Once again, we regret to inform you that a cleaning hack you may have seen online is maybe not a great idea. This one involves sprinkling bicarb—or baking soda—on your carpet to remove stains or odors, which certainly sounds promising considering all the wonderful cleaning uses baking soda typically has. But cleaning influencer @TheBigCleanCo points out the problem here: The particles are too small for your vacuum to completely suck up, which means they’ll stay attached to the carpet fibers and actually potentially trap the odor in.
This tip has been around a long time—some baking soda brands even have recommendations for how to do it, suggesting vacuuming up the bicarb after letting it sit on the carpet for 15 minutes or longer. The issue is that a vacuum cleaner may not be able to lift all of the crystals out of your carpet; they could simply become lodged there. (Just ask TausiInsider’s Managing Editor Meghan Walbert—she told me she once needed to hire a professional carpet cleaner after attempting a variation on this method in which you first soak a stain with vinegar and then sprinkle baking soda over the top. The end results were worse than the original stain itself.)
What can you do to freshen carpet instead?
If you are worried about carpet odors, try vinegar (sans baking soda) instead. Mix the vinegar with water and spray it on the carpet, let it evaporate, and clean as normal. Per American Home Shield, try a ratio of a half a cup of vinegar for each gallon of water. As it evaporates, the vinegar smell will disappear—and so will the other odors. If you don’t like how the vinegar itself smells as it’s doing its job, add a few drops of essential oil to your spray mix.