Clean a Little Greener...with Baking Soda
By Andrea Lani, Environmental Specialist,  Maine DEP Bureau of Air Quality

As interest in reducing the number of chemicals in our homes has grown, so
has the availability of “environmentally-friendly” cleaning products. Now even
the most mainstream brands and grocery stores offer “green” alternatives.

But instead of spending ever more money on every more cleaning products -
even if they are better for your health and the environment than their chemical
cousins -- we can handle most of our household cleaning needs with one
simple ingredient that is already on almost everyone’s pantry shelves: baking

Here are ways that
baking soda, which comes in inexpensive cardboard
cartons at the grocery store, or in even more
economical 50-pound sacks at
feed or farm stores,
can be used around the home:

Scouring Powder: Throw out that stinky green stuff and instead sprinkle
baking soda on your sink, tub or tile and scrub with a sponge. It even works
great at getting greasy grime off pots and pans.

Oven Cleaner: Before you go to bed, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the
oven and spray with water. In the morning, wipe out the baking soda, along
with burnt-on apple pie filling with a paper towel.

Shampoo (a.k.a. “No-poo”): Seriously. Mix about one tablespoon baking soda
in one cup water. Massage into wet hair and scalp. Rinse. Now mix ¼ cup
apple cider vinegar with a cup of water and pour over hair to make it silky and
easy to comb.

Deodorizer: Most people are familiar with reducing odors in the refrigerator
with an open box of baking soda and neutralizing pet smells by sprinkling
carpets with baking soda and vacuuming, but did you know that baking soda
can be used in place of underarm deodorant? Adding a cup or two (this is
where the bulk bag comes in handy) to a bucket of cloth diapers (yes, some
people still use those) cuts down on the odor and sprinkling a bit in the cat box
keeps it fresh between changes.

General Purpose All-Around Cleaning: Think of anything that needs cleaning -
stinky toilets, grimy counters, slimy refrigerators, stained coffee cups, greasy
teakettles - and all you really need is baking soda, water, and a sponge to get
the job done.

When Baking Soda Isn't Enough

There are a few instances -- such as cleaning mirrors or windows - when baking
soda just isn’t the right tool, but its good buddy, vinegar, can do the job.

Mix it with water, spray and wipe away with newspapers or a clean cloth. Don’
t mix vinegar and baking soda, though, except when maintaining drains (pour
a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by three cups boiling water and
one cup vinegar once a month to keep drains running smooth). The baking
soda just neutralizes the vinegar, after the exciting display of bubbles, leaving
you with a not very effective mixture.

Next time the array of green cleaners attracts your attention at the grocery store,
think about taking a detour down the baking aisle and see what baking soda
can do for you.

This column was submitted by Andrea Lani, an Environmental Specialist with the
Maine DEP Bureau of Air Quality. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine
Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House
Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
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