Let’s chat baking soda. Chances are you probably have a box chilling in the back of your fridge. But the white stuff, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, can do so much more than just absorb odors and make fluffy bread. In fact, we tapped experts and scoured the web for a whole host of game-changing hacks that prove this magic ingredient can be used for teeth whitening, oven cleaning and just about everything in between. Read on for all the surprising uses for baking soda and prepare to be amazed.
14 Surprising Uses for Baking Soda
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1. Make a Face Mask
Celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas tells Byrdie that baking soda is a powerful ingredient that can help unclog pores and gently exfoliate—two important things for cleansing congested skin. (Hey, if it’s good enough for Emma Stone…) To use, simply combine it with a little warm water and you have an inexpensive skin care treatment that soothes acne-prone complexions (and would cost upwards of $12 at the drugstore). Just make sure you heed the beauty expert’s advice and don’t use this treatment more than twice per month, since it could dry out skin.
Step 1. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon warm water to form a spreadable paste.*
Step 2. Gently massage said paste onto a clean face.
Step 3. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Step 4. Rinse the mask off with warm water.
Step 5. Apply your moisturizer of choice (baking soda strips natural oils from the skin and may cause drying if you skip the moisturizing step) and say hello to a glowing complexion.
*Test this combination on your arm before applying to your face to make sure your skin is not sensitive to the ingredients.
2. Clean Produce
Rid supermarket produce of pesticides—you know, those toxic chemicals sprayed on non-organic fruits and veggies to prevent insects, germs and weeds from damaging crops—by soaking them in a baking soda bath. According to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, baking soda is the most effective solution for removing pesticide residue from produce. Turns out even if you run items under tap water, you’re likely still consuming the chemicals you thought you were washing away (yikes!).
Step 1. Fill a large bowl with two cups of water.
Step 2. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
Step 3. Submerge produce for at least 2 minutes (the study found that soaking for 12 to 15 minutes completely removed all pesticides).
Step 4. Wash produce before eating.
3. Freshen the Air
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve ever finished a home cleaning day by misting a “fresh linen” scent around your space, what you were actually doing was releasing a list of hazardous chemicals into the air. Yes, really! Most air fresheners—including sprays, gels, plug-ins and beads—contain concerning ingredients, notably phthalates, which are used to make plastic flexible and can potentially cause cancer. If you want to emit a scent around your home without breathing in harmful toxins, try using a mix of baking soda (which neutralizes odors) and an essential oil (like lavender or eucalyptus) for an all-natural room spray.
Step 1. Mix 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda.
Step 2. Add 15 to 20 drops of an essential oil.
Step 3. Stir together.
Step 4. Transfer to a spray bottle.
4. Treat Bug Bites
What’s not to love about backyard barbecues? Sunshine, hamburgers, outdoor games, cold beer. Oh wait, mosquitoes. Even if the citronella candles are burning, these pesky bugs often find a way to ruin the outdoor fun…unless you have a certain pantry staple on hand, that is. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), baking soda is a simple and effective way to relieve the itching and swelling associated with mosquito bites, so you can get back to your game of cornhole in no time.
Step 1. Combine 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of water to make a paste.
Step 2. Dab it onto the bite.
Step 3. Wait 10 minutes.
Step 4: Wash off the paste and get back to the outdoor merrymaking.
5. Sop Up Oil Spills from Your Driveway
Got an oil leak in the driveway? While your first instinct may be to grab a towel to wipe it away, this will actually make matters worse by spreading the stain. Instead, remove the offending stain from concrete with a little baking soda, say the pros at American Family Insurance.
Step 1. Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda over the oil stain in your driveway.
Step 2. Let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.
Step 3. Clean the stain by scrubbing it with a bristle brush.
Step 4. Wash away the stain with clean water. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.
6. Whiten Your Teeth
Whether you’re in a pinch, transitioning to plastic-free living or worried you don’t know half the ingredients on the back of a store-bought tube, making your own teeth whitener is far less intimidating than it sounds. Multiple studies have shown that baking soda (a mild abrasive that’s alkaline, which helps neutralize acid to promote a healthy mouth) can get those pearly whites shining, the all-natural way.
Step 1. Mix equal parts baking soda and water in a small bowl to create a paste.
Step 2. Dip your toothbrush into the mixture and gently brush teeth in small circular motions to cover each tooth thoroughly with the paste.
Step 3. Continue brushing for 1 minute.
Step 4. Spit out the baking soda and rinse your mouth until your teeth are grit-free and clean.
7. Deodorize Your Carpet
We all know carpeting can become a collector of spills and crumbs (especially when vacuuming gets pushed back on the list of chores). Combined with daily foot traffic, rugs absorb all sorts of smells...and have lots of little spaces to hide them. That’s where this time-efficient trick to deodorize your carpet, courtesy of the experts at Preferred Carpet Care, comes into play.'
Step 1. Vacuum the carpet to remove any debris.
Step 2. Sprinkle baking soda across the rug, which neutralizes and absorbs deep-set odors.
Step 3. Let it sit for at least half an hour (the longer it spends on the rug, the better).
Step 4. Vacuum up the baking soda. Seriously, it’s that easy!
8. Soothe a Sunburn
In a perfect world, the sunscreen you thoroughly applied and reapplied in an even layer during your day at the beach would keep your skin adequately protected. Still, sunburn happens—and when it does, it’s a real pain in the (insert affected body part). The most important thing is that you cover up and take more care to protect yourself against future UV damage—but in the meantime, the doctors at WebMD approve of baking soda as a homemade (and cost effective) remedy that can soothe the skin, whilst providing antimicrobial benefits—assuming you can take the heat of a warm water soak, that is.
Step 1: Measure out two ounces of baking soda and dump it in the tub.
Step 2: Fill the tub with water that’s warm, but not hot enough to cause discomfort. (After all, you’re already scorched.)
Step 3: Swish the water around with your hand until the baking soda has dissolved.
Step 4: Take a soak in the tub—and be sure to slather on some aloe vera or gentle moisturizer when you’re done.
9. Unclog the Drain
Whether it happens in the bathroom or the kitchen, a clogged drain is a real bummer. Your first instinct might be to reach for Drain-O, but before you damage your pipes (and pollute the environment) with harsh chemicals, try baking soda for an all-natural remedy that Angela Lee, content manager of the award-winning cleaning company Hellamaid, says really works.
Step 1: Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
Step 2: Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain.
Step 3: Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar immediately after the baking soda.
Step 4: Cover the drain with a plug or a towel to prevent the baking soda and vinegar mixture from bubbling out of the drain. (Remember that volcano experiment from your youth?)
Step 5: Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes, so the fizzy reaction has a chance to break up the gunk.
Step 6: Remove the cover and pour the boiling water down the drain to flush out any remaining debris.
Step 7: If the drain is still clogged, repeat the process until the clog is cleared. (Or call a plumber.)
10. Remove Stains from a Countertop
You’ve gone to town with the Clorox wipes and there are still pesky turmeric stains on your kitchen countertop—what to do? Well, you probably have a pretty good sense at this point, but your best bet is to grab the baking soda and try another homemade cleaning hack, courtesy of Hellamaid cleaners.
Step 1: In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of baking soda and enough water to make a thick paste.
Step 2: Apply the baking soda paste to the stained area of your countertop, spreading it out evenly over the stain. (For extra stubborn stains you can spritz the baking soda paste with a 50/50 combo of distilled white vinegar and water.)
Step 3: Allow the paste to sit on the stain for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 4: Using a soft-bristled brush or sponge, gently scrub the stain with the baking soda paste. Be sure to use a light touch, especially if you are working with a delicate or porous countertop material.
Step 5: Rinse the area with warm water to remove any remaining baking soda residue.
Step 6: Repeat the process if necessary…or just stand back and behold your gleaming countertop.
11. Clean the Oven
Cleaning a greasy oven is nobody’s idea of fun, but if not done regularly, you’re going to have a serious fire hazard in your kitchen. Fortunately, the pros at Hellamaid tell us that baking soda makes it a breeze, relatively speaking. Plus, it’s much better for you than the harsh chemicals found in store-bought cleaning products. Read on for a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Remove the oven racks.
Step 2: Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water to make a thick paste.
Step 3: Using gloves or a sponge, spread the paste over the interior surfaces of the oven, avoiding the heating elements.
Step 4: Let the baking soda paste sit for at least 12 hours or overnight. This will give it enough time to break down the grease and grime inside your oven.
Step 5: While the paste is working its magic on the oven (and before you enjoy your down time), clean the oven racks with a mixture of baking soda and water, too. These guys don’t have to marinate, so just give them a good scrub, rinse and dry.
Step 6: After the 12 hours is up, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the oven interior. You may also need to use a scraper to remove any stubborn spots.
Step 7: Once you have wiped down the entire oven, rinse the cloth or sponge in warm water and wipe the oven again to remove any remaining baking soda residue.
Step 8: Put the oven racks back in the oven once they are clean and dry…and then make yourself something delicious to eat. You earned it.
12. Put Out a Grease Fire
Fire extinguishers are an excellent last resort in the event of a culinary disaster, but if you find yourself faced with a small and manageable grease fire, the fire service professionals at FireRescue1 recommend baking soda as your first line of defense. (And whatever you do, do not use water!)This is an effective way to stop a grease fire that hasn’t started to spread because the carbon dioxide released by baking soda works to smother the flames—just keep in mind that you will need copious amounts of the stuff and that you should evacuate immediately if it doesn’t work.
Step 1: Cover the flames with a metal lid or cookie sheet.
Step 2: Turn off the heat source.
Step 3: Pour as much baking soda as you have, which is hopefully a lot, directly onto the flames. (Salt will work, too, but that’s not what we’re here for.)
Step 4: If the first three steps have not put out the fire, either reach for a fire extinguisher or stop playing hero and get out.
13. Remove Crayon from a Wall
If you have a budding (toddler-aged) artist who believes the whole world is his canvas, there’s a good chance your walls have taken a hit. Good news: It has been widely reported that a touch of baking soda is all you need to remove a misplaced masterpiece in the blink of an eye, and even the cleaning pros at WD-40 agree.
Step 1: Moisten a clean, non-abrasive cloth with warm water. (You want it damp, not wet—so ring it out, if necessary.)
Step 2: Dip the damp cloth in baking soda.
Step 3: Rub the cloth gently over the surface of the wall and watch as the crayon disappears like magic. (You shouldn’t even have to break a sweat.)
14. Make a Fluffier Omelet
Yep, you can say goodbye to flat, sad omelets and hello to light, pillowy perfection simply by adding a pinch of baking soda into the mix. Norah Clark, an expert in food nutritional science and the Pastry Chef at YummyTasteFood, explains:
“Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline substance that generates carbon dioxide gas when combined with acidic components. In the case of omelets, baking soda reacts with the natural acids found in eggs, forming tiny carbon dioxide bubbles. As the egg mixture cooks, these bubbles become trapped within, resulting in an airier, more delicate texture.”
That said, Clark notes that it takes a combination of baking soda and practice to see results when it comes to perfecting this deceptively simple breakfast dish. Still, the following chef-approved recipe is a good place to start.
Step 1: Crack 2 to 3 large eggs into a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Season with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.
Step 3: Add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 to
3 eggs you use. Avoid adding too much, as it can cause an unpleasant taste.
Step 4: Whisk the egg mixture thoroughly until well combined and slightly frothy.
Step 5: Warm a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add a small quantity of butter or oil.
Step 6: Pour the whisked egg mixture into the heated skillet and let it cook without disturbance for a short while, allowing the base to solidify.
Step 7: Gently lift the omelet's edges with a spatula, tilting the skillet to let the uncooked egg flow beneath.
Step 8: Once the omelet is almost set but remains slightly wet on top, place your preferred fillings (such as cheese, sautéed veggies, or cooked meats) on one half of the omelet.
Step 9: Delicately fold the omelet over the fillings, and cook for 1-2 minutes to heat the fillings and thoroughly cook the eggs.
Step 10: Transfer the fluffy omelet to a plate—placing a large plate over the frying pan and inverting the pan is our favorite trick for avoiding mishaps—and savor your creation!