Don't Use Baking Powder As A Baking Soda Cleaning Substitute. Here's Why

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has been a favorite household staple for years, as many people have a box of Arm & Hammer in the fridge. The wonders of baking soda are numerous, especially as a cleaner. Plus, who can forget making their first "volcano" in science class with the help of this baking ingredient? However, what about its cousin, baking powder? Does this ingredient have the same cleaning abilities? Well, while baking powder may be closely related to baking soda, it isn't a perfect substitute when cleaning because it's not alkaline, it's not as abrasive, and it doesn't react the same when combined with an acid.

Baking soda is an alkaline substance that, when combined with an acid and moisture, immediately sets off carbon dioxide. This creates fizzy bubbles that can naturally clean items. On the other hand, baking powder is a combination of cornstarch, a smaller amount of baking soda, and an acid such as tartaric acid (cream of tartar). It can also contain another acid as well, depending on the brand. Unlike baking soda, baking powder reacts once when it comes into contact with moisture and then again when it is exposed to heat, meaning that it sets off carbon dioxide gradually.

Why baking soda cleans better than baking powder

The chemical compositions between baking powder and baking soda have some distinct differences. As an alkaline base that reacts when it encounters an acid, baking soda immediately releases carbon dioxide bubbles. Therefore, when you combine baking soda with an acid such as vinegar, the result is a quick reaction that has good cleaning properties. Baking soda on its own also attacks odors and neutralizes them, which is why so many households keep a box in the fridge. Because baking soda is an alkaline substance, it can effectively eliminate the smell of acidic odors. This ingredient is also lightly abrasive, which makes it a good choice when scrubbing tough stains. 

Conversely, baking powder already contains an acid, so it won't react in the same manner as baking soda when it encounters just an acid. For instance, if you mix baking powder with vinegar, this will provide moisture that will create some bubbles. However, it also must be exposed to heat to create more bubbles. This creates a delayed reaction that's helpful when baking but not so beneficial when cleaning. In addition, it's not as abrasive as baking soda, nor can it neutralize odors. Because it contains an acid already, it's not alkaline, meaning it can't absorb acidic odors in the same way. Instead of using baking powder for cleaning, keep it for your baked goods instead. 

How to use baking soda to clean

You shouldn't use baking powder as a cleaner, but baking soda is a great option. Experts have shared tips for cleaning with baking soda since the 1900s, extolling its all-natural cleaning potential for pots, pans, jewelry, and even personal care items such as hairbrushes. One way to clean with baking soda is to combine ¾ baking soda with ¼ water. This paste is gently abrasive and great for tackling things such as burnt food at the bottom of your pans. Depending on the severity of the mess, you may need to let the paste sit for several hours or overnight. You can also combine baking soda with an acid to create bubbles that can clean items. For instance, if you want to unclog your drain with unexpected items from around your house or clean your oven, try using baking soda and vinegar.

Baking soda's deodorizing properties also make it an easy way to banish odors and freshen up your home when you sprinkle it on couches, chairs, and mattresses and then let it sit to absorb odors. After a few hours, vacuum it up. You can also remove stubborn odors or residue in the litter box by combining vinegar with baking soda, then scrub and rinse. However, while this ingredient can be a cleaner's best friend, there a few things to avoid cleaning with baking soda including mirrors, electronics, and delicate glass items, as it's too abrasive and may leave scratches.