiantsDanceFarm, wow, thanks for all the great tips!

I have my first batch of apple cider vinegar in the works right now. We'll see how it turns out! Buying unpasteurized cider sounds a little easier than starting from scratch with apple cores and peels, though.

Tami, good to hear from you! 800 degrees! Yikes! I wouldn't want to do that either. Another vote for baking soda and vinegar; I'm definitely trying that for my sinks and drains soon.

Kristin, let me know how the baking soda / H2O2 works! I've not tried it on anything else, but I definitely will.

I'm thinking of buying some off brand Dr. Bronner's too. I have a great eBook that uses small amounts in some of the natural cleaning recipes. Somewhere I have a recipe to make your own castile soap. I'll have to see if I can find it.

SmartAlex said...

I use citric acid for glass objects. It's also great for removing rust. I'd have probably tried that on your tub. I use plain old ketchup to polish my copper pans. Also I have a pumice stone for getting hard deposits off of porcelain - like a ring around a toilet or the overflow holes in the sink. I got a mystery stain on my wooden countertop and used lemon juice and salt to scrub it right out.

Boud said...

Lemon juice and kosher salt are good for polishing copper, too, if you ever feel inclined to bother. And kosher salt with olive oil is great for scrubbing castiron without removing the precious finish you've built up over the years.

Leigh said...

Alex, I forgot about lemon juice's bleaching effect, thanks for mentioning it. I've heard citric acid is a good cleaner. I keep some on hand for my mozzarella making, but I have to mail order it, so I look cheaper alternatives. I'll try your trick for my copper bottom percolator. It could use it!

Boud, I like salt and olive oil for scrubbing cast iron pans too. I agree, it works great! Also, thanks for the tip about polishing copper.

Cockeyed Jo said...

This is how I clean most things Add apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or lemon juice and you've got my cleaning arsenal.

Leigh said...

And you probably have a blog post about it somewhere that I missed! ;)

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

I love using baking soda to clean too. I used it to clean the mildew off the windows in my hallway. Worked great! Scrub brushes from the dollar store made it super inexpensive to clean too.

Rosalea said...

Yes! I'm a big believer in baking soda. Vinegar and dish soap is also a good one. A spray bottle of that mixture is a staple in my cleaning arsenal.

Amanda said...

Baking soda can be amazing stuff. Lemon juice is a good de-greaser, and a great stain remover; curators in museums use it to remove stains from textiles. I'm a huge fan of vinegar. There's a lot of lime in my water, so I get that nasty-looking gray ring around my drains. So a time or two a year, I put paper towels damped down with vinegar around the drains and faucets where the build-up is accumulating, go to bed, and next morning, the sink looks great. For the line on the toilet bowl, a pumice stone; the gloves cost more than the stone and I've been using the same pumice stone for years. I've a friend who buys houses, rehabs and rents them. She's gotten toilets I thought were just going to have to be replaced looking brand new with a pumice stone and less than an hour's work.

Renee Nefe said...

I've been using vinegar and dish soap on our showers for a while and it works pretty good. I think I'll try the baking soda & HO2 to see how that does as there are a few spots that have been troublesome. I've also been making our own laundry detergent for several years. Every time that I make it, hubby gets all in a tizzy saying that I should just buy some name brand...yet he doesn't remember how he used to fuss about how they all had too much fragrance in them for his liking.
I saw the other day that I should try putting vinegar in the toilet tank to clean it, but I worry about that messing up all the plastic parts.

Leigh said...

Kristina, thanks for the mildew tip! That's a problem here too, especially during our humid summers.

Rosalea, so far I haven't used much dish soap because I'm not satisfied that my brand is truly biodegradable. I may buy a bottle of liquid castile to add cleaners, for the really greasy jobs.

Amanda, that's pretty amazing about the pumice stone. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of build-up in a toilet (and hope I never do!) I've heard that about lemon juice for stains, but never actually given it a try. Is bottled as good as fresh for that, do you think?

Renee, the advantage of the H2O2 is its bleaching action, like the oxy type laundry detergents. How much vinegar do they recommend for the toilet tank? It seems it would be diluted enough to not damage the plastic parts (but that's a guess on my part!)

Quinn said...

Leigh, I use baking soda for all kinds of cleaning, and I buy it from the feed store in typical feed-store-size sacks that are considerably cheaper/pound. Since it's for animal consumption I don't know if it's "human food" standard like the little boxes, but I use it for cleaning and for the goats, and for adding to a bath :) I keep one small box from the grocery store on hand for baking.

Seeking Serenity said...

that oven - WOW !! thanks for sharing, i am impressed !

daisy g said...

Leigh-We've never noticed one bit of difference on our power bill. We only clean the oven once a year on a day when it is really cold outside. I will not use the conventional oven cleaners, so this is our best option. Couldn't be easier!

wyomingheart said...

Excellent ! I am with you, Leigh...not a bit afraid of some elbow grease! We use a lot of vinegar here, as well. Have a perfect weekend!

Leigh said...

Quinn, thank you for mentioning that. I don't even know if my feed store sells bulk baking soda because it's not self-serve. I never thought to ask because my goats aren't interested in baking soda. It would be handy to have around for its other multiple uses, however.

Serenity, pretty amazing, isn't it?!

Daisy, at those temps you'd have to do it in winter! I agree about using conventional oven cleaners, so for my simple oven, the baking soda is great.

Wyomingheart, did you get that snow? It's in our forecast for next week, but no guarantees!

wyomingheart said...

Yes we did, but only about a half inch. The inch and a half of rain we got before the snow froze, and the snow on top made for a gingerly walk in the woods, however. The wind has since been high, so even though it got into the high 30s, the wind chill has been in the 20s. Good time together my seedlings started ! Lol

Woolly Bits said...

like you I try to use only baking soda, vinegar etc. years back I "inherited" an oven that looked disgusting, so I got one of those "chemical" cleaners... the smell when putting it on was disgusting - but the "gas" after 12 hours nearly made me pass out. haven't bought that stuff since, no use to have a clean oven, when you get asthma or worse in return:( I try not to let my oven go too dirty, which saves a bit on elbow grease... and I put an oven liner in, which makes spills so much easier to clean.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, seems like the nasty weather was saved for February! We did get just enough of a break in the frigid cold for the surprise I'm going to show you all tomorrow!

Bettina, yes, those chemical cleaners are really nasty. Dan still has a scar on his arm from getting burned from the stuff. So I always just did a scrape and wipe for the oven. But now that I've got it looking pretty good, and I know how, I should be able to keep up with it. :)

Renee Nefe said...

I didn't know how much vinegar to use, so I just googled it. apparently, you are supposed to drain the water out of the tank and use straight vinegar and it varies how much you should use, but pretty much either fill the tank or spray a bunch in there to clean the tank. One video suggested using toilet paper soaked in vinegar to "plaster" to the inside of the bowl to clean it out as well. Seems like a waste to me so I'll pass on that.

I will try the baking soda with HO2 though. Of course every time I clean my shower I wish some not so nice things to happen to the person (I'm not calling them nice names) who installed the tile in my shower because they didn't use spacers and did a horrible job...I also have some very not so nice things to say about the genius who thought that having cracks in a water filled environment on purpose was a good idea. sigh!

Chris said...

Late to the party Leigh, but I like to use vinegar in a spray bottle to spray my cutting boards, after they've been cleaned in hot, soapy water, then rinsed. Vinegar is antibacterial. I let it air dry in the dish drainer. If you soak lemon balm leaves in the vinegar, for a few weeks beforehand, even better!

Leigh said...

Chris, that's a very good idea. Now I need to plant some lemon balm!