The sodium bicarbonate powdered compound more commonly known as baking soda was first produced in the year 1791 by a French chemist, and one of its first applications outside of the laboratory was mentioned by the British author Rudyard Kipling in the early 1800s as a product used by fishermen to prevent early spoilage of their catch. Since then, baking soda has been used for everything from cooking and pest control to disinfecting and household cleaning.
As a remover of coffee, tea, and wine stains, baking soda happens to be very effective, particularly on ceramic, laminate, and solid surface materials. Baking soda is also ideal for eliminating unpleasant odors, which is one of the reasons it’s often added to common household cleaners.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t use baking soda to clean natural stone tiles or slabs. There’s one exception, and it will be mentioned below, but it’s important to understand why sodium bicarbonate isn’t the best cleaning agent for stone surfaces.
One product that’s definitely safe to use on all types of natural stone is Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®. Here’s a quick video explaining how to use it:
The Chemistry of Sodium Bicarbonate
In its dry form, baking soda has a pH level around 8.4, which means it veers into alkaline base territory. Not all labs use the same formulation to produce sodium bicarbonate. Some use more potassium, thereby increasing the pH level as high as 9.5, higher than saltwater and just below solutions containing ammonia. At such pH levels, baking soda can be described as being caustic, which means it isn’t safe to use on natural stone.
Why Vinegar and Baking Soda Should Never Be Used on Natural Stone
A mixture of vinegar and sodium bicarbonate is often recommended as a do-it-yourself “natural” cleaner that happens to do a great job in kitchens and bathrooms, but this combination can’t be recommended for natural-stone flooring and countertops. Vinegar is low on the pH level, which makes it acidic, and we already mentioned that baking soda is caustic, thus resulting in a volatile combination for porous stone surfaces. On dark slate, for example, this mixture will leave a stain that looks like a discoloration spot.
The Safe pH Level for Natural Stone
The pH level of a stone-safe granite cleaner such as Granite Gold Daily Cleaner® is 7, which makes it neutral on a scale of 1 to 14. Virtually all types of natural stone are metamorphic, meaning they were formed through chemical reactions and will continue to react to certain substances such as diluted baking soda.
Using Baking Soda to Remove Stains from Stone Surfaces
The only time you would use baking soda on natural stone would be to remove a stubborn oil stain. To reduce its alkalinity, you’ll need to mix the baking soda with acetone until it becomes a paste the consistency of pancake batter that you can spread over the stain. Leave this mixture in place for 24 hours, then remove it and rinse it off with water. After the stain is removed, you need to use granite sealer to reseal the stone.
If you have any questions about properly caring for granite, slate, marble, travertine, or any other type of natural stone, reach out to the Stone Care Experts at Granite Gold®. Call us today at 1-800-475-STONE (7866), and check our Store Locator to find our products at a store near you.
Lenny Sciarrino (aka Lenny S) and Lenny Pellegrino (aka Lenny P) grew up in the family business and are co-founders of Granite Gold®.