21 Clever Things You Never Knew Table Salt Could Do

21 Clever Things You Never Knew Table Salt Could Do
Photo: Jiri Hera, Shutterstock

Oh sodium chloride, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depths of my crock pot, breadth of my amateur dinner repertoire, and height of my Costco-sized Himalayan salt shaker. Without you, my hastily-put-together nightly family nourishment would be all but unpalatable. (My kids would argue it already is, but I digress.)

We all know how vital salt is for seasoning food, but are you aware of its many other uses? The antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties of NaCl make it a triple threat of natural remedies and household helpers. From beauty and cleaning to winter maintenance and oral hygiene, behold all the reasons nobody should put salt in a corner. (Unless there’s a stain there. Then, permission granted.)

Make your coffee less bitter

Photo: portumen, ShutterstockPhoto: portumen, Shutterstock

If you’re looking for a way to consume your beloved cup of joe without all the cream and sugar (or sugar substitutes with weird aftertastes), salt has been used for this purpose in other cultures for decades. Salt dampens bitterness and enhances sweeter flavours. According to chef and food science expert Alton Brown, “Not only does salt cut the bitterness, it also smooths out the ‘stale’ taste of tank-stored water. Research has proven that salt is actually better at neutralising bitterness than sugar.”

When making coffee, Brown recommends adding a half teaspoon of salt directly to two tablespoons of coffee grounds for every cup of water used to neutralise the bitterness. (You can also add a pinch to a brewed cup.)

Disinfect butcher blocks and cutting boards

Photo: batjaket, ShutterstockPhoto: batjaket, Shutterstock

The coarse texture of salt makes it an excellent grime scrubber and stain lifter. When salt’s mild abrasiveness is combined with the bleaching power of lemon, its cleaning mojo is taken to the next level. Sprinkle salt on your butcher block or cutting board, then use a cut lemon to scrub the counter or cutting board. Let the salty lemon juices sit overnight, then wipe in the morning with a cloth and warm water. (You can also create and apply a paste with lemon juice and salt.)

Lift sweat, grass, and blood stains

Photo: Victoria 1, ShutterstockPhoto: Victoria 1, Shutterstock

If your favourite tee-shirts or button downs are looking yellow in the pits — but still have a lot of life left in them — give them a salt bath. To remove underarm stains, mix 4 tablespoons of salt with a quart of warm water and soak the garment before washing.

For grass stains, squeeze lemon juice over the stain before sprinkling salt on top and rubbing the fabric together. Blood stains should be soaked in cold, salty water overnight — use 1 tablespoon of salt per 2 cups of water.

Exfoliate your skin

Photo: Africa Studio, ShutterstockPhoto: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Skip the expensive spa treatment and make your own salt scrub at home. Salt is a wonderful exfoliator, lifting dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause breakouts. Your skins will also benefit from the sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and other minerals within sea salt, while emerging smoother and softer. All you need is 1 cup of sea salt, 1/4 cup of jojoba, avocado, or olive oil, and 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oil, if desired. Note: Salt scrubs should only be applied to your body, not your face.

Deodorise your sneakers and garbage disposal

Photo: TeamDAF, ShutterstockPhoto: TeamDAF, Shutterstock

Put the dehydrating power of salt to work for those funky-smelling cross-trainers in your closet. Sprinkle salt in sweaty shoes, let sit overnight, and by morning, your kicks will smell a lot less foul.

To rid your sink’s disposal of nasty odours, dilute 1 cup of salt in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. (Add a few drops of lemon essential oil for an extra fresh scent.) Pour down the drain while the disposal is running to work out any lingering smells.

Remove food grime from cast iron

Photo: Bruce Peter, ShutterstockPhoto: Bruce Peter, Shutterstock

When crusted-on food refuses to budge from your cast iron skillet, a salt scrub can loosen the hardened food without damaging the pan. Begin by warming a small amount of vegetable oil in the pan (in a rush, it’s possible to skip this step and still see results). Pour in enough salt to cover the bottom and use a damp paper towel to scrape it clean. For tougher jobs, use a ball of tin foil instead of a paper towel.

While too much citric acid can damage cast iron, for non cast-iron pots, pans, and dishes, salt combined with lemon makes a great scouring paste.

Remove stains from mugs, brass, and copper

Photo: en_el_marco, ShutterstockPhoto: en_el_marco, Shutterstock

If your favourite coffee mugs are sporting tea or java stains, use a splash of water and 1-2 teaspoons of salt to scrub until they’re clean. (This also works on the gunky residue inside flower vases.) You can also clean your glass coffee pot by filling it with 1/4 cup of table salt and a dozen ice cubes and letting it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing with cold water.

Brass and copper can be made to shine again with a paste made from equal parts salt, flour, and vinegar — or you can simply soak your brass and copper for 20 minutes in a bucket with a tablespoon of salt, and enough white vinegar to cover the metal.

Kill weeds and poison ivy

Photo: Floki, ShutterstockPhoto: Floki, Shutterstock

Grass and weeds sprouting in footpath cracks or between patio stones can suffer with a deadly blow of salt. Use a ratio of one part salt to two parts water and pour salt on grass or weeds. Let it sit before drenching the area with very hot water. Be sure to use salt only where you want no plants to grow, as excess salt in plant root systems upsets the balance of salinity and water uptake necessary for them to live.

To kill poison ivy, combine one cup of salt and one gallon of vinegar and spray the leaves and stems. (Alternately, add three pounds of salt to a gallon of soapy water, and do the same.) After a few days, the poison ivy should wither and die.

Keep colours from running in the wash

Photo: Studio Light and Shade, ShutterstockPhoto: Studio Light and Shade, Shutterstock

Buying a brightly coloured-top, new towels, or dark-wash jeans only to have them fade after the first trip to your laundry room is a bummer that can be avoided. To keep bright colours from fading, especially during their first few washes, add 1-2 cups of salt to the drum of your washing machine. (Alternately, you can add 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup vinegar to a half gallon of water and pre-soak the garment until no colour is left behind in the water.)

Prevent red wine stains

Photo: Andrey_Popov, ShutterstockPhoto: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

By now, we’ve all either been the victim or perpetrator of a red wine spill at least once in our lives. Whether you’re the guilty party or not, bring this stain-busting solution to the table (or carpet, or couch, or sweater). After first blotting the spill (not rubbing) to remove any excess liquid from the surface, dab with water to dilute the stain. Then cover with table salt and let it soak in for 10 minutes. Scrub vigorously until it fades.

Keep windows and windshields frost-free

Photo: Kim Kuperkova, ShutterstockPhoto: Kim Kuperkova, Shutterstock

Salt lowers the temperature water freezes into ice, which is why it’s used to combat frozen roads and walkways during wintertime. But it can also be put to good use in your home and car. When the mercury drops, rub windows with a sponge of salty water to keep frost from forming. Similarly, rubbing a slightly dampened sock (or cheesecloth) filled with salt on your windshield before the temperature dips can keep frost from forming. And these auto glass experts suggest mixing one tablespoon salt with 2 cups water to quickly melt ice on your windshield. (Too much salt is bad for your car, however, so proceed with caution.)

Clean wounds

Photo: AT Production, ShutterstockPhoto: AT Production, Shutterstock

There’s a reason we use the expression “rubbing salt in the wound.” Before the advent of modern medicine, salt was used for millennia to cleanse wounds throughout Greek, Egyptian and Roman cultures. A natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, salt absorbs fluid from the damaged tissue surrounding the wound and prevents the growth of bacteria that cause infection. However, pouring salt directly on an open wound is not recommended, and will be painful (hence the expression). But salt water (meaning sterile saline, not ocean water) has many therapeutic uses, from healing minor cuts and piercings to nasal irrigation.

Put out a grease fire

Photo: mon_ter, ShutterstockPhoto: mon_ter, Shutterstock

If a small grease fire breaks out in your kitchen, pouring the nearest box of salt on it will suffocate the flames, depriving them of the air they need to grow. (You’ll need a lot, so pour liberally.) In a pinch, baking soda also smothers flames by releasing carbon dioxide. Be careful not to ever pour flour, sugar, or baking powder on the fire, however, as those are highly combustible.

Test and whip eggs

Photo: iva, ShutterstockPhoto: iva, Shutterstock

If you’re not sure if an egg has gone bad, pour 1-2 teaspoons of salt into a cup and place the egg inside. A fresh egg will sink while a rotten one will rise to the top. If you’re making meringue, a pinch of salt will make egg whites whip more quickly, and achieve greater heights, because nobody wants low, wimpy meringue peaks. (The same is true when beating liquid cream into whipped cream.)

Repel fleas

Photo: Yuliya Evstratenko, ShutterstockPhoto: Yuliya Evstratenko, Shutterstock

If your favourite four-legged friend brings home some unwanted guests, salt can be used as an effective flea killer in your home (not on your pet, as it can irritate their skin). Salt is a dehydrating agent, which removes moisture fleas need to live. Brush highly refined sea salt into the carpets, pet beds, and furniture where the fleas may be hiding. Leave the salt for 12-48 hours before vacuuming.

Treat bee stings

Photo: WIRACHAIPHOTO, ShutterstockPhoto: WIRACHAIPHOTO, Shutterstock

Epsom salt is a natural way to reduce the swelling and pain of wasp and bee stings. Soak the affected area in a salt bath as needed — according to Preventive Pest Control, this “also help your skin contract and expel any pieces of the stinger that are too deeply lodged to extract.” You can also make your own paste of salt and water to be applied directly to the sting site.

Clean wicker furniture

Photo: Nine_Tomorrows, ShutterstockPhoto: Nine_Tomorrows, Shutterstock

Wicker has a tendency to yellow with age; it also may get moldy over time. To prevent this, create a salt and warm water mixture, and brush or gently scrub it on. After letting it dry in the sun, wicker will look brighter and newer.

Stovetop spill maintenance

Photo: Yuliasis, ShutterstockPhoto: Yuliasis, Shutterstock

When water boils over on your stovetop, the resulting spill (which you can’t clean up right away because it’s next to an open flame) eventually hardens into a crusty, stubborn, orange-tinged film that’s a pain in the arse to wipe up. Next time this happens, pour salt on the unwelcome puddle before it cools — this will prevent it from hardening and make for much easier cleanup.

Combat soap scum and mildew in your bathroom

Photo: LightField Studios, ShutterstockPhoto: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

If you’d like to cut soap scum and mildew the all-natural way, minus any harsh chemicals, you need salt in your arsenal. The abrasive and anti-bacterial properties of salt combined with citric acid can lay waste to sink and tub funk. Simply sprinkle salt on the surface you want to clean in the same manner you’d use Ajax or Comet, then use a grapefruit or lemon (cut in half) to scrub.

Remove bathroom mould with a spray made of 1/2 cup salt and half cup vinegar; and prevent mildew buildup on a plastic shower curtain by soaking it in a bucket of salty water (1/2 cup salt for a gallon of water) for one hour before hanging to dry.

Gargle your sore throat away

Photo: Alexander Knyazhinsky, ShutterstockPhoto: Alexander Knyazhinsky, Shutterstock

Do people still make their kids gargle? Because I grew up gargling. At the first hint of a sore throat, my mum had me in the bathroom at least once a day with a full cup of warm, salty water, letting the mixture coat the back of my throat. Indeed, the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement recommends gargling with salt water (1/4 tsp. salt per 226.80 g. water) to soothe sore throat pain.

Help prevent gum disease and heal canker sores

Photo: Andrey_Popov, ShutterstockPhoto: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

Not only can salty water help minimise sore throat pain, according to Medical News Today, “Regularly gargling with salt water can assist in removing bacteria from the gums, which helps in cleaning and preventing the buildup of plaque and tartar. A buildup of bacteria in the mouth can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.” Additionally, they note gargling with salt water may help ease pain and promote healing of canker sores.

Log in to comment on this story!