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The Manifold Magic of Baking Soda

Baking soda is almost magical in its ability to replace many expensive and nasty cleansers. Deborah Sanders shows you a few of its many tricks.

Baking soda is a safe product that can clean and deodorize. Used with water, baking soda (which is a mild base or alkali) neutralizes dirt and grease (which usually contain fatty acids). The result is a form of soap which rinses away completely. You can apply baking soda to a wet sponge (and then follow with a dry cloth to buff). This works particularly well when you are washing pots and pans. (For burnt-on food, put 1-2 T of soda in the pan and cover with water to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of the dish. Put up to boil, and, when it has come to a rolling boil, remove from the flame. Let sit for 30 minutes and then wash - the formerly burnt-on food will come right off.) Or, you can make a solution of 4 T of baking soda to 1 quart of warm water and clean with that. This is good for cleaning large surface areas. It also is a fine choice for freshening a Thermos® or plastic food storage containers - just let the solution soak overnight inside.

Baking soda also is a very gentle abrasive or scouring powder, ideal for polishing glass, chrome, steel, enamel, and plastic.

You probably know baking soda best as a deodorant. It neutralizes odors chemically, instead of only masking them. The time-honored use of an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator is just one of its many applications. You can deodorize athletic shoes by sprinkling in baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on carpet and let it sit for 15 minutes; then vacuum - what a fresh smell! Keep a bowl of soda in your microwave when not in use.

If you have a cat, you know that litter is being sold now with baking soda already mixed in. Compare the cost carefully. In most cases, it is still cheaper to buy pure clay litter and add your own baking soda. Just sprinkle the soda on the bottom of the box before adding the litter. (Did you know that if your cat ingests too much of those clumping litters when she grooms herself, she is liable to get sick? Clay litter is much safer.)

Use either baking soda or 20 Mule Team Borax® as a laundry additive. You need ½ cup for every load in a top-load machine, along with your detergent. If you find the baking soda on sale for 50¢ or less a pound or less, it may be the more economical choice. Otherwise, choose the borax. Unless I need bleach to specially whiten a fabric, I find that the baking soda or borax work so well with the detergent that I can skip the expense of bleach. And, if bleach IS necessary, only ½ cup is needed (instead of the full cup recommended on the label.)

While there are many hints in circulation for using baking soda in personal grooming (as a deodorant - but it is messy, or as a toothpaste - but it can wear down the enamel of your teeth), here's the only one I've tried that really works. Baking soda is a great and cheap exfoliant for your skin . and it gets out the grime from your knees if you' ve been gardening. Just sprinkle it on a wet washcloth.

For your auto, if you live in an area with snow, rub your headlights with soda to remove the highway salt. Use a mesh scrubber for this.

Finally, you really should buy a real fire extinguisher for your kitchen - one that's rated for A, B, and C fires. But, if you don't have the $15-$20 for full protection right now (and start saving your pennies - your life and those of your family are priceless), at least keep a box of baking soda by the stove. Tear off the entire top so you will be able easily to use it if you have a grease fire.

THE PENNY ORCHID -- "Thrift with Flair" is a monthly print newsletter that shows you how to save your money and keep the money you have. It's filled with sensible solutions for busy people -- no "recycling dryer lint" hints here. Every issue has a heart-healthy and delicious recipe and invigorating health news. Various issues give tips on how to save money in 15 other areas of your life. THE PENNY ORCHID offers solid, helpful advice on living simply without sacrificing joy in life. Deborah Michelle Sanders has the experience of having lived on Social Security Disability Insurance. A lawyer since 1975, now inactive by choice, she has always enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, even without much money. Read THE PENNY ORCHID to make the most of your resources! A 12-issue subscription costs $18 now, but will cost $24 in 2000 (each issue runs 8 pages now, but will run 12 pages starting in Jan., 2000). Subscribe now and save! Send your check payable to THE PENNY ORCHID to: P. O. Box 642335, Attention: Nancy Ralston, San Francisco, CA 94164-2335

For more on natural, inexpensive cleansers, please read the article, Naturally Frugal Cleaning.

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