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Baking Soda... From Frugal Cleaner to Thrifty Freshener to Beauty Aid, So Many Cheap, Easy, & Effective UsesBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Good old sodium bicarbonate — aka baking soda. It's been in use in some form or another since at least Egyptian times when natron, a mixture primarily of sodium carbonate decahydrate and sodium bicarbonate, was created as a cleansing agent much like current-day soap. A compound using sodium bicarbonate was concocted in the 1800s that was used extensively in the commercial fishing industry to prevent freshly-caught fish from spoiling.
Baking soda's countless, multiple uses today are astounding and go beyond using it as just a leavening agent in baking. Cat owners have known for ages that sprinkling some baking soda in a kitty litter box will minimize the box's nasty odor. But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, more uses. Before pricey, potentially toxic cleaning products came onto the market, harmless baking soda was used in millions of homes and businesses around the world to clean, disinfect, sooth, scour, and even put out fires. Its first use in America was during colonial times.
Baking soda is cheap, non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and abundant. It even comes in a small cardboard box that breaks down quickly in a landfill. What's not to love?
Baking powder, on the other hand, consists of a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a moisture absorber, such as cornstarch — it's already combined with an acid, and is not commonly used as a DIY cleaner. For best results for cleaning and freshening, be sure to use baking soda, not baking powder. In cooking, always use the correct one listed in the recipe (yeah, I've goofed on that more than once).
A few suggested baking soda uses from the Arm & Hammer website (pardon all the A & H self-promotion, and no, you don't have to use just their baking soda — any brand of baking soda will perform well):
- Dirty microwaves retain the odor of everything we cook in them. For instant cleaning and deodorizing, sprinkle ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda on a damp sponge and gently wipe the inside and outside of your microwave, then rinse well.
- For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.
- ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda is the food safe way to clean dirt and residue off fresh fruit and vegetables. Just sprinkle a little on a vegetable brush or a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse.
- Clean and deodorize spills or accidents on carpets by soaking up as much of the spill as possible. Clean the stain according to the carpet manufacturer's directions and allow to dry. When the area is completely dry, sprinkle liberally with ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda and let sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming it up. Great for pet and kid messes, too!
- Here’s a great way to start your home pedicure. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda in a basin of warm water and soak feet. Gently scrub with a paste of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda.
- Grimy pool toys can ruin a perfectly beautiful day at the pool. Mix 1/4 cup ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda with a quart of warm water. Wipe down toys with solution and rinse. Smaller items may be soaked first and then rinsed.
- Clean up your mouth! Use ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda to help keep teeth clean and white! Sprinkle some ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda in a small dish, dip in your damp brush, and freshen those pearly whites.
- Freshen your RV water tank periodically by flushing with 1 cup ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda dissolved in 1 gallon warm water. Drain and flush the tank before refilling (do not use Baking Soda in your drinking water). The ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda will eliminate stale odors and help remove mineral build-up that makes water taste off.
- What a bright idea! ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda can shine all your silver in no time at all. Use a baking soda paste made with 3 parts ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda to 1 part water. Rub onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry for shining sterling and silver-plate serving pieces. You'll be polished and ready to go for your next dinner party!
More baking soda tips from Vicki Lansky's excellent 1995 book Baking Soda, Over 500 Fabulous, Fun and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of:
- Sprinkle baking soda in toilets, down sink drains, in tubs, and in showers before you go on vacation, to protect against stale odors.
- Clean glass oven or toaster oven doors by covering them with baking soda and rubbing with paper towels until the grease is absorbed. If the door is really grimy, sprinkle baking soda on the surface, cover it with a wet paper towel and let it "soak" for a while first. Wipe the glass clean with a a damp cloth.
- Fight diaper rash by sprinkling a little baking soda in warm water — NOT alone as a powder — for cleaning baby's bottom areas. The baking soda soothes and helps diaper rash heal by neutralizing the acid from urine.
- When your baby upchucks on your shirt, wipe up excess, then sprinkle the spot with baking soda. Let it dry and brush it off. Odor is gone and the stain doesn't set. Carry a small container of baking soda in your diaper bag or purse for such emergencies.
- Add 2 tablespoons baking soda to the water in your humidifier to eliminate musty smells.
- Remove hard water spots, mildew, and rust stains from fiberglass shower stalls without scratching the surface. Sprinkle baking soda on a sponge and scrub away. Rinse and wipe dry. (The shower drain will smell fresh, too.)
- Keep a large, opened box of baking soda near the kitchen stove to sprinkle on or toss by handfuls at the base of any flare-ups. If it's an electrical fire, water won't stop it. If it's a grease fire, water will spread it. Baking soda is appropriate to use for either type of fire. If food is salvageable, just rinse off the baking soda. It will not hurt the food that was cooking.
- Remove ink marks from food price stamps on counters with a little baking soda and water paste. It also removes many stains left from tea bags, juice spills, and mustard dabs.
- Clean and deodorize band wind instruments such as trumpets or trombones by removing valves and vent pipes and soaking them in baking soda. Rinse and allow to dry before reassembling.
- Blitz zits with a thick paste of baking soda and peroxide applied before bedtime.
- Remove the wild taste from game meat by soaking it in baking soda and water overnight in your refrigerator. Rinse well and pat dry before cooking.
- Leave open boxes of baking soda in your home workshop to remove paint and varnish smells.
More baking soda use ideas from Every Day Wisdom:
- Spicy food is yummy until it bothers the tummy. Baking soda is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach and/or acid indigestion, when used as directed. Always refer to the baking soda package for instructions.
- Icing for cakes will spread smoother and prevent the icing from cracking if you add just a pinch of baking soda as you make it.
- For stains on marble, Formica, or plastic surfaces, a paste of baking soda and water will clean them up quick and easy.
- Thermos bottles can be cleaned by putting 2 tablespoons of baking soda inside. Add hot water until it is 3/4 full. Put the cap on and shake for several minutes. Drain and rinse. It will be clean as new.
- After using coolers, mix baking soda and water to wipe down the inside to get rid of odors. Rinse out, let dry, and store them. Put some baking soda in a small plastic container. Put holes in the lid and store it inside of your cooler. The cooler will smell fresh for the next time you use it.
- If you put baking soda in your bath water, it will help with skin irritations and will also sooth the itching from measles and chickenpox.
- Nail holes, cracks in the walls and/or ceiling can easily be repaired by mixing a little white glue with baking soda. Press into crack or nail hole let dry, then use your touch up paint to match — the nail holes and cracks have disappeared.
- Wash glass or stainless steel coffee pots with some baking soda. It will remove the film that builds up on the inside. It will also make your coffee taste better. Never use on aluminum coffee pots.
- To clean the inside working area of coffeemakers: Mix baking soda, 2 tablespoons in 10 cups of water, and run it through its cycle. Dump water down the drain (yes, it's good for the drain). Then run one more pot of water through to rinse remaining residue from the inside of the coffeemaker.
- Repel rain from windshield. Put gobs of baking soda on a dampened cloth and wipe windows inside and out.
- Lawn furniture that is resin based can be cleaned safely if you wet a sponge, dipped into baking soda. Wipe on in a circular motion, then rinse well. Your lawn furniture is back to looking new.
- Ant and roach control - mix equal parts of baking soda with sugar and spread over the infested area, they love the sugar, the baking soda loves them to death.
More tips from Mother Nature Network:
- Exfoliate your skin. Make a baking soda paste and gently rub it in a circular motion onto your face, feet or other dry areas. Rinse and pat dry.
- Refresh a dog bed. Like with a carpet, sprinkle baking soda onto your dog’s bed, wait about 15 minutes, then vacuum.
- Add half a cup of baking soda with your regular detergent into the washing machine for added brightness and whiteness. Many also use baking soda as a fabric softener by adding half a cup to the rinse cycle.
- One of the main uses of baking soda is eliminating odors. Sprinkle baking soda at the bottom of your trashcans before adding the garbage bag, pour 2 tablespoons down the garbage disposal drain as you run warm tap water, and shake some baking soda into your smelly sneakers overnight (and tap out the leftover before wearing). If something is smelly in your home, chances are baking soda is part of the sweet-smelling solution.
From eHow website:
- Make it crispy. Rub baking soda on the skin of chicken or the fat of a pork chop prior frying it. The baking soda makes it crispy. Cook baking soda-rubbed chops in the oven for a crispy, moist dish. Baking soda aids in keeping the moisture in meat.
- Beans are a great source of nutrients and fiber, but eating them sometimes produces unsavory results in the form of excess gas. Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to beans as you cook them to cut down on the gas produced by beans. This works for cabbage as well. Soak dried beans in water mixed with baking soda to make them easier to digest.
- Fluff up your eggs by adding a tablespoon of baking soda. Baking soda does not change the taste of the eggs and will make them fluffy.
From Discovery Health, Uses for Baking Soda - Health and Beauty:
- Combs and brushes: Hair spray and oil buildup on combs and brushes can be removed by soaking them in a sink of warm water and adding 3 tablespoons baking soda and 3 tablespoons bleach.
- Hands: Remove fish, onion, or garlic odor from hands with a solution of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water or liquid soap. Rub mixture in your hands, and rinse off.
- Elbows: Rub a baking-soda paste onto your elbows to smooth away rough skin.
- Feet: Soak tired feet in a basin of warm water with 3 tablespoons baking soda. Add 4 tablespoons baking soda to 1 quart warm water, and soak feet for 10 minutes to relieve foot itch. Smooth rough and hardened calluses and heels by massaging them with a paste of 3 parts baking soda per 1 part water.
- Deodorant: Apply cornstarch to your underarms with a powder puff first, then apply the baking soda.
- Nail care: Clean fingernails and toenails by scrubbing them with a nailbrush dipped in baking soda. This also softens cuticles.
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Arm & Hammer, (www.armandhammer.com/solutions.aspx).
Discovery Health, "Uses for Baking Soda - Health and Beauty," (health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/hygiene-tips/uses-for-baking-soda-health-and-beauty-ga.htm).
eHow, "Baking Soda's Uses in Cooking," (www.ehow.com/info_8311750_baking-sodas-uses-cooking.html).
Every Day Wisdom, "Uses for Baking Soda," (http://www.everyday-wisdom.com/uses-for-baking-soda.html).
Lansky, Vicki L., Baking Soda, Over 500 Fabulous, Fun and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of, Book Peddlers, Minnetonka, Minnesota, 1995.
Mother Nature Network, "The Never Ending Uses of Baking Soda,"(www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/stories/the-never-ending-uses-of-baking-soda).
Wikipedia.org, "Baking Soda," (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baking_soda).