Don’t Use Baking Soda as a Carpet Cleaner: Here’s Why

By
Jeneva Aaron
Jeneva has over years of passion for home decorating and cleaning. She is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products.
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Updated March 1, 2022
Fact checked by
Gladys K. Connelly
Gladys K. Connelly

Fact checked by

Gladys K. Connelly

As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
Learn more about The Housewire’s Editorial Process

Find out if this household staple is safe for stains

Don’t Use Baking Soda as a Carpet Cleaner: Here’s Why

Using baking soda as a carpet cleaner isn’t a wise idea. It might seem like a quick fix to clean a spill on your new rug, but it’s a sure-fire way to make more work for yourself.

Even if you try and vacuum it up, baking soda lingers in soft carpet and causes more damage the longer it’s there. It can lead to damaged backing, which is a much bigger chore to fix!

Before we go any further, let’s learn a little more about baking soda and what it does to your carpet. And why you shouldn’t use it!

Baking Soda Properties

Baking Soda Properties
You tend to use baking soda when you’re, well, baking! Its technical name is sodium bicarbonate and this white powder is a leavening agent that helps cakes and bread to rise (1).

But when it comes to cleaning with baking soda, it’s ideal for things like pet odors since it’s alkaline. This means it neutralizes bad smells that are caused by acids.

And seeing as it loves water, you can mix baking soda into a handy cleaning product. The crystals in baking soda create an abrasive texture that’s ideal for scrubbing away at greasy stains.

You can make a scouring paste with baking soda that lifts stubborn stains by creating friction. But you should stick to hard surfaces, like kitchen countertops, tiles, and tubs.

You can also use a baking soda and vinegar mix to clean your oven or unclog drains. This inexpensive solution creates carbon dioxide bubbles, so it froths up and cleans as it goes.

So baking soda has loads of uses around your home, but carpet cleaning isn’t one of them! You should stick to using it on hard surfaces.

Let’s find out why.

Reasons to Avoid Using Baking Soda as a Carpet Cleaner

Let’s look in more detail as to why you shouldn’t use baking soda on carpet stains.

1. It Isn’t Effective at Removing Stains From a Carpet

Despite what you read online, baking soda isn’t effective for cleaning carpet stains.

But why?

First of all, it’s abrasive. So this means it works best on hard surfaces.

The friction caused by the crystals in baking soda works wonders with food and grease stains on your countertop, but not your carpet. Instead, you should use a solvent to remove any dried-on food from the carpet.

Here’s the best way to do it:

  • Use a spray bottle or cloth to apply enough of the product to make the stain slightly damp
  • Blot the stain with a paper towel
  • Rinse the area with warm water
  • Leave it to dry

Warning!

You should never rub at tough carpet stains, as it makes the stained area larger and harder to clean. And it’s even worse if you try and use baking soda since this soaks deeper into your carpet and the abrasive nature of it untwists the tufts.

You might also have heard about using baking soda as a dry compound to soak up any spills and stains. It does work well for this since it absorbs moisture, but only on hard surfaces!

Keep In Mind

You don’t want to use baking soda as a dry compound on carpets. The tiny particles stay in the fibers and cause damage over time.

The same applies to removing pet odors or using baking soda as a deodorizer in general. It’s brilliant to eliminate odors on hard surfaces, but it can cause the following issues if used for carpet stains.

2. It Can Damage Your Carpet’s Fibers

This all comes back to the abrasive nature of baking soda and how gritty it is. When you mix it with water, it forms a solution that sticks to your carpet fibers.

So each time you walk across the carpet, the grainy baking soda rubs against the fibers and scratches them.

Over time, this will damage the fibers and make your carpet lose its luster. The baking soda particles can even change the color of your carpet!

It’s not as noticeable if you use a small amount of baking soda every now and again, but too much baking soda spells disaster. This will end up shortening the life of your carpet, and it’s expensive to replace it too often.

It’s much better to use a different carpet cleaner rather than changing your carpet more often than you need to.

3. It Leaves a White Film Over Your Carpet

This might sound like something easy to fix, but it’s not the case. A white film caused by baking powder is tricky to sort out and could lead to you needing professional help.

But how does it happen?

When you sprinkle dry baking soda onto your carpet and add water for cleaning, the baking soda dissolves and you can’t see it. But as the water dries from the carpet, baking soda particles dry out and are left behind.

This causes a white film that only gets worse the more you walk on it. So you get an obvious color change, or traffic-lane graying, in areas with high footfall.

It makes a fresh carpet look old and worn when it’s actually just baking soda caught in the fibers.

Can you Vacuum It?

In short, no.

Since some of the baking soda particles are so small, vacuuming won’t remove all of them. Cleaning experts have tested the theory and shown that around 65% is cleared away, while the rest stays on your carpet.

You could try an acid rinse to remove the underlying residue, but this tends to need professional help. White traffic lanes are something you’ll never get completely clean on your own!

You can see here the damage baking soda did to this couch. The stain of the white film is clearly visible.

White residue on fabric

The Housewire / Jeneva Aaron

4. It Breaks Down the Backing of Your Carpet

If you use baking soda as carpet cleaner, some of the tiny particles work their way into the fibers and stay there. And since you can’t vacuum it all out, it’s very difficult to try and remove it.

Don’t let baking soda sit for several hours. If you leave baking soda to sit on your carpet overnight, or longer, it causes more harm.

The particles keep moving down through the layers until they get under the rug and padding to the floor below. And then you’ve got no chance of retrieving them!

Over time, the latex adhesive in the carpet backing gets broken down by the baking soda as it mixes with moisture. This means the backing doesn’t hold the carpet to the floor as it should do.

In the worst-case scenario, this results in delamination. You’ll see wrinkles and bunching of the carpet that you can’t smooth out or push down.

But this could lead to you needing to replace the entire carpet, which is something you want to avoid! It’s an expensive ending to trying to clean a stain.

5. It Changes the Color of Natural Carpets

Thanks to its alkaline nature, baking soda can alter the color of your carpets.

If you’ve got multi-colored carpets or ones with patterns, baking soda makes the dyes and pigments bleed. So it damages the design and you lose the sharp colors.

But what about natural carpets?

These aren’t safe, either! They can end up turning yellow if you opt for baking soda to remove stains.

Carpet cleaners with a high pH, such as baking soda, cause something known as cellulosic browning. This leaves yellow or brown stain spots that are tough to sort out on carpets made from natural fibers.

If this happens, you could try applying an acid rinse to reverse the discoloration. But it’s best to get professional help with this rather than trying a white vinegar mixture.

So as well as white traffic lanes, you could end up with ugly yellow spots. Another reason to leave baking soda alone and treat tough stains with something else!

6. It Prevents the Carpet From Cleaning

If you keep using baking soda (or other high pH cleaners) to clean your carpets, a sticky residue is left behind. This attracts more dirt, which leaves your carpet with a bigger greasy stain than you started with.

And it makes your carpet even harder to clean!

Sticky dirt is one of the toughest stains to remove, so this itself is a big reason to avoid using baking soda to clean carpets. But it gets worse.

You could end up changing the pH of your actual carpet and making it as high as the baking soda residue that’s left behind. If this happens, it limits how much dirt is released when you clean your carpets.

This means you’ll find it much harder to clean your carpet and remove stains in the future.

So when it comes to carpet cleaning, baking soda makes matters worse rather than better.

7. It Harms the Plastic Parts of Your Vacuum

Whizzing your vacuum around to try and remove all the baking soda on the floor is another thing to avoid. Yes, it’s quick and easy, but it also causes damage.

Some particles of baking soda are so tiny that they clog the filter of the vacuum cleaner. And if your model uses dust bags, baking soda can trash these, too.

Clogged bags and filters mean reduced suction and less-effective cleaning performance. And you’re also more likely to suffer from clumps in your vacuum.

If this wasn’t annoying enough, there’s also a chance of the tiny dust particles escaping the filtration system. If this happens, it puts the vacuum motor at risk of getting damaged and shorting out.

Finally, the plastic parts inside your carpet vacuum cleaner also face harm from the abrasive crystals in baking soda. Especially if you’re cleaning up a generous amount of the stuff.

So, all in all, vacuum cleaners and baking soda are not a good mix! Save yourself a tonne of effort and try using a different method to get rid of that stain.

Alternatives to Baking Soda for Cleaning Your Carpet

Alternatives to Baking Soda for Cleaning Your Carpet

There are so many different ways to get a stain out of your carpet without using baking soda. Whether it’s removing non-greasy stains or some dog blood for pet owners, there’s a method to suit everyone.

To learn how to clean carpet with baking soda alternatives, check out our handy guides for these particular types of stain:

Or discover how to ditch the harsh chemicals with some amazing homemade carpet cleaners, such as dish soap or white vinegar. You can still enjoy clean carpets, but with all-natural ingredients!

Otherwise, this list of tips to clean your carpet will come in useful for the entire carpet or patches of spot cleaning.

Whatever you do, don’t use baking soda as a deodorizer or for carpet cleaning. Use one of these solutions and keep your carpets looking fresher for longer!

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