Towel Reviver

It's not easy being a towel. All that dirt and oil, hard water and friction can really beat a textile down. If you've found that your towels have become rough, less absorbent or otherwise lackluster over time, offer a little TLC in the form of baking soda to keep them looking and feeling their best. Baking soda helps loosen up fibers and removes chemical residue and grime, thus restoring your towels to their formerly soft and fluffy selves. Plus, baking soda naturally eliminates musty or mildewy odors that result from leaving damp towels lying around for too long. A word to the wise: Don't put too many towels in your washer at once. A too-​big load = not enough room to properly rinse your towels in the washer or properly fluff them in the dryer. For most machines, two or three bath towels at a time, along with hand towels and washcloths, will probably give you the best result.

For 1 use
  • 1/2 cup baking soda

    1. Set washer temperature to warm setting.

    2. Add baking soda directly to washer along with your regular detergent.

    3. Wash and dry as usual.
  • Drain De-Clogger

    We have a bathroom in our house that gets a lot of traffic. It's used for typical bathroom sink purposes, such as washing one's hands after one has gone; brushing one's teeth in the get-out-the-door-fast morning frenzy; setting up a Barbie doll hair salon; conducting experiments in which crayons are wrapped in wads of toilet paper and then submerged in a sink full of soapy water, which, ultimately, gets abandoned for an hour or more—y'know, typical stuff. Needless to say, it tends to drain slowly from time to time, and every few months, when my husband or I notice that water is moving slower than a tortoise, we go at it with baking soda and vinegar. Far cheaper and much safer for your pipes (and the environment), this technique is effective for kitchen and bathroom clogs and is—I do confess—kind of fun!

    For 1 use
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • Boiling water

    1. Remove the drain cover. (Many drain covers thread into the drain, so try unscrewing it by turning it to the left.)

    2. Using a cloth or paper towel, dry inside of the sink or tub.

    3. Pour baking soda down the drain, followed by the vinegar. The mixture will foam vigorously.

    4. Allow baking soda and vinegar to remain for about 5 minutes.

    5. Carefully, pour several cups of boiling water down the drain. This should clear it.
  • Microwave Cleaner

    Keeping the microwave clean isn't always easy (especially if your microwave is mounted above your stove and you are an adult under 5 feet tall and can't actually see all the way into the microwave unless you are standing on a stepping stool). It's a time-consuming task and, let's be honest, if you're using the microwave, you're probably already looking to save time. This quick method takes just 18 minutes, 17-and-a-half of which are unattended, and results in a splatter-free, spill-free, odor-free microwave.

    For 1 use
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 cup water

    1. Combine baking soda and water in a microwave-safe container.

    2. Microwave the mixture on high for 3 minutes.

    3. Leave the container in the microwave with the door closed for 15 minutes.

    4. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the container from the microwave.

    5. With a damp cloth, wipe out the inside of the microwave and door.

    6. Use paper or cloth towels to thoroughly dry the inside of the microwave or allow it to air dry with the door open.
  • Speedy Caramelized Onions

    For a busy cook, caramelized onions present a real quandary. Sure, they're deeply delicious, impossibly rich, meltingly savory...they're pure magic is what they are! But caramelizing onions is incredibly time consuming, requiring near-constant stirring for anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Not exactly busy weeknight fare. Or is it? What if I told you it was possible to make savory-sweet, perfectly complex caramelized onions in as little as 15 to 20 minutes? You'd expect me and Doc Brown to take you for a ride in a DeLorean, to traverse the time-space continuum to the not-too-distant future, wouldn't you? Fun as that would be, time travel is not actually required to turn out amazing caramelized onions in a flash. Nope. But baking soda is. You see, just a pinch of baking soda increases the pH of onions, which speeds up something called the Maillard reaction, the process responsible for the browning of proteins in food. It can accelerate the browning rate by more than 50 percent! These onions, soft and sweet, are good on pretty much...everything. They keep for a week or more in the fridge, so it's fine to make them well ahead of time.

    Makes about 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water

    1. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, sugar, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine. Cook, shaking and/or stirring the pan occasionally until onions begin to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.

    2. Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of water, scraping with a wooden spoon to release all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, then deglaze again with another 2 tablespoons of water. Repeat a few more times until the onions are deeply browned and you've gone through the whole 1/2 cup of water.
  • Photo: iStock/simarik

    Bug Bite Soother

    There's a long list of things I love about summer: sunshine, flip flops, swimming pools, ripe tomatoes, cold beer, fireflies and backyard barbecues, to name but a few. What's not to love? Well, itchy bug bites can be a real killjoy on a great summer day. Mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies and other buzzing bugs have a way of really violating your personal space when the weather heats up. Try as we may to repel them, bites from these pesky party crashers are a fact of summertime living. The next time you get a bite, treat it with baking soda to help the itching and swelling subside fast.

    For 1 use
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • A few drops of water or witch hazel

    1. Combine baking soda with enough water or witch hazel to make a paste.

    2. Spread it on the affected area.

    3. Allow paste to remain on skin for 10 to 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water.

    From The Baking Soda Companion by Suzy Scherr. Copyright © 2018 by Suzy Scherr. Excerpted with permission by The Countryman Press.