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Best Uses for Baking Soda | Cleaning and Health | The Old Farmer's Almanac

The Best Uses for Baking Soda

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Clean, Freshen, and Do More with Baking Soda!

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Bicarbonate of soda—commonly known as “baking soda”—is a wonderful household product for much more than baking! From removing stains to cleaning teeth to even getting rid of your sweet tooth, see some of the best uses for baking soda.

Growing up, I remember we always had baking soda on hand for leavening biscuits, dumplings, and various quick breads. Mom set an open box of it into the fridge to absorb odors, and had us drink a bit of it in water to ease upset stomachs.

During the past year, I’ve found more uses for it. Like many of you, during quarantine, I learned to get by with fewer household items in general, discovering new uses for ordinary things that were readily available and never in short supply.

Keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb any escaping smells so other foods won’t. Exchange for a new box whenever you clean the fridge. Use the contents of the old box for scrubbing jobs.

Best Uses for Baking Soda

In the Bathroom

One rule of thumb: Baking soda is great at removing grease, grime, scum, and stinky smells just about everywhere.

  • Clean toilet bowls Add a quarter cup of baking soda and half a cup of white vinegar to an empty bowl. Bubbles will form! Scrub with a stiff brush and flush. Repeat if necessary. A damp cloth sprinkled with baking soda will also clean the outside surfaces of the toilet, tank and cover.
  • Clean faucets and door handles Make a thick paste of baking soda and a bit of water, apply to grimy areas, and scrub with a stiff brush (For the tightest spots, I use an old toothbrush. I save all my toothbrushes for tasks like this). Rinse off immediately, or let it dry and rinse later.
  • Soak toothbrushes in baking soda and warm water overnight to clean bristles.
  • Keep your rubber gloves dry and smelling good by sprinkling baking soda inside them. They’ll slip on more easily too!
  • Pour a cup of baking soda into the opening of your clogged drain and then add a cup of hot vinegar. After a few minutes, flush the drain with a quart of boiling water.

In the Kitchen

  • Scrub coffee mugs, tea cups,  and carafes: Sprinkle the inside of the mug or container with baking soda and gently scrub with a moist cloth to remove the stains. Then give the mug or container a thorough rinse.
  • Remove burned-on foods from stainless steel cookware Add plenty of baking soda to the pot/pan with enough water to form a thick slurry, let sit (minutes, hours, or overnight), and go to it with a fresh scrubbing pad. Repeat as necessary.
  • Clean your refrigerator with a solution of one-teaspoon baking soda to one quart of warm water.
  • Sprinkle a teaspoon of baking soda on the bottom of your toaster oven to eliminate the burned smell from drippings and crumbs.
  • To remove pesticides, dirt, and wax from fresh fruits and vegetables, wash them in a large bowl of cool water to which you’ve added two to three tablespoons of baking soda.
  • A paste of baking soda removes red sauce stains from plastic.
  • Pour a cup of baking soda into the opening of your clogged drain and then add a cup of hot vinegar. After a few minutes, flush the drain with a quart of boiling water.

Cooking and Baking

  • Make fluffier omelets.  A pinch (¼ teaspoon or less) in your morning eggs as you whip them up will make your omelettes or scrambled eggs fluffier.
  • Make the best cookies! In a project intended to find the best leavening agent for chocolate-chip cookies, the folks at BuzzFeed baked 400 cookies comparing various agents and discovered that baking-soda-only cookies won hands down. Prove them wrong!
  • Add a pinch of baking soda to boiled syrup to prevent it from crystallizing.

For Health

  • Clean teeth The antibacterial properties of baking powder help reduce bacterial plaques that cause tooth decay and gum disease, while its mild abrasive quality helps remove light staining. Mix a little baking soda with a few drops of water to make a thick paste, wet brush, coat teeth with paste, cover with paste, brush gently, and rinse well.
  • Add baking soda to your bath water to relieve sunburned or itchy skin.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water, and apply to a burn or an insect bite for relief.
  • If you crave sweets, rinse your mouth with one-teaspoon baking soda dissolved in a glass of warm water. Don’t swallow the mixture; spit it out. Your craving should disappear instantly.
  • For freshening breath, add a spoonful of baking soda to a glass of warm water (or peppermint tea), and swoosh the mixture around in your mouth for 30 seconds or more before spitting it out. 
  • Ease occasional heartburn/indigestion: The standard dose for this old-fashioned remedy is half a teaspoon of baking soda in half a cup of water. If you have frequent heartburn or other digestive problems, see a doctor.

On Clothing

  • To remove perspiration stains, make a thick paste of baking soda and water. Rub paste into the stain, let it sit for an hour, and then launder as usual. Find out how to remove other common stains.
  • Gasoline and oil odors can be removed by putting clothes in a trash bag with baking soda for a few days before washing them.
  • Remove odors from smelly shoes. Liberally sprinkle baking soda inside shoes (and under the inserts, too). Place shoes in a large paper bag and leave overnight. When you’re ready to go again, shake out the soda. 
  • Remove stains on hat bands. Mix up a few tablespoons of white vinegar with a squirt of spray around the inside of a baseball or athletic cap a mixture of a quarter cup of white vinegar mixed with a tablespoon of liquid detergent. Then sprinkle baking soda liberally around the brim and  Apply to the brim and let the hat sit for up to an hour. Spray with distilled white vinegar and give the stain another short scrub. Rinse clean in cold water. Pat dry with a towel and allow the hat to air dry completely.
  • Clean a steam iron When the ironing surface (soleplate) gets grubby, scrub it gently with a paste of baking soda and water. Let it dry before brushing off with a soft brush. If that doesn’t quite do the trick, soak a small towel or washcloth in white vinegar, lay it on newspapers on the ironing board, and sprinkle baking soda. Then “iron” the towel back and forth without plugging the iron in. 

For Your Dog

  • Freshen up your smelly dog! Liberally sprinkle your smelly dog  (outdoors if possible) all over, avoiding the face, with baking soda, massage it in well so it coats the skin, and leave it for a few minutes to absorb the offending odors. Then give your dog a good brushing. Additional advantages of a baking soda bath: It imparts luster to the coat, soothes doggie’s skin, and kills fleas and other parasites.

In the Car

  • Deodorize your car (or trunk) by sprinkling baking soda on the upholstery and floor mats. Let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming it up, removing any extra baking soda with a damp cloth. Some people keep their ashtray filled with baking soda. 
  • A light baking soda paste on a damp cloth will remove bugs and tar from cars without damaging the paint. Let paste sit for a few minutes before wiping and rinsing clean.

Miscellaneous Uses

  • Deodorize stinky hands. After cutting fish or handling other smelly items, dust your hands well with baking soda and scrub them under running warm water for a few seconds.
  • Freshen trash bins. Just sprinkle the inside of your kitchen and bathroom trash cans, or inside the trash bags themselves. Once a year, I take mine outside and scrub  with a little liquid detergent and a strong spray of the garden hose.
  • Lay down a barrier of baking soda under sink-pipe openings and along basement windows to keep carpenter ants, silverfish, and roaches from invading. Roaches eat the baking soda, dehydrate, and die.
  • Sprinkling baking soda on your front steps will provide traction and melt the ice. Unlike rock salt, kitty litter, or sand, it won’t damage outdoor or indoor surfaces or shoes.

*Don’t use baking soda for cleaning glass surfaces, silverware, stone countertops, and wooden floors or furniture. Also, dermatologists warn against using baking soda routinely as a dry shampoo or underarm deodorant, because its alkalinity will disrupt the natural acidity of skin and scalp.

Please post your own favorite baking soda uses below, and then check out our tips for using other common household items:

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