Sodium bicarbonate is an alkaline substance that can be used as a cleaning agent. By Lea Wee
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, is usually associated with baking. But this alkaline substance can be used for so much more. Photos: Ng Sor Luan
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is usually associated with baking. But this alkaline substance can be used for so much more.
Associate Professor Roderick Bates, from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at Nanyang Technological University, says: “As a weak alkali or base, it can be effective in neutralising acidic things, such as removing certain pesticides and the odour of smelly feet, but a wash with plain water would do just as well in many cases.”
He adds that it is non-toxic and thus safe for most uses. He says baking soda may have some antibacterial properties, but cautions against claims that it can prevent and heal cancer.
Also, be sure not to confuse it with baking powder, which is also used as a leavener in baking. Unlike baking soda, baking powder, which contains baking soda and other ingredients, is not ideal for cleaning.
1. GET RID OF BAD ODOUR
What: Use baking soda to remove bad smells from clothes, especially the odour of heavy perspiration.
1. Mix two tablespoons of baking soda with a little water to make a paste.
2. Rub the paste on the affected spots on garments, for example, the neck or armpit areas.
3. Let the paste sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse off.
Tip: If the smell is very strong, dissolve a cup of baking soda in a basin of water, let the clothes soak overnight and then wash them the next day.
2. GET RID OF STAINS
What: Baking soda can remove food and drink stains from clothes.
1. Make a paste of two to three parts baking soda to one part water. Rub the paste on the affected areas.
2. Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse and scrub the stain off or put the garment into the washing machine.
Tip: To remove tougher, older stains, leave the paste on for an hour or two. Make sure the clothing is “colour- fast” before applying the paste or the colour may run.
3. MAKE HOUSE FIXTURES SPARKLE
What: Baking soda, when combined with white vinegar, can be used as a non-toxic cleaner to remove tough stains from the toilet bowl.
1. Sprinkle about a cup of baking soda onto the sides of the toilet bowl and wash it off with about two cups of white vinegar.
2. Leave for 10 to 30 minutes.
3. Scour the toilet bowl with a toilet brush. Flush.
Tip: Taps (pictured), sink drains and floor traps can be cleaned using the same method.
4. CLEAN FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
What: Baking soda can be used safely to clean fruit and vegetables before cooking. It is said to be effective in removing certain pesticides.
1. Put fruit and vegetables in a bowl and cover with water. Mix in a spoonful or two of baking soda (pictured).
2. Soak for about 30 minutes.
3. Rinse the fruit and vegetables thoroughly and pat dry before eating or cooking.
Tip: This method of cleaning is especially useful if one intends to eat fruit and vegetables with the skin on.
5. REMOVE STAINS ON TEETH
What: Remove stains on teeth caused by coffee, curry and other food.
1. Add one part water to one part baking soda to make a paste.
2. Put some paste on a toothbrush, about the same amount as you would toothpaste.
3. Brush teeth for a couple of minutes. Rinse mouth.
Tip: Some have suggested adding lemon juice to the paste for a “whitening” effect. Do not do this. According to dental surgeon Sufrie Mohamad Ishak from Parkway Dental Practice, lemon juice is very acidic and, over time, brushing teeth with such a mixture will erode the outer layer of the tooth enamel, causing sensitivity.
He also warned against replacing regular toothpaste with baking soda as toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline ‘Baking soda’.