The Best DIY Baking Soda Cleaner for Tough Kitchen Messes

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For everything from stained sinks and burnt pots to baked-on grime, this simple 3-ingredient formula is eco-friendly, zero-waste, and actually works.

Sodium bicarbonate (doing business as "baking soda") has long been the It Girl of do-it-yourself cleaning ingredients, and with good reason – it's a workhorse. It's also cheap, and obviates the need for toxic cleaners in lots of plastic bottles.

But like all good workhorses, baking soda has some nuances: It's not always enough just to sprinkle it on tough messes and wipe them away. But add in a few extra ingredients, and the work becomes much easier.

One of my cleaning indulgences is Bon Ami powder cleanser, a move from the "Cleaning Secrets From Grandma" playbook. It's a great product, especially since I have an old, white enamel kitchen sink that suffers in sparkle when there's been a lot of cooking and baking going on.

But it's not something I insist on always having on hand, and when I haven't had it, I have tried baking soda to scour the sink instead. On its own, it's not that effective. But then one time I added a little dish soap, and it was better. And then another time I added a little salt with the dish soap, and somewhere a choir of angels broke into song to celebrate the moment. So:


It's a great formula; a gentle soft-scrub that I have found effective for cleaning everything from food remnants welded onto roasting pans and burnt pots to Le Creuset stains, the stove top, and even the mysterious abyss that is the bottom of the oven.

I don't have an exact formula – I am guessing I am not the first to stumble upon this combination and maybe someone else has measurements, but I haven't found that this is an exact science. The idea is to get the mild alkali and soft abrasive power of the baking soda, the cleaning properties of the dish soap, and a little extra grit from the salt.

(Because of the abrasive components, please do a small test on an inconspicuous area of the finish to ensure it won't become scratched.)

These are the two methods I use:

  • For the sink and pots/pans, squirt a little dish soap in (these brands have a good EWG score), sprinkle the baking soda and salt on top, and mix it into a paste right there. For a really bad mess, you can try letting it sit for anywhere between five minutes and an hour; if it dries, wet it again before scrubbing. But you can also give it a go as soon as you have applied it. Scrub with a sponge and rinse.
  • For the stove and larger surfaces, you can make a paste. Add baking soda to a small container (with a cover if you want to make extra). Add enough dish soap to make a paste, and then add a sprinkle of salt. Scoop, spread, scrub, voila.