Cleaning

Three Dozen Reasons Your Pantry Should Never Be Without Baking Soda

August 31, 2016

See that little flexing bicep on the baking soda below? It's not just there because baking soda is strong stuff: It's also a symbol of how you feel—resourceful and capable—when you use it.

Photo by James Ransom

Because beyond baking soda's muffin-leavening powers and fridge-odor-absorbing abilities (a claim that's as frequently disputed as it's made, though Ted Allen says it really does work), it can also make your counters shine, your pets less smelly, your hummus creamier, your hazelnuts skinless. And all that, from one box!

While we couldn't possibly list the "hundreds of uses," here are some of our frequently used—food-wise and cleaning-wise. We hope you add your own baking soda brilliance to the comments below!

Food!

  • Add to tomato soup to prevent the milk from curdling.
  • Make caramelized onions brown faster: Baking soda is a mild base, and adding it will raise the pH of the onions and will therefore speed up the Maillard reaction. Kenji López-Alt adds 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for super-fast caramelized onions.
  • By the same property, you can rub chicken wings or porchetta with a mixture of salt and baking soda or powder (which will also raise the pH) to achieve the all-too-often elusive crispy skin.
  • Similarly, add a dash to your latke (or fritter) mixture to promote browning and more crispy bits.
  • For the same reason, you can use baking soda as a substitute for lye when making pretzels and bagels, though you won't get as distinctive a flavor or crust. (Harold McGee figured out that if you can bake the baking soda at 250 to 300° F for an hour, it makes for a better substitute.)
  • Soak fruits and vegetables in a bowl of cold water mixed with a couple tablespoons of baking soda for 5 minutes before scrubbing clean and, according to Good Housekeeping, you can say goodbye to dirt and the waxy coatings.
  • Baking soda's the magic ingredient that gives honeycomb candy its crunchy, porous texture.
  • And that makes soda bread rise high without the uncertainty of yeast.

Cleaning!

  • For a gentle, all-purpose alkaline cleaner good for cleaning shower tiles, the bathroom sink, quartz countertops, and laminate surfaces, mix baking soda with borax, liquid soap, and hot water.
  • Leave bowls of baking soda on your counter overnight to absorb the lingering smell of frying.
  • To clean grout, make a thick paste of baking soda and water, apply it to the grout, let sit, then spray with vinegar. Wait a couple more minutes, then use a toothbrush to scrub it clean.
  • Boost your dish soap with baking soda to give it more power against particularly greasy dishes.
  • Soak sponges in baking soda and water to extend their lives.
  • Sprinkle it inside rubber gloves to keep them dry and good-smelling.
  • Dip a damp sponge in baking soda paste, then wipe it over a coffee- or tea-stained mug, says the Old Farmer's Almanac.
  • ...and other stubborn stain, like beets, from enamel pots.
  • When that enamel pot is more burnt than stained (and all feels helpless), it needs a baking soda soak. Sprinkle it with a generous amount of baking soda, add hot water, and let it sit overnight; the next morning, scrub it with a dish brush and repeat as needed. If you're impatient, simmer white vinegar in the pot with a bit of baking soda added to it, scrubbing as needed and repeating the process until you've achieved homeostasis.
  • Same deal with stainless steel.
  • Clean up your copper pots, too: Mix equal parts baking soda and lemon juice, then rub away the tarnished spots with a soft cloth.
  • Make silverware sparkle again: All you need is our guy baking soda, aluminum foil, and hot water.
  • Make cleaning the grill easier by sprinkling baking soda on your brush before you start scrubbing.
  • Unclog drains.
  • Stop your trash can from being so darn stinky: Sprinkle baking soda all over the inside of the can—or even throw some directly into the bag. It's also a powerful cleaning tool: Mix it with lemon juice and vinegar to scrub down your can between trash take-outs.
  • De-skunk dogs.
  • Clean your oven: Use a sponge or spray bottle to wet down the inside surfaces, then sprinkle baking soda all over (or make a thick paste of the two and cover the surfaces). Let it sit for a few hours (or overnight), then wipe clean.
  • Return your painted wall to its pristine, un-crayoned state with baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge.
  • Let it help you to remove an oily stain on a linen: Tap some baking powder onto the stain and let it sit to aborb; then brush off the excess, apply dishwashing liquid directly onto the trouble spot, and dab—don't rub—it in. Launder in the warmest possible water that your linen can handle. Repeat the process if any of the stain is left after the first try.
  • Get rid of grub in your fine mesh strainer. Set the dirty strainer immediately into a pot of warm water with a bit of baking soda mixed in and let soak while you do the rest of the dishes (or eat your meal).
  • Clean your sink. When you have a lemon leftover from cooking or juicing, don't toss it: Sprinkle some baking soda in the sink, then use the lemon-half as a scrubber. It'll save your sponge from the sink scum for a bit longer.
  • Wash the washer. To clean a front-loading washing machine, PopSugar recommends adding a mixture of baking soda and water to the detergent caddy, then pouring vinegar directly into the drum. Run your washer on its hottest cycle, then wipe with a clean sponge.
  • Use it to spot-clean a wooden cutting board: For any stained areas, like residue from blackberries, beets, or steak, make a coarse paste of salt, water, and baking soda, and then scrub it on the area with a tea towel or brush.
  • No more stinky, stainy plastic containers: Make a thick-ish paste of warm water and baking soda and rub it into the inside the container. Let it sit for at least one day, then rinse it out thoroughly. Continue until no stains remain and the container smells fresh. (It'll work on an old-smelling reusable water bottle, too.)
  • Mix together toilet bowl cleaner. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar into the toilet. Let it sizzle, then scrub and flush.

How does baking soda help you out on the regular? Tell us in the comments!

6 Comments

Lynnie May 6, 2017
It is so great, I bought the giant bag at Costco. As noted, it is an astounding and non-toxic oven cleaner: make a thick paste with water, generously spread over area to be cleaned and leave it for one hour or up to overnight, as necessry. Most gunk will wipe off or come off with ligtscrub, if tough. Ditto for stove top. Works wonders on my All Clad cookware: now prefer it to Barkeeper's Friend. Works great on all built up grease-based gunk, whether from residue (like on cabinets over stove or on white fridge) or baked on. Stuff is fantastic.
 
Leslie D. April 25, 2017
1/2 cup soda in kitchen drain, add 1/2 cup vinegar. After 5 minutes pour a kettle of boiling water down it. Clears up some of the gunk in the pipes.
 
Nancy September 2, 2016
Lots of good ideas here.<br />Learned from ATK that b soda can be used to tenderize meat...?!<br />https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6707-tenderizing-meat-with-a-baking-soda-solution
 
Aniera August 31, 2016
Most importantly you can use it to put out grease fires! I have saved myself from having to use our fire extinguisher twice now on small grease fires that I admit I was the cause of in our kitchen. (Cast iron pan with oil and the oven that had spilled oil in the bottom+preheat for pizza). All you have to do is grab a few handfuls and throw it on the fire, and it goes out. That's why I have one of those large (multi pound) bags of the stuff in my pantry right by the stove now (which incidentally is also right next to the fire extinguisher too).
 
creamtea August 31, 2016
Not just for coffee mugs! I use a paste to scrub out the grooves in individual plastic coffee cones (or electric coffeemaker cones) for cleaner-tasting coffee.
 
sandyrepp August 31, 2016
My late mother-in-law told me your tip about putting baking soda on burnt pans and letting it sit overnight, and it works like a charm! I am now never without a big box of baking soda in the kitchen!