Baking soda is a popular household cleaner, especially for eliminating odors.
However, it is important to be cautious when using baking soda with vacuum cleaners, as it can cause damage and create various issues.
In this post, I want to explain why you should avoid vacuuming baking soda and what you should use instead.
Can You Vacuum Baking Soda?
When it comes to baking soda, you should AVOID vacuuming it up with your regular household vacuum cleaner. A shop vacuum can handle it if set up properly.
I can’t stress it enough how bad baking soda is for your regular vacuum cleaner that you use around your home. It’s not only your vacuum cleaner that will suffer, but you will too, as baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is an irritant.
Why Vacuuming Baking Soda Is Bad
Here is a list of why sucking up baking soda is bad not only for your vacuum cleaner, but also for you and everyone who lives in your home.
- Baking Soda Clogs Filters
- Baking Soda Destroys The Electric Motor
- The Baking Soda Never Goes Away From The Carpet
- Baking Soda Gets Thrown In The Air
- The Baking Soda Dust Lingers Everywhere
- Baking Soda Clogs Hoses
1. Baking Soda Clogs Filters
The baking soda particles are very small and will clog the filter on your vacuum cleaner very easily.
A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA Filter will stop a lot of the baking soda particles, but will degrade quickly when a lot of baking soda is sucked up. When people sprinkle baking soda on the floor, it’s often a lot, 1 cup for every room is common, and after 3 cups the vacuum cleaner is throwing baking soda everywhere and struggling to stay alive.
Baking soda also loves water and will start to clump easily and in places that will destroy the filter and create cracks in the filter. Along with the heat of the vacuum cleaner and baking soda sucking moisture out of the air, you’re literally caking the baking soda onto the filter. Not just the filter, but everywhere the baking soda can reach is making tiny little cakes that clog and destroy your vacuum.
Clogged filters make the motor work harder, which shortens its life, and you don’t get as much suction as before, and you spend more time vacuuming.
The filters on vacuum cleaners are not always a perfect seal either, combined with the baking soda clogging the filter and making new paths you end up with baking soda getting past the filter, which leads to new problems as we’ll cover below.
The video below perfectly demonstrates this:
2. Baking Soda Destroys The Electric Motor
The baking soda that gets past the filter or the baking soda that gets stirred into the air can reach the electric motor of your vacuum cleaner and do major damage.
There are two ways baking soda destroys motors, it’s conductive and shorts the motor out and the powder damages bearings.
Baking soda loves water, it’s even used by many to pull humidity out of a room because of how effective it is at absorbing water. The baking soda will start to clump because it’s sucking the water out of the air, and when combined with water it becomes very conductive, it’s used in electrolysis because of its conductivity.
The powder also finds its way to the bearings and not every vacuum cleaner motor is sealed, so this will not only wear the bearings out faster but will rust them as the baking soda draws in water. Just to show how abrasive baking soda is, it’s used in sandblasters.
3. The Baking Soda Never Goes Away From The Carpet
When you sprinkle baking soda on your carpets, a lot of it never gets sucked up and falls below the carpet.
People use baking soda to get rid of odors, and it works for that, but the baking soda that absorbed the odors needs to be removed itself or the odors stays around. So, the baking soda that falls below the carpet will still cling to the odors and be stuck there until you get rid of the carpet.
Even worse, baking soda clumps because it loves water and water that sits around starts to attract mold.
4. Baking Soda Gets Thrown In The Air
Not every vacuum cleaner is perfectly sealed, and when the filter gets worn out from the excessive baking soda, they start to form cracks and leak the baking soda into the air. If you ever vacuumed baking soda from your carpets before and noticed white haze or smoke, that is the baking soda escaping.
Not only is it getting around the filter, but the beater brushes of the vacuum cleaner are also stirring it up along with the wheels, and walking on it kicks it up into the air too.
You now have baking soda floating in the air, which means you’re breathing it in, and it’s touching your eyes and skin.
The good news is that baking soda is relatively safe compared to other chemicals, but still has a material safety sheet with warnings about skin, eye and Inhalation.
Too much baking soda in the air can cause sneezing and coughing. Some people do have allergic reactions to baking soda, it’s in a lot of deodorant and causes redness. So care still needs to be had with baking soda, especially when it’s thrown in the air!
5. The Baking Soda Dust Lingers Everywhere
Anyone who’s worked in a wood shop knows that sawdust is hard to get rid of and just shows back up even after cleaning.
Baking soda is the same way, especially when kicked up by your vacuum cleaner.
Baking soda isn’t like normal dust, it’s alkaline and attracts water. So if you have paintings, metal items, or other items that use electric motors, the baking soda dust can affect them.
Paintings may change color or texture with a lot of baking soda dust attaching to it. Metal furniture, sculptures, light fixtures may start to show rust spots if the baking soda dust collects on it, and it pulls water from the air. Just like the electric motor on vacuum cleaners, the electric motors in your fridge, furnace, kid’s toys and so on can be affected by the baking soda dust getting sucked into them.
6. Baking Soda Clogs Hoses
Baking soda is a lot like concrete, when it comes in contact with water it clumps up and hardens. You may have seen this before if you bought bags of baking soda from places like Costco, and it’s hard as a rock.
Baking soda that has hardened can be softened, but it may go unnoticed if it’s inside the hoses or holes of your vacuum cleaner. It will cause a vacuum cleaner to lose suction and not work like it used to.
It gets even worse as most vacuum cleaners generate some heat which literally cakes it on to the plastic walls of the vacuum.
Baking Soda & Vacuum Bags
Most vacuum cleaners with bags still use a filter, but the bag also acts as a filter too.
Using a vacuum cleaner that has a bag instead of a dust bin still suffers from the same problem as any vacuum cleaner when it comes to baking soda.
The good news is that a bagged vacuum cleaner can recover a lot easier than a bagless one when it comes to sucking up baking soda.
How To Remove Baking Soda From Vacuum Cleaner
I’m sure many of you reading this have sucked up baking soda and now worried and wondering what to do?
- First off, don’t panic. If you sucked up baking soda with your vacuum cleaner only a few cups, it’s not the end of the world. If you’ve done it recently, I suggest opening the windows and letting your home air out for a few hours.
- The next thing I would do is buy a filter.* I would not try to clean it as the damage has been done, just get a new one.
- With the vacuum cleaner unplugged, or the battery removed, I would follow this post here about cleaning a vacuum cleaner.
- The last thing I would do, just to be sure and get rid of the odors, is getting the carpets cleaned. You can rent a carpet cleaner, but in the next section there is a better and easier option; it’s what you should be doing instead of baking soda.
If you need to suck up some baking soda, then use a shop vacuum with the proper filter and setup. A shop vacuum can handle the abuse, they’re sealed up better because they have to be able to suck up water. You could lightly mist the area where you put baking soda down, so it clumps and won’t scatter fine dust everywhere when vacuuming with the shop vacuum.
Alternatives To Using Baking Soda
Instead of using baking soda, you need to use a dry carpet cleaner like this one here.*
A dry carpet cleaner will actually clean the carpet along with removing the odors too. The internet’s love for baking soda and vinegar for everything has to stop, as a lot of what’s recommended doesn’t do what people claim.
Dry carpet cleaner works very well, just sprinkle some down, let it sit, then vacuum it up. Some dry carpet cleaners may require a pre-cleaner to be used before, so check the instructions before cleaning.