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Healthy Uses for Baking Soda

15 April 2022

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You’ve probably got a little cardboard box of baking soda in your cupboard or fridge – maybe both. If you’re an avid baker, you know you need it if you want fluffy, light cakes, bread, cookies or muffins. The box you keep in the fridge is there to absorb odors, but how does that work?

Baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate. French chemist Nicolas Leblanc developed an industrial process for turning salt into sodium carbonate or soda ash in 1791. In the early 1800s, fishermen used sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate (collectively called saleratus) to preserve fresh fish.

In 1846, American bakers and brothers-in-law Austin Church and John Dwight built the first factory in the United States that made baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Church’s son James joined the company, then called Church & Co., and it was James who created the Arm & Hammer logo and brand name. Fun fact: the arm is that of Vulcan, the mythological Roman god of fire.  

Baking soda has long been marketed as a multi-use substance, great for tasks around the house and for easing ailments of various sorts. Its superpower is that, because it’s an alkaline, when it’s mixed with an acid, it changes the pH level. What’s pH? It stands for ‘power of hydrogen.’ Measured numerically on a scale of 0 to 14, pH levels in the range of 0 to 5 are acids, those in the 5 to 7 range are neutral. Higher than 8 means a substance is alkaline. Alkaline substances absorb acid. Baking soda, the star of today’s story, clocks a pH of about 8.3.


What are uses for baking soda?

Add it to your oral hygiene routine. Brushing your teeth with baking soda-laced toothpaste can thwart tooth decay and help keep your mouth and gums healthy. It works by increasing the pH levels of saliva, which inhibits bacterial growth. You can easily make your own baking soda mouthwash. Just add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to half a glass (about four ounces) of warm water, then swish and spit like you would with store-bought mouthwash. To give your teeth a good scrub, make a paste out of baking soda and water, dip your brush in it and go to town. This is a great way to brighten your smile every week or so but shouldn’t be a substitute for daily brushing with toothpaste containing fluoride. 

Soothe a bug bite or sting. Make a paste that’s one part baking soda and three parts water. Apply to bug bites, stings, rashes or even poison ivy and it’ll soothe the itch or burn and ease redness.

Calm an upset stomach. An excess of acid is often the culprit when indigestion strikes. Calm it down by drinking a glass of water mixed with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Caveat: wait two hours after taking any medication before you ingest baking soda. A side effect of lowered stomach acid can be a slowed absorption rate or changes in effectiveness for some medicines. Also, talk to your pediatrician before giving it to anyone younger than six years old.

Wash your face. Some proponents mix baking soda with honey to form a paste, others just go with baking soda and water. Either way, says this about the practice: baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a mild abrasive, which makes it an excellent exfoliator for your skin. Baking soda can help remove oils when used in a facial wash and can be a beneficial part of your overall skin care routine. After using baking soda in a facial wash, make sure to follow up with a moisturizer to add hydration to your skin.

Natural deodorant. Pat plain baking soda onto your underarms or mix it with a little coconut or shea butter oil and smooth it on. The premise is this: human sweat by itself doesn’t stink. It only becomes funky after the bacteria in your armpits start to break it down into acidic waste, which brings with it a distinct aroma. By decreasing acidity, baking soda eliminates that sweaty smell. It is not as effective as deodorants you buy at the store, but its proponents swear by it. 

May slow kidney disease. Some studies suggest that chronic kidney disease, AKA the slow loss of kidney function, can be slowed by taking baking soda supplements. Those with kidney problems should talk to a doctor before embarking on any supplement regimen.

Help chemotherapy work. Research has shown that baking soda can help some cancer treatments work more efficiently. Certain types of chemotherapy need alkaline conditions to perform. Others actually become toxic in an acidic environment. Some doctors recommend using some form of baking soda supplement for these reasons. Another issue many cancer patients experience is changes to the mouth and throat. Rinsing three times a day with a mixture of ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of warm water can really help. Be sure to follow the baking soda rinse with a swish of plain water.


Around the house, baking soda can help you keep things clean without harsh commercial products or chemicals:

Clean your sink. Baking soda is a mild abrasive, so it will scrub without scratching. Pro tip: mix a scoop of baking soda with 20 drops of your favorite essential oil and a little dish soap before you scrub. Another method is to sprinkle the cut half of a lemon with baking soda and scrub with the lemon. Follow that with a vinegar rinse.

Remove pesticide from fruits and vegetables. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that soaking fruits and vegetables in a clean sink filled with four teaspoons of baking soda and lots of water is an effective way to remove pesticide residue. After a five minute soak, your produce is good to go.

Freshening. An open box of baking soda in your refrigerator (or any stinky spot in the house) will absorb odors. You can also freshen up mildew-smelling towels by adding a half-cup of baking soda to your washing machine along with your regular detergent.   

Clean silver jewelry.  Cool trick: clean silver jewelry by soaking it in an aluminum foil lined bowl filled with a mixture of baking soda and hot water. Through a process of ion exchange, the tarnish will transfer to the water from the silver.

Deodorize carpets and mattresses. Sprinkle a nice dusting of baking soda on a smelly carpet, mattress or pet bed and let it sit for a while. After 30 minutes of so, vacuum up the baking soda along with the odor.


For more lifestyle and wellness content, visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog.


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