15 Surprising Ways to Use Baking Soda
It's not just for cookies and cakes! Soothe your tot's skin, kill mold, clean grout, remove spots—and more, with this surprisingly magical substance.
Baking soda is a pantry staple but rarely does its use stretch beyond dessert recipes or freshening the fridge. But before you write this simple powder off, know this: sodium bicarbonate can step in to ease the sting of bug bites and sunburn, as well as clean your whole house from top to bottom. "Because baking soda has alkaline and antiseptic properties, it will soothe the acidic pH of skin and help to prevent infection," explains Marie Jhin, M.D., a dermatologist in San Francisco.
Safe for kids, mild, unscented, and very inexpensive, baking soda is actually a miracle in a box. Here are 12 great ways to use it:
- Soothe sunburn. "Baking soda has an alkaline pH of approximately 9, while our body's pH is slightly acidic (about 5), so people often use baking soda for various skin conditions to "neutralize" the skin's pH," says Lauren Ploch, M.D., a dermatologist in Augusta, Georgia. There are two ways to apply baking soda to the skin, says Dr. Jhin. "You could put about a cup of it into a tub of warm water and stir well, and then have your child soak for 10-15 minutes," she explains. Or make a 1:2 ratio paste of baking soda to water (try 2-4 tablespoons of soda). "Mix until it thickens and apply the paste to sunburned skin, leaving on for about 10 minutes, and repeat as necessary." However, if the burn covers a large part of the body or is blistering, peeling, has open wounds, or there are signs of infection, see a doctor.
- De-itch bug bites. The same paste recipe as above can be used to lessen the itching and dry out the bite from any kind of bug, says Dr. Jhin. But be careful with tiny tots, advises Dr. Ploch. "I don't recommend using baking soda on kids younger than 6 months of age because their skin doesn't have a fully developed barrier," she notes. Babies are also more susceptible to both irritation and systemic absorption of topically applied products and their skin is still developing its acid mantle. Therefore, their skin is already slightly more basic than the skin of an older child or adult.
- Scour oven, pots and pans. Make a natural oven cleaner withcup of baking soda and a few tablespoons of water. "Rub the paste over the worst spots until it becomes brownish—this means it has soaked into the burnt food and it's working," explains Jane Clarke, a consultant for A to Z Cleaning. Let the paste sit overnight and in the morning use a damp cloth to wipe it off. "If you can't remove it from certain spots, spray a bit of white vinegar over the area and wait for the fizzing to be over and wipe again," she suggests. Sticky residue on pots and pans can benefit from a similar treatment: Pour a full layer of baking soda over the pan and top with very hot water and a bit of dish soap. Allow the pot to sit for 15 to20 minutes and then wash it.
- Freshen books. Musty, dusty pages can make you sneeze! To the rescue:a sprinkle of baking soda between the pages. Wait a few days and then shake the book out.
- Clear the drain. To start, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain to soak the grime, says Clarke. Next dump ½ cup of baking soda in the drain and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour in a cup of white vinegar and let it fizz up. When the reaction is over, send down a couple of cups of warm water to wash away the vinegary smell.
- Scrub fruits. Curtis Eggemeyer, CEO of Lemi Shine, loves this all-natural fruit and veggie wash: in a spray bottle combine 1 cup of water with a tablespoon each of baking soda and lemon juice. Spray the solution onto the fruit or veggie, let it sit for 5 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.
- Kill weeds and mold. Got weeds poking through cracks along your driveway? Sprinkle baking soda on top and they'll wilt away. And for nasty black mold, turn to this idea from Alexandra Ruggie of 911 Restoration: Fill a spray bottle halfway with water and then add 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda. Shake well and then fill the rest of the way with water. Spray onto mold and let sit for 5 to10 minutes and then wipe it clean.Repeat the process if mold still lingers—it means the solution didn't completely saturate the area."Baking soda will do serious damage to the mold's biochemistry, plus it's safe for the whole family—even pets," Ruggie says.
- Clean appliances. Prolong the life of both your coffee maker and dishwasher by running them on empty with baking soda in the compartments. Bonus: Your cup of joe will taste better after this procedure.
- Remove spots. Got a stain on your rug or upholstery? Mix up a paste of a tablespoon each of baking soda, white vinegar, and water, says Karen Roberts, author of Natural Cleaning Recipes. "Rub this mixture onto the spot, let dry, and then vacuum it up and repeat as needed," she explains.
- Soften fabrics. Get silky clothes for way less than a bottle of store-bought softener. To make: combine a cup of baking soda with 6 cups of white vinegar and 8 cups of water. Add in a few drops of essential oil to scent it, if desired. "Pour this solution into bottles to store and then add a cup of it during your laundry's rinse cycle," says Roberts.
- De-gunk grout. Rid your bathroom of that dark goo in the shower by cutting a lemon into quarters and dipping the edges into baking soda."Rub vigorously into grout to moisten, let sit for a few minutes, and then rinse," says Roberts.
- Deodorize carpets. Combine a cup each of baking soda and corn starch. Sprinkle onto carpets and let sit overnight and then vacuum the next day. This process refreshes your vacuum as well!
- Take the ouch out of a bee sting. The alkaline level of baking soda helps neutralize the venom, which means less pain, itching, and swelling. After removing the stinger, wash the area with soap and warm water. Mix baking soda and water until you get a paste. Poison Control advises applying a thick layer to the sting. Cover with a bandage for at least 15 minutes.
- Clean up after car sickness. Wipe up as much as possible and liberally sprinkle baking soda over the stain (if wet spots form in the powder, sprinkle on even more), then let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight. Later, use a spatula to scoop up most of the powder and vacuum the rest.
- Freshen up a lunch box. Get rid of that persistent stink by pouring in baking soda, stuffing the box with newspaper, and letting it sit overnight. In the morning, dump everything out, then rinse and dry.