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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Less is More project: Week 5 - Did you say baking soda?

PhotoAtelier, Flickr

This week has not been the greatest, as the whole family caught a rather virulent bug. On the bright side, I was not tempted to shop whatsoever. To be honest, I was not tempted to write either, but luckily, guest writer sj is here to save the day!

Always interested in exploring cheap, environmentally friendly ways to keep clean, I have been investigating some "natural cleaning products". My friend sj kindly guided me through the discovery of some convenient alternatives. Today, she will introduce us to...

... The Magic and Wonders of Baking Soda!

Simply put, baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is amazing. I am a proud baking soda addict. It never ceases to amaze me and I use it for everything - from deodorant to shampoo, and for all my household cleaning. Today, I am going to give you fine readers the inside on scoop on what is so wondrous about this versatile white powder. I will also delve into the industrial production of baking soda.

Cleaning Everything

Nothing cleans a bathtub (and sink, and floor, etc.) as effectively as baking soda - it cuts through soap scum and grim that you didn’t even realize was there. Your bathtub is supposed to be a glowing bright white, but if you’re not using baking soda, there is a good chance it’s closer to off-white, and you’ve come to believe it's normal. To help your bathtub release its true shine, just sprinkle baking soda on the dry bathtub and use a damp cloth to scrub. You’ll be amazed at what happens.

What’s even more amazing is what baking soda does to your armpits. Deodorant is my favorite use of baking soda. Applying dry baking soda powder on your underarms (with your fingers or a cosmetic brush) prevents all odor. You can add a couple drops of essential oil (lavender, for example) to your homemade deodorant jar. Using baking soda this way may make a little bit of a mess - you should do it over the sink or bathtub and you may end up with baking soda particles all down your side, but it is well worth it. Even after a hard run, there isn’t even a hint of odor. It is magical - and no questionable chemicals!

I also wash my hair with it, which is becoming a common trend. Just take a couple heaping table spoons or a handful and make a thick paste with water. Start massaging it into the roots of your hair - really give your head a good scrub and cover every inch of your scalp. After this nice brain massage, let it sit for about a minute and then rinse (using cooler water, which is better for your hair). Your hair may feel a bit funny while it is still wet, but it will dry clean and fantastic. I have been doing this for over three years - my hair became healthy, curlier, shinier and stronger. If your hair is long, you can use apple cider vinegar as “conditioner”.

Another useful tip: if you quickly apply a baking soda and water paste to a bee, hornet or wasp sting, the soda will neutralize the acid injected by the sting and stop all pain. It can even be used on canker sores and mouth ulcers. 

Sadly, brushing your teeth with baking soda is not so simple, as the powder is too abrasive for the tooth enamel. Other than that, I seriously believe baking soda is wonderful. I highly recommend you try it! Although, I have discovered a little bit of a dark side...

Mother Nature's take on it

As a self-proclaimed environmentalist, I am concerned with the production of goods, and unfortunately, the picture doesn’t stay as clean as I was hoping when it comes to baking soda. Most products have at least some impact on the environment, and baking soda is no exception. Please keep in mind, however, that baking soda is definitely not the “dirtiest” of available products.

To produce sodium bicarbonate, soda ash (its primary ingredient) must be acquired. In North America, soda ash is mined in the form of trona (a mineral). Trona is then mixed with water and carbon dioxide (great use of an abundant pollutant!) to make baking soda. Soda ash is also used to make many other products - glass, fiber glass, textiles, detergent and paper. It’s a pretty useful and widespread resource. The largest mine in the world is in Wyoming and produces 90% of America’s soda ash. There is such an abundance that this mine will not run out of trona for at least another 2000 years.

In regards to this information, there is nothing “wrong” specifically with the trona mining industry. However, trona mines do share the problems every mine has: mining and related processes release lots of pollutants into the atmosphere and generally cause environmental devastation to the surrounding area. The trona mine in Wyoming is a major contributor to air pollution in the state, and the mine does not monitor their emissions, which is cause for concern. 

But making baking soda is currently going through some positive and exciting changes! A new technology was put to test in 2014 - carbon dioxide emission from industrial factories can now be directly turned into baking soda. Let's hope this method takes over in the next couple years!

In conclusion

I believe baking soda is a much better choice than other cleaning and cosmetic products in terms of personal health, cost and simplicity, even if it's not perfect from an environmental point of view. Nothing really is, and at least is it made in North America, so it has a lower carbon footprint. The production of baking soda is still better than the production of more complicated cleaners, soaps, detergents, antiperspirants, etc., in which baking soda is just one ingredient. So, is baking soda a good sustainable choice or a lesser of evils? I am not sure, but I am still vouching for it, and I really think you should try it - and stock up before the apocalypse! (hehe)





Very few temptations this week. Too sick. I did buy some Advil, and it was definitely a need. I also had to replace the ink cartridges in my printer. This is for work (hence a need), but I have decided to look more closely at my ink and paper consumption in the coming weeks.


Too sick to do any cleanup. I will catch up next week.


Because I was sick, I watched more TV than usual (which is not hard, as my usual is to not watch any TV at all). I am appalled at all the advertising. Apparently, your life will be wonderful if you make sure your appearance is flawless, your car shiny, and your food... unhealthy. Has your brain melted yet? Only a couple hours in front of the screen and I already feel like I've lost some IQ points. But maybe that's from being sick.


Are you tired of hearing me mention my sickness yet? I am. Which is why I will turn off the computer right now, and go get some rest.

What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? How did that make you feel? Please comment below! And...


  1. I will actually give the baking soda cleaner and shampoo a go. Why not..? I like the simplicity and efficiency of it.

    I sincerely hope you get to feeling better. Being sick is no fun, and TV sucks -- period.

    1. Awesome! Please let us know how is works for you :)

  2. Ugh - so sorry that y'all have been sick. I hope you are starting to feel better!!!
    Interesting about the baking soda. I knew it was good for cleaning but that was all.

    1. Baking soda is a wonder-product! And I am sure there are many more uses for it that I didn't cover in this post....

  3. I use lots of baking soda though not for deo or hair soap. Might have to give that a try when I run out of what I have.
    I hope you and your family is feeling better.
    You can't do everything all the time so just take care of yourself and next week is a new week.

    1. If you do end up trying out baking soda, please let us know how it goes! I have yet to find a more effective and simple deodorant!

  4. You have IQ points to spare so no worries! Thanks for the information on NaHCO3. Sorry y'all are under the weather! I think it's going to be a bad year for the flu and colds. At least you guys got yours out of the way early. I understand you can make an aspirin tea from Willow bark.

    1. Yes, but follow the directions. Too strong or too many cups per day and you may have stomach cramps and diarrhea. One teaspoon of willow bark, in one cup of water is the usual amount. Bring to boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Cool, then strain and drink. I use half the amount diluted with hot water and sweetened with a little honey, that way I get two cups of tea from the one decoction. The results are slower acting than just taking some aspirin, so if your pain is severe I would recommend taking the aspirin for faster relief.

  5. Hope you start feeling better soon....nothing worse than 'the bug'.

  6. TV and bugs suck. Equally.
    I use baking soda for cleaning in the home, but wasn't aware of its shampoo/deodorant uses. Thank you.
    And I hope the next week is a much healthier one, for all of you.
    Question: As a person whose hair tends to be dry and tangles, what would you recommend?

    1. I found apple cider vinegar to be a good hair moisturizer. If I used it too much or got it near my roots, my hair would get rather greasy. Also, my sister puts an egg in her hair everyone once in a while to give it a moisture boost. And I have a friend who swears by coconut oil- she works it into all her hair, lets it set for about 20 mins, and then rinses/washes it out.

      There are lots of simple options! If you give any of those a go, let us know the results!

    2. Apple Cider Vinegar neutralises the ph of the hair after shampooing, closes the hair cuticle and adds shine. Add a couple of tablespoons to a cup of cool or cold water and pour through the hair catching run off in a basin to keep pouring through several times. Use a wide toothed comb to gently comb through the hair while it is soaking wet. Squeeze out excess moisture and leave to dry. Do not rub with a towel as this will roughen up the hair cuticle again.

  7. Interesting to read about the pro's and con's of baking soda - thanks.

    Do hope you and the family feel a lot better soon, the winter months can very often bring unwanted bugs.

    Take Care and ....

    All the best Jan

  8. Sorry about the "bug"; I am surprised you did not choose to curl up with a book instead of watching the idiot box. When I was sick in January I went through 1 book per day :-))
    I will try the baking soda as a deodorant, but I am a tough case. Tried many alternatives already and nothing worked like the good ol' chemicals :-(

    1. I read, I read, but very slowly as my brain was half asleep... not able to read anything substantial.

  9. I also use baking soda, in fact I just bought a new carton today. Interesting to read the environmental take on it. I agree that it's pretty good compared to most other choices, though I wonder if there's an even better alternative?

    1. I wonder the same thing, and I am always trying to find new products and alternatives. I have yet to find something though, but I'll keep looking and stick with the baking soda in the meantime. It would also be nice not to rely on a giant corporation for cleaning and body-care alternatives.

  10. @sj; I've heard before about the many excellent uses baking soda can be put to, I've tried most of them and I'm happy with the results. As a deodorant, yes it probably works really well, but what about wetness? I'm one of those people who can walk to the shops and back and arrive home with very damp, sometimes wet underarms. Odour is no problem, since fresh sweat doesn't stink and I wash daily, but the wetness is uncomfortable and baking soda is no solution. I'll have to continue using commercial anti-perspirants. But my daughter's bathtub is gleaming white!

    1. Interesting about the wetness, and you're right, baking soda doesn't really reduce wetness.
      I am generally not bothered by damp or wet armpits, but I probably don't produce that much underarm sweat so I never considered how this could be an issue for some.
      But I do develop an odor a few hours into the day if I am wearing nothing even if I did just wash.

      The main complaint about baking soda is that it can be visible on your clothes. And I know two ways to prevent this- I may have to do a "follow-up" paragraph on this blog to let people know!

  11. This was all a fascinating to me. I'm trying some of these things.