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Mixing Laundry Detergent and Baking Soda: A Complete Guide

Baking soda is best known as a pantry staple for its various uses in most kitchens. But did you know it is a great laundry additive as well? When mixed with detergents, the baking powder creates a powerful solution that has a wide range of uses in the laundry industry. Read on to learn how to successfully mix baking soda and laundry detergents, their pros and cons, and more.

Mixing baking soda, a widely used agent, with detergents creates a powerful combination for use in the laundry. Its uses include stain removal, clothes softening, and hard water softening. However, mixing the right ratios of water, baking soda, and detergent is essential for the best results.

Understanding the Composition of Detergent and the Baking Soda

Understanding the chemical composition of the two cleaning agents will help improve results when using the combination of the two cleaning agents. 

Let us find out what makes up each of the agents. 

Baking Soda

While widely used in various cuisines, few people understand its chemical composition. Baking soda is closely related to another cleaning agent, the washing soda. However, the two are quite different. 

Baking soda is chemically alkaline sodium bicarbonate, while washing soda is sodium carbonate. Baking soda is popular as a leavening agent for cakes, muffins, and cookies, although it is also used in the laundry as a cleaning agent.

Detergents

On the other hand, detergent consists of sodium compounds, mainly sodium carbonates, enzymes, and surfactants. But while this is the basic composition, most modern detergents have other additives to increase their potency and the range of cleaning purposes. The ingredients include odor removers, suds reducers, stabilizers, colorants, and fragrances, among others.

From their composition, the two sets of chemical compositions do not react with one another. In contrast, they complement to create a powerful combination that helps improve the laundry work.

Pros of Mixing Detergents and Baking Soda in Laundry

Mixing the two agents can help in laundry in several ways. Let us explore a few below.

Boosting Detergent Washing Power

Baking soda is fantastic in boosting the washing power of detergents. First, it is an effective water softener that makes it easier for the detergents to work better. Baking soda breaks down the main elements in hard water, mainly calcium and magnesium ions, stopping them from binding on the active agents of the detergents, which reduces its effectiveness.

Additionally, baking soda is an effective suds breaker. While suds may appear glamorous in laundry ads, they are a distraction in washing. Problems with suds include washing machine blocking, preventing proper rinsing, and malfunctioning the washing machine, among other issues.

Removing Laundry Odors

Accumulation of bacteria leads to odors in clothes. The bacteria break down the sweat and body secretions to produce volatile organic compounds. These species of bacteria thrive best under certain pH levels. This is how baking soda plays a crucial role in stopping proliferation through pH optimization. 

Baking soda added to the detergent in the washing machine makes the laundry water alkaline stopping the bacteria regeneration process. By cutting down the reproduction cycle, the bacteria are eliminated, stopping the bad odor.

Boosts Chlorine Bleaching Power

Chlorine is a powerful bleaching agent used in removing tough stains in white clothes. However, its bleaching power might be reduced by other factors such as hard water or the fabric type. 

Adding baking soda breaks down the magnesium and calcium ions that cause hardness in water and stops them from reacting with chlorine ions. That means more chlorine ions are available for bleaching, making the bleaching process much easier.

As a Fabric Softener

As baking soda softens water, it reduces the formation of soap scum. Soap scum not only reduces the effectiveness of the laundry process but also is hard to rinse from the clothes. Unrinsed soap scum and suds make clothes dingy and uncomfortable to the skin. 

Furthermore, baking soda, unlike commercial clothes softeners, is made from mild compounds. That makes it eco-friendly and gentle to the skin.

Cleans the Washing Machines

Over time washing machines accumulate grimes and stubborn stains. Common stains include clothes dyes, crayons, chewing gums, and others. When mixed with detergents, baking soda makes a powerful cleaning agent that clears all the debris from the washing machine. This boosts its washing power and increases its durability. 

To wash off the stain, mix half a cup of baking soda with a little water to create a thick paste, and use a cloth to scrub the inside of the washing machine. You can then run the washing machine with the hottest hot cycle to rinse it.

More on washing machine care here.

The Cons of Baking Soda and Detergent Mixing in Washing

While baking soda mixed with laundry detergent has wonderful benefits, it can also cause problems. Below are some of the negatives associated with baking soda and laundry detergent mixing.

Bleaching

Different dyes react differently with baking soda. Remember, baking soda has a high pH level, and some dyes react with high pH agents to cause bleaching. 

A typical example is organic fibers made of keratin proteins. The proteins in these fabrics react with alkalis to cause discoloration in clothes. To avoid ruining your garment, it is always recommended to check out the wash instructions on the garment label.

Reduces the Fabric Lifespan

Getting the mixing ratios is key for an effective combination. Mixing wrongly will only result in a solution with high alkalinity courtesy of too much baking soda. This level of alkalinity, if used continuously reacts with garment fabric making them wear out faster. 

I wrote a guide on how to increase the lifespan of your clothes here.

Reacts With Vinegar

Vinegar is strongly acidic, while baking soda and detergents are mainly alkaline. Therefore mixing detergent and baking soda creates a quite compatible and powerful combination. The problem arises when you try to add vinegar into the mix. Vinegar and baking soda and detergent react, forming an ineffective solution to your laundry.

Ways to Mix Baking Soda With Laundry Detergent

As we have learned above, using baking soda in conjunction with detergents has several benefits. Here are three ways to combine laundry detergent and baking soda to deal with laundry issues.

Mixing to Remove Odor

Baking soda is a phenomenal deodorizer when used together with detergents. For best results, soaking first in baking and water solution is recommended. Add a cup of baking soda to one gallon of water, and stir briefly to mix the solution well before soaking your clothes. 

Ensure the soaked clothes are fully submerged and let them sit for a minimum of one hour and up to overnight. The longer the duration, the easier it is to remove the stain. The baking soda loosens all odors from clothes which are then cleared in the next step.

Next, measure the usual dose of detergent for a normal load, and add it to the washing machine drum. Fill with water to the desired level and add another ½ cup of baking powder to this solution. 

You can wash the normal cycle, rinse, and air dry. Using air drying is preferable to tumble drying as the odor is dispersed faster by the outdoor blowing of the wind.

Mixing to Remove Stains

Mixing baking soda with detergents forms a powerful combination that works with all fabric types. It clears most stains fast, leaving colored clothes brighter and white clothes whiter. However, you need to pretreat the stains and soak the garments, before adding the combination of detergent and baking soda during washing. 

Scoop one spoonful of baking soda, put it in a cup, and add some water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the stain, ensuring it is fully covered, and let it sit for a minimum of an hour.

Next, measure ½ a cup of baking soda and add it to the washing machine drum, followed by a dose of a heavy-duty detergent for a normal load. Stir briefly for proper mixing, add your pretreated clothes and run your normal wash cycle. This combination is tough on all types of stains, including grease, food, or spots. 

I wrote a big guide on how to fix clothing discoloration that may interest you.

Alternatives to Baking Soda

In the absence of baking soda, there are several worthy alternatives for mixing with detergents. Take a look at a few examples below.

Borax

Borax is quite a versatile compound with wide use in domestic cleaning. A sodium compound works perfectly with any detergent and can make a great additive to your detergent in place of baking soda. 

Whether you mix it with your favorite toilet cleaner or laundry detergent, borax creates a great cleaning solution for the bathroom, bathtubs, upholstery, and carpet floors, among others. Borax is eco-friendly and easily available in any home improvement store near you.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a well-known agent with a wide range of uses in homes. In the laundry, it is a reputable odor and stain remover, and mixing it with detergents only increases its washing power. The combination easily blots out stains, deodorizing musty smells, eliminating molds, and killing bacteria. 

To use vinegar detergent mix, add ½ cup of vinegar to the washing machine laundry water followed by the appropriate amount of laundry detergent, wash normal wash cycles, rinse and dry. One downside, though, is it doesn’t work in combination with detergents and other cleaning agents such as baking soda.

Hydrogen Peroxide

The great thing with hydrogen peroxide is its disinfecting properties, which are absent in normal detergents. Due to its ability to kill microorganisms, it is perfect for cleaning clothes that require disinfection, such as baby clothes and people with low immunity, among others. 

Adding ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide, especially in your white clothes, ensures they come out whiter and brighter. However, you need to be careful with colored clothes by checking their washing instructions to ensure they’re color fast. 

Hydrogen peroxide is mild oxygen-based non-chlorine bleach, meaning it is a great alternative for strong bleaches such as chlorine. 

Washing Soda

Closely related to baking soda, this is another powerful cleaning agent that can be mixed with detergents to improve its cleaning power. The chemical, whose technical name is sodium carbonate, can be combined with detergents to clean stains and odors and soften clothes. Other uses include cleaning surfaces such as bathroom floors, tubs, and sinks.

Cornstarch

This one is especially quite effective in cleaning carpets, upholstery, and rugs when mixed with detergents. Plus, cornstarch is one of the most eco-friendly cleaning agents that contains friendly organic active agents.

Lemon

Yet another environmentally friendly cleaning agent, lemon clears stains, and odors, in addition to being a disinfectant. Furthermore, lemon breaks down magnesium and calcium ions in water, making it excellent in eliminating hard water problems.

Essential Oils

Essentials are popular in other aspects such as spirituality and wellness, but few people know essential oils have other uses as well. They are awesome cleaning disinfectant agents. 

Add two tablespoonfuls of essential oils to your laundry after adding the usual amount of detergent. You can wash the normal wash cycles, rinse and dry. Essential oils are also phenomenal in washing inner clothes, towels, baby clothes, etc. 

Next, I recommend that you check out my comprehensive guide on everything you can mix with laundry detergent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wash clothes with baking soda only?

Yes, you can wash clothes with baking soda only. Baking soda is quite effective in removing stains, odor, softening clothes, and more. However, baking soda doesn’t have all the powerful ingredients required in a cleaning agent. And that is why mixing it with detergents creates a powerful cleaning combination, unlike when used alone.

Can a Washing Detergent Baking Soda Mix Damage the Washing Machine?

Mixing the laundry detergent and baking soda cannot damage the washing machine. In contrast, it forms a cleaning combination that not only cleans clothes well but the washing machine too. 

Can I Mix Baking Soda With Vinegar and Detergent?

Like baking soda, vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent for removing stains, odors, and softening clothes. However, vinegar doesn’t work well with baking soda. Vinegar being acidic, reacts with the alkaline baking soda, canceling out the desired cleaning power of the resulting mix with the detergent.   

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