Baking Soda: Multipurpose Superhero

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But baking soda packs much more of a punch than you may think. Photo: Flickr/Rakka

The chances are good that you have a box of baking soda stashed away on a shelf or cupboard right now (and if not, then it’s just a short walk or drive away).

But baking soda, also called sodium bicarbonate, packs much more of a punch than you might infer from its common usage as a leavening agent in baking.

In fact, this fine powder can cheaply replace the need to bring more expensive products with harmful chemicals into your home.

One very important area of your life on which baking soda can have a dramatic impact is personal care, because it’s both cost-effective and simple.

Deodorant: You can transform baking soda into an underarm deodorant by applying it with a powder puff. Pour half a cup into a reusable glass container mixed with half a cup of cornstarch to avoid irritation. Here you’ll save between $3 and $6.

Toothpaste: You can also make your own toothpaste. The simplest recipe is to mix one teaspoon of baking soda with every one-quarter teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. Peppermint essential oil is optional. You can put this mixture directly onto your toothbrush. Again, you’ll see savings between $3 and $6.

Mouthwash: Save between $4 and $10 on mouthwash by gargling a mixture of water and half a teaspoon of baking soda. This will also relieve canker sore pain.

Itch soother: If you don’t have calamine lotion or aloe handy, baking soda can be used to relieve skin itch from insect bites, rashes and poison ivy irritations, as well as pain from sunburn.

Even better, beat some bugs by putting baking soda under sinks and along basement windows to repel cockroaches and ants.

Odor buster: Another one of baking soda’s specialties is as a general odor absorber. Put an open container of baking soda in the fridge to absorb the odors (but make sure not to use this baking soda in your recipes!).

Also, sprinkle some in your shoes and socks to counteract smelly feet. It’s even powerful enough to be used on your cat’s litter box to absorb the smell, or for use on a dog or cat brush to deodorize fur.

Fragrance enhancer: Enhance natural air fresheners by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water in a flower vase, which will keep cut flowers fresh longer.

The other Mister Cleaner: Baking soda is also very effective as a safe, nontoxic home cleaning agent with uses in the kitchen, bathroom and anywhere you might vacuum.

Don’t waste money and resources on produce wash when you can mix baking soda with water and clean fruits and vegetables for less. Scrub sinks and counter tops with baking soda and water solution, or run it through your coffeemaker and rinse. You can also add a spoonful to your dishwasher to help remove grease from dishes, pots and pans.

To clean your toilet, add a cup of baking soda, leave for an hour and flush. Scrub the sink, shower and tub with baking soda and water solution, or spray it onto the mirror and wipe off.

To clean and neutralize odor, gently brush some baking soda over carpet or upholstered furniture fabric and leave for an hour, then vacuum.

Sweetener? One last delicious tip for home gardening: use baking soda to sweeten your tomatoes by sprinkling some on the soil around the plants.

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