You don’t have to be a bona fide economist to know how to repurpose baking soda. That said, you’d be financially savvy to do so. A simple, 1-pound box costs as little as 75 cents. But from caramelizing onions quickly to cleaning corrosion from battery terminals to stripping paint, the number of uses for baking soda borders infinity.
Click through and find out how baking soda can be a great way to save money on household items.
1. Up Your Hummus Game
Homemade hummus made with dried chickpeas never seems to reach the smoothness and consistency of store-bought hummus. Between the limitations of domestic kitchen equipment and overall lack of commercial processing, homemade hummus tends to have a grainy texture — unless you include baking soda in the cooking process.
Baking soda increases the pH of the cooking liquid, helping break down the fiber in the beans, according to food and drink website Serious Eats. To make silky-smooth hummus, soak the chickpeas overnight in 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 6 cups of water or stock. Next, simmer the chickpeas with 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every 6 cups of cooking liquid, peel off the skins and blend the hummus according to your favorite recipe.
2. Give Your Shrimp Some Snap
Few gustatory sensations can compete with the satisfying snap of biting into well-prepared shrimp. Whether poached, grilled or sautéed, shrimp’s texture can make or break the enjoyment of a dish. Adding baking soda can help ensure you’ll achieve the perfect texture, according to Serious Eats.
To add some snap to your crustacean, mix a dry brine of 1 teaspoon of kosher salt with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of uncooked shrimp. Toss the shrimp with the soda and salt, and chill them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to an hour before cooking.
3. Caramelize Onions, Quickly
Caramelized onions — sumptuously sweet, righteously rich and with a flavor so gloriously complex nothing short of a Byronesque sonnet could justify them with words. But they take a while to caramelize — as long as 40 minutes if you follow Julia Child’s iconic soupe à l’oignon recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Fortunately, baking soda can reduce onion caramelization time to around 10 minutes.
Baking soda’s alkalinity speeds up the Maillard reaction — the chemical process that gives caramelized foods their distinctive taste and aroma, according to Serious Eats. After adding the onions to the pan, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of onions over them and sauté until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
4. Balance Canned Tomatoes’ Acidity
Unless you can get locally grown tomatoes within a couple days of harvest, canned plum tomatoes, particularly the San Marzano variety, can be an excellent substitute. The acidic consistency of canned plum tomatoes varies from brand to brand, however — and sometimes from can to can, depending on the producer — which inevitably leads to acidic inconsistency in your dishes.
Adding 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to a tomato-based preparation at the end of cooking effectively tempers excess acidity and alleviates bitterness. This leads to a smooth, uniform taste throughout the dish, according to American Public Radio’s show “The Splendid Table.”
5. Reinvent Ramen — With Angel Hair
Japanese ramen has been known to elicit from foodies a reverence typically reserved for deities. Springy with snap yet tender and absorbent, true ramen-ya noodles — not the 99-cent block-o-ramen you find at convenience stores — have a texture incomparable to spaghetti noodles.
Kansui, the ingredient that gives ramen its yellowish tinge and satisfying mouthfeel, has alkaline elements similar to that of baking soda, according to Serious Eats. To make your own ramen noodles at home, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of baking soda per quart of boiling water, stir in angel hair pasta and cook for 4 minutes after the water returns to a boil.
6. Make Baking Powder From Scratch
Baking powder creates the carbon dioxide bubbles that make quickbreads, such as muffins and cakes, rise. Baking powder produces CO2 much faster than yeast, hence the general term “quickbread” for any baked good that calls for it.
Baking powder comprises nothing more than an acid, an alkali and filler with desiccant properties, such as corn or rice flour, according to BBC GoodFood. The alkali, as you’ve likely guessed, is good old baking soda. To make 1 teaspoon of baking powder, combine 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar — you don’t need a filler if you use the baking powder immediately. To take your baking alchemy a step further and make self-rising flour, mix 1 teaspoon of homemade baking powder with 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
7. Strip Carbonized Food From Grill Grates
You’ll find several chemical-based cleaners on the commercial market — some with a skin-burning pH of 13.5 and over and comprised of compounds like caustic potash — that can strip your stuck-on grill grime in as little as 15 minutes. But unless you’re cleaning grills in a high-volume restaurant, you don’t need that type of chemical firepower.
Instead, mix 2 cups of distilled vinegar with 1 cup of baking soda in a heavy-duty garbage bag. Place the grates in the bag, seal it and let them soak overnight — a light scrubbing and rinse the next day will rid the grates of residue, according to grill manufacturer Char-Broil.
Regular grill maintenance and cleaning with a grill brush helps keep your grilled food tasting clean, pleasantly charred and smoky — not burned, which results from cooking on grates laden with built-up carbonized foods. An effective scraping and brushing after each use should cover you through grilling season, but once or twice a year, depending on the frequency of use, you need to deep-clean the grates.
8. Remove Tarnish From Copper Pots
You might think high-end restaurants use chemical-based cleaners, such as those that contain oxalic acid, to keep their copper pots and pans gleaming and tarnish-free. Not so. One of the “busy” jobs entry-level kitchen staffers are taxed with is cleaning the copper with — you guessed it — baking soda, along with vinegar and kosher salt.
Using baking soda, vinegar and kosher salt might keep the kitchen free of odors that can waft into the dining area like a miasma of noxiousness, and it makes a heck of a great way to introduce a young cook to the rigors of the professional kitchen. To clean copper pots, mix equal parts vinegar or lemon juice, salt and baking soda. Using a soft cloth, scrub the copper with the paste and rinse, according to environmental news and advice website Mother Nature Network.
9. Smile Brighter
It’s no secret that baking soda helps whiten teeth — several kinds of toothpaste claim that they include baking soda in their formulas. But how does it work and what precautions should you take? Baking soda acts as a mild abrasive, removing plaque and surface stains to give the appearance of whiter teeth.
Medical experts recommend baking soda’s use in your brushing regimen no more than a few times a week — daily use can erode your teeth’s protective enamel coating. Mix equal parts baking soda and water or toothpaste, and brush your teeth for two minutes.
10. Tidy the Toilet
Toilets collect a host of undesirable compounds besides the obvious germs and bacteria. You’ll find calcium, lime and other collected materials under the rim and on the tank’s interior, even if you don’t live in a hard-water area.
Take a two-pronged approach to cleaning the toilet with baking soda — attack the tank and the bowl. Add 1 cup of baking soda and 1/2 gallon of vinegar to the toilet tank and allow it to sit for an hour; then scrub the tank with a nylon brush and flush. Next, mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of baking soda and pour it into the bowl. Scrub the bowl and under the rim using a toilet brush; allow the mixture to sit for an hour, then flush.
11. Decalcify Showerheads and Faucets
Like toilet tanks, showerheads and faucets catch a good bit of calcium and limescale over time and respond to the same cleaning compounds — baking soda and vinegar. To clean a showerhead or faucet, mix 1/3 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of distilled vinegar in a heavy-duty plastic bag. You should hold the bag over a sink to catch spillage from the reaction, according to the blog Frugally Sustainable.
Next, submerge the faucet or showerhead in the mixture and secure the bag using a rubber band. Allow the faucet or showerhead to soak overnight and run hot water through it for a minute before using.
12. Freshen Musty Books
For some folks, the smell of a musty book conjures pleasant memories of school libraries and secondhand bookshops. Other folks associate a musty book with mildew, mold and fungi. Fortunately, one of the best ways to use baking soda is making old books smell like new again.
To freshen a musty tome, Martha Stewart’s site suggests opening it slightly and placing it upright in front of a table fan. Set the fan to low and allow the air to flow through the pages for several minutes to air it out; wipe mold from the pages, if necessary. Next, place the book in an airtight plastic container along with an opened box of baking soda. Allow the book and baking soda to sit in the container, unopened, for two to three weeks.
13. Remove Paint From Metal, Wood and Plastic
For a substance that puts the rise in delicate pastries, gently cleanses teeth and helps make the smoothest hummus around, baking soda doesn’t seem as if it would have many high-level industrial applications — but it does. When sprayed with compressed air, baking soda strips paint, refinishes wood and removes rust, with none of the pitting and marring that occurs with sandblasting.
Soda blasting is such a gentle process, it was used to restore the Statue of Liberty’s delicate and malleable copper in the 1980s. Portable soda blasters start at $249, but you can make your own with a compressed-air tank, air wand and vinyl hose.
14. Make a Body-Universal Deodorant
You can utilize baking soda’s alkalinity and odor-neutralizing abilities on materials not limited to the inorganic, including breath and body. Perspiration has a pH between 4 and 5.5, and baking soda neutralizes, or, more specifically, increases its pH to alkaline levels, eliminating odor as it does so.
To make a deodorant you can apply to underarms, feet or anywhere stick deodorant doesn’t quite cover, sprinkle up to 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the palm of your hand and add just enough water to form a viscous paste. Rub this DIY beauty product into the areas you wish to deodorize, and you’re good to go. To add antiperspirant properties, combine 1 part baking soda with 6 parts cornstarch and sprinkle the mixture onto the desired areas, suggested Mother Nature Network.
15. Soothe Bee Stings
Bee venom consists of several chemicals that perform a host of actions, like releasing histamine and causing pain.
Some of the pain caused by bee venom comes from its acidity, which can be relieved by the alkalinity of baking soda. To ease the itch and swelling of a bee sting, mix just enough baking soda and water to form a thick paste and apply it to the affected area, according to Mother Nature Network.
16. Deodorize Your Gym Shoes
Sneakers and other footwear collect more than just water from perspiration — urea, sodium chloride, ammonia, lactic acid and fatty acids come along with it, and react with your skin’s ever-present surface bacteria to produce the unavoidable “funk” that signifies stressful workouts or just a stressful life in general.
Again, baking soda’s got your back. Liberally sprinkle baking soda in your malodorous moccasins, lace them up, give them an enthusiastic shake and let them sit overnight. For maintenance, pour a couple tablespoons of baking soda each in a pair of socks, tie them off and stuff them in the toe area of your shoes every night, according to Reader’s Digest.
17. Neutralize Your Scent
When it comes to deer hunting, deer have the olfactory advantage. With over 297 million scent receptors — about 80 million more than dogs — a vomeronasal organ that acts as a second nose and a significant portion of their brain dedicated to identifying the smell of humans, deer can detect a hunter coming from more than a quarter-mile away.
Luckily, deer hunters can mask their scent by showering with a couple tablespoons of baking soda mixed with unscented liquid soap, according to Field & Stream. To mask the scent of clothing, wash the items using baking soda instead of detergent and, after drying, layer them in a tote bag, sprinkling baking soda on each layer. Then, place an open box of baking soda in the tote, zip it up and let it sit overnight.
18. Terminate Terminal Corrosion
If your battery has severely corroded terminals, power won’t flow to the cables, and your car won’t start.
Keep those terminals clean and corrosion-free with a basic baking-soda paste. Disconnect the battery cables, negative cable first. Next, mix 2 tablespoons each of baking soda and water in a bowl and scrub away the corrosion using a toothbrush. Rinse the terminals with water and dry them before reconnecting, according to auto parts retailer NAPA.
19. Deodorize Your Doggy
It’s no secret that dogs have a certain odor. The classic canine acridity and distinctive mustiness let you know man’s best friend is near — but even the most dedicated dog devotees prefer keeping this scent to a minimum. That’s where the baking soda can help.
To give your pup a wet baking-soda bath, wash her in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 1/2 cups of warm water and rinse. For in-between bath deodorizing, or dry-bathing, simply sprinkle baking soda over her coat, gently rub it in and brush it through. This is a DIY product both you and your pup will appreciate.
20. Halt the Halitosis
Mouthwash isn’t a substitute for toothpaste, but it does combat halitosis by neutralizing acids that adhere to your teeth and gums. On those nights you can’t brush before bed, a quick baking-soda rinse the next morning will freshen your mouth with no lingering mintiness to get in the way of that first cup of Earl Grey, coffee or OJ.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in about 1/2 cup of water. Then swish, swirl and spit — just as you would with regular mouthwash.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Most Interesting Ways You Can Repurpose Baking Soda