A while back, I wrote a piece extolling the virtues of vinegar. I want to focus some attention on another inexpensive multipurpose agent- sodium bicarbonate.
Nearly everyone has a box or two of this humble stuff hanging around. You probably have one in the pantry and maybe another in the fridge to keep it from developing strange smells. I mentioned using it in the diaper pail between washings too. Beyond cooking and diapers, baking soda has lots of great uses. Here are some that may be new to you.
1. Multipurpose CleanerBaking soda can be used to clean things all over the house.
- It boosts your detergent in the wash.
- It loosens burned food - either use as a non-scratching scouring agent moistened on a dish scrubber or dissolve in hot water and allow to soak before scrubbing.
- Make a toothpaste out of it- it is great for cleaning teeth and freshening breath, though it will be more pleasing to the palate with a drop of peppermint oil mixed in.
- Get the strong smell of onions, garlic, and other potent things off your hands by scrubbing them with some baking soda, soap, and warm water.
- Use it in place of scouring powder when cleaning sinks and tubs.
2. Fire ExtinguisherSodium bicarbonate gives off carbon dioxide when heated. This helps to smother flames in some types of fires. Be very careful not to get too close to the fire when applying it though. Quite a bit may be needed.
3. Add to your soak water when preparing dried beansOne old remedy for preventing gas when eating beans is to soak the beans in water that has baking soda dissolved in it. This is said to pull out some of the gas causing components which you then drain off before cooking.
Also, some say it makes the soak time go faster, especially in hard water.
4. Get rid of the gamey flavor of wild meatsI am not a big fan of venison or wild duck. My husband is a good shot, though and we don’t waste meat. To help to take some of the strong taste out, you can soak the meat (overnight at least, possibly with a change of liquid) in a solution of baking soda and water.
If you think about it, if food gets scarce, you may grateful for whatever the hunters can bring in. To make it more palatable to the picky eaters, this trick may really help.
5. General Purpose DeodorizerWhether it is stinky gym shoes, wet dog smell, or your armpits, baking soda does a lot to help neutralize odors. You can sprinkle it on as needed. For personal deodorant, you may want to combine with cornstarch. Be careful not to inhale it as that can be problematic for some people.
6. Repel Crawling InsectsI have no personal experience with this one, though I will try it now that I know about it. Some people claim that when sprinkled along baseboards and windowsills, it will deter ants and roaches.
7. Replace Baking PowderNot by itself, though. There is an infamous story in our house about “someone” putting 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the pancake batter instead of 3 teaspoons of baking powder. Those were some salty pancakes!
If you run out of baking powder, you can use some soda with either cream of tartar or vinegar to replace the leavening.
8. Cure an Acidic StomachOne of the easiest antacids to make is a spoonful of baking soda dissolved in a glass of water.
9. Treat Bites, Stings, Sunburns, and RashesSome people make a paste of sodium bicarbonate and water and apply it to skin irritations and leave on until the next shower.
10. Treat Canker SoresCanker sores are those spots inside your mouth you may get after accidentally biting into your lip, jabbing yourself with a toothbrush, or just from stress. Gargling with baking soda dissolved in warm water may help them clear up.
11. Remove Cradle CapSome babies get very dry scaly scalps when they are young. It is often called “cradle cap.” Some mothers apply olive oil to the spots and then use baking soda to gently scrub the scales off.
12. Take a Sponge BathLow on soap or water? Dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water and take a sponge bath. It is considered to be gentle, so it may be a better option for those with sensitive skin.
13. Clear the DrainYou will want to save your lye for making soap. To clear a slow drain, try 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. After letting it work for a while, flush with lots of hot water.
And here is the one that I find most interesting:
14. Flu Preventative and Treatment.An old theory of preventing and treating influenza is to create an alkaline environment in the body that is not conducive for the virus. The treatment is to drink baking soda dissolved in water at least twice a day to raise the pH of the blood. Since most microbes need a more acidic environment, they would not be able to live long or reproduce. It is claimed that even if the treatment begins after symptoms of flu come on, the intensity and duration of the virus is greatly reduced.
Be forewarned that some people should use caution in ingesting a lot of baking soda because of the levels sodium and the possibility of depleting some vitamins and minerals. This would be a short term treatment.
This fantastic agent is quite inexpensive, especially compared to buying remedies for each of the above problems individually. It can be purchased in 5 pound bags in big box stores. (Look near the pool supplies if you don’t find it with the baking items).
Once opened, a package has a relatively short life as leavening in baking, but you can rotate it for other purposes at that point.
So, what are your favorite uses for baking soda? Please share in the comments section.
- Vinegar: The Solution for Almost Every Problem
- The Outdoor Pharmacy, part 3 – Mullein
- First Aid Refreshers, part 2: Wound Care
- Beans, Part 4 (a.k.a. Going Beyond the Basics)