Baking Soda and Vinegar for Hydroponic Nutrient pH Control

by Michael E. Basham

I've read that vinegar can be used to lower pH levels in a hydroponic nutrient solution, and baking soda can be used to raise them. do you recommend this practice, and if so can you tell me the amounts of each to use to raise and lower the pH level in .1 increments?

Answer: Michael- It is true that baking soda can raise pH, but I do not recommend using it. Chemically, baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate. High levels of sodium are like trying to grow plants in salted soil. In addition to that, the presence of Sodium compounds will prevent the plants from taking up Calcium.....which will cause all kinds of problems with nutrient deficiencies (Nitrogen is a mobile nutrient, but is only mobile to the plant in the presence of Calcium. Other nutrients will only be taken up by the plants along side Calcium).

You're really testing me on my chemistry today, lol....

Vinegar's chemical composition is is just a bunch of Carbon and Hydrogen and Oxygen. On it's face, none of these would interfere with nutrient uptake. However, vinegar is only a weak acid, which means you may need quite a bit of it in order to keep your pH level correct. Once you begin using more substantial quantities of vinegar in your nutrient reservoir, it may not be so cost effective anymore.

Also, even though the Carbon and Hydrogen may not affect nutrient uptake, they still add to the total TDS (or EC) of the nutrient solution....which means the more you use, the fewer nutrients you can legitimately have suspended in your nutrient solution without burning your plants. This is why commercially available pH down is made of Phosphate compounds....they not only bring the pH down, but are also available to the plants as usable nutrients. This is not the case with vinegar.

In reality, I don't know for sure what would happen if you used vinegar to control your hydroponic nutrient solution pH. However, I have enough concerns about it that I would not try it myself (at least not on a big scale, or on an important plant or crop). If you do decide to try it experimentally, be sure to let me know how it turns out for you....I am curious to know for sure.

The best way to avoid the expense of pH down (and to a lesser degree, pH up) is to choose your hydroponic nutrients well. B.C. Nutrients mix up at the right pH, and the pH changes very little over time. The same is true with Canna Bio. Other nutrients require a LOT of pH adjustment, like Earth Juice. Hope this helps Michael, and Happy Growing!

Comments for Baking Soda and Vinegar for Hydroponic Nutrient pH Control

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Jun 27, 2011
ph control
by: Anonymous

I need something to keep my phs levels just right how do I go about doing that.

Mar 30, 2011
question on ph up&down
by: Don

A salesman at my local garden store gave me lime and aluminum sulfate to raise and lower my PH level. I am wondering if using these would be as good as ph up and ph down?

Feb 05, 2011
what can i use to raise ph
by: hydroman

what can be used to raise the ph some in a hydroponic system i use lemon to lower my ph but i ned to raise one of my plant ph level

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