How many of you use baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) for something other than baking?

I’ve mentioned in this column in the past I receive regular emails from WebMD, which from time to time, I find interesting.

Maybe it’s because I’m about to hit the big 6-0, and more of the topics seem to hit home. Or, it might be because I find some of the links WebMD sends genuinely interesting.

Such was the case with the baking soda link called “Other uses for baking soda,” or something along those lines.

I’m going to assume that most of you, on at least one occasion, especially if over 40 years of age, have at the minimum used baking soda to brush your teeth.

Here are some of the “other” uses for baking soda:

• Inexpensive mouthwash - That garlic aioli pasta was delish. But now your breath is keeping even your dog away. Swish a teaspoon of baking soda in a half glass of water and rinse your mouth. It doesn’t merely mask the smell with a minty scent like most mouthwashes do. Baking soda actually banishes the odor altogether.

I will have to try this. I don’t want my dog to turn away from me. Better yet, I’ll try it on my dog.

• Body deodorant - Most things that stink have acidic or basic odor molecules. Baking soda brings them to a more neutral, odor-free state. No wonder sewage plants and feedlots use the stuff. It also works on your body odor. Dust a little under your arms in the morning. If you don’t care for the powdery residue on your clothes, use stick deodorants that have baking soda. Look for ones that list sodium bicarbonate as a main ingredient.

You won’t see me shaking a box of sodium bicarbonate under my arms in the a.m. I’ll stick with my old fashion Old Spice.

• Helps your kidneys - These organs remove waste and extra water from your body. If you have chronic kidney disease from diabetes, high blood pressure, or other causes, acid can build up in your body.  Sodium bicarbonate can bring the acid levels down and may help slow bone loss and build muscles. It’s important to work closely with your doctor if you want to try this. Scientists are still figuring out exactly when and how this works.

Luckily, my kidneys are in fine shape.

• Soothes your skin - Bitten by a mosquito? Brushed up against poison ivy? Baking soda to the rescue. It can relieve minor irritation, pain, itching, and redness. Mix up a paste of three-parts baking soda to one-part water. Smear it on your skin and leave for 20 minutes before you wash it off. Or soak in a bath with a half-cup of baking soda added to the water.

I’ve always used some sort of tobacco, so whenever I’m stung by something I slap a little wet tobacco on the bite and the stinging disappears. I know, that sounds gross, but I have my cigar with me more often than a box of baking soda … and it works. I thought one of my daughters was going to faint when I pulled that little trick on one of my grandsons after a wasp stung him. For the record, he quit crying.

• Eases pain - Sodium bicarbonate may boost the pain-killing powers of lidocaine used in epidurals. Researchers are studying whether it might help ease pain from cancer. If you’re hurting from sunburn, soak a washcloth in a solution of about four tablespoons of baking soda per quart of water. Gently dab it on the affected areas to soothe your skin. It can help for other minor burns as well, including windburn.

With age, I’ve simply learned not to stay out in the sun too long.

• Tamp down acid reflux - Sodium bicarbonate helps fight the extra acid that might rise from your stomach up to your throat and even your mouth after you eat. You can buy it over-the-counter as a chewable tablet. Or drink your own homemade antacid by mixing a half-teaspoon of baking soda in 1/2 cup of water. Talk to a doctor before you give it to kids under six, or if you start to use it regularly along with other medication.

I just might have to try this one. It’s got to be cheaper than buying the over-the-counter stuff.

• Facial scrub - Baking soda is mildly abrasive. Use it as a gentle face cleanser. First, wash your face with a mild, non-abrasive cleanser and rinse with water. Then, make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Rub it in carefully in circles for a deep clean. Rinse with water.

I will have to try this … after I finish the tube of facial scrub one of daughters bought be for Christmas … several years ago. I actually like it when I use it, but it’s just hard sometimes to teach an old dog a new trick. It’s simply amazing I’m still alive using Dial soap.

• Clarify your hair - Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with your favorite shampoo to remove buildup from sprays, gels, conditioners, and other products. Your hair won’t just be cleaner; it may become easier to style, too.

Scratch this. I don’t have any hair. The young woman who cuts my hair says my “ozone” up top is getting larger every month.

• Soften your skin - Add a half-cup of baking soda to your bathwater. It will neutralize acids, wash away sweat and oil, and leave your skin silky smooth. Bonus: After you dry off, you can use a bit more of the stuff to scour the tub clean.

That just doesn’t sound right. Makes your skin smooth … and scours the tub?

• Freshen dentures - Dissolve two teaspoons of baking soda into a cup of warm water. Then just soak your dentures to loosen food, get rid of odors, and freshen any lingering bad taste. It also works for retainers and mouth guards. For a more thorough job, clean them with some bicarbonate and a toothbrush.

This little tip I’ll keep in my hip pocket for the future! After all, I’m about to turn 60.

Until next week, have a good week.

Mike Probst can be reached at

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