Baking Soda the Great!

Some off-the-box uses for sodium bicarbonate (as long as it’s not Arm & Hammer)
Is there anything baking soda can’t do? Seriously, it seems like every time I search the Internet with a home-related problem, sodium bicarbonate is part of the solution. We ran out of dishwasher detergent last night—Method Smarty Dish, the hardest-working dish stuff sans phosphates and bleach I’ve yet tried, and a pretty good deal at 30 cents a load. A search for “dishwasher detergent substitute” rendered all sorts of concoctions, but the one that caught my interest was plain ol’ NaHCO3. And I didn’t doubt for a moment it would work, from prior experience. Here, in no particular order, are five things for which I’ve used baking soda in a pinch, beyond the tried-and-true cleaning/deodorizing suggestions on the back of the school bus-yellow box:

1) Tooth whitener, when combined with crushed strawberry into a paste, brushed on and left to sit for a spell. As a coffee drinker, my teeth are a noticeable shade or two lighter afterwards, which is both satisfying and a bit gross. But not gross enough to quit coffee. Ever.

2) Skunk odor neutralizer, when mixed with hydrogen peroxide and a small squirt of dish soap. This was truly a discovery made out of desperation. It was 11 p.m. and we didn’t have any of that miracle enzyme stuff that really isn’t so miraculous but was the best odor-taker-offer I’d yet found. No pet supply stores were open; letting the dog remain stinky and miserable overnight wasn’t an option. I tried this. It worked better than anything else. And I can’t believe I ever wasted my time on tomato juice.

3) Wound healer, same concoction as above. I endured a huge scrape on my arm wrestling my poor pooch into the bathtub for her de-skunking, and the glop got all over said scrape in the process of washing down my dog. The next day it was gone. Nothing but a faint line. Zero pain. It ought to have been a welt, at the very least. I don’t know if it was the hydrogen peroxide or baking soda or the combo of the two, but I proceeded to dab the mixture on other abrasions and a pissed off-looking pimple. It worked—swelling and redness gone within hours. I know next to nada about chemistry, but recognize “peroxide” as a familiar term from the zit-cream tube…so there’s a correlation. I’ve been too lazy to research it further.

4) Dry shampoo when there wasn’t time to wash my hair. And it made my scalp stop itching, too, so I researched it and whaddya know: It’s recommended as a treatment for dandruff, which I didn’t have, but apparently an itty-bitty fungus causes the itch that leads to the flakes, and baking soda is not a friend of that fungus.

5) Flea annihilator. Strong language, I know, and I’m one of those peaceniks who escorts ants out of the house and shoos mosquitoes. But I actually enjoy watching fleas die. Is that terrible? It acts as a desiccant. I’ve dry-bathed my cat and dog with it, and also douse rugs and anywhere they regularly nap with it, then vacuum it up. And any live fleas in the vacuum cleaner won’t be for long (alive, that is), with all the baking soda in there.

Just so it’s clear I’m not a shill for the baking soda industry (is there a baking soda industry?), I haven’t had luck with it as a personal deodorant, one of its oft-touted uses. I steer clear of aluminum-based deodorant/antiperspirant but haven’t found a natural alternative that actually works in doing what its name implies. All those lavender, sage and apricot scents were lovely upon application, but by bedtime they brought moldering fruit to mind, and nose. Before resorting back to the toxic roll-on, I dusted on some Underarm & Hammer (using a makeup brush, btw) a few times. Maybe this would work at a meditation retreat or in some other situation where one sits completely still for 10-12 hours. I rarely even break a sweat when the thermostat’s below 90, yet it wasn’t all that effective and the most rigorous thing I did was push a grocery cart, and type. At least I didn’t smell like a compost pile by day’s end, though.

But it worked great in the dishwasher, especially with a couple drops of regular dish detergent added in! I feel so silly, spending money on special soap all these years. Time to start buying baking soda in bulk; I’ll be doing so from Bob’s Red Mill, which doesn’t use aluminum in its processing or conduct animal testing…while the big name-brand baking soda’s parent company does. According to one of its product websites:

Q: Does Church & Dwight Co., Inc. test its products on animals?

A: We seek to use only materials already known to be safe, and we avoid animal testing whenever complete and satisfactory information exists to show that our products are safe. As a result of these policies, animal testing has become a last resort, and Church & Dwight has experienced considerable success avoiding such testing through this practice, especially on our Consumer Products.