Secret ways you can use baking soda around the house

Baking soda is actually some pretty amazing stuff. Sure, you hardly notice it most days, sitting back there in your pantry waiting to be called upon should you happen to be doing some baking. Or perhaps you keep a box in the fridge, since you've heard that it's good for absorbing food odors like that leftover fish from last night's dinner. Quick tip — did you know that an extra box of baking soda can help keep the odors from different spices on your spice rack from cross-contaminating each other? Good to know, particularly if you're in the habit of putting the cinnamon sugar right next to the garlic salt.

Absorbing unwanted smells isn't the only secret baking soda has up its sleeve. It's a surprising ingredient in your beauty routine (really), and it can also be used to clean, to freshen, to cut through grease, and to remove stains. It really is quite the handy household helper. Don't just leave your box sitting in the pantry — take it out and make it work for you with these cleaning hacks.

Clean your oven with baking soda

Martha Stewart, or at least her namesake lifestyle magazine, proclaims baking soda as an all-natural, non-toxic oven cleaner. The suggested method for cleaning your oven with baking soda is to mix 3/4 cup of it with 1/4 cup of warm water, adding in a few drops of fragrant essential oils if you'd like your oven to smell more like potpourri and less like whatever you last baked in there (understandable, if it was last night's fish). 

Remove the oven racks, letting them soak in dishwashing liquid, and then fill up any of the oven's openings with foil so you don't get messy drips on the kitchen floor. Use a paintbrush to apply your baking powder paste — a toothbrush for tight corners, if necessary. Then close up the oven and let the baking soda paste work its cleaning magic overnight.

In the morning, remove the baking soda — and the oven gunk — with a plastic scraper, then wipe off the residue with a damp cloth. Clean the oven door with equal parts vinegar and water applied with a soft cloth (try not to get the gasket wet), then scour, rinse, and replace your racks. Voilà! An oven clean enough to win even Martha's approval.

Use baking soda to freshen your funky carpets

Do visitors to your house wrinkle up their noses as soon as they walk in the door? Perhaps the culprit is your carpet. Not only do carpets take a beating from our feet, all day every day, but they also absorb odors from smoking, pets, burned popcorn, and so on. Basically, carpets tend to trap and hold onto the scent of whatever's stinking up your house. While it's vital to vacuum your carpets often, that's not all you should be doing to make sure your carpet smells great. Baking soda is an inexpensive and easy-to-use carpet freshener whose tiny particles can penetrate way down deep into the plushest pile.

In order to deodorize your carpet, The Kitchn recommends that you first remove the furniture, then vacuum the carpet — but refrain from any spot cleaning at this point, since the carpet needs to be completely dry for the next step. Next, sprinkle the entire carpet with baking soda. If you really do have a deep pile carpet, you might need to work the baking soda down in there with your fingers, one section at a time. 

Let the baking soda sit for a few hours (overnight is even better), then vacuum it up. If all of the carpet odor is gone, replace the furniture and you're good to go. If you have any especially smelly spots, though, they may need a second application of baking soda, but two applications should be enough to rid your carpet of some serious stink.

Baking soda can unclog your drains

Baking soda is an alkaline compound ideally suited to dissolving organic materials like fat, oil, and grease which are, according to The Spruce, the most common causes of clogged kitchen sinks. Commercially available chemical cleaners can be hazardous to your health and your plumbing, but baking soda is pretty harmless — unless you happen to be a grease clog.

In one drain-cleaning method, baking soda is used along with boiling water, dish soap, and distilled white vinegar. First, boil a kettle of water, then squirt a bit of dish soap down the clogged drain, following with the just-boiled water. Baking soda comes next — one cup of this, chased by a cup of vinegar, and then the fun begins. When acid (vinegar) hits alkaline (baking soda), watch out for fireworks! Well, at least fizz. Lots of fizz, just like the old volcano experiment performed by the laziest kid at your elementary school science fair. Once your volcano — er, DIY drain cleaner — stops fizzing, wait five minutes and then rinse your drain with two more cups of boiling water.

Yet another drain cleaning method, less dramatic but with fewer ingredients, involves baking soda and salt. Pour a cup of baking soda into your drain, then follow it with half a cup of salt. Let these ingredients sit overnight, and flush your drain with two cups of boiling water in the morning.

Baking soda in the laundry room

Got stains of the organic (or even biological) kind? Baking soda can help. If you've got a wet stain, sprinkle baking soda on it straight from the box to help absorb moisture and odors. If your stain has dried, moisten it and apply a paste of baking soda mixed with a little water. This baking soda paste, which should be applied an hour or more before laundering, can help to lighten or lift the stains from blood, sweat, and even (ick) vomit.

Baking soda can also help with hard-to-remove stains from fruit juice and wine. While it's best to treat those types of stains while they're fresh, baking soda can help out in an emergency stain situation. Just sprinkle it on the newly-stained area and then later, when you have time, flush the stain from the back with hot water. This will rinse away the now-dried baking soda, and should wash away much of the stain along with it (via The Spruce).