Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a multipurpose household product with a variety of purposes–baking, cleaning, unblocking drains, killing roaches, and even deodorizing. One of its most popular uses is as a natural deodorizer. It’s commonly used to remove unpleasant odors from the home. But how does baking soda absorb odors? So, if you’ve been wondering, “how does baking soda remove odors?” you’re in the right place. This article explores the science behind this phenomenon.
The Chemistry of Odors
Before we start explaining how baking soda works as an odor absorber, let’s look at the chemistry of odors. Odors are produced by molecules called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These molecules are emitted by different sources like foods, pets, and household materials. They are typically small and lightweight, so they easily float in the air and get inside our noses, making us aware of bad odors.
To remove bad odors from the air, you must either destroy or capture the VOCs. You can use chemical reactions, adsorption, and absorption. Chemical reactions alter the chemical structure of the VOCs, while absorption and adsorption involve trapping them.
How Baking Soda Absorbs Odors
Baking soda absorbs odors excellently because it is an alkaline substance with a high pH level. When mixed with an acidic substance, such as lemon juice or vinegar, it undergoes a chemical reaction, and carbon dioxide gas is released. This end product makes baked goods rise and also makes baking soda an effective cleaning and deodorizing agent.
When baking soda is used to absorb odors, it neutralizes the acidic VOCs in the air. It absorbs the VOCs and produces carbon dioxide, freshening the air. And because baking soda is porous, it traps the VOCs, hindering them from being released back into the air.
Several research studies have shown that baking soda is very effective at removing odors produced by acidic substances–like vinegar, onions, and fish. A study published in the National Library of Medicine revealed that baking soda can reduce the intensity of food waste by about 70%. Baking soda can also reduce the levels of volatile amines, the substances that cause the fishy odor in seafood.
Tips for Using Baking Soda to Absorb Odors
- Use enough baking soda to effectively absorb the odors. About one cup of baking soda per room is ideal. Place the baking soda in a bowl, dish, cloth, or sachet and leave it out in the open. An open bowl of baking soda or a container is best.
- Replace the baking soda regularly, as it will lose its effectiveness as it becomes saturated with VOCs. Replace the baking soda every two to three months.
- Sprinkle baking soda for effective odor removal: Sprinkle it directly onto surfaces that have odors, such as shoes, the trash can, carpets, clothing, and upholstery. Let it sit for a few hours, and then shake off—or vacuum—the excess.
- Mix baking soda with essential oils for a pleasant scent: Mix baking soda with a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a pleasant scent. You can put the mixture in a container or sprinkle it onto surfaces.
- Place a container with baking soda in every odor-filled area: Place a container in the fridge, the closet, and any other area with a bad odor. Sprinkle some baking soda into the bottom of the trash, on pet furniture, and in shoes to absorb the odors. If using containers, replace them every two to three months.
How Long Does Baking Soda Absorb Odors
The length of time baking soda absorbs odors depends on several things:
- The amount of baking soda used
- The size of the space
- The strength of the odor
Baking soda starts absorbing odors within a few hours, but its full effect may take several days or even weeks. It all depends on the amount of baking soda used and severity of the odor.
To maximize the odor-absorbing power of baking soda, use enough of it and change it out regularly. Use a small box or bowl of baking soda in small spaces like a refrigerator and replace it every 1-2 months. Multiple boxes or a larger amount is ideal for larger spaces like a room or closet. This should also be replaced every few months.
Baking Soda Odor Myth
The baking soda odor myth purports that baking soda can absorb all odors, however, this is not entirely true. Baking soda can’t absorb all odors effectively. While it’s very effective at neutralizing acidic odors, such as food and sweat odors, it can’t effectively absorb odors caused by bacteria or mold.
Also, if you don’t store baking soda well, it can actually create odors. When exposed to air or moisture, it can break down into sodium carbonate and produce a musty odor.
The bottom line is baking soda is not a magical solution for all odor problems. You may need to try other odor-eliminating techniques or products for strong odors.
Baking Soda in Fridge Myth
The baking soda in fridge myth has been circling around for ages. Some people believe that placing an open container of baking soda in the refrigerator helps absorb unpleasant odors and keeps it smelling fresh.
But as we’ve said before, baking soda can absorb some odors, but not all. It’s not the best product to make your fridge smell fresh. Additionally, most modern refrigerators have built-in air filtration systems that effectively remove unpleasant odors from the fridge. If you notice a strong odor in your fridge, check for spoiled food or unclean appliances. We recommend cleaning your fridge thoroughly instead of using baking soda to mask the smell.
Does Baking Soda Absorb Odors in a Room?
Yes, baking soda absorbs odors in a room. The natural deodorizer neutralizes and eliminates unpleasant smells, it doesn’t mask them. Because baking soda is an alkaline substance, it reacts with the acids which are responsible for many bad smells. The reaction produces neutral compounds that are devoid of odor.
To use baking soda in a room, place an open container in the area. It will slowly absorb the odors over time. Replace the batch with a fresh one every few weeks. Additionally, sprinkle baking soda onto upholstery, carpets, and other surfaces. Leave it for a while to do its job, and then vacuum it to remove excess.
It’s worth mentioning that baking soda may not be effective at removing very strong or persistent odors. You may have to use other odor-eliminating methods or products.
Does Baking Soda Remove Odors from Carpet?
Yes, baking soda can remove odors from a carpet. It works as a natural deodorizer and neutralizes unpleasant odors in carpets caused by food spills, pet stains, and other sources. Here’s how you can use baking soda to remove odors from carpet:
- First, vacuum the carpet to remove any loose dirt and debris.
- Next, sprinkle baking soda (a generous amount) over the carpet.
- Let the baking soda sit for several hours or overnight.
- Vacuum the carpet using a vacuum with a high-efficiency filter to remove the baking soda.
Besides removing odors, baking soda can freshen up your carpet and make it look and feel cleaner. But it’s worth noting that it’s not effective for all types of odors. You may have to use more powerful cleaning products to completely remove stubborn odors from a carpet.
How to Use Baking Soda to Remove Odor from Clothes
Here’s how to use baking soda to remove odor from clothes:
- Put ½ to 1 cup of baking soda in the washing machine. Use more for a bigger load.
- Add detergent and wash your clothes as usual.
- If your clothes have a bad odor, soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of water and baking soda before washing them. To make the solution, mix 1 quart of warm water with 1/2 cup of baking soda.
- Once you’re done washing the clothes, dry them as usual.
Use baking soda to remove odor from clothes and keep them smelling fresh and clean.
Should You Put a Bowl of Baking Soda in a Room?
A bowl of baking soda in a room can absorb odors and freshen the air. Simply place an open bowl of baking soda in the room and leave it to absorb odors. Pick a spot with good air circulation, like near a window or a fan.
You can leave the bowl of baking soda in the room for several weeks–not more than three months. At that point, replace it with a fresh bowl of baking soda.
Baking soda is an effective and inexpensive product for removing unwanted odors from your home. It also releases carbon dioxide, helping to freshen the air. Baking soda is particularly effective at removing food odors, sweat, and pet odors— odors caused by acidic substances. We hope this post has answered all your questions on “how does baking soda absorb odors?”