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Greenpoint: A better choice of words and cleaning workhorse

Greenpoint: A better choice of words and cleaning workhorse

Using baking soda in place of dozens of cleaning products is a lot cheaper
Greenpoint: A better choice of words and cleaning workhorse
Baking soda is one of the handiest products you can have around the house.

I’ve been on a string of calling everything by the wrong name. Maybe we’re all tired from dealing with the snow piles and the surprise baby goats who seem to be born only when the temps dip below zero and human intervention becomes necessary.

Or maybe I’m just confused by all the confusion.

“I’m going to let the goats out,” I’ll tell my husband, and he yelps “WHAT?”

“Oh. I mean the ducks.” Later, after the goats figure out where the high snowbanks are and jump over their fence, I’ll announce that I’m going outside to put the chickens up. Another “WHAT?”

“You know what I mean,” I say. “The ones with horns.” I’m mixing up all the family names, all the animal names and referring to anything that might possibly hold water as a bucket.

And in my last column when I wrote about making toothpaste, I said all it takes is coconut oil and baking powder. Not true. I meant baking soda. Maybe making biscuits is confusing me.

There are major differences between the two, of course. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which is a base, and two kinds of acid, one that reacts when wet and another when wet and hot (hence the name double-acting baking powder). The reaction of the acid and base release carbon dioxide bubbles, which makes baked goods rise. Baking soda also will make baked goods rise but only if you add an acid, like vinegar or yogurt or buttermilk.

Baking powder is great for baking. But if I mention baking powder for cleaning, freshening, clearing drains or any number of household uses, you can bet I’m having a word fail. I mean baking soda. It’s one of the handiest products you can have in the house, and at less than a dollar a box you should probably pick up an extra next time you’re in a store.

You can brush your teeth with it. You can clean your silverware. You can take stains off plates and counters and coffee cups, brighten your laundry.

Heartburn? Drink water with about half a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in. A spoonful in a glass of warm water makes a good mouthwash too. You can use it to relieve sunburn and heal mouth sores, or mix it with water to make a paste to sooth poison ivy rashes and some insect bites. It can be used as a deodorant for your refrigerator (a small bowl in the back will remove odors) or for the garbage can or your shoes.

Mixed with vinegar, baking soda can unclog drains and clean carpet and upholstery stains. For the drain, pour in about half a cup of baking soda, then the same amount of vinegar. Cover with a cup and let it work for 15 minutes or so, then pour boiling water down the drain.

As a paste with water it cleans metal pots and pans, faucets and fixtures, glassware and ceramic. It will get stains and odors out of those plastic food storage containers you reuse. Sprinkle it on your sponge or dishcloth when you’re washing dishes for a very mild abrasive and stain remover. Or mix up a bowl of about half baking powder and half water, and use it to attack the shower walls.

Using baking soda in place of dozens of cleaning products is a lot cheaper, plus you avoid using harsh and sometimes toxic chemicals, and all those plastic bottles.

Around here we still have snow everywhere — a base of 2 feet, piles more than 6 feet high. When walking in the woods our around the goat fence, you’re likely to sink thigh-high in places. Still, I’m convinced spring is coming. The snow might stick around for another month, but we’re spring cleaning inside. And using a lot of baking soda.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on March 31. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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