If you’ve ever baked a cake, cupcakes or even muffins, chances are you’ve got a container of sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, in your pantry. For the most part it stays hidden in the pantry, waiting for the next time you break out the baking equipment.
Rather than saving it for special baking occasions, consider some new baking soda uses around your house. It’s one of those versatile ingredients that can replace numerous other products, so you can save your hard-earned cash for what really matters. Honestly, after reading this, you will never have too much baking soda at home.
For cleaning and health, baking soda can be your best friend. It’s hardworking, safe, good for the environment and cheap. A 5-pound bag of baking soda is less than $4 and, as you will see, it can save you a ton of money.
What Is Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)?
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, also called bicarbonate of soda. It is a salt that occurs naturally in a mineral called nahcolite. Often baking soda and baking powder are thought to be interchangeable in baking, but they are not. Baking powder has cream of tartar in it, so it is more acidic. You really can’t use baking powder for cleaning or health purposes. The acid in baking powder would throw the formulas off.
Baking soda reacts with an acid (like vinegar) and the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide. Think of fifth grade volcano experiments. That same bubbling reaction is helpful in cleaning and acts as a leavening agent in baking. Don’t confuse it with soda ash, which is sodium carbonate.
There is no expiration date on baking soda containers because it generally doesn’t go bad even after it’s opened. However, it starts to lose some of its leavening powers after it’s been open for six months. This means baked goods won’t rise as much, though it won’t affect the taste.
30 Uses for Baking Soda Beyond Baking
From brushing teeth to treating diaper rash, this miracle product is a workhorse around the house and in the garden.
One of the best-known uses for baking soda around the house is cleaning. It can boost laundry detergent, deodorize garbage disposals, help dissolve grease stains and remove tough stains, all without using harsh chemicals.
Whether used alone or mixed with other ingredients, baking soda is a cheap alternative to many of the more expensive (and chemical-laden) products on the market.
Getting Rid of Stains
- Make plastic food storage containers like new. The List recommends removing stubborn stains from plastic food storage containers by making a thick paste of 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon water and a squirt of dish detergent. Wipe it on the stain and let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes, then rinse out.
- Clean grout. Baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of liquid dish soap will clean those shower or kitchen tiles easily.
- Get crayon marks off walls. Technically, we would never call your child’s artwork a stain. But you can also use baking soda to erase your kids’ crayon designs from walls. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge or cloth and wipe down the walls to remove the masterpiece without removing the paint.
- Remove coffee cup stains. You love your coffee and your favorite coffee cup. But too much java can stain the cup, and repeated cycles in the dishwasher don’t always do the trick. Sprinkle in some baking soda and scrub with a sponge. It should be as good as new.
For the Laundry Room
- Brighten fabrics in the wash. Keep a big box of baking soda by your washing machine. There are so many uses for baking soda: remove stains, neutralize odors and boost your laundry detergent’s strength. Putting it in the rinse cycle helps soften clothes. Generally a few tablespoons of baking soda at the beginning of the wash and then again in the rinse cycle will brighten your laundry.
- Remove tough stains. To get rid of wine, coffee, blood and other stains, make a solution of 1 or 2 tablespoons of baking soda and just enough warm water to have a thick paste. Rub it into the stain (both sides of the fabric if possible), let dry, then wash.
In the Kitchen
- Make fluffier omelets. You can make fluffier omelets by adding half a teaspoon of baking soda or baking powder for every three eggs used. Add it in just after you whisk the eggs. The same quality — carbon dioxide — that makes dough rise will make your omelets fluffier.
- Tame spicy foods. You might love spicy foods, but sometimes you might have added too much hot sauce. The Pepperscale site suggests that you add a quarter teaspoon of baking soda then taste, and repeat until some of the burn is diminished in the cooking process. The sodium bicarbonate helps neutralize the vinegar in the hot sauce.
- Extend the life of cut flowers. You can keep cut flowers fresh longer by mixing a teaspoon of baking soda and water together and adding it to the vase, along with a little sugar. It keeps the water neutral, and the sugar feeds the flowers.
- Put out small grease fires. An important use of baking soda is that it can put out small grease fires. It smothers the fire by producing carbon dioxide.
Baking Soda for Tough Jobs
- Unclog a drain. A clogged drain can also benefit from baking soda. The Family Handyman site tells us how to unclog the drain correctly. First, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain to loosen the clog. Next, throw a cup of baking soda and pour 1 cup of vinegar mixed with 1 cup of very warm water down the drain and cover with a cloth or drain plug. You’ll notice a lot of satisfying fizzing when the vinegar meets the baking soda. Let this mixture do its job for five to 10 minutes before flushing one final time with boiling water. Your drain will run clear in no time!
- Restore a scorched pot. Have you ever thought a favorite pot or pan was ruined? You can restore a scorched pot with a baking soda solution made with vinegar and sodium bicarbonate. In general, you shouldn’t use baking soda on stainless steel. But according to Arm & Hammer, there are a few ways to do this that won’t cause harm. Loosen as much burnt food from the pan as possible. Then put a thin layer of vinegar or lemon juice to cover the bottom. Heat it up a little and sprinkle a cup of baking soda over it. You can let the mixture sit overnight, then gently scrub the bottom. If it is super scorched you might have to repeat a few times. But it is better than buying a whole new pot.
Sprinkle Baking Soda to Combat Odors
- Neutralize fridge smells. Baking soda is a great way to neutralize odors. One of the best-known uses for baking soda is putting an open box of it in your fridge to keep it smelling fresh. But baking soda’s use as an odor killer extends way beyond that.
- Make shoes smell better. Sprinkle baking soda on your slippers, boots, shoes and socks to remove odors. If the shoes are extra stinky, make a little baking soda paste (baking soda and water) and rub it on the inside, and let them sit overnight. Wipe it out and the smell should be gone.
- Remove garbage can stink. Sprinkle a little baking soda on the bottom of your garbage cans to absorb smells.
- Yoga mat renewal. If you are doing downward dog on your yoga mat and it smells worse than your actual dog, don’t worry. Yoga mats can be cleaned with a damp sponge and a spray bottle with your baking soda solution. Mix together 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a cup of water, then thin with lemon juice. Spray the mat lightly and wipe it down.
- Fresh-smelling hands. Ever been cooking or working on something and get a whiff of your hands smelling WAY too strong? Mix baking soda with a little water and rub on your hands, then rinse clean.
- De-stink kitchen sponges. For foul-smelling kitchen sponges that aren’t quite trash-worthy yet, Best Home Scents advises soaking them in a mixture of baking soda and water to freshen them up. If they smell really bad, you can pour a little white vinegar in the mix, too.
- Deodorize litter boxes. Litter box deodorizers already have baking soda in them, so skip buying something more expensive. Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the litter box before putting fresh litter in.
- Freshen pet beds. Use baking soda around the house to remove dog stink from pet beds, blankets and carpet. Sprinkling baking soda on the offending surface and vacuuming after waiting about 10 minutes works wonderfully.
As a Beauty and Health Aid
- Make natural deodorant. There’s a reason baking soda is an ingredient in deodorants. Make natural deodorant with baking soda and get rid of body odor. This recipe at the Mommypotamus site has easy-to-find ingredients. It has baking soda, arrowroot or cornstarch, shea butter and essential oil.
- Mix up a face scrub. Baking soda can also replace your store-bought face scrub. Make a paste from baking soda and a few drops of lemon juice. Gently massage it into your face for 10-20 seconds, then rinse off with a moist cloth. It’s best to use this mixture as an occasional exfoliator rather than a daily one because its alkaline properties can have an adverse effect on your skin if used too frequently.
- Make your own toothpaste. Making toothpaste is one of the best baking soda uses. A baking soda solution is good for your teeth because it neutralizes the acid in your mouth. Wikihow has a simple baking soda toothpaste recipe: 2/3 cup of baking soda, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils or peppermint extract, and a filtered water — enough until it makes a paste. Some sites also recommend using a few drops of coconut oil in your toothpaste, too.
Wellness Benefits of Baking Soda
Like many ingredients you can find around the house, baking soda has numerous health benefits. Dietitian Ryan Raman lists out a number in an article for Healthline.
Internal Baking Soda Benefits
- Neutralizing stomach acid. Baking soda can provide you with much-needed relief from stomach acid. Raman recommends drinking 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a glass of cold water. While this might not replace medication for extremely bad cases of acid reflux, it’s a good remedy to remember if your ailment unexpectedly strikes. This is not recommended for frequent use because of the high sodium content, especially if you have high blood pressure.
- Freshen your breath. Baking soda can also help freshen your breath and improve your dental health thanks to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Raman suggests replacing your usual mouthwash with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda mixed with a glass of warm water. Swish it around your mouth, as you would mouthwash, before spitting it out.
- Muscle relief after exercise. Many sources, such as Very Well Fit, explain that you can use baking soda to absorb the lactic acid in your muscles after exercising. This allows you to recover more quickly so you can get back to your routine with minimal soreness. The site recommends drinking a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda in a glass of water to maximize the benefits.
External Baking Soda Benefits
- Sunburn relief. If you have a sunburn or need to relieve skin irritations, take a baking soda bath. Run a cool bath, which will feel good anyway, and add in a few tablespoons of baking soda. Stir to dissolve it, then soak in it for 20 or 30 minutes.
- Help with diaper rash. When a baby’s bottom is raw from diaper rash, baking soda can ease the pain. Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends that you relieve diaper rash by putting 2 tablespoons of baking soda in warm bath water and let the child soak (or splash) in it for 10 minutes. Then put some anti-yeast ointment on them. Do this three times a day.
- Soothe bug bites. Treat insect bites with a paste made from 2 tablespoons of baking soda and enough water that it makes a paste. Put it on the bug bite and let it dry. It should take the sting out. Brush it off with a damp cloth once it is dried up. If there are a lot of bug bites, you can take the same bath that relieves sunburn.
Baking Soda in the Garden
- Natural weed killer. Weeds sprout up through cracks in patios, driveways and sidewalks. Rather than bruise your knuckles trying to pull them out, sprinkle a handful of baking soda on them. The sodium will kill the weeds and you can easily pick them out. Be careful using baking soda in your flower beds because it will kill the good with the bad.
Caution When Using Baking Soda on Some Things
Yes, baking soda is incredibly versatile, but there are some things that you should avoid using it on. It can be either too abrasive or acidic, especially if it’s not diluted with water. It is thankfully a short list, but be careful using baking soda on:
- Aluminum: Any type of aluminum will get oxidized by it if you leave it on for long. So be careful if you are using it to clean pots and pans.
- Glass, stainless steel and hardwood floors: It will scratch them if used without diluting and dissolving.
- Marble: You might see baking soda recommended for getting out stains, but it will also remove the sealant.
- Vintage or antique silver: Baking soda can remove tarnish, but in its pure form is too harsh and may scratch.
Otherwise, plan to use baking soda on a wide variety of things at home and for your health.
The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St. Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.
Assigning editor Karen Grigsby updated this post.