Types of Alkali Cleaners

various cleaning items

Alkali cleaners remove and suspend heavy soil and grease so it can be rinsed away. Here are some common alkali cleaners you may want to use.

Warning: Alkalis can damage skin and fabrics and corrode and darken aluminum. Most (except baking soda) are toxic if swallowed.

Mild Alkali Cleaners: Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate)

Baking soda has a lot of uses, especially mixed with vinegar. You can soak burnt food from pans in solution of a 2 tablespoons of baking soda per quart of warm water. For heavier or sticky soil spots, sprinkle it on a damp sponge, rub and rinse it, or make a paste. This is great for cleaning glass, tile, porcelain enamel, stainless steel sinks, chrome, fixtures, fiberglass tubs, and showers. It also works to remove coffee and tea stains from dishes, as well as clean and deodorize a refrigerator.

Moderately Strong Alkali Cleaners: Ammonia, Borax, Tri-Sodium Phosphate


Use a solution of 2 tablespoons per quart of warm water to clean windows, glass, ovens, range burners, and greasy surfaces. Use 1 tablespoon per quart warm water to wash painted walls and rinse well. This will also remove some water-based floor waxes.

Warning: Ammonia produces irritating fumes. It can soften paint, especially latex, if too strong and has a slight bleaching effect. Always use alone because combining ammonia with other cleaners may produce lethal gases.


Use a mild solution of 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of warm water to wash sinks, painted walls, etc. It can also help when laundering reusable diapers in order to remove odors and bacterial growth.

Warning: Rinse thoroughly to avoid skin irritations or accidental ingestion.

Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP)

You can buy TSP at paint stores, but it can also be found as an ingredient in some commercial cleaners. Use a solution of 1 tablespoon per gallon of warm water to clean painted surfaces, porcelain fixtures, and tile (glazed and unglazed). It also works to remove soot and smoke.

Warning: Always wear rubber gloves to protect your skin. Note that stronger solutions may remove paint. Be sure to always rinse thoroughly when using this product.

Strong Alkali Cleaners: Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium Carbonate (Washing Soda)

Use sodium carbonate to soak greasy burners and pans or dissolve grease from drains. You can find this ingredient in many powdered detergents.

Warning: Washing soda is lightly toxic, so avoid getting it on the skin. This substance will also darken and corrode aluminum.

Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)

Lye is commonly used to clean grease from drains and open drains, and you can find it in many commercial oven and drain cleaners.

Warning: This substance is highly caustic and toxic. It can cause serious burns to eyes or skin. Follow label instructions.