Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has been widely used for a long time. In fact, the ancient Egyptians reportedly used a mixture containing the substance for soap. It’s cheap—about $1 for a pound—and you can use it around the house as an alternative to many different household cleaning and personal care products.
The list below covers some uses, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg. (And while you’re at it, don’t forget to celebrate National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.)
Brush your teeth. A paste made from baking soda and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can be used as an alternative to commercial nonfluoride toothpastes.
Wash your hair. Fill a glass with warm water and dissolve about a tablespoon of baking soda into it. Take the mixture into the shower and after wetting your hair, pour the mixture through. Be sure to comb your hair well before rinsing as it will feel a little coated and slippery until it’s fully rinsed out.
Use as a deodorant. Grab a handful and apply to your underarms as needed to neutralize body odor.
Stop acid indigestion and heartburn. Add half a teaspoon of baking soda to 4 fl. oz. of water every two hours, and make sure it dissolves completely. There are also some warnings to observe with this one, particularly if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet or taking certain prescription drugs.
Treat insect bites. Make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease all-over itching, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it onto damp skin after a bath or shower.
Soothe poison ivy. Take 3 tablespoons of baking soda and combine it with 1 teaspoon of water until it produces thick lumps. Apply the baking soda to the rashes and let it dry. You can also take a bath with baking soda in your water.
Clean pots and pans. To help cut through grease, add two heaping tablespoons of baking soda to detergent and dishwater. Let pans soak for 15 minutes, then clean.
Clean your microwave. For cleaning and deodorizing, sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and gently wipe the inside and outside of your microwave. Then rinse well. Place an opened box in your microwave between uses to neutralize odors.
Touch up your oven. Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda. Then let it sit overnight. In the morning, scrub and scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, and rinse.
Keep your car clean. You can use baking soda to clean your car lights, chrome, windows, tires, vinyl seats, and floor mats. Use a baking soda solution of one-fourth-cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs, and tar. For tougher stains use baking soda sprinkled directly onto a damp sponge or soft brush. You can eliminate odors by sprinkling baking soda directly on fabric car seats and carpets. Wait 15 minutes (or longer for strong odors) and vacuum.
Put out fires. Baking soda can help with minor grease or electrical kitchen fires because it gives off carbon dioxide when heated, which helps smother the flames. For small cooking fires—frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills—turn off the gas or electricity if you can safely do so. Stand back and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to help put out the fire. Baking soda shouldn’t be applied to fires in deep fryers as it may cause the grease to splatter. And you should still call the fire department even if you can put the fire out.