You’ve probably seen baking soda as an ingredient in all types of recipes. After all, the alkali is often used as a raising agent in delicious-sounding bakes – such as soda bread, chocolate cakes and gingerbreads. You might even have a neglected container of the stuff rattling around in one of your kitchen drawers. But did you know that people swear you can use pinches of humble baking soda in all kinds of different ways? And yes, that includes making your body, skin and hair look their absolute best.
But before you go digging out your supply of baking soda and flinging it in your hair, it’s worth understanding a little more about how the powder actually works. Fair warning, though: only try the following hints and hacks if it is safe to do so. So, be sure to stop at once if you find that excessive use of baking soda leaves your skin sore or irritated.
Obviously, these tips are not for you if you’re allergic to baking soda. And other people who shouldn’t apply the powder to their skin include pregnant women, new moms and babies. Those suffering from open injuries, significant infections, heart problems, diabetes or susceptibility to fainting are also advised to opt out of these hacks. If in doubt, though, talk to a dermatologist first.
With the health and safety precautions firmly established, then, let’s find out a bit more about what baking soda can potentially do for you. Make no mistake about it, though: we’re specifically talking about baking soda here – not baking powder. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, it’s actually pretty major.
Baking soda is just a more recognized name for the chemical compound sodium bicarbonate. This is made up of hydrogen carbonate and sodium, and when it’s mixed with an acid – such as cream of tartar – the combination results in a release of carbon dioxide. And it’s this gas that helps expand your cake mixtures.
Baking powder, on the other hand, is a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar and some kind of filler – such as rice flour or cornflour. This raising agent is triggered when wet ingredients are added to it, so that’s why baking powder is most commonly used in cake recipes.
To add another layer of potential confusion, there are also a couple of different names for baking soda. We’ve heard already that baking soda is another moniker for sodium bicarbonate. But in some territories, the product also goes by the name of bicarbonate of soda. Rest assured, though: the two alkalis are exactly the same thing.
So now we know precisely what we’re dealing with, what can you actually do with baking soda? Well, as previously discussed, it is most commonly used in baking recipes. It’s handy for making quick soda bread, for instance, because the way the powder releases carbon dioxide means that the food can rise without the need for yeast.
But adventurous internet users have been claiming for years that baking soda can actually be used for a whole wealth of things outside of baking. For instance, the powder is reportedly pretty good for cleaning. And if you don’t believe us, here’s how you can give it a go yourself.
Freshen up your oven
First up, you could try using a bit of baking soda to freshen up your oven. According to a number of online publications, all you have to do is dust the dirty parts of your oven with the powder and give it all a spray with a bit of water. Then leave this to work its magic overnight before rigorously washing it all away in the morning.
Make your pots and pans sparkle
The same basic idea – mixing baking soda with water and leaving the concoction on a dirty area – can reportedly also be used to clean plenty of other items. So, the next time you find yourself with dirty pots, pans, coffee mugs or cutlery, why not give the baking soda trick a go?
Unclog your drain
And it’s not just your kitchen that could potentially benefit from a bit of baking soda. For instance, we’ve all probably had a blocked drain at one time or another. The easiest thing for many of us to do in this situation is to call in a professional to fix the problem. The other option is to reach for a chemical-laced drain de-clogger that could cause severe burning without adequate protection.
But fear not, because there is another choice. Good Housekeeping has in fact stated that you could try tipping half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda down a blocked drain. Then just pop a moist towel over the top, wait for five minutes and, finally, pour down some boiling water. And there you apparently have a more natural way of unblocking the drain.
Deodorize your refrigerator
Baking soda is also seemingly rather good at getting rid of unwanted smells. According to the website Straight Dope, you could always try popping an open carton of baking soda in your refrigerator the next time it’s causing a stink. There’s actually a sound scientific reason why this simple hack works, too.
The online publication argues that most of the strong smells emanating from a stinky fridge are likely to be acid-based – such as sour milk – or bases, from things like old meat. And this is apparently why the baking soda hack works so well. You see, the white powder has the ability to balance out the pH levels of these kinds of solutions. So, it can effectively absorb bad smells.
In fact, you can even buy a specific odor-absorbing baking soda from Arm & Hammer. The so-called Fridge-n-Freezer Odor Absorber claims that it “absorbs and deodorizes food odor” and helps “keep food tasting fresh.” But, of course, probably any baking soda will do the same thing.
Spruce up your dirty sponges
And if baking soda can get rid of smells from a stinky fridge, then it can likely be used to perform the same trick on a whole host of other items. In fact, Good Housekeeping suggests a number of tips and tricks to get the most out of your everyday sodium bicarbonate. First up is a way of bringing new life to your down-and-dirty sponges.
Fortunately, this hack couldn’t be more straightforward. First off, combine baking soda with water in a sink or other appropriately sized container. Then pop the sponges in the solution and let the mixture work its magic. Good Housekeeping reckons doing this regularly will extend the life of your sponges.
Clean your upholstery without fuss
The next tip offered up by Good Housekeeping concerns furniture padding. After all, upholstery is frequently used by household members and can sometimes be the cause of foul-smelling odors. So, if this is the case in your home, simply dust the offending area with baking soda, leave it for a quarter of an hour and then suck the powder up the vacuum.
This process can also apparently be applied to refresh most any kind of upholstery – including your mattress. So why not give that a go the next time you’re changing your bedsheets? Indeed, people are so confident in baking soda’s ability to remove odors from unloved items that Good Housekeeping even suggests using it on dogs’ beds.
The publication states that if you douse your pet’s sleeping spot in sodium bicarbonate, following the process outlined above, then you’ll end up with a much fresher-smelling bed. It could be worth listening to the advice from Good Housekeeping, too, as some of it came directly from Carolyn Forte – who’s head of its “Cleaning Lab.”
Degrease your kitchen utensils
Another handy hint that Forte offered readers was to use baking soda as a means of cleansing heavily stained kitchen kit. The expert explained, “Hot water soak, mildly abrasive baking soda, a scrub sponge and some elbow grease is all you need to dissolve stuck-on grease.” And who are we to argue?
Soothe your hair and scalp
So, we’ve established that baking soda is good for all kinds of cleaning – but what about the benefits to our body, skin and hair? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly now, it’s been claimed that the white powder can be used to aid our well-being in all kinds of ways. Just for starters, then, it could make a replacement shampoo.
According to Lifehack, for instance, a mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar makes a particularly good shampoo substitute. Remember our warnings from earlier, though. As we’ve heard, baking soda balances out pH levels, so stop using it immediately if this process begins to aggravate your scalp.
Freshen your breath
Still on the subject of personal hygiene, you could potentially also use baking soda to create a DIY mouthwash. And according to Healthline, the way to make it couldn’t be simpler. You apparently just pop half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate into a small cup of tepid water and then use as you would a regular mouthwash.
Healthline claims that using baking soda in this way will aid in keeping your breath fresh. The site also states that sodium bicarbonate has “antibacterial and antimicrobial properties,” and this is actually proven by a number of scientific studies. So, if you’re going to use baking soda as a mouthwash, why not also add it to your toothpaste?
Yes, baking soda really can be used for bringing out the best in your pearly whites. This may not come as a surprise for anyone who has already spotted commercially available toothpaste containing the white powder, though. For example, Arm & Hammer, Tom’s of Maine and Colgate all sell products that proudly proclaim to be made up partly of baking soda.
Interestingly, in 2008 a team of researchers published a paper on the medical website PubMed that looked into the effectiveness of baking soda in toothpaste. And the study concluded that “brushing with baking soda dentifrices resulted in statistically greater reductions in whole mouth mean plaque scores.” Or, to put it another way: brushing your teeth using toothpaste containing baking soda is better than toothpaste that doesn’t have it.
You can have a go at making this kind of toothpaste at home, too. According to The Guardian, all you need to do is mix together the classic combo of baking soda and water until you form a paste. You could also pop in a drop or two of minty flavoring if you like.
Baking soda works as a toothpaste, incidentally, because it has abrasive qualities. The Guardian writer who suggested the recipe above claimed that her homemade toothpaste could initially seem harsher than off-the-shelf versions. However, she added that it’s actually less corrosive when tested on the Relative Dentin Abrasivity scale.
And if you do start using baking soda toothpaste and mouthwash, you could be happy to hear that it could have another benefit. Healthline states that the baking soda-water mash-up can help to pacify the stings created by mouth ulcers. But be warned: the home remedy reportedly “hurts like heck” at first.
Provide relief for calluses
Another area of bodily discomfort can come in the form of calluses. These tough parts of the skin usually form on the feet because of almost continuous friction and use. However, calluses can also reportedly be soothed by giving them a dunk in baking soda and warm water.
In fact, a “baking soda bath” could provide relief from another common complaint as well. So, if you’re suffering from itchy skin, a decent soak in one of these unusual baths could be just what the doctor ordered. If a bath seems like too much effort, though, you could also try forming a paste made of baking soda and water and simply dolloping that over the problem site.
Help treat stings and sunburn
This remedy is actually reportedly effective in calming insect stings or bites as well as sunburn. And it seems as if adding a touch of oatmeal or cornstarch to the basic mix of water and baking soda could boost its soothing properties even further. The white powder could provide relief from more serious ailments, too.
Ease heartburn pain
Do you ever suffer from heartburn, for instance? This hot feeling in the center of your chest is the result of stomach acid trying to make its way up your throat. It can often occur after eating – particularly if you’ve had a bit too much. But instead of reaching for store-bought relief, you could always give baking soda a try.
As we’ve seen before, baking soda will work to balance out the troublesome stomach acid. So, try mixing a single teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate with some cold H20 and consume it a little at a time. It could help to relieve the burning sensation you’re feeling.
Help prevent kidney failure
But possibly the most serious condition that baking soda could help fight against is chronic kidney disease. The organs are, of course, a pretty big deal when it comes to ensuring your body works properly. They make sure your blood is free from harmful toxins and waste, after all.
As the name suggests, though, chronic kidney disease occurs when these vital organs are no longer performing to the best of their abilities. And according to the U.K.’s National Health Service, the condition is pretty common as people start to age. But while there’s currently no cure for it, some researchers believe that baking soda could help.
In 2009, for instance, a paper entitled “Bicarbonate Supplementation Slows Progression of CKD and Improves Nutritional Status” left no doubt about its conclusions. The report stated that participants who consumed baking soda supplements greatly increased their chances of staving off kidney failure.
Amazingly, though, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the purported uses of baking soda. We haven’t even touched upon the claims that baking soda can aid chemotherapy or that it can be used as a deodorant. So, if you’re ever unsure about what to do with some leftover baking soda, rest assured that the possibilities are seemingly endless.