Baking Soda Week

Posted on February 2, 2009 by Allie

It’s never simple, is it?  Few things are, and when it comes to the environment, there aren’t many easy answers.  It’s less about right and wrong and more about lesser evils in many circumstances. Do the benefits of CFLs outweigh the use of mercury in the bulbs?  Does the fuel efficiency of a hybrid outweigh the environmental impact of the battery?

I love cleaning with baking soda.  But what is baking soda?  Where does it come from?  How is it produced?

According to Umbra Fisk from Grist, baking soda is a mined substance and comes from a mine in Green River, Wyoming.  Salty runoff from the mine pollutes a pond manufactured to collect this runoff, and area birds get sick when they drink from the pond.

That’s bad, right?

Well, yes and no.  I use baking soda to solve a lot of household problems I would normally use more destructive chemicals to tackle.

I scrub my face with baking soda a few times a week, instead of using a face cleanser with ocean polluting plastic exfoliating “microbeads,” and parabens (that wash down the drain spreading their gender-bending xenoestrogens into rivers and streams, eventually ending up back in our drinking water).

I use baking soda to clean in place of a more abrasive, bleach-based cleaner.  I use it to deodorize, instead of reaching for an aerosol, phthalate-ridden spray that can disrupt reproductive function and cause respiratory problems.

In the face of synthetic chemicals that can cause permanent damage to our oceans, bodies, wildlife, and the environment on a very large scale, a salty runoff pond in Green River, Wyoming does seem to be a lesser evil.  And, while many synthetic chemical laden products come in plastic container (and we all know plastic never dies), baking soda comes in a cardboard box.

So this week, the tips are centered around using baking soda instead of employing more destructive chemicals.  I’m not pretending baking soda is 100% good, but it is, in many cases, a better option.

What do you think?


  1. How do you use baking soda to deodorize? I understand that it keeps the fridge fresher, but say the bathroom needs freshening up? How can baking soda do the job of an air freshener in that case?

    Specifically, I am thinking of yesterday, after hubby had visited the restroom. He DID use a spray air freshener, but when my son entered a few minutes later to brush his teeth, the first word out of his mouth was “Gross!”, upon breathing the air in there. When the air freshener couldn’t defeat that odor well, how could baking soda?

    (and mad props to my son for his first use of the word gross, and using it in very appropriate context. Heh.)

    February 2nd, 2009 at 4:01 pm
    Comment by 3carnations
  2. Oh, baking soda as deodorant. How I wish I could embrace a more natural deodorant!

    I do use baking soda and vinegar exclusively for cleaning, though – so I LOVE baking soda. :) (Now if only vinegar came in HUGE glass jugs instead of plastic ones…)

    February 2nd, 2009 at 4:11 pm
    Comment by ashley.
  3. I really like using both vinegar and baking soda in my washing machine. It really helps to get all the soap out of the clothes and softens them a bit in the process.

    February 2nd, 2009 at 4:14 pm
    Comment by Beth - Smart Family Tips
  4. I agree. Nothing is going to be 100% ecologically sound when it’s mass produced. I also use it for many of the same uses you do.

    My cleaning bucket contains: Baking soda, vinegar & Dr Bronner’s.

    February 2nd, 2009 at 7:37 pm
    Comment by Susy
  5. I think I love Ask Umbra, and your excellent research. Using less of everything is always a good policy, so I’m going to hereby clean less and give you props. ;) Seriously, I didn’t know that about the runoff and the bird situation? Makes me sad. Sounds like we should take Arm & Hammer to task for not managing the process better, in addition to lauding ourselves for avoiding even worse evils….

    February 3rd, 2009 at 1:12 am
    Comment by JessTrev
  6. I love how versatile baking soda is!

    February 3rd, 2009 at 4:08 am
    Comment by The Modern Gal
  7. I love, love love baking soda as deodorant! I keep it in a little tin in my underwear drawer and apply to dry underarms with a powder puff. It works way better than deodorant.

    I love baking soda as an abrasive for scrubbing pots. It works great.

    I love it in my cat litter to absorb odors.

    Oh, and of course it makes great no-poo shampoo! Cleans hair without leaving a buildup if you dilute it enough (1 TBSP baking soda to 1 cup water.)

    February 3rd, 2009 at 10:20 pm
    Comment by Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish
  8. [...] made of hydrogen and carbon. The health risk, according the MSDS sheet, is a 1, which is low. As Allie pointed out this week with baking soda, there are few perfect products out there. But I do know the mixture I’m now using has fewer [...]

    February 6th, 2009 at 10:59 am
    Pingback by Homemade Laundry Detergent 101 | smartfamilytips
  9. [...] is experimenting with baking soda during baking soda week. Go see what she’s up [...]

    February 6th, 2009 at 2:00 pm
    Pingback by Quick Green Reads For The Weekend Volume 103. | The Good Human
  10. …we use it for toothpaste; deodorant; laudnry soap…just to name a few. …I’ll share: deodorant: 1 C. crisco
    1 sm box baking soda
    1/2 C. wax
    Melt all in pan on stove. As it cools, keep stiring so things stay mixed. When it is cooled off and sticks together, refill those deodorant stick containers, I do.

    Laundry soap:
    1 bar of hard soap, finely grated
    1 box of baking soda
    mix the two in a food processer until dust. Use 1/4 C for each load.

    April 15th, 2009 at 5:05 pm
    Comment by Aud
  11. [...] written before about the wondrous powers of baking soda here at The Greenists, but here’s another cheap, easy-to-find substance with all kinds of [...]

    August 11th, 2010 at 4:02 am
    Pingback by 5 Unusual Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


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So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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