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Baking Soda: A Pantry Powerhouse

Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences
Box of baking soda

Baking soda is an inexpensive way to do a thousand things around the house, from cleaning glass to deodorizing drains to baking a cake. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

All hail the sodium bicarbonate! This amazing chemical – more commonly known as baking soda – is a virtual kitchen powerhouse. Not only is it vital to the success of many baked delicacies, it has a thousand and one other everyday uses.

Baking soda performs a variety of tasks from baking to cleaning to deodorizing practically all on its own. We all know that a box of baking soda in the refrigerator will help absorb those nasty odors, but there are many other uses that may not be as well-known.  Here are just a few.

1001 Uses

Tooth brushing. Sure, many commercial toothpastes contain baking soda. The very mild abrasive helps clean stains and other debris off tooth enamel. However, a very low-cost toothpaste can be made by simply mixing baking soda with water. It may not have a minty flavor, but it will work wonders on anyone’s smile.

Facial scrub. Commercially-made exfoliants can be expensive and if made with plastic microbeads, bad for the environment as well. By mixing a paste of 3 parts baking soda with one part water, an inexpensive, effective, and environmentally-friendly exfoliant will leave skin clean and smooth.

Blemish eraser. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda on a damp sponge and rub it gently over a spot of crayon, pencil, ink, or furniture scuff marks on painted walls and other surfaces.  Rinse clean with a clean sponge and the wall will look as good as new.

Laundry whitener. Bleach is a harsh chemical that, if not used carefully, can damage clothes and potentially cause injury. Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to a top-loading washer or 1/4 cup to a front-loading washer can reduce the amount of bleach needed by half.

Garage spills. Got an oil or gas leak? Sprinkle the spill with a mixture of baking soda and salt and let it sit. The mixture will eventually absorb the spill.  Then just sweep it up.

Odor remover. We all know baking soda is great for removing odors from the fridge and other enclosed spaces. But it can also be used to remove embedded odors in plastic containers. Wash the item in hot water and baking soda, then sprinkle the container with 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda while it is still wet. Let it stand for at least an hour as it dries, then wash as usual. The odor should be gone.

Handwashing. While soap and hot water are necessary to get rid of dirt, bacteria, and viruses, baking soda is a great way to get lingering smells out of skin. Sprinkle wet hands with baking soda, rub together vigorously, then rinse.

Glass cleaner. Vinegar and water is a great homemade mixture for cleaning glass. But baking soda can work, too, especially on hard-to-clean spots. Sprinkle baking soda on a clean, damp cloth and gently rub the glass. Then rinse with clean water and polish with a soft cloth or paper towel.

Final Thoughts

Just to be clear, sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate are not the same thing. Sodium carbonate is more commonly known as washing soda. It has completely different properties as baking soda and should not be confused with it. While it is only slightly toxic, prolonged exposure can lead to skin irritation and potential gastrointestinal symptoms.

Baking soda is an amazing product with many household uses. It cleans, it deodorizes, it neutralizes stomach acid, and helps make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The uses outlined here are just a few of the many ways baking soda works its wonders. For more baking soda tips and ideas, please call Samantha Kennedy at the Wakulla County Extension Service at 850.926.3931.

Related Article:
Homemade Household Cleaners (UF/IFAS Extension)

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