Photo (cc) by athriftymrs.com
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.
11. Clean that cookware. Stains inside your enamel pans? Apply a soda paste and leave on for an hour. Next, fill the pan with water, use a wooden spoon to stir the soda loose and boil the mixture for 20 minutes. Rinse and then wash with dish liquid.
12. Revive your Tupperware. Are your plastic dishes stained from storing minestrone or reheating spaghetti at work? Rub off the red with baking-soda paste.
13. Save the roasting pan. Sprinkle a lot of baking soda onto crusted-over or burned-on baking dishes. Add hot water to 2 inches deep and leave it there for two hours. Alternate method: Boil a couple of inches of water in the burned pan, remove from heat, add half a cup of baking soda and leave it overnight. The next morning you should be able to wash it clean.
14. Scrub stains from a coffee mug. Use a wet cloth on the inside of stained coffee mugs, then dip the cloth into bicarb and scrub off the stains. If that doesn’t work, fill with a baking soda solution and let sit overnight.
15. Remove gray from plates. Got plates with grayish markings from your knives and forks? Gently rub with baking soda, and they will likely disappear.
16. Rehab a pet bed. Over time, Fluffy’s or Fido’s bed cushion will get a little sniffy. Use soda to absorb smell, then vacuum.
17. Rehab the pet. Soak a bandanna in a baking soda solution and allow to dry. Tie it around your pooch’s neck. It’s a doggy deodorant!
18. Banish that old-paper smell. If a book starts smelling musty, sprinkle soda on the pages and let them air. According to Tipnut.com, you can treat mildewed pages by rubbing soda on the spots and putting them out in the sun’s bleaching rays.
19. Neutralize spit-up odor. Fill a small spray bottle with baking soda solution. The Coupon Sherpa blog says it will neutralize the impact of that ubiquitous spit-up odor. Spray and then blot dry.
20. Wash your hands. Cleaning fish or chopping onions? Take the smell off your fingers by washing them with baking soda and water.
21. Freshen the dishes. Get those same smells off your utensils and plates by mixing a teaspoon of soda into the dishwater.
22. Freshen the dishwasher. You can do this in a couple of ways. First, try putting a layer of soda on the bottom of the appliance overnight. The next morning, use a damp sponge to scrub the dry powder into the inside walls and door; wipe off most of it, and then run the dishwasher on empty (and without detergent) to remove the rest.
Alternate tactic: Run a rinse cycle in an empty dishwasher with a cup of baking soda.
23. Improve the smell of a water bottle or baby bottle. Plastic H2O container smelling a bit stale? Soak it in a baking-soda solution, then rinse well.
Or perhaps you have a mostly empty baby bottle that got left in the car overnight. Eeewww. Baking soda to the rescue.
24. Spruce up your lunchbox. If your lunch bag or box smells like the Ghost of Mealtimes Past, add a heavy layer of soda and allow it to stand overnight. Wash in hot water with plenty of dish soap.
25. Deodorize the carpet. If the wall-to-wall carpeting smells bad, sprinkle it with baking soda, wait 15 minutes and then vacuum up the powder. The smell will come with it.
26. Get rid of stinky feet. Sprinkle a little baking soda into smelly shoes. Hey, if it’ll freshen your fridge, it’ll also do wonders for your footwear.
27. Eliminate odor from luggage and sports gear. Got an old trunk or suitcase that smells suspicious? Bid bon voyage to bad smells by sprinkling in some soda, closing up the luggage, letting it sit for a couple of days, and then vacuuming.
You can also sprinkle some dry soda into your gym or hockey bag. While you’re at it, smelly equipment also can get a new lease on life with a baking soda solution.
28. Revitalize sponges. Kitchen or cleaning sponges tend to develop a stale or mildew smell over time. Soak them in a baking soda solution.
29. Freshen the mattress. Every so often apply a thin layer of baking soda atop the mattress. In a few hours, vacuum it up.
30. De-funkify the trash can. Put a layer of baking soda in the bottom of the receptacle. Note: This is especially useful for the trash can that you use for dirty disposable diapers.
31. Tame the litter box. OK, nothing will really freshen a kitty toilet. But you can reduce its impact by covering the bottom of the box with soda before adding the litter. After scooping, sprinkle more soda on top of the remaining litter.
32. Pretreat gasoline- or oil-fouled clothes. Got a mechanic in the family? According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, you should seal gasoline- or oil-fouled clothes in a trash bag with baking soda for a few days. After that, wash as usual.
Cleaning the house
33. Shine surfaces. A little baking soda on a damp sponge lets you clean any stainless kitchen surfaces without damaging them.
34. Wash the fridge. Sure, you keep an open box of soda in the fridge. But every so often, wash the inside of the appliance with a baking soda solution.
35. Sluice the drain. When you change out the box from the fridge, pour it down the sink and flush with very hot water to discourage anything unpleasant that was growing there.
36. Drain the drain. Every so often, my partner pours some baking soda down the sink and chases it with vinegar. After a while, he’ll pour very hot water — maybe even a kettle full of boiling water — to finish the job. It’s more eco-friendly than a harsh drain opener but does a good job of keeping the lines running.
37. De-grease the hood. Use soda to scrub greasy buildup from your range hood with a hot, soapy cloth. Keep washing and rinsing, washing and rinsing, until you’ve removed as much as possible.
Finish with more hot, soapy water. If you can still see grease, go ahead and use a commercial degreaser — hey, you tried your best to be green.
38. Clean the oven. If it’s only slightly dirty, scrub with baking soda and a damp sponge. For nastier ovens, apply a baking soda paste and leave it on for a few hours.
39. Un-mar your walls. Crayon marks or scuffs? Use a soda paste to remove them.
40. Deodorize the freezer. Once you’ve washed it with soapy water, wipe with a soda solution.
41. Use as a substitute for Soft Scrub. Use bicarb as a nonabrasive cleanser on fiberglass tubs, ceramic cooktops and any other item that calls for commercial products like Soft Scrub.
42. Defeat soap scum. Baking soda paste is a good cleaner for bathroom tiles and the shower curtain.
43. De-grime grout. Scrub tile grout with a baking soda paste. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse well.
44. Un-crust the microwave. Stir a few teaspoons of soda into a bowl of water and heat it in the microwave for a few minutes — as many as five, if it’s a really dirty unit. Afterward, let the steam work its magic for a few more minutes before opening the door. A soapy sponge should be enough to remove the baked-on food. (Tip: Cover items before you cook/heat them, and you won’t have to deal with splatters.)
45. Sweeten the microwave. Be proactive: Keep a very small dish of baking soda inside it to absorb odors before they have a chance to settle in. Take it out when you use the appliance and put it right back in afterward.
46. Fluff up an omelet. According to All You magazine, omelets are fluffier when you add a half-teaspoon of baking soda for every three eggs you crack.
47. Sweeten your iced tea. Also from All You comes this tip: A pinch of baking soda per gallon of freshly brewed iced tea will remove any bitterness and keep the mixture from clouding up.
48. Use as a Beano substitute. Parboiling dried beans? Add a half-teaspoon soda per 2 cups of soaked beans, and you’ll have fewer intestinal woes.
49. Green up the greens. When washing spinach or other greens, add a sprinkle of bicarb to the final rinse water. They’ll hold their green color better during cooking, according to Tipnut.
50. Prevent curdling. If you’re making scalloped potatoes or cream of tomato soup, the milk sometimes curdles and looks less appetizing. Add one-fourth teaspoon of baking soda for each pint of milk for scalloped dishes and one-eighth teaspoon per cup of soup. Do this before adding the milk.
51. Use as a fruit fixer. Stewing rhubarb? Add one-eighth of a teaspoon of soda per 2 cups of chopped rhubarb. Tipnut says this lets you reduce the sugar by one-third.
Other home uses
52. Sweeten the vacuum. Turn a mix of bicarb and dried herbs into vacuum bag sachets, wrapped in cheesecloth or sections of old pantyhose. Add the sachets to your vacuum cleaner bag, and the machine will release a pleasant fragrance as you work. This article on Tipnut offers specific instructions.
53. Use in rubber gloves. Use rubber gloves for cleaning? Sprinkle a little soda inside, both to dry them and to keep stale odors from developing.
54. Clear the air. Create your own air freshener with baking soda, water and lemon juice. The folks at Tipnut will show you how. Or mix baking soda and dried flower buds or herbs and leave bowls of it here and there in your home.
55. Fight fire. When I was a little kid, my dad told me to throw baking soda on a fire in a frying pan or on a stovetop. It works! (Note: This is only if the fire is relatively small. Otherwise, you should dial 911 and head out of the house.)
56. Fight ice. Baking soda on slippery steps or icy walkways gives traction but is kinder to surfaces than commercial de-icer.
57. Kill bugs dead. When I lived in Philadelphia, I greatly reduced the roach population in my apartment by leaving a few dishes of baking soda and sugar here and there; the sugar attracted them, and the bicarb killed them.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests using soda as a barrier under sink-pipe openings and along basement windows to deter silverfish, roaches and carpenter ants.
Health and first aid
58. Stop the pain of bee and wasp stings. A baking soda paste helps soothe the discomfort of bee or wasp stings.
59. Sooth canker sores. Tipnut suggests dabbing bicarb (dry or in paste form) onto the sores, or rinsing your mouth with a soda solution.
60. Cool sunburn. Add bicarb to the bath if you or someone you love is dealing with sunburn, poison ivy, a lot of mosquito bites or diaper rash. Moisturize afterward, since soda is drying.
61. Kill your sweet tooth. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests this remedy for a sweets craving: Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth.
62. Use as oral cleaner. Gargle or rinse with a teaspoon of soda mixed with half a glass of water.
63. Use as an oral appliance cleaner. Dentures, retainers and mouthpieces can be soaked in a baking soda solution.
64. Wash your food. Want to remove pesticides and/or wax from store produce? Put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into a large bowl of cool water, then soak and gently scrub your fruits and veggies. Rinse and then store as usual.
65. Relieve indigestion. A little soda water has long been a traditional treatment for heartburn, sour stomach or acid indigestion. According to the Mayo Clinic, it may interact with certain medications and might not be indicated if other health issues (e.g., high blood pressure or kidney disease) are present. Talk to your health care provider about whether soda water is a good idea.
Beauty and the bicarb
66. Remove hair product residues. Over time, your curling iron will pick up a coating of hair products and oil. Scrub it with baking soda paste.
Soak brushes and combs in a baking soda solution to remove residues. Rinse afterward. Note: You can also soak your toothbrush this way.
67. Brighten your look. Add a pinch of baking soda to your regular facial cleanser for the exfoliating effect.
68. Make a facial mask. If an exfoliant isn’t enough for you, maybe a facial mask would do the job. Recipes abound online that call for baking soda plus additives like lemon juice or honey.
69. Treat dry elbows. Make a paste of bicarb and lemon juice and rub gently onto dry elbows. After 15 minutes, rinse well and moisturize.
70. Us as deodorant. Some people say that baking soda and cornstarch make a fine and all-natural product. Mother Nature Network suggests a 1-to-6 ratio. Apply with a powder puff.
Prefer a thicker product? Mother Nature Network to the rescue again with a simple recipe of baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot powder and coconut oil.
71. Sweeter seats. Putting away your patio furniture for the year? Sprinkle baking soda under the chair cushions.
72. Remove the melt. Ever set the bread bag too close to the toaster? Here’s a fix from the Lifehackery blog. Turn the appliance back on until the hardened plastic softens. Unplug the toaster and carefully rub the spot with a baking soda paste.
73. Wash your car. Reader’s Digest offers a recipe for a homemade cleaning solution base – and one of its three ingredients is baking soda.
74. Get rid of weeds. Sprinkle bicarb into cracks on walkways and/or driveway to discourage windblown seeds from taking hold.
75. Scrub the shield. After a long drive through bug country your windshield can get pretty spattered. Tipnut suggests washing the glass with a paste of baking soda and dish soap. Rinse very well.
76. Clean the battery. Corrosion can affect the performance and shorten the life expectancy of your car’s battery. Autos.com offers step-by-step instructions for fixing this. (Hint: You don’t need to buy a special cleaning solution at the auto parts store.)
77. Science project. Homeschooling your kids, or just want a fun project? Build a vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano.
Finally, a word about that vinegar and baking soda: The gas that’s created is harmless but can produce an explosive effect in an enclosed container. The Arm & Hammer company’s website pleads with consumers not to do this, saying that it “creates a potentially unsafe condition that could result in injury.”
Recipes for “bottle bombs” and “soda bombs” abound online, as do YouTube videos. While it does look like fun, I’m with A&H: Don’t try this at home. Seriously.
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