1. Making scones, cakes and other bits of baking rise. This is how baking soda got the name of baking soda instead of sodium hydrogen carbonate or bicarbonate of soda. It needs to come in contact with an acidic substance, usually cream of tartar, to react and give off the carbon dioxide gas that makes the baked item rise. For an easy-to-make sweet, mix 5 T sugar and 2 T golden syrup and heat together until frothy. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Then add 1 t baking soda and pour the mixture into a greased pan once the reaction starts. Allow this to cool, then break it up into bits.
2. As a general all-purpose house cleaner. It scrubs off stubborn dirt but doesn't scratch. It's perfect for whiteware (fridges, microwaves, ovens) and ceramic surfaces, such as bathroom sinks. Mix it with water for best results. Unlike the barrage of commercial cleaners, it doesn't leave your hands feeling dry and itchy.
3. Absorbing bad smells. Sprinkle some at the bottom of the rubbish bin, put a bowl of it inside the fridge, shake some inside smelly sports shoes, or scatter some over a stale-smelling carpet and leave it to sit before vacuuming. This by itself freshens things up, but if you want to add a pleasant smell instead of a neutral odour, mix the baking soda with a little essential oil. This is much healthier than the powerful (and carcinogenic) artificial fragrances on the market.
4. Extending the life of cut flowers. Put a pinch of baking soda in the water in a vase of fresh flowers. Alternatively, you could try an aspirin, or a mixture of sugar and white vinegar in the water.
5. Removing gunk off hairbrushes and combs. No matter how clean your hair is, debris from your hair will build up on hair brushes. Dissolve about a teaspoon of baking soda in a pint of warm water, then soak your hairbrush or comb in it for an hour (you will need to pull out as much excess hair and fluff stuck in the bristles first). Rinse off with fresh warm water. This method is safe to use on natural bristle brushes – the best kind.
6. Cleaning silver. Mix baking soda to a paste with a little water and spread it over the item to be cleaned. Then wrap the item, paste and all, in aluminium foil. Dip the wrapped item into warm water and leave it for ten minutes or so. Then unwrap the item and rinse the baking soda past off the silver. Dry the item well. Hint for silver hairbrushes: clean the metal and the bristles at once by dissolving the baking soda in the warm water and loosely wrapping just the back and handle with the foil, allowing the water to get in.
7. Deodorising and removing stains from mattresses. Put a paste of baking soda and water on the stain (blood, urine or semen). Leave the paste to dry, then brush it off. This will get the worst of the stain off, and will neutralise any smells.
8. Cleaning the oven. Instead of using those horrible harsh sprays that should be avoided during pregnancy, and require the user to wear mask and gloves, mix up a paste of baking soda and water and spread it liberally around the inside of the oven. Leave it to sit for a while. You can speed things up a little by putting the oven on low heat and putting a little bowl (oven-proof, of course) of water inside to steam gently. Then get scrubbing inside the oven. This method does require a lot of elbow grease, granted, but is much less toxic. Put the radio on to occupy your mind while your doing the job.
9. Unblocking drains. Pour a cup of baking soda down the blocked drain. Follow this with a cup of hot vinegar. Fizz. The resulting reaction will explode the blockage out of the way.
10. Teaching children some basic chemical principles. Once they've tried changing purple cabbage water different colours litmus paper fashion and made a baking soda and vinegar volcano, try a simple experiment to test the strength of various household acids. Mix baking soda and dishwashing liquid to a paste (this gets seriously foamy!). Add a teaspoon of acid (dissolved cream of tartar, lemon juice, flat lemonade, vinegar of various types, yoghurt) to a teaspoon of the baking soda/detergent mix. Measure the height of the resulting foam – the acid that produces the tallest foam is the strongest.