On the Virtues of Baking Soda


by kat on flickr

by kat on flickr

I love baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda, or bicarb) at least as much as I love vertical storage. It’s a staple of the clean, green, frugal home. I hardly ever use it in baking in fact (ok I don’t bake a lot), but I have a bucketload of it on account of all the other things it does for me.


Most people now know of its cleaning virtues. These cannot be overstated. Bicarb has superlative cleaning qualities which scrub stove tops and basins like nothing I have ever come across. This pleases me. Product makers have latched on to this, and many have cleaning products with added baking soda, but that’s all a gimmick in my opinion, as baking soda alone does the trick just fine. I do not know whether baking soda’s cleaning virtues are owed solely to its abrasive qualities, but I suspect not, on account of my second most favourite use – as a hair cleanser.


I have tried the no ‘poo route, but that did not ever work for me. I have a pretty neutral hair type, but no ‘poo never left me feeling completely clean. Bicarb however is the shizznit.

I keep a jar of the powder in the bathroom, sprinkle a teaspoon onto wet hair, and scrub in and leave till the end of my shower. For the kids I have some ready mixed in water. This just prevents powdery messes and wastage, but you can do whatever works for you.

Maybe it depends on what you require of your hair, but I require mine to be clean, soft and if possible shiny, and I find that baking soda does all that – without the use of conditioner, although for longer hair with split ends it might be a good plan to condition the ends anyway.


I sometimes use it as a body and face scrub, and it leaves skin feeling surprisingly soft. However, though many sites recommend baking soda for skin scrubs, others warn against using it on skin (it has a pH of 7 while skin is 4.5-5 – not being a dermatologist, I don’t know how relevant this is but it can’t be worse than using soap.). So be warned, and make up your own mind about this one.


And how could I forget deodorant. In a fit of frugality I once came across recipes for homemade deodorant. Some involved specialised ingredients, melting, fiddling and well, patience. I figured the common ingredient to all was baking soda, so that was probably the most active ingredient, and so, being the cut-the-crap kind of person I am (or just lazy), I went with just those two ingredients. Since I have a bucket of coconut oil in the house (on account of I’m loving that too), I used that as the medium. Coconut oil in our temperate climate is usually a solid,  so I mashed the baking soda into the oil in a jar, and then put it in my bathroom cupboard. That’s it. To use, just scoop a thumbnail sized amount or so, and rub in.

Amazingly it’s really not messy. It doesn’t stain clothes or leave a residue on the skin. I don’t do fuss, and this couldn’t be easier. I gave it the sniff test under stiff conditions, and it truly is effective. There may be a period of adjustment as your body learns to do without the ingredients of regular deodorant it has been exposed to for years, and if real irritation occurs, it’s always best to stop, but for many people, like me, it’s a brilliant and cheap alternative.

Score for the earth and my pocket. How much would you save not buying cleaning products, shampoo, and deodorant, really?

Of course, there are even more uses for baking soda than I’ve listed here; if you want to know more, here is some further reading……