Tuesday, April 14, 2009

7 Great Ways to Use Baking Soda

My mother is a forgetful cook. She subscribes to the 'set it and forget it' school of cookery whose principal philosophy is...low heat plus water should stop this from burning while I just go finish the laundry, reorganize my bookshelves and photo albums and clean out my closets...hmm...I wonder if these shoes still fit...

We sat down to a lot of smokey carrots and charred rice. My mother would try to pick out the really black ones and then feign innocence when people started to sniff at them suspiciously.

And the POTS. Any sane person would have just thrown them away they were so bad.

But since my mother really does make a regular habit of forgetting things on the stove, she's had to develop coping mechanisms over the years. I'm going to share a good one with you here today on my list of Top 7 uses for Baking Soda.

Top 7 Uses for Baking Soda

1. Use it to clean charred food off of pots. If you have a pot so badly encrusted with burnt foods that you're tempted to throw it away:
  • sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the burn,
  • let it sit for a minute or two with enough water just to moisten,
  • then top the put up with a little more water
  • and put it back on the stove on low heat (no walking away and forgetting about it this time)
In a few minutes, the charred food will begin to loosen, and you'll be able to clean it away with only about 10% of the elbow grease otherwise required.

Try this. You'll be amazed how well it works. When my mother first suggested it I thought she was trying to get me to use the baking soda as some kind of abrasive cleanser. But the low heat/baking soda combination actually removes the charred remains that have fused themselves to the bottom of your pan.

2. Use it to brush your teeth. Baking soda will not only gently polish your teeth to a shine, it will help to neutralize bad breath, and kill the bacteria in your mouth.

You can read more about the antibacterial properties of baking soda here:


I'm currently experimenting with replacing my usual dental hygiene program with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. I'm scheduled to visit the dentist next week, so I'll let you know what they think.

3. Use it as a gentle exfoliant to keep your skin soft. Know how marketers are always hawking ancient Egyptian beauty secrets? Well, this REALLY is one. The Egyptians first used natural deposits of natron, a mixture consisting mostly of sodium carbonate decahydrate and sodium bicarbonate. The natron was used as a cleansing agent like soap, according to Wikipedia.

You can either add baking soda to your bathwater, or mix a little in your palm to form a paste for gently exfoliating your skin. You can read about this and a few other DIY beauty potions here.

4. Use it to make your own Baking Powder. Substitutions are a key component of my cooking regimen. I often get a sudden impulse to cook, and I don't always have all the ingredients on hand.

If you find yourself short on baking powder, you can make your own. I got this recipe from Recipezaar.com.

1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons cream of tartar

  • Baking Soda is a leavening agent, but it needs to be combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (like yogurt or honey) to produce the bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand in the oven. That's why the Raincoast Crisp recipe I posted earlier uses baking soda instead of baking powder. The buttermilk and honey provide the necessary acidity to activate it.
Baking powder contains cream of tartar (the acidic component to activate the baking soda), and corn starch (a drying agent to keep the other 2 ingredients from being activated before you are ready to use them).

5. Use it to Polish Your Silver without having to Scrub. This is particularly useful if you have silverware with detailed surface ornamentation. Just line your sink with a sheet of aluminum foil, top it up with hot water, and a little baking soda, and drop your silver into it for no-effort polishing.

Isn't chemistry fun?

Want to know why it works? Read all about it here at CreativeKidsatHome.com.

6. Mix it With Vinegar and a little Food Colouring for Hours of Chemistry Set Fun with your Kids. Speaking of chemistry. Did you ever make a papier-mache volcano for your science fair project when you were a kid? I think that has to be the all-time, number one most popular science fair craft. The magic, of course, was in creating an erruption, complete with lava flow.

To create your own lava erruptions, just ad vinegar to baking soda. Detailed instructions are here:

6. Use it to lower the PH in your pool. Baking soda neutralizes acids in your pool. You can replace any alkalinity increaser with baking soda 1:1.

7. Use it to remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables. When I get home from the grocery store, fruits like apple, pears or grapes go straight to the sink for washing before the fruit bowl or the refrigerator. That way my kids can just help themselves to a piece of fresh fruit when they want. According to asiarecipe.com adding a teaspoon of baking soda to 20 litres of water and soaking for 15 minutes will remove up to 95% of pesticide residues from fruit.

....and 1 thing baking soda maybe CAN'T do....

Baking Soda Does NOT Absorb odours from your fridge and freezer.

For years, Arm and Hammer has promoted its baking soda for absorbing fridge odours. In fact, this is one thing that baking soda does not do particularly well, according to the United Stats Department of Energy's "Ask A Scientist" website.

In Buenos Aires, baking soda is sold in tiny packets. I've been searching for a source where I can purchase it in bulk. The next time you're at the grocery store, pick yourself up a couple of boxes...but don't bother to put them in your fridge or freezer. Keep one in your kitchen, and one in your bathroom...and one out with the pool chemicals if you have a pool.

But make sure to keep them dry to maintain its effectiveness.

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