The Many Uses for Baking Soda

by Patricia Cote


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Who would've guessed that those little boxes of baking soda sitting in our kitchen cabinets could serve any other purpose besides leavening cakes, breads, and cookies? Yes, it's true. That lackluster old container of sodium bicarbonate can be a convenient and economical housecleaning and personal care tool.

Almost everyone has a box of sodium bicarbonate languishing in their pantry or cupboards, but unless they bake often, it is likely that a significant time-lapse has made it less effective. This is no great matter, as a one-pound box of this powder costs less than a dollar to replace. Also, sodium bicarbonate is not a man-made chemical, but a naturally occurring mineral, so it's safe for the environment and can be used around food areas, children, and pets.

Household Cleaner

Baking soda is an excellent alternative to harsh, costly cleaning products. It is safe for most household surfaces, including steel, fiberglass, chrome, plastic, tub, and tile. Clean lightly soiled surfaces such as kitchen countertops or medicine cabinets by dissolving a 1/4 cup of powder in one quart of warm water, wiping them down with this solution, and then rinsing.

To clean surfaces that are moderately to heavily soiled, such as no-wax floors or a grungy bathroom sink, add a little more powder to the solution. For surfaces that need a mild abrasive (think crusty microwave), clean with a paste of three parts powder and one part water, or sprinkle the powder directly onto a damp sponge or rag and scrub. Rinse well.

Pouring a 1/2 cup of baking soda into your laundry's wash cycle boosts a generic detergent's cleaning power. Adding baking soda to the bleach cycle means using less bleach on your whites, thus reducing its harsh, offensive smell on your laundry.

Deodorizer

Baking soda is a great deodorizer and combats a variety of offensive odors. Place an opened box of the stuff in the refrigerator and the freezer as it is good at absorbing the smells from pungent foods, such as cantaloupe and fish. This practice will keep other foods like milk and ice cubes from tasting strange or "off" for up to three months. Eliminating this problem also means there is less of a chance of food being thrown out, always a terrible waste of money

Baking soda helps to eliminate other unpleasant smells. Instead of those expensive, overpowering carpet deodorizers, sprinkle baking soda on your carpet or upholstery, wait 15 minutes, and then vacuum. This will decrease the stench caused by cigarettes, old cooking odors, and pets. Instead of throwing out your son's funky jock socks, extend their lifespan by pouring 1/2 cup of powder into the rinse cycle.

To keep kitchen and bathroom drains smelling sweet (or, at least not thoroughly foul), pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drains while running the tap. Doing this keeps the pH balance in the septic tank at the correct levels. Be frugal! Keep the used-up refrigerator boxes specifically for this purpose.

Personal Grooming and Hygiene

Baking soda has many uses in maintaining oral hygiene. It is mildly abrasive and non-toxic, so it's a good substitute for toothpaste should you ever run out. Just sprinkle the powder into your hand, dip in the wet bristles, and then brush and rinse as usual. To keep dentures and retainers clean and odor-free, soak them in a cup of water mixed with two teaspoons of baking soda. It's just as good as any denture cleaner. Also, adding a teaspoon of powder to a glass of water and swishing it around makes it an effective mouth rinse.

Baking soda can be used as a skincare aid. When water is added to the powder to form the 3:1 paste, it is a good, cheap facial scrub. After gardening or handling pungent foods, you can wash and deodorize your hands in the above paste, or add a touch of the powder to your hand soap to enhance its cleansing powers. Dissolving 1/4 cup of powder into a basin of warm water makes an economical and soothing foot soak. Adding 1/2 cup to a bath softens the water as well as your skin.

These are just some of the uses of baking soda. If you keep an open mind and experiment a bit, perhaps you will find your own unique use for this inexpensive, multipurpose product.

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