Kitchen & Cooking

I tried out five different baking soda hacks—which ones worked?

Is this versatile powder worth the hype?

I tried out five different baking soda hacks—which ones worked? Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

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If you’ve ever been on the internet, chances are that you’ve seen articles that talk about “hacks,” or novel shortcuts that make some aspect of your life easier. At Reviewed, we’ve talked about Mac computer hacks, dryer sheet hacks, lemon hacks, and, of course, baking soda hacks.

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Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an abrasive, absorptive salt that can take on many stains and smells. As far as the topic of hacks go, baking soda is perfect—it’s cheap, easily available for purchase, and not special enough that you have to justify using it to yourself.

It makes sense, then, that there are tons of baking soda hack articles out there. While there were plenty of lists of baking soda hacks, though, I didn’t see many articles actually showing the hacks working in real life. So, out of curiosity, I picked a few baking soda hacks that I found online, and tried them out. The results were mixed, but overall, I was pretty impressed with the myriad of ways baking soda is the easy answer to an annoying problem:

Deodorizing smelly sneakers
Whitening teeth
Removing sweat stains
Acting as dry shampoo
Preserving cut flowers

Deodorizing smelly sneakers

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

Can baking soda help reduce the stinky smell in sneakers?

I’m an amateur runner who logs about 8 miles per week, so it’s probably not surprising that my running shoes smell. According to our baking soda hacks article, baking soda can get rid of nasty shoe smells with little to no effort on my part. All I had to do was pour a bunch of baking soda into two old socks, cinch the socks closed with rubber bands, and then leave the baking soda socks in my smelly shoes.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

Place the baking soda in an old sock, cinch the sock with a rubber band, and place the sock in a stinky shoe to cut back on nasty odors.

I ended up leaving the socks in there overnight, and I will say that the smell from my shoes was downgraded from “gag-inducing” to “normal worn shoe smell.” The sharp, smelly tang was largely gone, but my shoes still smelled worse than my normal “not sweating, just walking around” sneakers. I tried the trick again right after I went for a run, and it reduced the odor, but to a lesser extent. My suspicion is that it’s harder for the baking soda to remove both odors that have been present for a while and have really embedded themselves into the fabric of the shoe and smells that are very new (i.e. sweat that's still wet) and haven’t “set” into the shoe yet. For relatively new smells that have dried into the fabric of the shoe, though, you may have more success. One way to increase the likelihood that your shoes will be deodorized may be to use more baking soda in each sock—I only used enough baking soda to fill each sock about halfway.

My recommendation: Use this hack to help keep new shoes smelling fresh, and older shoes smelling tolerable, but don’t expect miracles if you’re using this hack on older shoes.

Does it work? Yes (mostly)

Tooth powder/teeth whitener

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

My teeth prior to brushing with baking soda.

According to this baking soda hack list, you can whiten your teeth and/or use baking soda as a tooth powder. This one isn’t really a stretch, since baking soda is found in many whitening toothpastes.

To try this hack out, I wet my toothbrush, dipped it in baking soda, and then brushed my teeth like I would if I was using toothpaste. Then, as recommended in the video, I brushed a second time with regular toothpaste. I brushed my teeth this way twice a day for five days, and honestly, I didn’t really notice a difference in the whiteness of my teeth.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

After brushing with baking soda for 5 days, I didn't really notice an improvement in the whiteness of my teeth.

What I did notice was that my teeth felt cleaner because the baking soda basically scoured my mouth clean each time I used it. However, that clean feeling came at a cost: After a week, my mouth felt pretty tender from being scraped clean twice a day. Indeed, Colgate mentions that baking soda helps with surface stains, but with too much use, could damage your tooth enamel. Also, the baking soda didn’t really taste bad, but it had kind of a salty, bitter taste. And for whatever reason, I was much more likely to dribble it all over myself during brushing.

My recommendation: Use this hack only in short bursts, or if you forgot to bring your toothpaste somewhere.

Does it work? Generally no, but it works fine in specific circumstances

Remove sweat stains

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

This old T-shirt of mine had noticeable pit stains. I wanted to see if baking soda could reduce or remove the pit stains.

If you’ve ever worn white or light-colored T-shirts, you’ve probably had to toss one or more of them out because of gross-looking sweat stains centered around the collar and arm pit area. While we have recommendations for how to get rid of a ton of stains, including sweat, the tough part about sweat stains is that you don’t actually notice them until it’s too late, and they’ve been baked into your T-shirt.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

Can baking soda reduce or remove this pit stain?

For this hack, I mixed four tablespoons of baking soda with enough water to make a goopy paste.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

I applied the paste to my pit-stained T-shirt, and let it sit for an hour before tossing the shirt in the wash.

Then, I slathered the paste on the pit stain, and let it sit for an hour. After the hour was up, I tossed the T-shirt, paste and all, into a normal washer cycle and a normal dryer cycle.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

After using the baking soda paste on the pit stain on the left side of the shirt, the pit stain had noticeably faded.

To my surprise, the pit stain, while still noticeable, was not as prominent as it was prior to using the baking soda. I wouldn’t say the T-shirt was restored enough that I could wear it out and about, but the pit stain had been downgraded from “gross pit stain” to “mild discoloration.” If it was this effective on a baked-in pit stain, it might be even better to use it before the sweat stain is permanent.

My recommendation: If you’ve sweat heavily on a shirt, and suspect that pit stains may follow, use this hack prior to tossing the T-shirt in the wash, and it may prevent or greatly mitigate any sweat stain damage to your T-shirts. If you start to notice small sweat stains, use this hack to restore your T-shirt to its former glory.

Does it work? Yes

Dry shampoo

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

I put baking soda in my unwashed hair to see if it could make my hair feel clean.

Because baking soda is known to absorb smells, oils, and cut through grease, using it as a dry shampoo seems reasonable enough. To prepare for this hack, I didn’t wash my hair for two days, and it was a gross, oily mess. Following the directions in our baking soda hack article, I sprinkled baking soda in my hair, especially along my part, and then rubbed it into my roots. I let it sit in my hair for an hour, and then brushed it out.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

After letting the baking soda sit in my hair for an hour, I brushed it out.

My hair didn’t feel noticeably cleaner, except for my roots, which were a bit drier and felt as though some of the grease and oil had been removed. It’s the ends of my hair that kept brushing my face, though, and that part of my hair still felt like a yucky mess. For this to be entirely effective, I think you’d have to douse your whole head in baking soda, not just your roots.

My recommendation: If you’re really desperate, this hack may help your hair feel less greasy, but otherwise, just keep a small can of dry shampoo with you; it’s much more effective at cleaning your hair when you don’t have time for a shower.

Does it work? No

Preserving cut flowers

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

Can a pinch of baking soda help cut flowers stay alive perky longer? The flowers on the left have a pinch of baking soda and a pinch of salt in the water, the flowers on the left do not.

Sadly, cut flowers only have a shelf-life of five to six days, and that’s if you use the flower food and swap out the water every day, instead of just letting them sit in a vase of water without further intervention.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

The flowers that had the baking soda and salt added to their water were still perky after 10 days.

For this hack, all it takes to extend the lifespan of your cut flowers is swapping in clean water every day, along with a pinch of salt and a pinch of baking soda.

Credit: / Betsey Goldwasser

The flowers that didn't have the baking soda and salt added to their water had wilted to some extent after 10 days.

With the addition of the salt and baking soda, the cut flowers definitely stayed perky, while the flowers that didn’t get a salt-and-baking-soda boost started to wilt; the positive effect of the baking soda and salt became more obvious over the course of a week or so.

My recommendation: Definitely use this baking soda and salt hack if you want to preserve cut flowers for more than a few days.

Does it work? Yes

There are tons of uses for baking soda, but hopefully my experience has saved you a bit of trial and error (and disappointment) with any baking soda hacks you stumble across. Even if some of these hacks didn’t work perfectly, it’s worth it to keep baking soda on hand in case you need it for baking, cleaning, or just keeping your fridge odor-free.

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