As the DIY movement gets more popular, it can be cumbersome to go through all the recipes for cleaning solutions to make sure they are safe and actually work. Recipes are constantly being pushed out without research and as result, can lead to disastrous results for readers casually trying them out.
WARNING: This information might really surprise you, but it’s for your own good!
The (in)famous baking soda and vinegar cleaning solution has been going around the internet for some time, but what is it that makes this solution so terrible for cleaning? At first glance, it seems like a brilliant way to clean because after all, baking soda and vinegar are fantastic ways of eliminating odor and killing bacteria on their own. So why not combine them and get even better results?
In retrospect, watching the chemical reaction take place in middle school science lab made it seem to have a similar effect to what we see happening when we spray commercial bathroom cleaners in the shower. In reality though, the chemical reaction we are witnessing is quite different. So what is really happening when we watch vinegar and baking soda foam up in our DIY volcanoes and our bath tubs?
To simplify, baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a base. On the opposite end of the spectrum is vinegar, also known as acetic acid, which is as you guessed, an acid. What happens when these two substances are being combined is the breaking up of the solution into water and carbon dioxide at a fast rate. This makes great for an impressive volcano project but what it means for us is a neutral liquid left behind that does nothing for cleaning.
When you combine something that is alkaline (baking soda) and something that is acidic (vinegar), you are left with a neutral substance. This means you are left with a cleaning solution that, well, doesn’t clean very well.
On a positive note, it is true that each of these ingredients are pretty powerful when mixed with water. Even water on its own is known as a “universal solvent” by many. It is able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid. Not only that, it is vital for all living things on earth. Pretty cool, right? Is there anything water can’t do? While not as powerful as commercial products, vinegar and baking soda each mixed with water really do get the job done and are justifiably recommended by many experts. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar and water, a useful tip I have learned is to add a few drops of essential oil to your mix. This will help get rid of the vinegar smell and as a bonus, help get rid of more bacteria if you use the right essential oils. My person favorite essential oils to add are lavender and lemon. They add a fresh scent to my home without irritation to skin and lungs. Read more about essential oils and their uses here.
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