There are literally hundreds of household uses for baking soda. Not to be confused with baking powder, which has added acidifying and drying agents (typically cream of tartar and starch, respectively), baking soda is pure bicarbonate of soda. Its beneficial qualities are the result of its ability to act as a buffer, neutralizing both acidic and alkaline substances to regulate pH. This is the secret behind its effectiveness in so many kitchen applications, not just baking.
Baking soda is inexpensive, nontoxic, environmentally friendly, and safe to use on nearly all surfaces. It is as gentle as it is effective and son't scratch a stainless-steel sink or a laminate counter top.
- Baking soda is food-safe, so it can be used to clean cutting boards, counter tops, sinks, stoves, the interiors of lunch boxes and coolers, and other surfaces that come into contact with food. Simply sprinkle onto a damp sponge, wipe, rinse, and dry.
- Clean the inside of a food-splattered microwave with baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge. Rinse, then dry with a paper towel. For a cooked-on mess, combined 1 cup (240 ml) water with 2 tablespoons (30 g) baking soda in a microwave-save bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Let stand for a couple of minutes, then wipe the inside of the microwave clean with a damp sponge.
- It can also remove stains from rubber spatulas and other utensils, plastic food-storage containers, and Formica counter tops without scratching them. Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water and scrub with a damp sponge. Rinse well. For stubborn stains, let the paste dry, then wipe off and rinse.
- Clean burned-on food from the bottom of a pot by boiling water with a bit of the soda added to it in the pot. When the food has loosened, let cool and wash as usual. For baking and roasting pans with crusted-on food, wet the surface with hot water, sprinkle with baking soda, and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour, until food is loosened. Wash as usual.
- Remove coffee stains from mugs by sprinkling a damp sponge liberally with baking soda and scrubbing the inside of the mug. For stubborn stains, clean with a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water.
- Clean the inside of an insulated thermos by spooning in 2 tablespoons (30 g) of baking soda, then carefully pouring in boiling water to half fill the thermos. Put the lid on, swirl the water around inside, let stand for 10 minutes or so, then dump out and rinse with fresh water.
- Baking soda can be used to safely scrub fruits and vegetables. Sprinkle on a damp sponge, wash the fruit or vegetable carefully, then rinse thoroughly with cool water.
- When soaking beans overnight, add a pinch of baking soda to make the process go more quickly.
- Adding a pinch to baked beans while they are cooking will decrease their propensity to produce gas.
- Tenderize a tough cut of meat by rubbing it with baking soda, then letting it stand in the refrigerator for a few hours. Be sure to rinse well before seasoning and cooking the meat.
- Reduce the acidity of tomato sauce by adding a pinch of baking soda while cooking.
Note: those on sodium-restricted diets should avoid consuming baking soda unless otherwise directed by a physician.
- Place an opened box of baking soda in the refrigerator and the freezer to absorb food odors; replace with a fresh box every few months.
- If kitchen-drain odors are becoming a problem, run some warm water and spoon about half a cup of baking soda down the drain.
- To eliminate odors in coolers and vinyl lunch boxes, cut the foot portion off a new knee-high stocking. Fill the toe with baking soda and tie in a knot. Place this in the cooler or lunch box when not in use.
- It is worthwhile to keep a box or two of baking soda on hand for this use alone. If you experience a small grease fire in a pan, oven, grill, or toaster oven while cooking, it can be used as a fire extinguisher. First, if you can do it safely, turn off the source of power—shut off the oven, turn off the gas to the burner, etc. Then, being careful to keep a safe distance, throw baking soda by large spoonfuls or handfuls onto the flame, aiming for the origin, to put it out.
- Baking soda can also be used to put out small electrical fires—the process is essentially the same. Disconnect the appliance if you can do it in a safe manner, and carefully throw baking soda onto the flames until they are extinguished. In both case, it’s wise to call the fire department to check on the situation and make sure the fire has been totally extinguished.