How many ways can you use
salt? According to the
about 14,000! The salt website has tons of handy tips
for using salt around the house, and the best of the
bunch — plus my additions — are listed below.
I can't think of another more versatile mineral. Salt is
the most common and readily available nonmetallic
mineral in the world. In fact, the supply of salt is
For thousands of years, salt (sodium chloride) has been
used to preserve food and for cleaning, and people have
continued to rely on it for all kinds of nifty tricks.
So with its nontoxic friendliness and status as an
endlessly abundant resource, let's swap out some toxic
solutions for ample, innocuous, and inexpensive salt.
There are a number of
forms of salt produced for consumption (and by default,
housekeeping!): unrefined salt (such as sea salt),
refined salt (table salt), and iodized salt. Kosher salt
is sodium chloride processed to have flat crystals. And
in case you're wondering, Epsom salt is an entirely
different stuff: magnesium sulfate to be exact (which is
salt that I consider to be,
Here are just a few of the many ways you can put salt to
good use in your home:
IN THE KITCHEN
Aside from all of the alchemy that salt performs in
terms of baking chemistry and food flavor, salt has a
number of other great applications in the kitchen.
Test egg freshness.
Put two teaspoons of salt in a cup of water and place an
egg in it — a fresh egg will sink, an older egg will
float. Because the air cell in an egg increases as it
ages, an older egg is more buoyant. This doesn't mean a
floating egg is rotten, just more mature. Crack the egg
into a bowl and examine it for any funky odor or
appearance — if it's rotten, your nose will tell you.
(Bonus fact: if you have hard-boiled eggs that are
difficult to peel, that means they are fresh!)
Set poached eggs.
Because salt increases the temperature of boiling water,
it helps to set the whites more quickly when eggs are
dropped into the water for poaching.
Prevent fruits from browning.
Most of us use lemon or vinegar to stop peeled
and pears from browning, but you can also drop them in
lightly salted water to help them keep their color.
Shell nuts more easily.
Soak pecans and walnuts in salt water for several hours
before shelling to make it easier to remove the meat.
Prevent cake icing crystals.
A little salt added to cake icing prevents it from
Remove odors from hands.
Oniony-garlicy fingers? I like soap and water, then
rubbing them on anything made of stainless steel (it
really works), but you can also rub your fingers with a
salt and vinegar combo.
Reach high peaks.
Add a tiny pinch of salt when beating egg whites or
whipping cream for quicker, higher peaks.
Extend cheese life.
Prevent mold on cheese by wrapping it in a cloth
moistened with saltwater before refrigerating.
Save the bottom of your oven.
If a pie or casserole bubbles over in the oven, put a
handful of salt on top of the spill. It won't smoke and
smell, and it will bake into a crust that makes the
baked-on mess much easier to clean when it has cooled.
Extend toothbrush life.
Soak toothbrushes in salt water before your first use;
they'll last longer.
Use one part fine salt to two parts baking soda — dip
your toothbrush in the mix and brush as usual. You can
also use the same mix dissolved in water for orthodontic
Rinse your mouth.
Mix equal parts salt and baking soda in water for a
fresh and deodorizing mouth rinse.
Ease mouth problems.
For cankers, abscesses, and other mouth sores, rinse
your mouth with a weak solution of warm saltwater
several times a day.
Relieve bee-sting pain.
Ouch? Immediately dampen area and pack on a small pile
of salt to reduce pain and swelling.
More bee-sting tips here.
Treat mosquito bites.
A saltwater soak can do wonders for that special
mosquito-bite itch —
a poultice of salt mixed with olive oil can help, too.
Treat poison ivy.
Same method as for treating mosquito bites. (Salt
doesn't seem to distinguish between itches.)
Have an exfoliating massage.
After bathing and while still wet give yourself a
massage with dry salt. It freshens skin and boosts
Ease throat pain.
Mix salt and warm water, gargle to relieve a sore
AROUND THE HOUSE
Sprinkle salt at doorways, window sills, and
anywhere else ants sneak
into your house.
Ants don't like to walk on salt.
Extinguish grease fires.
Keep a box of salt near your stove and oven, and if a
grease fire flares up, douse the flames with salt.
(Never use water on grease fires; it will splatter the
burning grease.) When salt is applied to fire, it acts
like a heat sink and dissipates the heat from the fire —
it also forms an oxygen-excluding crust to smother the
If you soak new candles in a strong salt solution for a
few hours, then dry them well, they will not drip as
much when you burn them.
Keep cut flowers fresh.
A dash of salt added to the water in a flower vase will
keep cut flowers fresh longer. (You can also try an
aspirin or a dash of sugar for the same effect.)
Arrange artificial flowers.
Artificial flowers can be held in place by pouring salt
into the vase, adding a little cold water and then
arranging the flowers. The salt become solid as it dries
and holds the flowers in place.
Make play dough.
Use 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup water, 2
tablespoons oil, and 2 tablespoons cream of tartar. Stir
together flour, cream of tartar, salt, and oil, and
slowly add water. Cook over medium heat stirring
frequently until dough becomes stiff. Spread onto wax
paper and let cool. Knead the dough with your hands
until it reaches a good dough consistency. (Read about
To fill nail holes, fix chips or other small dings in
white Sheetrock or plaster walls, mix 2 tablespoons salt
and 2 tablespoons cornstarch, then add enough water
(about 5 teaspoons) to make a thick paste. Use the paste
to fill the holes.
Deter patio weeds.
If weeds or grass grow between bricks or blocks in your
patio, sidewalk, or driveway, carefully spread salt
between the cracks, then sprinkle with water or wait for
rain to wet it down.
Kill poison ivy.
Mix three pounds of salt with a gallon of soapy water
(use a gentle dish soap) and apply to leaves and stems
with a sprayer, avoiding any plant life that you want to
De-ice sidewalks and driveways.
One of the oldest tricks in the book! Lightly sprinkle
rock salt on walks and driveways to keep snow and ice
from bonding to the pavement and allow for easier
shoveling/scraping. But don't overdo it; use the salt
sensibly to avoid damage to plants and paws.
Tame a wild barbecue.
Toss a bit of salt on flames from food dripping in
barbecue grills to reduce the flames and calm the smoke
cooling the coals
(like water does).
Salt works as an effective yet gentle scouring agent.
Salt also serves as a catalyst for other ingredients,
such as vinegar, to boost cleaning and deodorizing
action. For a basic soft scrub, make a paste with lots
of salt, baking soda and dish soap and use on
appliances, enamel, porcelain, etc.
Clean sink drains.
Pour salt mixed with hot water down the kitchen sink
regularly to deodorize and keep grease from building up.
Remove water rings.
Gently rub a thin paste of salt and vegetable oil on the
white marks caused by beverage glasses and hot dishes on
Clean greasy pans.
Cast-iron skillets can be cleaned
with a good sprinkling of salt and paper towels.
Clean stained cups.
Mix salt with a dab of dish soap to make a soft scrub
for stubborn coffee and tea stains.
A mix of salt and soda water can be used to wipe out and
deodorize the inside of your refrigerator, a nice way to
keep chemical-y cleaners away from your food.
Clean brass or copper.
Mix equal parts of salt, flour, and vinegar to make a
paste, and rub the paste on the metal. After letting it
sit for an hour, clean with a soft cloth or brush and
buff with a dry cloth.
Mix salt and cream of tartar with just enough water to
make a paste. Rub on rust, let dry, brush off and buff
with a dry, soft cloth. You can also use the same method
with a mix of salt and lemon.
Clean a glass coffee pot.
Every diner waitress' favorite tip: add salt and ice
cubes to a coffee pot, swirl around vigorously, and
rinse. The salt scours the bottom, and the ice helps to
agitate it more for a better scrub.
Attack wine spills.
If a tipsy guest tips wine on your cotton or linen
tablecloth, blot up as much as possible and immediately
cover the wine with a pile of salt, which will help pull
the remaining wine away form the fiber. After dinner,
soak the tablecloth in cold water for 30 minutes before
works on clothing.)
Since, of course, we are all very careful in how much
detergent we use in our laundry, we never have too many
suds. But if someone overfills ... you can eliminate
excess suds with a sprinkle of salt.
Dry clothes in the winter.
Use salt in the final laundry rinse to prevent clothes
from freezing if you use an
outdoor clothes line
in the winter.
Wash colored curtains or washable fiber rugs in a
saltwater solution to brighten the colors. Brighten
faded rugs and carpets by rubbing them briskly with a
cloth that has been dipped in a strong saltwater
solution and wrung out.
Remove perspiration stains.
Add four tablespoons of salt to one quart of hot water
and sponge the fabric with the solution until stains
Remove blood stains.
Soak the stained cloth in cold saltwater, then launder
in warm, soapy water and boil after the wash. (Use only
on cotton, linen, or other natural fibers that can take
Tackle mildew or rust stains.
Moisten stained spots with a mixture of lemon juice and
salt, then spread the item in the sun for bleaching —
then rinse and dry.
Clean a gunky iron bottom.
Sprinkle a little salt on a piece of paper and run the
hot iron over it to remove rough, sticky spots.
Salt is used commonly in the textile industry, but works
at home too. If a dye isn't colorfast, soak the garment
for an hour in 1/2 gallon of water to which you've added
1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup salt, then rinse. If rinse
water has any color in it, repeat. Use only on
single-colored fabric or madras. If the item is
multicolored, dry-clean it to avoid running all of the