Green Hotels Association
    March 2017  


Easy Ways to Repurpose
Baking Soda to improve ROI

Using baking soda for more than baking doesn't make you an economist, but it does make you financially savvy. A simple, one-pound box costs as little as 54 cents. But from caramelizing onions quickly to cleaning corrosion from battery terminals to stripping paint, the uses of baking soda border on the conceivably infinite. See how baking soda's uses make it a thrifty solution to many common household problems.

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 SeriousEats.com. To make silky-smooth hummus, soak the chickpeas overnight in one teaspoon of baking soda mixed with six cups of water or stock. Next, simmer the chickpeas with one teaspoon of baking soda for every six 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 snapification to your crustacean, mix a dry brine of one teaspoon of kosher salt with one-fourth 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 one 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 during cooking, the chemical process that gives caramelized foods their distinctive taste and aroma, according to Serious Eats. After adding the onions to the pan, sprinkle one-fourth 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. However, the acidic consistency of canned plum tomatoes varies from brand to brand—and sometimes from can to can, depending on the producer—which inevitably leads to acidic inconsistency in the dishes you prepare.

Adding one-fourth 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, demigods and da Vinci. 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. That is, unless you supplement those spaghetti noodles with baking soda.

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 two to three teaspoons of baking soda per quart of boiling water, stir in angel hair pasta and cook for four 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 BBCGoodFood.com. The alkali, as you've likely guessed, is good ole' baking soda. To make one teaspoon of baking powder, combine one-half teaspoon of baking soda and one-half 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 one teaspoon of homemade baking powder with one cup of all-purpose flour.

7. Strip Carbonized Food From Grill Grates: 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.

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 two cups of distilled vinegar with one 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.

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 keeps 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 MotherNatureNetwork.com.

9. Smile Brighter: It's no secret baking soda helps whiten teeth—several toothpastes tout the inclusion of 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 suggest using baking soda 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 one cup of baking soda and one-half gallon of vinegar to the toilet tank and allow it to sit for one hour; scrub the tank with a nylon brush and flush. Next, mix one cup of vinegar with one 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 one 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 one-third cup of baking soda and one cup of distilled vinegar in a heavy-duty plastic bag; hold the bag over a sink to catch spillage from the reaction, blog FrugallySustainable.com suggested.

Next, submerge the faucet or showerhead in the mixture and secure the bag using a rubber band or tie wrap. Allow the faucet or showerhead to soak overnight and run hot water through it for one 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, and it's the latter group for whom baking soda can clear the air.

To freshen a musty tome, MarthaStewart.com 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 open 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, the Department of the Interior used it 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 cross-utilize baking soda's alkalinity and odor-neutralizing abilities across a number of 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 one teaspoon of baking soda into the palm of your hand and add just enough water to form a viscous paste. Rub the paste into the areas you wish to deodorize and you're good to go. To add antiperspirant properties, combine one part baking soda with six 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 sending alerts to other insects, releasing histamine, denaturing proteins and causing pain, depending on the species.

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 WebMD.

16. Deodorize Your Gym Shoes: Gym shoes, or, depending on your feet's diaphoretic distinction, any shoes, collect more than just water from perspiration—urea, sodium chloride, ammonia, lactic acid, chloride and fatty acids come along with it, and react with your skin's ever-present surface bacteria to produce the unavoidable, but less-than-desirable "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—unless he neutralizes his scent, something at which baking soda excels.

Deer hunters can mask their scent by showering with a couple tablespoons of baking soda mixed with unscented liquid soap, according to Field and Stream. To mask the scent of clothing, wash the items using an equal amount of 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: Car batteries plus corroded terminals is the equivalent of sitting stranded in Death Valley without a cellphone signal in August during a heat wave where temperatures reach 120º F. on a cool day. You might not find yourself in a situation that extreme, but if your battery has severely corroded terminals, power won't flow to the cables and your car won't start regardless of your locale.

Keep those terminals clean and corrosion-free with a basic baking-soda paste. Disconnect the battery cables, negative cable first. Next, mix two 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: You have to love that good ole' dog smell. The classic canine acridity, distinctive mustiness and otic yeastiness let you know man's best friend is near—but even the most dedicated doggie devotees prefer keeping the perfectly normal, but nonetheless unpleasant, dog scent to a minimum. That's where baking soda can help. To give your pup a wet baking-soda bath, bathe her in a mixture of one tablespoon of baking soda and one-and-a-half 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.

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 bedtime, 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 one-half teaspoon of baking soda in about one-half cup of water, and swish, swirl and spit, just as you do with regular mouthwash.

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Baking Soda's Benefits

A simple, one-pound box costs as little as 54 cents. But from caramelizing onions quickly to cleaning corrosion from battery terminals to stripping paint, the uses of baking soda border on the conceivably infinite.


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