Baking soda’s most recognizable form is in a little orange box. This unimposing product is present even in households where no one ever cooks — frequently stored in the back of the fridge to ward off nasty smells.
But its uses are seemingly never-ending, and some are much more remarkable.
An internet user named Justine swears baking soda can save your life in the back country if you bring it instead of toothpaste.
Because baking soda has no odor of its own, she wrote in the comments section of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, “it does not attract bears.” By contrast, the ingredients that make our toothpaste minty-fresh also smell delicious to Ursus americanus.
Clean your teeth with sodium bicarbonate while you’re out in the wild, and bears will be less likely to track you down.
Baking soda will do a lot of other things, and we’ve put together an extensive list. But before we get started, here’s a baking soda cheat sheet:
- For pastes, stir together three parts soda to one part water.
- For solutions, stir 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of soda into 1 quart of water until dissolved.
- For sprinkling, store in a jar or bottle with a shaker-type cap. I’ve seen these in thrift shops and dollar stores.
1. Wash dishes. Mix a little baking soda in water to wash dishes while camping. Justine swears by it.
2. Shine stainless steel. Use a damp sponge and soda to clean stainless steel appliances.
3. Remove water stains on wood. Somebody forget to use a coaster? Gently rub a baking soda paste on the surface, then wipe off.
4. Clean silver. Use a soft cloth or clean sponge to rub paste onto tarnished silver. Rinse well, then dry with a dish towel.
5. Brighten brass. Sprinkle baking soda onto a lemon wedge to clean and shine brass objects.
6. Soften stickers. A baking soda paste will take care of gummy residue left by adhesive labels or stickers.
7. Scrub the toaster oven. Bread crumbs that drop to the bottom of this appliance burn and smell bad; drippings from broiling or cooking make the odor worse. Pop open the bottom and scrub it with baking soda.
8. Do laundry. Justine the backpacker says “just a little water and baking soda in a plastic bag” is a simple way to wash your duds when you’re out in the wild. When you’re at home, your clothes will be cleaner and brighter if you add a cup of bicarbonate to the liquid detergent you use.
You can also remove perspiration stains with a soda pretreatment: Rub a paste into the stains, wait one hour and wash with the rest of the laundry.
9. Freshen up the hamper. Over time, a clothes hamper can absorb the odors of what’s thrown into it. Sprinkle bicarb on the bottom, and maybe on the sniffiest of the clothes and linens, to keep smells at bay until washday.
10. Sanitary playtime. Clean and deodorize baby toys in a baking soda solution. Note: This also works for dog toys that are sticky with slobber and lint.