15 baking soda cleaning hacks for a naturally spotless home

A sprinkle of bicarb can clean, deoderise and bust through grime.
Blue and white laundry with brass and nickel finishes.Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Lucy Gough

Although it’s commonly called ‘baking’ soda, bicarb soda can do so much more than just bake! It’s a powerful cleaner, odour absorber and stain remover that also happens to be completely non-toxic, which is why you should be using baking soda for cleaning your entire house. 

Chantel Mila Ibbotson, the styling, organising and cleaning guru behind the Instagram account @mama_mila_au and new book The Dream Clean, swears by the cleaning power of bicarb soda. “Bicarb soda is my favourite household product, and probably the one I use in the majority of my cleaning, she says. “It has so many uses in every room of the home! It’s also cost-effective and eco-friendly.”

Chantel Mila Ibbotson, cleaning guru and author pictured in a white kitchen with natural cleaning products.
Cleaning and organisation guru Chantel of @mama_mila_au swears by the cleaning power of bicarb soda in her new book The Dream Clean. (Credit: Photographer: James Cunningham)

What is bicarb soda?

Bicarb soda (also known as baking soda) is the short name for Sodium Bicarbonate, an alkaline chemical compound with a slightly salty taste that is often sold in powder form. It is mildly abrasive, can absorb odours and releases carbon dioxide when it comes into contact with acid, which makes it extremely useful as an everyday household cleaner. 

“It helps cut through tough grime around the home, like grease and limescale, which saves you time on scrubbing (which none of us like to do!). It’s powerful enough to cut through mess, but gentle and odour-free, so you can clean tough areas of the home, like ovens, without harsh fumes. The odour-absorbing properties of bicarb soda also leave your home smelling fresh,” says Chantel.

Here are Chantel’s top 7 ways to use bicarb soda to clean your home.

1. Oven and stovetop cleaner

Clean your oven and stovetop without the fumes of harsh chemicals by mixing up a paste made from 1 cup of bicarb soda with 2tbs dishwashing liquid.

Freestanding stove and oven in a white, Hamptons style kitchen

(Photographer: Sue Stubbs | Styling: Bree Oliver)

2. Scrub and deoderise the sink

Sprinkle a small amount of bicarb soda on a cut lemon and rub it on your sink to leave it sparkling and smelling fresh.

3. Clean drains

Place ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of white vinegar to clean and deoderise drains.

4. Freshen up smelly shoes

Sprinkle a generous amount of bicarb soda inside shoes to absorb odours. Shake excess away before wearing. You can also make a paste of 3tbs bicarb soda and 1 tbs of water and to clean and brighten grubby white sneakers. Allow the paste to dry in the sun completely before brushing away excess. 

5. Keep fridge odours at bay

Clean out your fridge and ensure there are no spills or spoiled food. Then place a small bowl of bicarb soda in the fridge to absorb food odours.

white walk-in pantry
(Photographer: Jacqui Turk | Styling: Alanna Smit)

6. Brighten whites

Whiten, soften and brighten clothing by placing ½ cup of baking soda directly into the wash.

7. Oil stain buster

Mix a small amount of baking soda with dishwashing liquid and apply it to oil stains on your clothes. Leave for 15 minutes and wash as usual – oil stains will disappear!

Here are even more bicarb cleaning tips from McKenzie’s:

Can’t get enough of bicarb soda’s cleaning power?

8. Remove stains from mugs and cups

Endless cups of tea left stains in your favourite mug? Apply bicarb soda to a damp cloth and rub on the stains. Rinse with warm water.

9. Clean upholstery

Fill a sieve with bicarb soda and sprinkle it generously over the upholstered furniture item you wish to clean and deoderise. Work the powder into the fabric with a soft brush and allow to sit overnight before vacuuming thoroughly.

Grand Hamptons style living room
(Photographer: Abbie Melle | Styling: Lisa Burden)

10. Clean burnt pots and pans

We’ve all been there. Soak a burnt pan in a solution of dishwashing liquid, hot water and bicarb soda for 10 minutes before washing. For severely burnt pots and pans, apply dry bicarb on a pan and scrub with a moist scouring pad. (Note: this method is not suitable for non-stick or aluminium cookware). 

11. Remove odours from food containers

Thermos or plastic container still smell like yesterday’s leftovers, despite how many times you’ve cleaned it? Give smells the flick with bicarb soda. Wash food storage containers in a solution of 3tbps of bicarb soda in 1 litre of warm water before rinsing well.

12. Clean and brighten grout

Mix 3 tbsps of bicarb soda with 1 tbsp of water to form a paste. Apply paste to grout and scrub with a soft sponge or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly. 

Blue and white laundry with concealed appliances and gold, nickel and brass hardware.
(Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Lucy Gough)

13. Make tapware shine

Cut through water marks and soap scum that have settled on chrome tapware with a touch of bicarb soda. Make a paste of 3tbsps of bicarb soda and 1tbsp of water and apply to tapware. Wipe with a soft cloth and rinse well.

14. Keep kitty litter odour free

Bicarb soda can help to absorb smells emanating from the kitty litter. Cover the bottom of the tray with a generous layer of bicarb then add a layer of kitty litter on top. To freshen the tray between changes, apply a light sprinkle of bicarb on top of the kitty litter.

15. Clean indoor plants

Prevent fungus forming on your beloved indoor plants by washing them with a bicarb soda solution. Dissolve 1 tsp of bicarb with 3 drops of liquid soap in 2 litres of water and spray on plants.

(Photographer: Elouise Van Riet-Gray | Styling: Lana Caves)

What not to clean with bicarb soda

As this list demonstrates, bicarb soda has endless uses around the home. But there are some things that can be damaged by bicarb’s powerful cleaning abilities, says Chantel. “As baking soda is abrasive, it should be avoided on some gentle surfaces like wooden floors, mirrors, marble or gold plated cutlery as it could leave scratches and leave them looking dull. It’s always best to patch test in a small area of your home if you’re unsure.”

Is bicarb soda the same as baking powder?

Bicarb soda (also known as baking soda) and baking powder are not the same. According to The Australian Women’s Weekly Food, baking powder is a raising agent that contains both bicarb soda and cream of tartar.

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