Baking Soda in Laundry: The Ultimate Guide

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Wondering if you can use laundry detergent and baking soda together? Here, you will learn everything you need to know about using baking soda in your laundry. Contrary to popular belief, baking soda is not as effective as some would suggest. Use the quick navigation tab below to jump into a specific answer.

1. Can you use laundry detergent and baking soda together?

You can mix laundry detergent and baking soda together. However, adding baking soda to the wash along with laundry detergent can reduce the latter’s cleaning performance. Laundry detergents are optimized for a specific pH level, which is altered by the presence of the baking soda in the wash.

Additionally, adding baking soda along with your laundry detergent can decrease your laundry detergent’s ability to clean away low-pH sensitive stains like coffee, tea, wine, and other stains.

The best way to harness the natural deodorizing power of baking soda is to use it as a pre-soak. Dissolve 1 or 2 cups of baking soda in warm water. Fill a large tub with cool water and add the dissolved baking soda. Add your stinky clothes and allow them to soak overnight, then wash as usual.

Using baking soda and water as a pre-soak works wonders in treating heavy odor problems like underarm perspiration, especially when you workout often, or environmental odors like cigarette smoke. 

2. Can baking soda damage the washing machine?

When used in moderate amounts, baking soda would not damage your washing machine. However, extreme use of baking soda can impact some of the coatings on the drive shaft components of the washing machine. These are the parts responsible for switching cycles from agitate to spin.

Additionally, using baking soda under hard water conditions could lead to fiber breakage on some fibers like nylon and elastane. It’s best to use distilled water with baking soda on your laundry.

3. How much baking soda to add to laundry?

As a general rule of thumb, you can add ½ cup of baking soda for each laundry load to each rinse cycle, or you can add 1 or 2 cups of baking soda dissolved in warm water to use as a pre-soak or hand wash.

4. Will baking soda ruin my clothes?

While it won’t totally ruin your clothes, baking soda’s high pH can damage natural, protein-based fibers like wool, cashmere, and silk and can fade colors over time. Additionally, some dyes in colored fabrics are pH sensitive, so exposure to high pH of baking soda could fade their color.

5. Can you wash clothes with baking soda only?

You can wash clothes with baking soda only, but alone, it won’t remove week-old smells in one wash. Baking soda alone also won’t hold on to soil and odor types in the wash water, potentially redistributing the stain onto other fabrics. As a result, you’ll be left with a foamy mess and dirty clothes.

While baking soda can help pretreating small stains and odors, a laundry detergent is always best for its whitening, brightening, odor-removing, pre-treating heavy stains, and fabric softening capabilities. However, you can use baking soda to hand wash a few items of clothing or as a pre-soaking treatment. 

6. Can baking soda replace laundry detergent?

Baking soda will not replace or substitute detergent. While it does help to remove odors and neutralize mild stains, it will do little alone as a cleaning agent as baking soda is neither a detergent nor a soap.

The method of using baking soda for laundry was invented in a time when neither the machines nor the detergents were as advanced as they are now (clean larger loads in more efficient washing machines). 

Although baking soda can help to loosen body soils and pH-sensitive stains by lowering or increasing the wash water's pH level, to actually remove these stains you will need detergent action.

Laundry detergents are equipped with powerful cleaning ingredients including surfactants, enzymes, specially designed polymers, builders, and chelants. They not only remove week-old smells in one wash, but they also hold on to soil and odor in the wash water, preventing them from redepositing onto other fabrics.

So, not only does using baking soda add to the time and cost of doing laundry, it also cannot substitute for a laundry detergent. High-quality laundry detergents are formulated to clean a variety of stains, which are not pH-sensitive, and eliminate odors while protecting clothes from damage in the wash.

7. Can you mix vinegar and baking soda in laundry?

You should not mix vinegar and baking soda in the laundry together. When used together, they will neutralize each other, effectively canceling out the benefits of low pH for vinegar and high pH for baking soda.

Key takeaways

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can help to control overflowing suds and revitalize aged linens. But when dealing with musty towels, dingy clothes, sweat odor, or stiff fabrics, there's nothing better at getting rid of tough stains and bad smells than laundry detergents. Use baking soda and detergents separately.

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