Baking soda isn't just for baking or refreshing shoes.

Baking soda uses - smart solutions with baking soda
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You may only know baking soda as one of the key ingredients in your favorite cookie recipe—and you may even have a hard time remembering those baking soda vs. baking powder differences—but baking soda uses are actually practically endless. Sure, baking soda is the secret to great baked goods, but this pantry staple also goes far beyond the kitchen. As the many vinegar uses prove, baking soda can do almost anything, with a little know-how.

Fortunately, The Big Book of Baking Soda from Arm & Hammer (the baking soda powerhouse) has more than 100 ways to use baking soda, with tips on everything from how to clean shoes with baking soda to using baking soda for bug bites. Baking soda can be used to clean, cook, and refresh, and it’s safe for pets and kids to be around. And there’s probably already a box in the pantry or fridge, so if you’re in a pinch to clean up a mess or soothe a sunburn, baking soda has you covered.

Read on for 11 smart baking soda uses that have nothing to do with cooking—you may be surprised by everything it can do.

Baking soda for hair

If your hair’s feeling a little gummy or full of residue from styling products or hard water, a DIY baking soda shampoo can help clean the roots. Mix a small amount (about a quarter-sized pile) of baking soda with your favorite shampoo, either in your hand or in a small bowl or cup, and wash your hair as usual. Rinse thoroughly—avoiding the eye area—and condition as you normally would. Your hair will feel noticeably refreshed.

A long soak

You probably already know and love baths, whether they’re a weekly ritual or a monthly (or even annual) treat. Adding half a cup of baking soda to your bath will make it a little more refreshing and help smooth your skin when it’s time to dry off.

Baking soda toothpaste

It doesn’t have anti-cavity fluoride, but baking soda can still help you refresh your mouth. Sprinkle some in a small dish and dip your damp toothbrush inside. Brush as usual and rinse thoroughly for a clean, whitened smile.

Fresh nails

Make a paste of three parts baking soda and one part water (three teaspoons baking soda and one teaspoon water, for example). Rub the paste in a gentle, circular motion over your hands to exfoliate and smooth them. For nails, dip a nail brush into baking soda to scrub your nails and cuticles. Rinse hands and nails clean with warm water, then apply your nail polish of choice for a fresh manicure.

Baking soda for face

Exfoliate your face—and whole body—with a paste of three parts baking soda and one part water. (Three teaspoons baking soda and one teaspoon water should be enough for your face; up the quantities for a full-body scrub.) Rub on skin in a gentle circular motion, then rinse clean, avoiding the eye area.

Aloe alternative

Out of aloe? Try a little baking soda on that fresh sunburn: Make a solution of four tablespoons baking soda in one quart of water. Soak a washcloth in the solution, then apply it to the affected area. Think cool thoughts.

Baking soda for bug bites

Temporarily relieve minor irritation and itching from a bug bite with a little baking soda. Just avoid contact with eyes, avoid use with children younger than two years until checking with a doctor first, and see a doctor if symptoms worsen or last longer than seven days. Once those bases are covered, make a paste or solution by mixing baking soda to water; add more soda than water for a paste to apply to skin, or add more water and just a little soda for a solution. (Dip a cloth in the solution and apply to skin for 15 to 30 minutes.) With either option, repeat as needed.

Stuffed animal refresh

Favorite teddy bear smelling a little ripe? If a full wash isn’t quite necessary, sprinkle baking soda on a dry stuffed animal. Let it set for 15 minutes, then brush off the soda (or vacuum it off). If there is any residue, it won’t hurt little ones.

Doggie baths

Give the dog a dry bath in between standard washings by giving dry fur a light sprinkle of baking soda. Use a brush to work it through fur, particularly with long-haired dogs, and then thoroughly remove it with a brush or dry towel.

Refreshed pet beds

Eliminate odors on pet bedding by sprinkling baking soda liberally over the fabric. Wait 15 minutes, and then vacuum it up thoroughly. Just be sure to check color fastness first on an out-of-sight corner by mixing half a tablespoon of baking soda with half a cup of water and pouring a little on the fabric. Let it dry, vacuum the spot, and then check that the fabric color has changed. If it hasn’t, you’re good to sprinkle.

Produce prepping

Clean fruits and vegetables for safer, residue-free consumption with a sprinkling of baking soda on a vegetable brush or clean, damp sponge. Scrub the produce and rinse, then enjoy.