Baking soda, a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate, is another house old item that every well-prepared home should have plenty of. Keep it on hand for daily use as well as those special occasions where this wonder powder is irreplaceable. Like vinegar, baking soda has hundreds of uses and applications, including keeping your home clean, shiny, and most importantly, toxin-free.
Sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate is the chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). The natural mineral form is nahcolite. It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs.
Since it has long been known and is widely used, the salt has many related names such as baking soda, bread soda, cooking soda, and bicarbonate of soda. In colloquial usage, its name is shortened to sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, or simply bicarb. The word saleratus, from Latin sal æratus meaning aerated salt, was widely used in the 19th century for both sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate. The term has now fallen out of common usage.
The following list of uses is by no means completely comprehensive, but it should give you a good idea why I buy baking soda in bulk and why I recommend that everyone stock up and learn to use it in their everyday lives.
In the Bathroom
Soothe an Upset Stomach
Mix a teaspoon into a glass of warm water to combat heartburn, acid stomach, and other stomach issues. Baking soda is alkaline, and it can help neutralize the acids that can cause digestive problem and discomfort. Note: Always seek proper medical support if you feel you have a serious issue or if your condition worsens.
Mix some baking soda into a bath for a soothing and skin-softening experience. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a relaxing enhancement. The foot version can be done in large bowl or bucket while reading the latest seed catalogs. Or simply add baking soda to your entire bath for all-over skin softening.
Lightly dip your toothbrush into a small bowl of baking soda to use as toothpaste and give a mild abrasive quality to your brushing. It will also give your mouth a nice fresh feeling. A drop of mint oil can also be added to the bowl for a more traditional "minty toothpaste" flavor.
Soothing Stings, Insect Bites, or Sunburn
A topical paste of baking soda and water is a time-tested, quick, soothing remedy for bee and wasp stings. Be sure to remove the bee's stinger first, if there is one. A cool baking soda paste also eases insect bites and sunburn.
Apply a dusting of baking soda with a powder puff for an effective underarm deodorant.
In the Kitchen and Around the House
Pot and Pan Scrubbing Powder
For really greasy and stuck-on foods (such as oven-baked sweet-potato fries cooked in coconut oil), you can use baking soda as a great gentle scrub for hard work on pans. It works really well at making stainless steel shine and helps remove the oil glaze and residue from pans. I love using baking soda to clean my pans because I know exactly what my food is coming in contact with. For removing large amounts of burned-on residue, boil water with a large spoonful of baking soda in it, let cool, and scrape off as much residue as possible before scrubbing the remainder with another round of baking soda.
Make a Soft Scrub for Porcelain, Enamel, or Other Hard Surfaces
Just like for pots and pans, baking soda can make a great surface cleaner for counters, tile, sinks, and stoves. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge or rag and scrub as usual. Rinse off and spray down with vinegar for extra cleaning action (the baking soda and vinegar react and fizz). It is also perfect as a gentle scrub for bathroom surfaces, showers, and tubs. Apply to a dry surface; just rinse with water when you're done scrubbing, and it will dissolve and wash away.
Fill your sink halfway with water and use a few tablespoons of baking soda. Soak your veggies in it to remove pesticides and chemicals. You can also use it as a scrub, using a clean sponge (a "veggie-only sponge," which every kitchen should have) and a sprinkling of baking soda.
Make a mix of equal parts granulated sugar and baking soda and place it in the path of roaches and locations where they might be hiding out. The roaches are attracted to the mixture, ingest it, and the baking soda kills them via dehydration. I have a strong dislike for roaches, but I also do not want my family coming into contact with poison. This is a great solution for both.
Home Septic Care
Adding a cup or so of baking soda per week can help maintain a favorable pH in your septic tank and help keep your pipes and system flowing properly. If you are using it regularly as a pan scrub or in the shower/tub, you might be getting enough into your system to skip a weekly dose.
Deodorize Your Refrigerator
One of the more common uses for baking soda; place an open box in the back of the fridge (or freezer) to neutralize strong odors and smells.
Baking soda can be used to help put out grease and electrical fires. Although it is not a replacement for a good fire extinguisher in the kitchen, a jar of baking soda permanently located next to the stove can be used for small fires and give you time to grab the fire extinguisher if needed. If a small fire starts in a pan, or inside your oven due to spilled or splattered food, toss baking soda at the source of the flame to smother the fire. Another plus is that the open jar can help rid your kitchen of odors on a continuous basis.
Deodorize Trash, Recycling, or Compost
Put some baking soda in the bottom of your trash can, recycling bin, or compost bin to keep bad trash smells down, or sprinkle on top of the contents. It's also great for keeping odors down in the kitty litter box.
To open up a partially clogged drain, pour a half cup of baking soda into it. Then add some vinegar and close the drain with a rubber stopper (be sure to close both drains in a double sink). The resulting bubbling concoction – similar to a volcano science experiment – will help the drain clear by forcing itself downward. Follow with a kettle full of boiling water to "chase" the concoction, kill germs, and dissolve stubborn scum in the pipes. Repeat if necessary. Run hot water down the drain for a few minutes to fully clear it.
You can use baking soda to make your clothes whiter and cleaner. Just add a half-cup with each load to give you better cleaning results naturally. For cloth diapers or personal wipes, add ½ cup of baking soda in with the pre-soak part of the cycle to help with odors and to neutralize acidic urine.
Garden and Garage
Clean Up Oil/Grease Spills
Use baking soda to soak up small oil and grease spills on your garage floor or in your driveway. It will help make the oil easier to pick up and scrub off.
Clean Car Batteries
Neutralize battery acid on the terminals of your battery by making a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Disconnect the battery and apply with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal. Use gloves with this project to protect yourself from coming in contact with acid corrosion.
Clean Cars (or other vehicles)
Like the surface cleaner from the kitchen, baking soda can be used to clean exterior lights, chrome, tires, windows, and many other parts without worrying about scratches and marks. Use a solution of ¼ cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs, dust, bird droppings, and tar.
Simple Acid Soil Test Kit
Prior to planting acid-loving plants, you can test to see if your soil is more acidic than alkaline by mixing up a solution of baking soda and water (1/4 cup with 2 cups water). Add to a cup of soil to the soil in question, and if it reacts by bubbling or fizzing, then you know it's acidic. Of course, this test won’t tell you the exact pH, but it is helpful for finding out the overall nature of your soil and whether you should consider adding certain amendments to your planting area.
Ant Deterrent Sprinkle
Sprinkle a line of baking soda across the path of pesky ants and it will keep them from disturbing you for a while – or at least until they find a way around or build an ant bridge to those crumbs on the kitchen counter.
As you can see, baking soda can be used for many practical applications around the house. Its non-toxic quality is reassuring and I feel comfortable using it almost anywhere. It is also very inexpensive to keep large qualities on hand. Share your ideas and uses for baking soda in the comments section below, and grab an extra box of baking soda the next time you shop. You should be able to find a way to use it. If you need more help, here is a book: Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of.