A review of 500 Uses for Baking Soda, and how my baking soda experiments turned out:
I got my hands on a copy of a most unusual title while browsing my favorite used bookstore. The title was arresting enough, reading, in large print, BAKING SODA. Hmmm. It was lengthly subtitled, Over 500 fabulous, fun and frugal uses you’ve probably never thought of.
It sounded like a challenge. And if you are anything like me, you'd happily spend hours reading the thing, highlighter in hand to memorize new uses for an old household staple. How could I pass this up?
Vicki Lansky’s one-woman tribute to sodium bicarbonate boggles the mind. In her own mother’s words, “Who would believe she could have come up with all these uses?”
Everyone knows you can cook with baking soda: it makes bread rise. It’s a natural antacid. Dentists say you can brush your teeth with it. And it's quite common for to see an open box in the fridge for food odor absorption.
But did you know that fridge box is only good for 3 months? After that, its freshening properties are used up. Get another box. What to do with the used-up, old box? Well, Lansky’s got ideas for that, such as sprinkling the powder around the soil of tomato plants to lower their acidity and discourage pests. I haven’t tried this one, yet.
So, okay, I’m game. I tried a few of these ‘uses’ and hard a darned good time doing it. My fiance thinks I’m nuts for getting so excited over baking soda, but likes that the product is undeniably cheap.
Here are the ideas I tried, and how it all went:
Laundry Booster – On the book’s recommendation, I added a ½ cup to my washer load, along with my detergent. Not only did my colors and whites come out brighter, but even my workout clothes smelled nice when I took them out. Lanksy notes this boosting effect only works with liquid laundry detergents, however. I suspect the deodorizing effect works with either kind.
Garbage Disposal Maintenance – When I noticed a stink arising from the disposal afer a weekend away, I immediately poured a ½ cup down the drain, followed by vinegar. It bubbled and frothed and took the nasty scent away. I didn’t even need to run water after it.
Garbage Can Odors – This one’s easy – sprinkle over wet, nasty garbage to remove the odor. My take is that you need too much soda to really get the odor out. It’s better to just take out the garbage. But I did find that sprinkling a little soda in the garbage can bottom, between changing the bags, was helpful.
Carpet Cleaner – Sprinkle over the carpet and let sit overnight. Use a cheese shaker or flour sifter to spread it evenly - otherwise it either clumps, or all comes out at once. Vacuum in the morning. This old technique still works great. As the proud owner of two dogs, I can verify how well baking soda works to dissolve canine odor.
Tarnished Silver – I tried two baking soda techniques for cleaning silver and was pleasantly surprised with both.
In the past, I used harsh-smelling chemical products, the kind that’s impregnated in a wad of wool, to scrub, scrub, scrub my silver. The process was always messy and stinky. On really old, dirty, heirloom silver, it didn’t even work at all, besides stripping away my silver plate to reveal the copper beneath.
Blech. These methods are MUCH better:
1. Baking soda and water, mixed into a paste, cleans the tarnish right away. Spread the goop all over your silver item, let it sit for ten minutes, then rub with your fingers (or an old toothbrush) until dirty baking soda paste falls away. Rinse, buff – and if necessary – repeat. This method cleaning and safely bids the grime begone from my stemware and plates.
2. The other method is great for utensils. Fill a plastic bucket, or your sink with hot water. Add a square of aluminum foil. Sprinkle your silver with baking soda, drop into hot water, and let sit 15 minutes. Take out the silver and buff with a soft cloth. My silver turned clean and shiny with very little effort!
UPDATE: Reader's Suggestions
"Hi there....I use baking soda on my skin or my daughters when we get bit by mosquitos or bees. Just make a little paste with water and the b. soda and it doesn't itch and heals quickly, no pain! Also, it SUCKS the "poison" out when I get poison ivy........i use it instead of calamine lotion.(i get this p. ivy at least 2 times every 10 years and rely on it!)" - Rhonda, 11/03