The Pros and Cons of Using Baking Soda in Air Vents

HVAC Logo IconBy Tom MoorAugust 8, 2023
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Baking soda

Baking soda is a trusted staple in almost every American household. From cooking and cleaning to deodorizing and stain removal, this versatile product can seemingly do it all. But can it even freshen the air from your HVAC system? Keep reading as we explore the pros and cons of using baking soda in air vents.

Should I Use Baking Soda in Air Vents?

Some homeowners place an open box of baking soda or a bowl of it in their air vents to neutralize unpleasant odors. But is this a good practice to improve your home's air quality? Let's take a closer look.

The Pros

  • Quick and Effective Odor Neutralizer. Baking soda, formally known as sodium bicarbonate, is a quick and effective way to mitigate unpleasant odors circulating in your air vents. Baking soda is known for its ability to absorb and neutralize smells from food, pets, bathrooms, and smoke. Placing a box or bowl inside air vents can instantly improve your indoor air quality which is especially helpful if you have guests coming over and you need a quick, one-time fix.
  • Cost-Effective Solution. Baking soda is cheap; it typically only costs a dollar or two at your local grocery store. If your home is experiencing only mild odors that you don't expect will return, it may be more cost-effective to buy a box of baking soda over a permanent solution such as a portable or whole house air purifier. However, air filtration devices are recommended if your home frequently experiences odors.
  • Safe to Use. Baking soda is considered a naturally occurring and non-toxic compound. It's a safe alternative to some commercial air fresheners that might contain chemicals.

“There isn't any harm in placing baking soda on a dish or in a box in your air vent, and it can definitely reduce smells,” said Arie Van Tuijl, founder of Home Inspector Secrets. “The main problem is that to deodorize more rooms, the homeowner would have to place a new one in each vent and remember to change it out which can be a hassle.”

The Cons

Here are some of the potential cons to consider before using baking soda in vents:

  • Not a Permanent Solution. Using baking soda in air vents in not a permanent answer, and you will need to reapply it every few weeks.
  • Not Recommended for Strong Odors. Baking soda is limited in its effectiveness to absorb stronger odors and is not idea for underlying odor problems.
  • Airflow Disruption. Baking soda can potentially disperse unevenly within your HVAC system, leading to clogs, blockages, or disruptions in airflow.
  • HVAC Component Damage. In the worst-case scenario, baking soda could pollute and damage critical HVAC system components, including the evaporator coil, causing increased wear and tear over time.

“The major issue with utilizing baking soda in a forced-air system is that the temporary relief of the odors is not worth the potential damage to your system,” said A.J. Colantoni, managing partner of Uncle Mike's Home Service. “Ultimately, the baking soda will be picked up and distributed through your air ducts in small, white clumps. At the very worst, it will clog your standard filter and/or your blower motor and potentially make its way to contaminate your cooling coils.”

Other Tips to Neutralize Indoor Odors

Whether you ultimately choose to use baking soda in your air ducts, consider some of the following alternatives to improve indoor air quality.

Improve Ventilation

Proper ventilation is crucial to circulate fresh outdoor air into your home for optimal indoor air quality. Open windows on mild days and use exhaust fans especially when cooling, bathing, or using household products with chemicals.

Use Air Purification Devices

Air purification devices such as portable or whole house air purifiers do a great job filtering contaminants such as dust, pet dander, pollen, and other allergens. Some have high-efficiency filters that can even neutralize volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Change Air Filters and Perform Regular HVAC Maintenance

Ensuring regular HVAC maintenance is performed can also improve indoor air quality. It's recommended to replace the system's air filter every 2-3 months and perform HVAC system maintenance twice a year; once before the heating season and again before the cooling season.

“The best, safest, and most efficient way to clean, not only the odor in your home but to filter the air so it's safe to breathe for you and your family, is to use HEPA filtration,” Colantoni said. “There are several HEPA filtration products on the market. You should talk to your HVAC professional about which one would be the best for you and your family. We always recommend HEPA filtration for all of our customers to remove odor, and breathe safer, cleaner air inside their homes when dealing with a forced air system.”

Tuijl recommends using an HVAC filter designed to deodorize or installing a UV light air purifier with a deodorizing function.

Keep Humidity Levels in Check

Keeping indoor humidity levels within the recommended range of 30-50% prevents issues such as mold growth and reduces the presence of contaminants such as dust mites and other allergens. Installing whole house humidifiers or dehumidifiers ensures humidity levels are in check.

Reduce Indoor Pollution

Try to limit indoor pollutants by avoiding using strong cleaning products, smoking, or burning candles. Purchase natural and non-toxic cleaning products and air fresheners.

FAQs on the Pros and Cons of Using Baking Soda in Air Vents

How to put baking soda in air ducts?

To put baking soda in your home's air ducts, unscrew the air vent, and place an open box or bowl of baking soda in the air duct. Then screw the air vent back on.

How to stop smells from coming through vents?

To prevent unpleasant smells from coming through air vents, maintain a clean HVAC system, ensure proper ventilation, use whole house or portable air purifiers, and address the source of odors within your home.

How to stop cigarette smoke from coming through vents?

To stop cigarette smoke from coming through air vents, use air purifiers that are designed to filter smoke and designate smoke-free areas.

What to put in vents to make the house smell good?

To make your house smell good, use natural air fresheners such as potpourri or essential oil diffusers. You can consider using baking soda as a temporary solution to mitigate odors.

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