“Using baking soda in baking is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of other uses for it! BURCU ATALAY TANKUT/Getty Images
Whether you know baking soda from those home volcano experiments, or use it to keep the refrigerator from getting stinky, chances are you’re underestimating its potential around the home. The average pantry or refrigerator has at least one box of baking soda lying around. So instead of letting it languish, why not make use of this surprisingly versatile product on a more regular basis?
Formally known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is made when oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and sodium molecules are mixed together. The resulting product is actually a form of salt, which packs a powerful punch in many products. For example, it’s present in many types of toothpaste because it helps remove stains from teeth caused by food particles. It’s also an important component of personal care products, like lotion, because it keeps them from spoiling. In deodorant it helps to mitigate unpleasant odors.
Clearly, baking soda’s got it going on. Check out this helpful list of surprising uses for good old sodium bicarbonate, the inexpensive but effective superhero of the salt family!
- Neutralize cat odors. It isn’t Fluffy’s fault that her cat box is stinky. That’s literally the nature of the business! Add time between litter box changes by sprinkling baking soda right on top. This should quickly make it less obvious to the average nose that there’s a feline friend in your midst.
- Test soil acidity. Many gardeners like to test the pH level of their soil to make sure it’s not too acidic. Most plants require an alkaline pH level of 6.0 to 7.5 to do well. To test your soil’s acidity get 1 cup of soil from your garden. Then, divide into two containers. Add a half-cup of vinegar to one of the containers. If it fizzes, it’s probably nice and alkaline. If it doesn’t, however, put a half-cup of baking soda and some distilled water into the other container. If it fizzes, it is acidic. If no reaction, the pH is just right!
- Soak up oil. When oil winds up on the deck, whether from the grill or spilled sunscreen, sprinkle baking soda on top to soak it right up. This also works on oil stains in the driveway! Once the baking soda’s on the spot use a stiff-bristled brush to work it into the stain in a circular motion. Then rinse away with water.
- Treat bug bites and stings. Many campers keep a box of baking soda on hand because it’s great for treating bug bites and stings. Make a baking soda paste with a little water, then apply to the affected area several times a day until the sting goes away.
- De-skunk a pet. Skunk run-ins happen to pets who hang out outdoors. Treat the super smelly situation by wetting your dog with water and then dousing it with a bath of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (1 quart’s worth), 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. This is enough to treat a dog of medium size (30 to 50 pounds), so adjust accordingly. Work this mix through the dog’s fur thoroughly. Leave it for five minutes. Then, rinse and dry.
- Maintain aquarium pH level. If the pH in your fish tank is off all you need is to mix 1 cup of dechlorinated water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Add gradually (1 teaspoon for every 5 gallons) over several hours until the correct pH level is achieved. Ideally, remove fish before doing this.
- Clean laundry better. Amp up your laundry detergent’s cleaning power by adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle. Not only does it make laundry smell fresher, it softens towels.
- Get out sweat stains. Nobody likes pit stains on their shirts! Get rid of them by making a baking soda paste with some water, then rub it into the stain. Allow to soak, then wash normally.
- Get ink out of leather. Leather goods are way too pricy to be felled by a plain old ballpoint pen. If an errant marking occurs, mix a paste of baking soda and water. Using a cotton ball, gently apply the paste to the stain. Repeat as needed until the ink disappears.
- Absorb oil in your hair. If your hair is greasy and you’re fresh out of dry shampoo, turn to baking soda! In a pinch, sprinkle a little of the good stuff on your hair to absorb excess oil. Comb through and then blast with a hair dryer. Don’t do it too often, though, as there is evidence that baking soda is too harsh for frequent use on hair.
- Use as an antacid. All out of Pepcid? Put a teaspoon of baking soda in an 8-ounce glass of water and dissolve. Drink it up and enjoy relief from painful indigestion and heartburn. People who deal with severe reflux should probably steer clear of this method, however, since it can open up the esophagus a little too much.
- Exfoliate your face. Make a paste using 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of water. Apply to the face and gently rub in circles with your fingers (stay away from the eyes). Rinse, pat dry and follow up with moisturizer.
- Prevent mouth and dental problems. Cancer patients are instructed to rinse daily with a solution of water, baking soda and salt to prevent sores, but it helps anyone maintain good oral hygiene. Added bonus: It freshens breath!
- Clean retainers and mouthguards. Breathe new, hopefully fresher, life into your old retainer or night guard with a baking soda paste. Make a paste that’s half and half baking soda and water (make sure it’s thick enough to stick). Scrub carefully with a toothbrush, then rinse clean.
- Prevent smelly feet. If stinky feet are your Achilles heel, so to speak, sprinkle some baking soda into clean socks before putting them on. This will keep sweat and smell under control.
Now That’s Cool
Don’t confuse baking soda and baking powder! Although they sound similar, the two function differently. Whereas baking soda is a sodium bicarbonate, baking powder is sodium bicarbonate plus an acidic ingredient. This makes it a complete leavening agent, which is why powder is used in cooking.