Introduction: 10 Unusual Uses for Baking Soda

For such an inexpensive and common household staple, baking soda has a surprisingly extensive and unusual list of uses. I'd like to share my 10 favorite ones with you here.

What is Baking Soda & Why is It So Good At Stuff?

Baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate, a processed natural salt that was originally made as a leavening agent for baking, but has since been adopted for a wide range of home uses.

Here are some of it's many useful characteristics:

  • non-toxic
  • inexpensive
  • a mildly basic (alkaline) buffer
  • a gentle abrasive (non-scratching)
  • effervescent
  • odor neutralizer
  • reacts with dirt and grease to form a cleanser

And your body is no stranger to sodium bicarbonate; the bicarbonate ion occurs naturally in our blood to help maintain acid/alkaline balance, it transports carbon dioxide from body tissue to the lungs to be expelled, and it's also in our saliva as an acid reducer - a pretty amazing substance don't you agree*?!

*For a thorough break down of the history and science of baking soda, read Peter A. Ciullo's book, 'Baking Soda Bonanza'.

Ok, let's dive in and learn a few of the fun uses for the powdered form of this versatile stuff!

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Check out my other natural home product instructables:

Homemade Glass Cleaner
Homemade Dryer Sheet Replacement
Homemade Fabric Softener
Homemade Air Freshener

Step 1: Unusual Use #1: As an Antacid

Mix 1/2 tsp of baking soda in 4oz of water and drink*.

I'll warn you, it doesn't taste very good, but it seriously works. Both my Grandpa and my Dad have been life long devotees of this cure for an upset tum tum.

*Baking Soda is a salt, so if you suffer from hypertension or are on a salt restricted diet, give this step a miss.

Step 2: Unusual Use #2: Swimmer's Hair Hero

Add 1 tbsp of baking soda to a small spray bottle and fill it with water. Pop this in your gym bag and after you've finished your laps in the pool, shake and spray the mix liberally on your wet hair before washing it. The soda will help neutralize the damaging effects of the chlorine. Boom.

Step 3: Unusual Use #3: New Clothes Detox

Remove the harmful chemical finishes on new clothing, which is important to do especially for babies, by adding 1/2 cup of baking soda in with your laundry detergent.

Step 4: Unusual Use #4: Get Rid of Unwanted Pests

For a pesticide-free / pet-friendly way to kill ants and roaches, mix 1 cup baking soda with 1 cup white sugar and sprinkle in infested areas. The pests ingest the mix and then when they drink water, the reaction in their stomach kills them. Super effective.

Step 5: Unusual Use #5: Camper's Commando

Avoid that musty / moldy smell that camping equipment can get and keep it smelling fresh, by sprinkling generous amounts of baking soda into your clean and dry cooler (or put in an open box), thermos, and even tent before storing them away. Staying outside has never smelled so good!

Step 6: Unusual Use #6: Waterless Dog Bath

Dry clean your dog! Company’s coming and Fido smells funky? Just sprinkle him/her with baking soda*, massage it in, and brush it out. It's completely non-toxic and safe for your furry friend.

*Putting some soda in an old spice container makes sprinkling super easy!

Step 7: Unusual Use #7: Lunch Box Deodorizer

To de-stink any un-fresh smelling food container, add 3 tbsp of baking soda to the washed (yet still smelly) container and fill with hot water. Put the lid on, shake and then lift up a corner of the lid a teeny bit, which will prevent the container from being 'inflated' (or shattered) by the carbon dioxide that is created when baking soda is mixed with water. Let sit for 2-3 hours before washing again*. Presto!

*If the lid has also absorbed some food smell, after the container has sat right side up for the 2-3 hours, re-secure the lid and turn the container upside down, leaving it for another 2 hours before washing.

Step 8: Unusual Use #8: Musty Book Makeover

Remove the musty funk from an old book by dusting the pages with baking soda and letting it sit in an open bag for 3-4 days before shaking it out.

Step 9: Unusual Use #9: Kick Sweet Cravings

If you’re trying to avoid eating sweets, but are faced with a strong craving, rinse your mouth with 1 tsp of baking soda in 4 oz of warm water. Avoid swallowing by spitting it out instead. Your craving should disappear instantly.

Step 10: Unusual Use #10: Blow Up a Balloon

While this is not a practical way to decorate for your child’s birthday, it IS a great party trick.

First pre-inflate a small balloon to stretch it out. Then fill the deflated balloon with 2 tsp of baking soda using a small funnel. Put 4 tbsp of white vinegar in an empty plastic bottle.

Now for the magic: Place the end of the balloon over the opening of the bottle, tip the balloon up so that the baking soda falls into the bottle, holding the end of the balloon in place. Watch the balloon inflate!!

Because, science.

What are some of your cool and unusual uses for baking soda?

Comments

author
wrickwalt made it! (author)2017-07-24

Step 4 has solved the mystery of what happened to the dinosaurs! ;)

author
NorbertR7 made it! (author)2017-06-14

Drinking baking soda as antacid ,ahh! you must take care cuz basically all baking soda have aluminum so you must buy the ones sold on natural health food.

author
PhilS43 made it! (author)PhilS432017-06-14

Sodium bicarbonate has been used for centuries as an antacid - see Andrews Liver Salt. Unfortunately, it is a temporary measure that can mask a more serious underlying problem of excessive acid production.

As for baking powder containing aluminium, you must have some seriously contaminated stuff. In the UK, Sodium Bicarbonate BP (Pharmacy grade) would be very pure. I do share your concerns about aluminium in the diet and have long since stopped using aluminium cooking utensiles. Unfortunately, aluminium hydroxide (Aludrox) is still used as an antacid.

Some years ago, at a UK waterworks in Camelford, a delivery driver dumped aluminium sulphate into the wrong tank with catestrophic results. The acidic solution went into supply, stripped the copper from water pipes, peoples hair went green from the copper. Aluminium is linked to Alzheimer's disease, so I would not be best pleased.

Sodium bicarbonate and a weak acid like citric or tartaric acid is used to raise bread. Kelloggs (Cornflakes) used to put cheap little plastic toys in the packets and one was a submarine - you put the bicarb/acid mix into a little hole, the sub would sink, the water seeped in, CO2 produced, and the sub would rise to the surface. Happy days

author
NigelP8 made it! (author)NigelP82017-07-23

Aluminium not linked to Alzheimers. It was probably a lab measurement mistake: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131942

author
AF6YS made it! (author)2017-07-23

Thanks Paige, you are a natural for Instructables video's, loved it and very informative. You've got my vote for spokesperson of the month!

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grannyjones made it! (author)2017-07-19

Coincidentally, I am reading this in Natrona county, Wyoming. Natrona is another term for baking soda. This stuff is hauled out of the earth by the ton here.

author
Kevanf1 made it! (author)2015-12-27

Another use of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda as opposed to baking powder) is as a blasting medium in metal cleaning/repairing. The soda is blasted on painted metal at fairly high pressure where it explodes on the paint (it's no a spectacular show I'm afraid) and causes said paint to lose its hold on the metal. It can be used on all metals but is especially good for softer ones like aluminium. Old fashioned sand blasting (with sand) can leave aluminium pitted but baking soda does not.

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PhilWood2 made it! (author)PhilWood22015-12-27

I have seen a "sandblaster" sold at Harbor Freight Tools specifically designed to use baking soda as an abrasive.

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FlorinJ made it! (author)FlorinJ2015-12-28

It's so soft it's used even for cleaning plaque from teeth - after ultrasound has cleaned the big chunks, baking soda blasting is used to remove the tiniest deposits at the base of the teeth, where the gum begins.

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Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12015-12-29

Arm and Hammer anybody ;) Did you know that people once used soot from the living room fireplace to clean their teeth? Horrible thought but I suppose they had to use something prior to the invention of toothpaste. I think I'd have stuck to breaking off a twig from a tree and splaying the ends out to use that, another tooth cleaning method from pre-Victorian times.

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PhilS43 made it! (author)PhilS432017-06-14

You beat me to it. Soot and all the nasties it contains, was used to clean teeth when coal fires were popular- I seem to remember it used as a chest rub or a slug repellent. Arm and Hammer were just one of the companies using bicarbonate as a mild abrasive to clean teeth. Remember the round tins of tooth powder that were around before tooth paste? Clean your teeth and get hypertension at the same time.

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FlorinJ made it! (author)FlorinJ2015-12-30

Even weirder/more gross stuff than soot was used for teeth cleaning. Ancient Romans appreciated pee from Portugal for cleaning teeth.

author
G8r made it! (author)G8r2017-06-12

The Portuguese had marketing skills that would rival Madison Avenue's obviously.

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Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12015-12-30

Ah well the Romans were quite yucky to be fair :D I mean, a race of people that enjoyed absolute gluttony to the point where they really were physically sick. Pop into the vomitorium, chuck the lot and then return to the banquet table to start again..... A drop or two of Portugese pee is nothing :D It almost makes our fluoride ridden toothpaste acceptable :) Yes, that last bit is a joke....

author
wolfe.chris made it! (author)wolfe.chris2016-01-01

A vomitorium is an entrance/exit to an amphitheater, not a place to go puke up your meal.
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/vomitorium
The word comes from Latin vomere (to spew forth) but that refers to people, not food, as they were designed to facilitate egress for large groups of people.

author
Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12016-01-02

Really? In that case then the 'Horrible Histories' series of kids (history made interesting) books are telling lies. Unusual for them as they normally research their stuff very well...

author
AmyLuthien made it! (author)AmyLuthien2017-06-11

I'm not sure how Horrible Histories conducted their research (never heard of them before), but it wouldn't be the first time history aimed at children was either watered down to the point it was no longer accurate, out dated, or simply made up to catch their attention. But indeed, there really was no special Roman puking room. Check out the entry under Puke Collector here:

https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=6jAFK3L4O0UC&oi=fnd&pg=PA54&dq=vomitorium&ots=QhGO7tnM2M&sig=HEcGrKTEzN_ZD4s25-gYYi3q88Y#v=onepage&q=vomitorium&f=false

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wingerr made it! (author)wingerr2016-05-29

Have to say, that's a hilarious misconception. Just picturing a large scale auditorium with groups of people puking their guts out. :D

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DennisP20 made it! (author)DennisP202016-01-03

Romans indulgence of their dietary needs pales in comparison to todays buffet of fast hot food served up in less than 60 seconds to people who often cannot it through the front door without turning sideways. Even our recliners have motors to rock us without effort into the reclined position.

author
Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12016-01-03

So true, sadly :( I despair at the sight of some people. They don't realise the health problems they are in for sooner or later. I personally developed type 2 diabetes after ballooning to around 20 stone on a mere 5' 9" frame :( However, in my case I can genuinely and medically prove that it was my glands. I found I have an underactive thyroid gland which caused me to gain weight even though I am pretty much a lifelong hater of fast food. I actually love salads, fruit and vegetables. I may have pizza once a month, burgers? Maybe one every 4 months from a Burger King (solely because my daughter works at a local one and sometimes brings one home). Those who frequent fast food restaurants each and every day really should think long and hard about what they are putting inside themselves :(

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BrigitteD8 made it! (author)BrigitteD82017-06-11

They also used ashes from their fireplace mixed with some herbs for their laundry and it worked!

author
BlackSheep1 made it! (author)BlackSheep12017-06-11

classic lye soap !

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trukker made it! (author)trukker2017-06-11

My grandmother (born 1889) used to use soot from the hearth mixed with salt to clean her teeth. She would moisten the brush, rub it on the back of the fireplace and put salt on it from the salt cellar. I guess she could have used bicarbonate of soda just as easily but the salt was handier . . .

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taur561 made it! (author)taur5612016-01-19

put a bit on your tooth brush with tooth paste . It removes all the hard to get plaque between the teeth . I also use a bit of salt . Result is no cavities after two years .

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imerrymary made it! (author)imerrymary2017-06-11

In researching CO2 or 'dry ice' for a project I learned that the pellet form can be used as a substitute for sand in sandblasting. It sublimates and leaves nothing of itself to clean up. I'm interested to see if the HF tool will work with or can be tweaked to work with 1/8" pellets, available from dry ice suppliers. Follow warnings for skin protection and inhalation of vapors.

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bumblinbob made it! (author)bumblinbob2017-06-12

I saw a film of that method being used to remove black fungus/mould from the underside of a roof, seemed to work very well and left no mess. Operator had to use breathing apparatus.

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Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12015-12-28

We have a few firms selling dedicated 'soda blasting' pots here in the UK too. Generally they look like a red propane gas canister on legs. It is also possible, at least here in the UK, to buy a small kit that will convert an ordinary blasting pot into a soda blaster. To be fair it is very easy to put the kit together yourself and save a fair amount of money :)

author
DennisP20 made it! (author)DennisP202016-01-03

We used the technique to remove paint from a rare two seat Indy car that was being rebuilt. It was a disaster. The problem was that the residual baking soda left on the metal, even with careful cleaning resulted in a multitude of little bubbles forming in the paint after the paint had dried. The piece being painted required extensive cleaning to rework. Although the process sounds like a great idea, there are serious complications to using this in practice for a paint job intended for an automotive finish. In my dealings with others locally this problem is a known issue and auto finishers avoid the process because it is virtually impossible compared to sand to remove the media completely from a big part prior to painting and unlike sand, the baking soda reacts chemically with the paint if even a slight trace is left behind.

Don't use this techinque on an automotive finish.

author
SHOZ123 made it! (author)SHOZ1232017-06-11

Maybe finish with a vinegar wash then water?

author
OlivierR6 made it! (author)OlivierR62017-06-11

Did you rinse with water? Because supposedly, it will dissolve completely in water. I guess a pressure washer would get rid of any remaining baking soda.

author
Taz-Hood made it! (author)Taz-Hood2017-06-11

Good to know!! Thank you! And sorry you had to find out the hard way. :-(

author
MurrayS made it! (author)MurrayS2015-12-28

Yes and sand/glass/grit blasting can leave particles embedded so not good for engine internals or carburettor internal surface - soda does not.

author
Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12015-12-28

I'm not sure I would even use soda blasting for a carburettor's internals. I usually just douse the lot in either carb or brake cleaner and let them soak for a few minutes then wipe them clean. Same goes for throttle bodies. I'm quite sure soda blasting would hurt them but if there was a tiny O ring or washer left stuck then it may well get dislodged in the blasting. While soaking in carb or brake cleaner (which is only acetone in a spray can) will keep the bits together :)

author
MurrayS made it! (author)MurrayS2015-12-28

Well yes but I did mean with the carb completely dismantled so just the casting. I've just rebuilt a pair of Amal Concentric Mk2 carbs which were 37 years old and soda blasted them to look like new. The carbs had been standing for over 10 years obviously with old fuel which had left gum deposits and carb cleaner was not effective.

author
FlorinJ made it! (author)FlorinJ2015-12-28

I would have tried soaking them for a few days in benzine, maybe shaking them a few times a day in the liquid. IME there's no gum that doesn't loosen up with this treatment.

author
MurrayS made it! (author)MurrayS2015-12-29

Fair enough as there is more than one way to do things but I have the facility to soda blast so that is what I would do again. There are no disadvantages with soda blasting as there are with grit/bead blasting. Apart from the internal gum the soda blast restored the exterior of the casting to new condition - a much better and easier job than using Autosol and toothbrush.

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Kevanf1 made it! (author)Kevanf12015-12-29

Oh boy, been there, done that (Solvol and a toothbrush).... tedium magnified. :)

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TeresaM7 made it! (author)2015-12-28

I'm hoping step 4 is all you say, because I've tried everything under the sun to at least tame my ant problems with little success. I really don't want to use anything toxic. I'm crossing my fingers!

author
PhilS43 made it! (author)PhilS432017-06-14

Ants - if you really don't like them, go for the nuclear option. Cheap sprayer, fill with solvent of choice, white spirit for example, spray, ignite, job done. Borax is a traditional "eliminator". Ants left to their own devices can do an amazing amount of damage and they are born survivors

author
meanom made it! (author)meanom2017-06-14

A fairly non-toxic option is cedar tree oil. It is supposed to be harmful only to insects. (touted as a safe yet effective insect repellant) I've used it successfully on ants but it took spraying their trail and access spot (in a baseboard) a few times over a few days.

Their numbers declined dramatically after the first spray, and I just checked it whenever I was in that area.

author
Taz-Hood made it! (author)Taz-Hood2017-06-11

Teresa, it depends on what type of ants you have. "Sugar ants" will be eliminated, but we seem to have "grease ants" that have no interest in sugar. I don't like using pesticides or killing anything, but our "invasion" is just too much at times, and it becomes necessary to wipe them out. We say a little prayer for the ants we kill: "Through their connection to us, may they have a favorable re-birth as human beings with the opportunity and leisure to find and practice the teachings of the Buddha." Of course one can pray for the insects and other pests using any religion or spiritual practice; prayer gives us a moment to pause and realize that all beings want to live and find happiness, and not to take killing lightly. Sorry, I got off track there. :-) Yay for the many uses of baking soda! Thank you Paige for this Instructable.

author
autotech1 made it! (author)autotech12017-06-14

Taz-Hood, for the grease ants you could try mixing a little cooking oil,
used or fresh, or grease from something you cooked with the baking soda
and then put that out. If that doesn't work I have used Terro® liquid
ant killer with great success when we have had the tiny ants in the
house. Since they tend to congregate in walls and don't mind making an
electrical outlet their home, (I had a GFCI outlet that kept tripping in
hard rain and I eventually found ants in an outside outlet box that had built their nest around the outlet. The box was completely
packed with them and their nest), they can be a huge inconvenience.

author
TeresaM7 made it! (author)TeresaM72017-06-12

That was a wonderful reply, Taz-Hood, no need for apologies. Funny, how I will pray (goddess - different path, with some similar ideology) over an animal I have killed for food, but just never thought about ants in that way. After all, they are living creatures, too. My infestations are fire ants. Nasty creatures, invasive so they have no natural predators here in my area (Shreveport, LA, USA), and their stings leave nasty marks on me that can last weeks or months. They love my raised garden beds, so yes, I need to rid myself of them, but they don't like sugar. I've been experimenting with other options - peppermint essential oil, dish washing liquid, and water. It works, but peppermint essential oil is a bit expensive for an acre of lawn and all my gardening. I just ordered orange oil, which is also supposed to work. If it does, I'll make my own Instructable on it. Blessings to you, and thank you for your comment <3

author
lipstic made it! (author)lipstic2017-06-13

If you're still having ant problems get some diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it around their hill or where they're coming in. That is if the baking soda didnt work for you.

author
TeresaM7 made it! (author)TeresaM72017-06-13

I've tried that. So many people swear by it, but my success has been very limited. Usually, they just move the hive entrance outside the ring of DE. On one occasion, with a larger hive, half moved to one side, half moved to the other, and that left me with two where there had been one. Thanks, though. I know some people have very good success with it, but it's never been effective for me, sad to say.

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Azurejde13 made it! (author)Azurejde132017-06-12

Ive always used cucumber peels to get rid of my ant problems. Im not sure of all the kinds of ants it would work on but it works for me.

author
Deeds88 made it! (author)Deeds882017-06-12

its been a whole year... did you have success? I am currently in a battle with ants...

author
jwzumwalt made it! (author)jwzumwalt2017-06-12

Other things that I was told about but did not work for ants was Ajax, Borax, vinegar, etc

author
jwzumwalt made it! (author)jwzumwalt2017-06-12

I tried this for ants in the Seattle area and it did not work :(

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Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
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