Awesome Ways to Clean and Remove Odor With Baking Soda

Wow. What an olfactory difference cleaning with a small box of baking soda can make.

Making a baking soda solution to clean a microwave
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

How many of those hanging car air fresheners would it take to stop the fishy smell from last night's dinner? Too many! Before you decorate your kitchen like a cardboard pine forest, take a deep breath — preferably through your mouth — and open your cupboard. Enter baking soda. Odds are you already have what you need to nix food odors in one inexpensive little box. That unassuming baking soda can work a miracle in your kitchen.

Baking Soda Absorbs Odors

This household staple acts as a molecular sponge, eagerly soaking up and neutralizing a wide range of odors. Baking soda, unlike most commercial air fresheners, doesn't mask odors, it absorbs them, says Mary Marlowe Leverette, an experienced cleaning and fabric care expert.

Not only does baking soda absorb odors, but it does so with a scientific finesse that makes it a go-to solution for maintaining a fresh and odor-free environment in various corners of your home.

How Does It Work?

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate in a convenient box) neutralizes stubborn acidic odors — like those from sour milk — as well as other funky smells lurking in your home. It’s a natural odor eliminator, but it's not instantaneous. Depending on how pervasive the scent is, baking soda can take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day to remove unwanted food odors.

The secret to the absorption lies in the chemical composition of baking soda, scientifically known as sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda is amphoteric, meaning it can react with both acidic and alkaline substances. The acidic or alkaline molecules that often cause odors are neutralized by contact with baking soda.

7 Household Items to Clean With Baking Soda

From banishing odors in your dishwasher to rejuvenating your microwave, baking soda can elevate your cleaning routine, especially cleaning kitchen appliances.

Bonus tip: A vinegar-baking soda combination can boost cleaning power: the acid in the vinegar reacts with the baking soda, causing it to break down and release carbon dioxide gas. This gas can lift dirt from the surfaces undergoing the cleaning process.

Let’s delve into the myriad ways cleaning with baking soda (and sometimes vinegar) may refresh and revitalize items around your home:

#1 Dishwasher

Baking Soda poured into a measuring cup to be used on a dishwasher to clean it.
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

Dishwashers are supposed to be hallowed havens of cleanliness. If you don't run the dishwasher every day, those rotten food smells can build up. Stop the stink by dumping a cup of baking soda into the dishwasher and running it through a rinse cycle. The soda eliminates foul smells and unwanted food odors from the machine. Ah! That's a nicer-smelling place for your dishes, no matter what type of dish detergent you use.

#2 Oven

Baking soda mixed with water being spread over the top of an oven with a sponge.
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

If you avoid using your oven because of that special burning smell, it might just be time for a scrub. The oven can be responsible for a lot of household cooking, which means it can hold onto a lot of food smells. Cleaning the oven with baking soda can be done in just a few steps:

Cleaning Your Oven with Baking Soda 

  1. Scrub the oven with a paste made of one-half cup of baking soda and a few tablespoons of water.
  2. Coat the oven with the paste, and let it sit overnight.
  3. Wipe the paste away with a damp cloth.
  4. Spritz any stuck-on paste with vinegar in a spray bottle.

#3 Range Hood

That greasy range hood could also be adding to your kitchen's odor. Clean it with a mixture of about one-quarter cup baking soda, a good squirt of degreasing dish soap, and the hottest water you can stand (but be careful not to burn yourself!).

#4 Drains and Disposals

Baking soda, vinegar, and salt by a sink to be used for cleaning.
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

When you can't source an odor, drains and disposals are often the culprits. Make them stink-free and (bonus) clog-free with a mix of one-quarter cup of baking soda, one-quarter cup of vinegar, and some kosher salt. Give the drain a slightly abrasive scrubbing and follow up with boiling water.

#5 Food Containers

Baking soda being used in Tupperware containers to clean them.
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

Containers that once held strong-smelling foods can retain those odors. To rejuvenate them, wash them with a solution of water and baking soda. Let the containers air dry, and voila — a fresh start for your leftovers.

#6 Microwave

Baking soda mixed with water to be used to clean a microwave.
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

Does your microwave still smell like last weekend's bacon? Clean and deodorize it with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda mixed with a cup of water. Put the solution into an uncovered, microwave-safe container and zap on high for three minutes. Then, simply wipe down the interior.

#7 Refrigerator

Baking soda placed in a refrigerator or fridge to eliminate strong smells.
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

A little fridge baking soda box isn't just an old wives’ tale — it helps keep your refrigerator smelling crisp. Place a full box in there with the top tab open to let air flow into the bicarbonate powder. The soda eliminates strong smells from foods like onions, cheeses, and yesterday's leftovers.

Pro Tips: Removing Odors With Baking Soda

  • Toss a handful of baking soda into your kitchen garbage pail and recycling container to control ongoing odors. Refresh every few days.
  • Composting may be virtuous, but it can attack your nose every time you open the bin. Fight back by tossing a handful of baking soda into the compost bin before each deposit. Occasionally clean the bin with vinegar. When it's dry, cover the bin's bottom with a layer of baking soda.
  • Making fish tonight? Prevent odors before they start by soaking raw fish in one quart of water with two tablespoons of baking soda. Leave it in the fridge for about an hour, rinse, and pat dry before cooking.

Baking Soda: A Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Deodorizer

The best thing about the cheap, odor-zapping wonder of baking soda is you can use it guilt-free. “You're not going to harm humans or animals or ruin anything using baking soda," Leverette says. “Plus, after you're done deodorizing, mix it up with vinegar or lemon juice and some red dye, and make a cool volcano. The kids will love it."

So, the next time you reach for that box of baking soda, remember that you're not just adding a pinch of freshness to your baking —– you're unleashing a cleaning superhero into your home!

Author photo of writer Stacey Freed
Stacey Freed

Stacey Freed writes about homes, design, remodeling, and construction for online and print national trade and consumer publications, including "Better Homes & Gardens." Previously, she was a senior editor at "Remodeling" magazine. Follow Stacey on Twitter.