My dictionary defines baking soda as “a water-soluble powder, NaHCO3” . . . but I call it a miracle worker. Let me take you through a hypothetical day at the Christie household, just to show you the versatile uses for baking soda that are inexpensive and safe.
In the morning, I get up and—instead of reaching for a tube of synthetically flavored gel—take a small box of sodium bicarbonate from the medicine chest, sprinkle some of the powder on my toothbrush, and cleanse my teeth. Baking soda’s no more abrasive than toothpaste, so I use it daily.
For breakfast, I offer my family hot-from-the-oven soda biscuits, fare that’s far more delicious and much less expensive than canned pop-out biscuits. Afterwards, while washing the dishes, I sponge a little baking soda into the empty coffee cups to remove any stains. And I might put a spoonful of bicarb into our glass percolator, fill the container with boiling water, and let it soak for a few minutes to get rid of stale-tasting residues. When the dishes are done, I sprinkle a little soda on the countertops and in the sink, scrubbing lightly with a sponge and then rinsing. Surfaces (even scuff-prone fiberglass tubs) come clean without a scratch.
Now I’m ready to do some housework, so I mix up a batch of natural cleaning product by combining 1/2 cup of household ammonia, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 gallon of water, and 1/4 cup of baking soda. A stiff old nailbrush dipped in the solution makes fast work of rubbing out food spots on the dining room carpet . . . and a sponge saturated with the liquid gets fingerprints and smudges off painted walls and woodwork.
While I’m washing down the shower tiles with the solution, I remember this is the day to clean all the drains in the house . . . so I pour 1/2 cup of soda followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar into each one (I sometimes also put a palmful of salt into the kitchen drain, to cut through grease). Half an hour or so later, I flush plain water down the drains, or if a drain is particularly sluggish, I use boiling water. By doing this once a week, I keep our pipes odorless and running free. And if you have a septic tank, flushing a cup of soda down the toilet once a week will help neutralize pH and often encourage the growth of waste-digesting bacteria.
Next, I go downstairs to do laundry. After pre-treating shirt collars and greasy spots with a spritz of my all-purpose soda cleaner (I keep some handy in a spray bottle), I throw in the clothes, add a little less detergent than is recommended on the box, and then make up the difference with some dry baking soda that I store in a jar by the washer. The laundry not only comes out cleaner but also softer.
That afternoon, my son comes into the house and says he has to remove some acid buildup on the terminals of his car battery. A quarter cup of baking soda mixed with a little water, applied with a rag, and left to stand for a few minutes allows him to simply wipe the encrustation away . . . no wire brush needed!
Later, our daughter arrives home from the beach, her face reddened by the sun . . . so I advise her to wash with a soothing solution of (you guessed it) baking soda and water. And when my husband comes in with a bee sting he got while working around the yard, I dab a thick paste of soda and water on the spot to relieve the pain. “That reminds me,” he remarks, “the grapes need spraying tomorrow.” Every week or so when our grapes are ripening, he mixes 4 teaspoons of baking soda in a gallon of water and sprays the fruit to alkalinize the skins and keep fungus from developing.
At supper that night, while I’m cooking pork chops, some grease spatters on the burner and catches fire. I grab a handful of soda from the jar by the range and throw it on the flames to extinguish them. (When heated, soda releases carbon dioxide and prevents further combustion. Never throw water on a kitchen stove fire!) While washing the dinner dishes, I find that some mashed potatoes scorched and stuck to the bottom of the pot while I was tending to the fire . . . so I cover the gunk with a generous coat of baking soda barely wet with water and leave the pot in the sink overnight. In the morning, the scorch will be loosened for easier washing.
At bedtime, I’m feeling a bit queasy from the pork chops, but 1/2 teaspoon of trusty bicarb in a glass of water brings relief. (I know, though, that folks over 60 and people with high blood pressure should be particularly careful not to make this a habit, because of soda’s high sodium content.) Then I draw a tub of hot water, dissolve 1/2 cup of soda in it, and—ahhhh—soak in soft, refreshing bath water.
Uses for Baking Soda
I know all this sounds like a TV ad, but the fact is that baking soda is one product that really is economical, environmentally safe, easy to use, and wonderfully versatile. I don’t own stock in the baking-soda industry . . . I just happen to believe that plain old NaHCO3 far outshines the so-called miracle cleaners and other products that it can so handily replace. And I say this simply because soda really works, not because I have any particular ax to grind.
Why, I don’t even own an ax. But if I did, I’d polish it with soda.