Alternative Uses for Table Salt

In addition to seasoning food, table salt can be used as a natural pesticide, gentle cleaner and way to soothe muscles.
By Edna N. Sutherland
March/April 1982
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Everyone knows that bread without a little salt in the dough is about as tasty as damp cardboard. And most cooks have — at one time or another — forgotten to put salt in the water when cooking the pasta and ended up serving noodles with all the flavor of boiled string

But, you might not know that there are a number of uses for common table salt besides putting it in food.

Alternative Uses for Salt

For example, salt can be an excellent substitute for expensive — and sometimes risky — commercial nose sprays. Dissolve a little salt in boiled water, let it cool and either spritz the solution into the nasal passages from a sterilized spray bottle or — lacking such a container — pour a dribble of the liquid into your clean, cupped hand and sniff it up. You'll feel a momentary stinging sensation, but the simple remedy is about as effective in clearing a stuffy nose as is any over-the-counter preparation.

And how about using salt to get your feet warm? It's true: Heated table salt, poured into a closely woven cotton bag, will hold warmth as well as—  if not better than — a hot water bottle, which can make a cold bed friendlier, soothe a swollen jaw or comfort an aching shoulder.

If the plastic earpieces on your eyeglasses are bent out of shape, heat up a pan of salt and then insert the stems. As soon as they're thoroughly warmed, you'll be able to mold the earpieces into shape again without worrying about breaking them.

Have you ever taken a swim in a pond or creek only to discover that leeches were sharing the water with you? Well, any bloodsuckers that might attach themselves to your skin will be convinced to let go by a liberal sprinkling of salt.

Worms on cabbage plants can be killed — without danger to the plants, the earth or you — if you douse the greenery with a solution of one teacup of salt to a bucket of water (use only as much of the mix as is needed to soak the pests). The solution is too mild to harm the garden soil . . . but don't apply it more than once or twice in a season.

Dry salt makes a good, gentle abrasive for cleaning clay cookware or seasoned cast-iron pans, or scouring wooden cutting boards and utensils (rinse them thoroughly afterward, of course).

And, finally, a double handful of salt in the washing machine will soften and gently fade your youngsters' stiff new denims, which gives them the worn-but-not-thread-bare effect that's favored today.

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