Ways You Can Safely Use Baking Soda In Your Yard & Garden (& When To Avoid It)

If you look in your pantry right now, we bet you'll find a container of baking soda. It is necessary, after all, if you're baking and want to make sure your brownies, cakes, or cookies rise properly. However, baking is far from the only way you can use baking soda around the house. In addition to its ability to help with a variety of indoor tasks, such as laundry hacks, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and deodorizing your refrigerator, baking soda also offers a plethora of uses in the yard and garden.

In the next few sections, we'll explore some of the many ways it can help with outdoor cleaning tasks, support healthy plant growth, and more. However, as versatile as baking soda is, there are some places that you'll want to avoid using it. Read on to learn about the ways you should — and shouldn't— be using baking soda in the yard and garden.

Clean birdbaths

A birdbath can welcome birds to your yard and give them a cool spot where they can splash around and enjoy a drink of water. However, if birdbaths aren't cleaned regularly, the water will get dirty and may even become contaminated with bacteria that could threaten the health of the birds visiting your yard. Fortunately, baking soda can help you keep the birdbath clean for your feathered friends.

Begin by emptying any water that is still in the birdbath. Rinse out the basin using fresh water, and then dump out all the water again. Next, pour some baking soda inside the birdbath. Add a few tablespoons of water, or just enough to dampen the powder and make a thick paste. Using a scrub brush, clean out the inside of the basin. If there are any stubborn stains, you can try letting the baking soda paste sit on them for five to 10 minutes before scrubbing. After you've finished cleaning, thoroughly rinse the birdbath two or three times before filling it with clean water for the birds to enjoy.

Freshen up outdoor furniture

When exposed to the elements, our patio tables, chairs, and other outdoor furniture items can get dirty and grimy. If you've been searching for the perfect cleaning hack for outdoor furniture, look no further than baking soda. Baking soda is safe to use on different furniture types and will simultaneously help remove odors as it gets rid of dirt, grime, and stains.

To use baking soda to clean furniture, start by removing any loose items, such as cushions. Then, use your garden hose to dampen each piece that you want to clean. Add 1 cup baking soda and ¼ cup water to a small bowl and mix the two ingredients together to form a paste. With a sponge, microfiber cloth, or scrub brush (depending on the texture and material of the furniture that you're cleaning), use the paste to begin cleaning. Rinse away the dirt and baking soda residue (a hose can come in handy for this). Allow the furniture to dry before returning cushions or other accessories.

Use it as a fungicide for garden plants

No one wants to spot signs of fungus on their plants. Beyond its unsightly appearance, fungi can cause serious damage to your greenery. Some fungi cause discoloration, while others can cause the plant to wilt, rot, or become covered with splotches of mold. If left untreated, the plants may die. Baking soda offers a safe, yet effective, approach to protect your plants against fungi. It is non-toxic, so it won't threaten any pollinators or other garden visitors, unlike copper and sulfur, which are also used for treating fungus.

A DIY antifungal baking soda spray is easy to make with just a little water, dish soap (or insecticidal soap), and, of course, baking soda. Pour 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 3 drops of soap into a bowl or a spray bottle. Apply the baking soda to the plant's leaves and stem. You may need to reapply the spray a few times over the next couple days, but it should solve the problem and help clear up the fungus. However, in some cases, a stronger antifungal may be needed. So, if you don't notice results after three or four applications, consider trying a new approach.

A quick word of caution: Too much baking soda can actually threaten the health of the plants in your garden. While baking soda can destroy weeds when used in larger quantities, as a non-selective herbicide, it will also kill other plants. When using it as an antifungal treatment, be careful not to use too much and to avoid getting it on the other plants in the garden.

Remove rust from garden tools

Keeping garden tools rust-free can be challenging. If any moisture remains on the tools when you put them away, rust can form. Before you give up and throw out any rusty tools, save some money and see if you can clean them up using baking soda instead of purchasing an entirely new set. For this cleaning task, you'll be combining the cleaning power of baking soda with that of another pantry staple: vinegar.

Saturate an old rag or microfiber cloth with vinegar and use it to wrap the rusty part of the tool and let it sit overnight. Soaking the rust-covered tool in vinegar will loosen the rust. Here's where the baking soda comes into play. The following morning, remove the tool from the rag and rinse it. Then, make a cleaning paste using a few tablespoons of baking soda and a little water, and use the paste to scrub off the loosened rust. Depending on how much rust there is, you may need to disassemble the tool to get in all the tight spots.

Increase the pH of acidic soil

Properly balanced soil is essential if you want your garden plants to grow or thrive. If the soil's pH is too low (acidic) or too high (basic), your plants aren't going to be as healthy and vibrant as they otherwise could be. The optimal pH level for soil is between 6.0 and 7.5, though it can vary by plant type. For example, some flowers that respond well to baking soda, as well as soil with a higher pH, include daylilies, lilacs, foxgloves, and clematis.

Before adding baking soda to your garden, it is essential to test the soil pH. If the soil test reveals that the pH level is under 6.0, then it can help bring it up to a more ideal level. Adding some baking soda to the soil can raise the pH within a few days. Mix it in with the top 6 inches of soil, ensuring it is evenly incorporated. You'll want to retest your soil after a few weeks, however, because its effects aren't always very long-lasting.

Remove gunk and grime from wood and composite decks

As your wood or composite deck is exposed to wind, rain, snow, tree droppings, and everything else that nature throws at it, it can get dirty and grimy pretty quickly. Let baking soda — along with a few other gentle cleaners — help you get rid of all the gunk and leave you with a clean and sparkling deck.

Sweep the deck to remove any loose debris, and then rinse it with the hose to prepare the surface for cleaning. Prepare a mixture of 1 gallon of water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda, and use the solution to scrub the deck. The added baking soda will be especially helpful if there is any mold or mildew present. You can even try sprinkling some extra baking soda over these areas and letting it sit for 15 or 20 minutes before scrubbing to more effectively clear away mold and mildew. After you've finished scrubbing the deck, use your hose to thoroughly rinse it all off.

Balance chemistry levels in your backyard swimming pool

Keeping water chemistry levels balanced is an important — though, often challenging — part of maintaining a backyard swimming pool. Chlorine levels are only one important part of the equation. You must also keep the pH balanced to prevent corrosion, maintain clear water, and ensure swimmers are comfortable. The optimal pH level for a pool is between 7.2 and 7.8, which is slightly basic (the opposite of acidic).

Because baking soda has a pH of about 8, it can help increase the pH levels that drop below 7.2. Always test the pH level before just adding baking soda to your pool to avoid increasing an already high pH. You'll need to do some math to calculate the ideal amount to add, based on the capacity of your pool and how much you want to increase the pH. Adding 1.5 pounds of baking soda to 10,000 gallons of water should increase alkalinity levels by approximately 10 parts per million. When you add baking soda, avoid dumping it all in the same spot. After about six hours, retest the water to confirm the pH level is where you want it to be.

Avoid using baking soda with plants in soil with a high pH

Earlier, we explained how baking soda can increase the pH of acidic soil. However, if the soil is already basic, then adding baking soda could be detrimental to any plants growing in the soil. This is why it is essential to test the pH of the soil before adding any baking soda to it. Gardeners need to learn these key facts about baking soda before using it on their plants.

Similarly, if you're looking to use the baking soda as a fungicide, you also should avoid using it on any plants that are planted in soil with a higher pH. You don't want to end up increasing the pH to a level that is too basic for the plants to grow and thrive. Any attempts you make to improve their health with the baking soda will all be for naught if you make it so they can't grow properly in the soil.

Don't use baking soda to deter rabbits from eating your plants

You may find some sources that highlight the benefits of using baking soda to deter rabbits or other pests from munching on your plants. While these critters may potentially be repelled by the substance, there are better ways to keep them from eating through your garden. If you add enough baking soda to your soil to effectively deter pests, you're going to end up threatening the health of everything growing in the garden.

As a salt, large quantities of baking soda can have a negative impact on your plants, stunting their growth, causing them to shrivel up, or possibly even killing them altogether. Beyond this immediate damage, you'll also be increasing the pH of the soil too much, creating an unhealthy environment for future plants. Try a different approach to keep rabbits from munching on your plants, such as creating physical barriers out of chicken wire or planting garlic, rhubarb, hot peppers, or other plants that give off a strong scent that rabbits do not like.