Baking soda (NaHCO3) is the friendly household name for sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda, and it's a very useful substance. It's used as a leavener in baked goods, as a cleaner, a deodorizer, and as an antacid.

Baking soda is often used to leaven muffins because, when it is combined with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, yogurt, or molasses, produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which causes a batter to rise. This reaction occurs immediately once baking soda is moistened with an acid, and so baking soda should be mixed in with the other dry ingredients first, then the liquid ingredients should then be added, mixed quickly, and placed into the oven right away.

Baking soda is also a non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaner. Sprinkle it onto tubs, counters, and the like, rub, and rinse well to avoid leaving a residue. An open container of baking soda will absorb odours in a fridge. If you have a clogged drain, pour some baking soda down it, follow with some white vinegar. The combination of baking soda and vinegar, by the way, makes an exciting fizz in any context, and so can be used to simulate an explosion, if it takes your fancy.

Alka Seltzer, Eno, and the like - those fizzy tablets that you drop in water and drink when you have an upset stomach - are made from something like baking soda, and you can use baking soda for this if you need an aid against indigestion and don't have those medicines. It tastes disgusting, though.

One of the less obvious uses for baking soda is a tip I picked up from a pair of college roommates. They were brothers, and not only were they on the football team but they were stereotypical jocks, in the sense that they considered wallpapering the living room with the boxtops from half racks of Schmidt. I'll never forget the party they threw when the animal on the box changed from an elk (No, it is very much not a deer) to a fish.

Well, being that they were hard-drinking jocks who liked to throw lots of parties involving large quantities of cheap beer and large numbers of other, equally hard drinking jocks, at least once a week somebody would vomit in the bathroom. Usually it'd happen at a point in the night when all involved were three sheets to the wind and incapable of properly cleaning the mess up. Puke, if not promptly cleaned up, leaves a stench that takes days to completely get rid of.

This is where the trick comes in... If the mess is promptly covered with baking soda, it not only stinks less and becomes less of an eyesore for the rest of the night, but it prevents the odor from lingering after the mess is removed.

I doubt this works as well on carpet as it does on tile and linoleum.

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