15 Surprising Ways to Use Baking Soda

You reach for it when making cookies, but this unsung kitchen hero is handy for many more tasks (especially cleanup!).

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Stock Up On This Stuff

Call it a natural wonder of the home: Baking soda's gentle abrasiveness and odor-removing qualities make it a handy solution to many kitchen problems (spoiler alert: grimy pans, stinky trashcans and clogged drains). Plus, it's inexpensive and readily available — so we bet you'll reach for it quite often after you realize just how much it can do.

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Clean Produce

Sprinkle baking soda directly onto fruits and vegetables and scrub with a damp, clean sponge to remove grit. Rinse thoroughly and your produce will be ready for cooking or eating.

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Remove Stink from Your Hands

Garlic, onions and other pungent foods have a way of sticking around after you chop them. To remove the funk, mix baking soda with a little water to make a paste. Rub it on your hands and into your cuticles and other hard-to-reach spots, and then wash as usual to freshen up.

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Clarify Iced Tea

Remember this trick before a summer party and earn yourself a "best host" badge. To prevent iced tea from turning cloudy, add a pinch of baking soda to the brewed tea before chilling. Bonus: The baking soda also softens the tannins in the tea for a smoother flavor.

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Freshen Up a Drain

Pour a cupful of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cupful of vinegar. The fizzing reaction helps scrub your drain clean; cover with a damp cloth to keep the mixture from escaping from where it needs to be. Wait a few minutes and flush with hot water. This trick won't clear the most stubborn of clogs, but it will flush out everyday buildup, which can prevent a truly stuck drain.

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Clean Your Coffeemaker

Pot after pot after pot, your coffeemaker's interior mechanism can get clogged with buildup, so every so often you need to "descale" it. Mix a few spoonfuls of baking soda with water and run it through the machine for one brew cycle (vinegar diluted with water works well for this too). Then "brew" another pot of plain water to rinse the machine completely.

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Extinguish a Kitchen Fire

If the grease in your pan catches fire, dousing it with water will only make it worse. Instead, pour baking soda over the flames to stop the burn.

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Remove Tarnish from Silver

Place a sheet of aluminum foil at the bottom of a non-aluminum pan and fill with very hot water. Add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda per quart of water and stir to dissolve. Drop the silver in for about 20 seconds (that's all it takes for the reaction to occur!) and then remove it with tongs. This will work only for sterling silver (not silverplate) and is a little bit rougher on pieces than special silver polish — so use this technique only on pieces that aren't very valuable to you.

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Clean Lunchboxes

Whether the lunchboxes in your house are plastic, metal or cloth, you can use baking soda to clean them and remove odors. Start by wiping down the surfaces with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda. To clean dirty or stinky reusable sandwich and snack-size bags, soak them in a solution of 1 part baking soda to 3 parts water for 10 minutes. Then rinse clean and let air-dry.

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Clean Your Grill

Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp grill brush for some extra scrubbing power on the grates (rinse the grates well before using the grill again). For extra-dirty grates, fire up the grill for 15 minutes to heat the grates, turn off the heat, and then try the scrub. Or, make a simple paste (3 parts baking soda to 1 part water) and apply it to the grill grime. Let it sit for a few minutes before you scrub it away and gunk should lift more easily.

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Remove Grime All Over the Kitchen

Are you sensing a pattern? A paste made of baking soda and a little water is handy for banishing a myriad of messes. To try it on pots, pans or other kitchen surfaces, let the paste sit until almost dry, then scrub away and rinse with hot water. For extra-grimy pans, fill with hot water and detergent after the paste has sat for a bit. Let sit for another 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse clean. Though baking soda is generally mild, if you're not sure how it will react with a certain surface, try it on an inconspicuous test spot first.

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Deodorize a Trash Can

Just as you put a box of baking soda in your fridge to keep it smelling fresh, you can also sprinkle some into the bottom of your trashcans and recycling bins to ward off odors.

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Freshen Up Water Bottles

Funny how even water gets stale if it sits around in a container too long. Freshen any reusable bottles — such as water bottles or canisters from a DIY seltzer machine — by sprinkling in a scoop of baking soda, filling halfway with water and shaking vigorously.

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Remove an Oil Stain

If oil seeps into a porous surface (like wood or marble) and leaves a stain, baking soda can help absorb it. Start by sprinkling the baking soda over the stain and scrubbing lightly with a wet toothbrush. If the stain still won't budge, make a thick paste with baking soda and water, apply it over the spot, and let it sit for a few hours (if not a day or more) before wiping away.

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Clean a Painted Surface

Whether it’s a pen stain on a painted chair or a scuff mark on a kitchen wall, baking soda sprinkled on a clean, damp sponge should be able to remove the offending marks and leave the surface looking new.

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Get Rid of Roaches

Got a minor bug problem? Before it gets out of hand (and when it does, please call a pro), try this natural trick. Mix baking soda with sugar and set it out on a dish. The sugar will attract the pests, and the baking soda is fatal for them once ingested.

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