The use of baking soda for cleaning and as a disinfectant has equally been undermined and exalted. Admittedly, its versatility is to be reckoned with and its expanse of action is neither exclusive nor limited to the kitchen alone. Bakers know that baking soda is responsible for making cookies chewy and cakes soft, housewives are aware that it is indispensable as a kitchen sink cleanser, young women use it as an exfoliant to get rid of dead skin cells and everybody knows how it deodorizes stinky feet and even more stinky shoes and socks. But does baking soda disinfectant make the grade?
“Cleans,” “Sanitizes” and “Disinfects” are three different functions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined. “Clean” is the physical removal of surface or area debris. Scrubbing with detergent or soap, washing and rinsing with water, in that order, are necessary to effect “clean.” A product that “sanitizes” means it can kill 99.9% of identified germs as written on its label. “Disinfect” does the same thing, with a “nearly 100%” batting average. According to the California Childcare Health Program, baking soda doesn’t “kill germs well enough to be used to sanitize” nor does it mention disinfection as one of baking soda’s uses.
“Kill” is to “Wipe Out”? Not Necessarily…
The use of clean, sanitize and disinfect are easily interchangeable when making claims about a product’s efficacy. Arm and Hammer has the words “baking, cleaning and deodorizing” but it has never included “sanitizing” or even “disinfecting” on its boxes, although it does say that it has “over 101 cleaning uses.”
The use of baking soda to purportedly “disinfect” must have been mistakenly attributed to it, perhaps because people tend to associate, or even confuse, the term “clean” with “wipe out.” And because disinfectants “kill” germs, “kill” in this case becomes a synonym for “wipe out” when describing baking soda disinfectant usages.
A study conducted by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine’s Department of Hospital Epidemiology on the “antimicrobial activity of home disinfectants and natural products against potential human pathogens” which included “selected antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Natural products specifically meant vinegar and baking soda. The study yielded the conclusion that natural products vinegar and baking soda “were less effective” than the commercially-manufactured disinfectants, and only Lysol and Clorox proved effective to poliovirus.
Versatile It is but Disinfectant Per Se it is Not
Baking soda can put out grease fires; removes stains and scum without causing damage to tiles, grout, bathtubs or sinks; absorb even the most powerful of odors in trashcans, garbage bins, litter boxes, refrigerators, toilets, carpets and pet areas; is sold as supplemental cattle feed; offer relief to tired feet when used as a foot soak; clean teeth, jewelry, upholstery and burnt pots or pans; and act as antacid for heartburn and indigestion caused by intake of acidic foods.
But does it actually kill “nearly 100%” of germs as a disinfectant ought to do as defined by the EPA? While it has been shown to be effective in having a measure of control over fungal growth, baking soda is registered as “biopesticide” in the United States by the EPA (biopesticides are interventions in the management and control of pests).
Not to burst anyone’s bubble but while the uses of baking soda are varied, it doesn’t qualify as a sanitizer or disinfectant. To say “baking soda disinfectant” is to unnecessarily put it in the line of fire of disinfectant purists and give false hope to adherents of its claimed disinfecting properties.