Friday, May 6, 2011

Science of Cleaning: Baking Soda

Besides being a clean freak, I am also a baking freak.  My love of baking and of learning about all things nerdy led to this posting.  It all started with an article talking about the chemistry of baking and how the different leaveners affect the finished product.  This reading occurred in my kitchen where I happened to look over at my stove top and think, "man, that needs a good cleaning."  I got out my trusty baking soda, it was sparkling in under five minutes and I thought, "why does that work so well?"

Here is what I can surmise.
My knowledge of chemistry is basic (no pun intended) but from what I can tell, many cleaning products work on the basis of pH.  In the case of baking soda, most food stains are acidic.  By adding baking soda, which is basic, the chemical bonds holding the baked on food together weaken and the stain lifts.  I believe this is why cleaning products often refer to "neutralizing" a stain.  The pH becomes neutral with the addition of the cleaning product leading to weakened chemical bonds and the stain disappearing!

This also informs why baking soda sometimes doesn't work.  If the stain itself is basic, then an acidic cleaning product is necessary.  There is also a different class of cleaners based on enzymes, which are used to eat up stains.  It's all very interesting and complicated.  In a later post, I am going to list several different common stains and the appropriate type of cleaning product.

Thanks for nerding out with me!