Beyond Baking: More Household Uses for Baking Soda

Photo by Linda Ly
Photo by Linda Ly

Cakes and cookies typically spring to mind as soon as you hear the words "baking soda," but this pantry staple (sodium bicarbonate to you domestic engineers) is also a non-toxic, all natural cleanser that should be a staple in your cleaning cabinet too.

Strange as it sounds, the same ingredient that helps your banana bread rise has a number of household cleaning uses as well, from deodorizing the fridge to removing a stain. Though baking soda has some powerful cleaning properties, it's mild enough to use on most surfaces. In fact, I've been known to "borrow" baking soda from my kitchen pantry to scrub the soap scum off my bathroom tiles!

Baking soda's natural ability to combat odors and tackle stains is due in part to its alkalinity; it works to regulate the pH of its environment and neutralize acidic or alkaline substances. The sodium salts in baking soda are also natural surfactants, giving them grime-removing properties.

With baking soda being so cheap, there's no reason why you shouldn't keep a box around as a safe and "green" remedy for household maintenance or household emergencies. Here are some other uses for sodium bicarbonate that go beyond baking:

Use it to deodorize.
Arm & Hammer sells special boxes that are meant to go in the back of your refrigerator to tame odors, but they're no different than the baking soda you can buy in the regular box. Open up another box to put on a shelf in your closet too.

Scatter a few spoonfuls of baking soda in the bottom of your trash can (between the liner and the can) to neutralize food smells.

The same odor-fighting properties are also good for musty carpets, rugs, floor cushions, and pet beds — simply sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on the fibers or bedding, "rake" it in gently with a cleaning brush or your hands, and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes before you vacuum.

Got stinky shoes? Freshen the insides with a light dusting of baking soda, then shake out any excess powder.

Use it as a kitchen and bathroom cleanser.
Dissolve 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of water, dab a sponge in it, and wipe down your counters and other surfaces.

Dissolve 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of hot water and use the solution to mop your floors.

To tackle burnt-on food in pots and pans, sprinkle baking soda over the spots, fill with hot water and dish soap, and soak for 15 to 30 minutes before scrubbing clean.

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To clean the inside of your oven, make a paste with baking soda and water and spread the mixture thickly on all the baked-on grease in your oven, covering the sides and bottom. Let it sit for a few hours; if any of the baking soda starts to dry out, lightly spray it with water to keep the mixture moist. Wipe it all off with a clean, damp towel.

This same paste is also good for scrubbing off soap scum on glass shower doors without damaging the glass, and removing water spots on faucets and sinks.

For more heavy-duty removal of limescale on your chrome, make a paste of baking soda and white vinegar, spread it over your faucets or knobs, and let it sit for a few hours. Rinse and wipe off with a clean sponge.

Clean the toilet by sprinkling a thin layer of baking soda inside the bowl, scrub it well with a toilet brush, and flush.

Use it in the laundry.
To brighten your clothes and boost your detergent, add 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda to the laundry, directly in the wash tub, and start the wash cycle normally.

Naturally fluff and soften your sheets in the washer by adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle or fabric softener dispenser.

Pre-treat laundry stains by rubbing a paste of baking soda and water on the stain before adding to the wash. For stubborn stains, leave the paste on for at least an hour before laundering.

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