Vinegar + Baking Soda = The Ultimate Cleanser?

Many advertisements claim that combining the cleansing powers of vinegar and baking soda creates a powerful, all-purpose cleanser. But is that true? Ask Science is on the case.  

Lee Falin, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #4

But Will it Work?

So now you have a cleaner made of sodium acetate and water, so what’s it good for? Sodium acetate itself has lots of uses. Most deliciously, it provides the salt and vinegar taste of potato chips. It is also used to make instant hot packs and heating pads and it’s useful as a chemical buffer that resists pH changes. Try as I might though, I couldn’t find any reliable information about sodium acetate being useful as a cleaning agent.

Right now I can almost hear you saying: “But my uncle’s girlfriend has a neighbor whose mother used this stuff to clean her whole house everyday! So what about that? Huh?!”

Well, there are at least 3 potential factors at work here. First of all, the majority of what is left over from an acid-base reaction is usually water. And while sodium acetate itself might not have many cleansing properties due to its chemistry, water does. It’s called the “universal solvent” because most compounds can be dissolved in water. This means that plain old water is itself a powerful cleaning agent.

Second, the sodium acetate can act as an abrasive that works to scrape away stubborn residues. However, you could easily get the same result by mixing water with plain table salt.

Finally, if you don’t have the exact amount of baking soda necessary to completely neutralize the vinegar you may still have a significant amount of vinegar left over in the solution.


So the next time you decide to tackle those tough stains, remember that when it comes to vinegar and baking soda, separate is typically better.  

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More Resources

O'Keefe JH et al. Dietary strategies for improving post-prandial glucose, lipids, inflammation, and cardiovascular health. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Jan 22;51(3):249-55. Review. PubMed PMID: 18206731.


Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.