9 Surprising Uses for Baking Soda

That orange box in the back of the fridge can fight stains and smells, help your garden grow, and more.

July 23, 2009
baking-soda-usesPhotograph by Thinkstock

It cleans the bathtub, deodorizes your shoes…and a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that baking soda can even improve kidney health. When chronic kidney disease patients took a daily tablet of baking soda, their kidney function improved to nearly normal. More research will be needed to validate the results of that study. But in the meantime, there are plenty of other good uses for baking soda.

#1: Soothe your skin.
A paste made from baking soda and water can be your skin’s best friend: Use it to soothe a sunburn or rash, or relieve the itch from a bug bite. Add half a cup into your bathwater to soften your skin.


#2: Save your soil.
A little baking soda goes a long way outdoors, says Christine Halvorson, author of Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda for Baking, Cleaning & Deodorizing  She suggests adding some to your garden soil to balance out its acidity (a soil test kit, or a test by your local cooperative extension office, will tell you if the ground’s too acidic). You can also add some to the water of plants that don't like an acidic environment.

#3: Grow and preserve.
Sprinkle some baking soda around your tomato plants for a sweeter fruit, says Halvorson. Keep flowers alive longer by adding a pinch of salt and baking soda to the water in a vase. For drying flowers, Halvorson recommends covering them in baking soda. Store for four to six weeks then shake off the baking soda, for perfectly preserved flowers.

#4: Take out the stink.
Baking soda’s alkaline properties make it especially effective at breaking up stinky molecules. Sprinkle baking soda into wastebaskets and inside smelly shoes. Leave an open box in the fridge to neutralize a stink (though, really, getting spoiled food out of the fridge may be a better idea). Apply it with a powder puff as a natural underarm deodorant.

#5: Use it in the field.
Pack a box of baking soda with your hunting gear to deodorize animal carcasses, Halvorson suggests. Soak wild game or raw fish in a water and baking soda mixture to remove unwanted gamey taste or fishy smell.

#6: Clean your produce.
To remove buildup from fresh fruits and vegetables, gently scrub your produce with a sprinkle of baking soda on a damp sponge. Rinse the food thoroughly when you're done.

#7: Settle your stomach.
Baking soda can double as an antacid; take a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with half a glass of water when you need relief. Use it to lower the acid level of tomato-based recipes by adding a pinch to sauces or soups. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the water when washing beans, and they’ll be easier to digest.

#8: Freshen your smile, and your breath.
Gargle with half a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water to kill bad breath (this mix also relieves canker sores). Sprinkle some on your toothbrush then top with regular toothpaste for a teeth-whitening effect.

#9: Repel critters.
A bit of baking soda sprinkled near your basement windows, cracks in the walls, or other entry points will keep unwanted insects like including ants and cockroaches, from crossing the threshold.

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