Is there an open little box of baking soda lurking in the back of your fridge? Mine, too. You probably have another box on the shelf with your baking ingredients. And, if you’re like me, you have a giant box stowed with your household cleaning supplies.
Baking soda — also known as bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate or saleratus — is a white powder with crystalline grains. Although it can be produced by artificial means, in its natural form, baking soda is a chemical salt called nahcolite, taking its name from its chemical formula of NaHCO3. Since it is weak alkaline, baking soda can neutralize acids and break down proteins.
Baking soda’s most common use is as a leavening agent in baking. When combined with a liquid and an acid, it undergoes a chemical reaction that causes carbon dioxide (CO2) to be released. These trapped CO2 bubbles cause the bread or dough to rise and give our cakes and muffins a light, airy texture.
Also known for its absorbing properties and its cleaning abilities, baking soda is a practical and environmentally friendly product to have around the home. You’ve probably heard it can be used for such disparate uses as carpet deodorizer and toothpaste, but there are a myriad of other surprising uses for this powerhouse powder. Here are some of the ones we have discovered:
PERSONAL CARE USES
1. Hair care. Add a pinch of baking soda to your shampoo once a week to help remove buildup that comes from hair products such as conditioners, mousses and gels.
2. Mouth rinse. Dissolve a teaspoon in a glass of warm water. Stir and then rinse your mouth or gargle with the solution.
3. Skin softener. Add a cup of baking soda to the water as it fills your bath tub.
4. Facial scrub. Make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to your skin and gently rinse. It is effective for treating acne breakouts. The paste can dry your skin, though, so be sure to moisturize afterwards.
5. Skin rash soother. Make a paste of baking soda with water and apply to insect bites and to sunburn to relieve itchiness and pain. Also helps soothe diaper rash.
6. Antacid. Drink a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in six ounces of water to ease heartburn and stomach distress.
7. Odor neutralizer. Onion or garlic smells on your hands? Try rubbing them with a baking soda or rinsing them with a solution of baking soda and water.
8. Hairbrush cleaner. Soak hair brushes and combs overnight in a baking soda and water solution to safely clean and deodorize them.
9. Dry dog shampoo. Got a stinky dog? In between baths, sprinkle baking soda directly onto the fur and work it in to distribute. Brush thoroughly and then wipe your dog down with a clean towel.
10. Laundry detergent booster. By stabilizing the pH level, baking soda helps your detergent work more effectively.
11. Glass jar odor eater. Use baking soda to get rid of stubborn odors lingering in glass jars you want to re-purpose. Also works well on a thermos and on baby bottles!
12. Deodorize carpet and upholstery. Liberally sprinkle on some baking soda. Wait about 15 minutes, and then vacuum away.
13. Clean baby toys. Forget the chemicals and safely clean baby toys by washing them in a mixture of a 1/4 cup of baking soda mixed in a quart of water. Rinse well and air dry.
14. Shower curtain cleaner. Make a solution of baking soda and water to scrub those yucky mildew stains away.
15. Spackle. To fill in a small hole, mix baking soda and white glue until it forms a paste.
16. Scuff remover. Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge to make scuff marks disappear from walls and floors. Great for removing crayon marks, too!
17. Towel freshener. The next time your towels are not completely dry and get that sour smell, just sprinkle them with a little baking soda and toss them back in the dryer to get rid of the odor.
18. Litter box deodorizer. Add some baking soda to your cat’s litter box for extra odor protection.
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19. Shoe freshener. Sprinkle baking soda inside your shoes and boots to help neutralize odors. Let them sit overnight and simply shake out excess powder before wearing.
20. Flower power. Keep your cut flowers looking fresh and pretty longer by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water in your vase.
21. Bathroom cleanser. Use it as a natural scrub for sinks, counters, shower stalls and tubs.
22. Stainless steel cleaner. Make a paste of baking soda and water and use it to scrub enameled cast iron and stainless steel. This paste is also good for cleaning the inside of your oven or your outdoor grill.
23. Small fire extinguisher. Sprinkle baking soda on small flare-ups on the barbecue grill or in the kitchen without contaminating the food.
24. Clear cloudy iced tea. Simply add a pinch of baking soda to the pitcher and stir.
25. Dishwasher deodorizer. Sprinkle some baking soda inside the dishwasher to neutralize odors that accumulate there.
26. Car battery cleaner. Mix a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to corroded battery terminals. It will dissolve the corrosion so that it can then be washed away.
27. Prevent swimwear odor. On a beach or pool outing, bring along a large zippered plastic bag containing 1/4 cup of baking soda. After changing, place wet swimsuits in the bag and shake the bag. The baking soda will help absorb moisture and sour odors until you can rinse the suits.
28. Multi-purpose traveler. When you are tight on space for a camping trip or an overnighter, take along a box of baking soda to use as deodorant, toothpaste and all-purpose cleanser.
29. Slug killer. Slugs in your garden have met their match. Just sprinkle baking soda on them.
30. Outdoor furniture. Mix up a bucket full of baking soda and water to safely and effectively wash your plastic and vinyl lawn furniture.
31. Swimming pool water stabilizer. Added to swimming pool water, baking soda works to balance the pH level and therefore helps keep the water clear.
And we have just gotten you started! You are sure to find your own uses for baking soda in your own home. At about 50 cents a box and even less expensive when you buy it in larger sizes, baking soda is an affordable and effective natural product that you will quickly find you can’t do without.
Here’s one more tip: since the box in your fridge loses its effectiveness in absorbing odors after a few months, pour it down your kitchen drain and then rinse with hot water for an easy way of keeping your drain smelling fresh.