The Ultimate Showdown: Litter Deodorizers vs. Baking Soda for Odor Control

Having a cat comes with its fair share of responsibilities. Beyond feeding, grooming, and playing with your furry friend, you also have to deal with the inevitable litter box. While cats are pretty good at using their litter boxes, it’s up to us owners to keep the area clean and odor-free. This usually requires scooping out waste daily and changing the litter completely every week or two.

Even with regular scooping and changing, litter boxes can still retain strong ammonia odors from urine. So what’s the best way to banish nasty litter box smells – litter deodorizers or plain old baking soda? Let’s dive into the pros, cons, and effectiveness of both options.

An Overview of Litter Deodorizers

Litter deodorizers are products specifically formulated to eliminate odors in cat litter. There are several types of litter deodorizers on the market:

Litter box sprays – These are scented sprays you apply directly to the litter box to mask unpleasant smells. They come in fresh scents like linen, meadow, or lavender.

Litter powders – Powder deodorizers are sprinkled on top of the litter to absorb moisture and odors. Many contain baking soda or activated charcoal.

Litter crystals – Crystalline deodorizers mix into the litter and release fragrance over time while also absorbing urine odors. Popular types are glacial spray and zeolite crystals.

Litter additives – These get blended into the litter to eliminate odors and sometimes clump better. Additives may contain fragrances, antimicrobial ingredients, or odor absorbers.

No matter the type, litter deodorizers work in two main ways:

  1. Absorbing urine and odors – Ingredients like baking soda, activated charcoal, and zeolites physically soak up moist urine and trap smelly compounds.
  2. Releasing pleasant fragrances – Perfumes and essential oils give litter a fresh, flowery scent that masks ammonia odors.

Now let’s look at the humble baking soda’s odor-fighting powers.

Baking Soda as a Litter Deodorizer

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline powder with many household uses. Among its handiest functions is neutralizing odors.

Baking soda destroys litter box smells in these key ways:

  • Absorbs moisture – The powder pulls water out of liquid urine trapped in litter, reducing ammonia odor.
  • ** Raises pH** – When baking soda mixes with urine, it raises the pH to make the environment less hospitable to odor-causing bacteria.
  • Neutralizes odors – The alkaline soda neutralizes acidic urine and litter dust to instantly cut down on ammonia smells.
  • Doesn’t mask smells – Baking soda removes odors rather than covering them up with perfumes. This gives it a slight advantage over scented litter deodorizers.

To use baking soda for litter boxes, simply sprinkle a thin layer evenly over the top of the litter after scooping. Replenish the soda once or twice a week.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of both approaches, let’s compare them head-to-head.

Litter Deodorizers vs. Baking Soda: The Key Differences

Odor Removal Power

Winner: Baking soda

When it comes to actually eliminating litter box odors rather than masking them, baking soda generally does a better job. The moisture-absorbing soda neutralizes the urine that causes ammonia smells. Litter deodorizers that contain odor absorbers like activated charcoal can also work well. Fragranced products may make the litter smell pleasant temporarily, but don’t get rid of the source of odors.


Winner: Baking soda

Baking soda is one of the most affordable options for odor control. A large box costs just a few dollars and lasts for months. Litter deodorizers are more of a specialty product and cost $5 to $15 for a small supply. Baking soda wins hands down based on price alone.


Winner: Baking soda

Baking soda is non-toxic and safe around pets and children when used properly. Some litter deodorizers contain antimicrobial ingredients, fragrances, or chemicals that may cause irritation for sensitive cats. Baking soda has no risks or side effects.


Winner: Litter deodorizers

Litter deodorizers offer more convenience than having to shake baking soda over the litter. Sprays allow quick odor elimination between changes. Crystals and powders mix into the litter so they work continuously. Baking soda requires slightly more effort to apply evenly at regular intervals.

Odor Coverage

Winner: Litter deodorizers

The fragrances in litter deodorizers act like air fresheners to make the whole room smell better. Baking soda only reduces odors inside the litter pan, so you may need an additional deodorizer for the surrounding area. Litter products provide broadest odor coverage for the space.

Clumping Ability

Winner: Litter deodorizers

Some litter deodorizing additives help clump urine better to keep the litter box cleaner. Baking soda does not enhance clumping. If you have issues with urine not clumping properly in the litter, additives are a better solution.

Cat Safety

Winner: Baking soda

Baking soda is fully safe if cats ingest it, whereas deodorizer chemicals may cause stomach upset if eaten. Also, highly scented products could potentially repel some cats from using the litter box. Baking soda has no risks or deterrent effects.

Tips for Using Baking Soda Effectively

If you opt for baking soda to remove litter odors, follow these tips:

  • Apply lightly – Just a light dusting of baking soda is needed, not piles. Too much can clump up the litter when wet.
  • Don’t use with scented litter – Pair baking soda with unscented, basic clay or clumping litter to maximize odor neutralizing.
  • Replenish often – Add fresh baking soda 2-3 times a week to stay ahead of odors.
  • Mix it in – Use a scoop to mix in baking soda after sprinkling to distribute it evenly through the litter.
  • Deodorize pans and boxes – Soda can also be used to scrub and deodorize the litter box and scoop.
  • Open windows – When changing litter, open windows and allow fresh air in to remove any lingering odors in the room.

The Verdict: Baking Soda as the Best Litter Box Deodorizer

After comparing the pros and cons, baking soda emerges as the winner over commercial litter deodorizers in odor elimination power, cost, safety, and ease of use. While scented products can provide a temporary perfume, baking soda is unbeatable at actually neutralizing the source of ammonia odors in cat urine. And it does so using only natural, non-toxic ingredients.

To keep litter boxes fresh between changes, apply baking soda liberally and often. Combine with thorough scooping and frequent litter replacement for the ultimate odor fighting combo. With baking soda, you can easily and affordably manage litter box smells and keep your home smelling clean. No special deodorizers required!

So take advantage of this pantry staple and say goodbye to unpleasant cat box odors for good. Your cats and your nose will thank you!

FAQs About Litter Odors and Baking Soda

Still have questions about controlling litter box smells with baking soda? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How much baking soda should I use in the litter box?

Only a light sprinkling of baking soda is needed, about 1-2 tablespoons for an average sized litter box. Too much can leave soda mounds when clumped.

How often should I put baking soda in the litter box?

Replenishing the baking soda 2-3 times a week is ideal to stay on top of odors. More frequent may be needed for multi-cat homes.

Where’s the best place to put baking soda in the litter box?

Apply baking soda evenly over the entire litter surface after scooping out waste. If litter is very wet, focus on those spots.

Can I use baking soda with litter deodorizers together?

It’s best not to combine baking soda with scented litter products. Let the baking soda’s odor neutralizing powers work alone.

What about using baking soda for smell in the room?

Baking soda just treats odors inside the box. For overall room freshness, set out extra boxes of baking soda, open windows, and use unscented air fresheners.

Will baking soda hurt my cat if ingested?

Baking soda is non-toxic for cats. Unlike other deodorizers, it won’t cause issues if your cat licks their paws after being in the litter.

Does baking soda clump up cat litter?

Baking soda helps absorb urine but doesn’t clump. Scoopable litters have clay and materials specifically designed to clump for easy cleaning.

How should I clean the litter box when using baking soda?

When washing the box with gentle soap and water, sprinkle some baking soda in as you scrub to freshen and deodorize. Rinse thoroughly.

Can I use baking soda in a self-cleaning litter box?

Yes, baking soda can be used along with the automatic cleaning cycle, though you may need to replenish it more frequently.

Keeping the litter box smelling clean with baking soda is easy, natural, and budget-friendly. With these simple tips, both you and your cats can enjoy odor-free cat care.