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psychonaut
03-23-2010, 06:38 AM
In the thread on products not used for their intended purpose (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=556641), there has been a dispute as to whether baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is effective at reducing odours in the surrounding air. So as not to derail that thread, I thought we could discuss the matter here.

So what's the straight dope—does putting an open container of baking soda in a refrigerator, or in a room, actually reduce odours effectively? If it does work, what kind of odours can and can't it get rid of? And is it true that the effectiveness is limited by the exposed surface area of the baking soda, or is leaving it in its original (opened) box good enough? Have there been any consumer or scientific studies done on this?

I Am The Lorax
03-23-2010, 08:30 AM
I don't know about a box of soda just sitting around, but *anecdote* I sprinkle it in my diaper pail and it's marvelous. No stink at all.

Cat Whisperer
03-23-2010, 10:26 AM
I'll tell the same anecdote here as in the original thread; the house we bought was supposed to be non-smoking, but it started to smell terrible once we closed up for winter after moving in last fall. I tried all the commercial odour eliminators, but nothing really worked until I put little dishes of baking soda in every room. The nasty odour cleared up immediately when I did that.

I also use baking soda in my fridge, cupboards, and kitchen garbage pail. I haven't tried just opening a box and leaving it; I use it with maximum exposed surface area.

dangermom
03-23-2010, 11:09 AM
Try it yourself. Find something fairly stinky--say, a patch of your carpet that has been well-used, a cushion that has been sat on too much, something textiley. Vacuum it. Smell it. Does it still smell pretty bad? Good.

Now sprinkle baking soda on it and rub it in. Leave for 15 minutes or more. Then vacuum the item again and smell it again. Has the smell changed?

The Scrivener
03-23-2010, 11:26 AM
I sprinkle baking soda inside my kitchen garbage pail (it's a small pail and gets emptied frequently, but once in awhile a bag might leak, etc.), and keep a shallow box top with some in a dirty clothes hamper storage nook. I also sprinkle some on sponges for scrubbing when additional abrasiveness is needed.

Does anybody know the chemistry of what's happening when a person uses the baking soda + vinegar treatment for odiferous pipes? (Pour a spoonful or two of b.s. down the drain; add vinegar; watch as it splutters and fizzes and deodorizes the pipe.)

My casual understanding is that the vinegar is reacting with the b.s., resulting in the release of carbon dioxide gas. But is what's left over of the baking soda still an effective deodorizer, or is much of the benefit actually from using vinegar? Is vinegar used mainly to produce the fizzing and better distribute the b.s. throughout the pipe?

WarmNPrickly
03-23-2010, 11:29 AM
Leaving a box in the sock drawer or refrigerator does nothing. Most of the time, the people I see that do that already have immaculate houses. The fact that the refrigerator doesn't smell has little to do with the box of baking soda. If you sprinkle baking soda on the floor and vacuum it up, you may get some smell relief. I think you more likely adapt to the smell. Even so, baking soda can only cancel the acidic smells and it can only absorb the smells that come into contact with it. It may have some ability to adsorb other smells. I'll be happy to try the diaper pail experiment. I'm very skeptical.

psychonaut
03-23-2010, 11:49 AM
Try it yourself. Find something fairly stinky--say, a patch of your carpet that has been well-used, a cushion that has been sat on too much, something textiley. Vacuum it. Smell it. Does it still smell pretty bad? Good.

Now sprinkle baking soda on it and rub it in. Leave for 15 minutes or more. Then vacuum the item again and smell it again. Has the smell changed?This is quite different than simply leaving an open container of baking soda nearby, which is really what I'm interested in.

dangermom
03-23-2010, 12:40 PM
I don't usually think of that as terribly effective, unless it's spread around or stirred fairly regularly. That said, my fridge was getting a bit smelly recently from a lot of spicy leftovers, and I stuck a mostly-gone box of b. s. in there as a sort of half-hearted effort until I could do something better, and it worked.

I also keep a shaker can of b. s. in the car and shake it every so often, it really does seem to help with the slight smell of smoking from the previous owner. I do other stuff too though.

Cat Whisperer
03-23-2010, 01:37 PM
<snip>I'm very skeptical.
That's okay; it's working for me (and the smell in here was just about driving me nuts), and that's what's really important to me. :)

WarmNPrickly
03-23-2010, 03:18 PM
I sure wish we had better evidence one way or another. I don't like to discount peoples experience, but the chemistry makes no sense. I suspect something else is at work.

As for the diaper pail, the stench is unbearable to the point of making me gag and even spit up, but that is only when I'm opening up the container. As long as the container is closed, I don't really smell it. I suspect that the smell is just too damned strong for something like baking soda to work.

VernWinterbottom
03-23-2010, 03:28 PM
In the fridge, could the effect be because the sodium bicarbonate is actually absorbing MOISTURE from the fridge air and so some of the odor that's floating around in that moisture might become trapped?

Andy
03-23-2010, 03:29 PM
Well, I'm a chemist and have no real idea how it works, but I'm pretty sure it does.
My football trainers all smell of, well, cat piss. No, I have no cats. Throwing them in the washing machine has no effect. An old pair of socks each filled with 2-300g of bicarb (NaHCO3) and placed in the offending trainers for 24-48 hours and they're odour free. Until I wear them again....

Harmonious Discord
03-23-2010, 03:52 PM
I await this ad done by Arm & Hammer because it really worked when they tried it.

We secretly placed one hundred boxes of baking soda in this homeless shelter. The odor in the shelter disappeared over night.

I doubt they'll ever attempt it even though it would prove it worked well at odor removal if it could actually do that.

barbitu8
03-23-2010, 03:58 PM
Baking soda put down in a cat litter box before adding the litter is supposed to help with the odor. I have two cats and sometimes need a gas mask to empty the litter, even though I do use the bs. Perhaps it is just bs.

cornflakes
03-23-2010, 04:09 PM
Well, I'm a chemist and have no real idea how it works, but I'm pretty sure it does.
My football trainers all smell of, well, cat piss. No, I have no cats. Throwing them in the washing machine has no effect. An old pair of socks each filled with 2-300g of bicarb (NaHCO3) and placed in the offending trainers for 24-48 hours and they're odour free. Until I wear them again....Poor guys. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletic_trainer) I'll bet that employee retention is a headache.

(I'm assume that what you're talking about are called jockstraps in the US.)

Markxxx
03-23-2010, 04:12 PM
When I was a kid we used it in the cat box and it seemed to help a lot. Of course that was the 70s and kitty litter probably is more advanced by now

WarmNPrickly
03-23-2010, 04:22 PM
In the fridge, could the effect be because the sodium bicarbonate is actually absorbing MOISTURE from the fridge air and so some of the odor that's floating around in that moisture might become trapped?

I don't see how this is possible, since in order to get absorbed the water needs to come in contact with the baking soda. Unless you are circulating air through the box, this is not happening. Also, sodium bicarbonate is not particularly hygroscopic. Also, the top layer needs to be constantly exchanged.

Here is an article (http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem00/chem00388.htm) that essentially says what I have always understood.

Diver
03-23-2010, 05:12 PM
I
Does anybody know the chemistry of what's happening when a person uses the baking soda + vinegar treatment for odiferous pipes? (Pour a spoonful or two of b.s. down the drain; add vinegar; watch as it splutters and fizzes and deodorizes the pipe.)

My casual understanding is that the vinegar is reacting with the b.s., resulting in the release of carbon dioxide gas. But is what's left over of the baking soda still an effective deodorizer, or is much of the benefit actually from using vinegar? Is vinegar used mainly to produce the fizzing and better distribute the b.s. throughout the pipe?

The reaction produces CO2, water and sodium acetate. One use for which is a flavoring agent for foods such as potato chips.
I can't see how it be a good deodorizer or as often touted, a drain cleaner.

barbitu8
03-23-2010, 05:57 PM
The reaction produces CO2, water and sodium acetate. One use for which is a flavoring agent for foods such as potato chips.
I can't see how it be a good deodorizer or as often touted, a drain cleaner.

The release of CO2 results in a bubbly action which cleans.

GilaB
03-23-2010, 06:10 PM
Poor guys. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletic_trainer) I'll bet that employee retention is a headache.

(I'm assume that what you're talking about are called jockstraps in the US.)
'Trainers' is British for sneakers/athletic shoes.

psychonaut
03-24-2010, 06:01 AM
(I'm assume that what you're talking about are called jockstraps in the US.)You guys wear jockstraps on your feet? :eek:

Cat Whisperer
03-24-2010, 12:30 PM
The release of CO2 results in a bubbly action which cleans.
I do the baking soda and vinegar in my kitchen drains too, but I don't know how great that actually works for odour reduction. I will tell you, however, that it is great fun. :)

Psychonaut, the only change I made that resulted in a decrease in the smell in here was putting out the baking soda (I'm not exaggerating when I say there's a little dish of it in each room). Hey, baking soda's cheap enough; buy a box and give it a go.

barbitu8
03-24-2010, 03:54 PM
I do the baking soda and vinegar in my kitchen drains too, but I don't know how great that actually works for odour reduction. I will tell you, however, that it is great fun. :)

Psychonaut, the only change I made that resulted in a decrease in the smell in here was putting out the baking soda (I'm not exaggerating when I say there's a little dish of it in each room). Hey, baking soda's cheap enough; buy a box and give it a go.

I didn't say it eliminated odors, but it does do a good job at cleaning, or, if it doesn't, it looks like it does. I get a 13.5 pound bag from Costco for a few bucks. I also put some in a paper cup filled with water and leave my toothbrush in that.

Savannah
03-24-2010, 11:27 PM
I freaking love baking soda. Not only does it absorb odours, but as above, it does a good job cleaning. I clean our shower with it instead of using a harsh granula cleanser like Comet or Ajax. I use it to brush my teeth with on occasion. It cleans jewellery. It cleans the kitchen sink. I sprinkle it in my shoes if it's summertime and I'm not wearing hose. I use it in my bathwater to soothe skin. It has a jillion uses. It's great stuff, I tell ya.

You can also bake with it. :)

Siam Sam
03-25-2010, 01:09 AM
I've left an open box of baking soda in the fridge for as long as I can remember, having been taught it will reduce if not eliminate odors. And when I change it, I dump it down the kitchen sink, having been taught it will help keep the pipes clean. I've always wondered how true all of this was, but I still use the stuff. Old habits die hard.

EvilTOJ
03-25-2010, 01:53 AM
I know that I've used baking soda in carpets to get rid of odor and it works to some degree. My son is... well he's hit puberty so his room smells. His cat also likes to pee in places in his room. Putting down a few layers of baking soda then vacuuming seems to help abate the smell. I also put a small handful in the bottom of the garbage can, I know that definitely works help absorb garbage smell.

I do think I will make a baking soda/vinegar volcano out of the sink when I get home.

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