For my series of 'Back to basics' posts I've covered a lot of ground and featured plenty of evocative natural cleaning and laundering remedies — nine to be exact: Bon Ami Cleaning Powder, Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Bar Soap, Fels-Naptha, Heinz Distilled White Vinegar, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, 20 Mule Team Borax, Dr. Bronner’s Classic Liquid Soaps, ReaLemon, and Colgate's Octagon Soap.
All nine of these products are wonderful — some more obscure than others and all of them time-honored, inexpensive, and low-impact — but you might have been left wondering: "when in the world is he going to cut to the BS and include the most basic of them all, baking soda?" Since I like to save the best for last, for my final 'Back to basics' post here's a look at the ultimate thrift- and planet-friendly cleaning/laundry solution with endless retro appeal: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.
Of course, the use of any kind of baking soda is just fine but the brand in the little yellow box is no doubt the most iconic. Since my post on Arm & Hammer Baking Soda’s more powerful cousin, Super Washing Soda (sodium carbonate), has gotten a fair amount of play recently, I thought I’d dig up some history on the A & H brand.
Arm & Hammer got its start in 1846 when Austin Church and John Dwight started selling packaged sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) under the name John Dwight and Co. In 1867, the company became Church and Co. and the Arm & Hammer trademark — the hammer-wielding arm of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan — first appeared on packaging (it apparently predates the Socialist Labor Party of America’s similar insignia).
The rest, as they say, is history, although it’s worth pointing out a few A & H eco-milestones: in 1888, the first eco-themed Arm & Hammer trading cards appeared with the “Beautiful Birds of America" series; in the early 1900s, the company, now Church & Dwight, began using recycled paperboard in packaging; in 1970, Arm & Hammer releaseed the first phosphate-free laundry detergent; and also in 1970, the company served as the sole corporate sponsor of the first Earth Day.
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda was originally marketed as a cooking additive — a leavening agent — and it wasn’t until the 1920s that the company began pushing the astounding versatility of sodium bicarbonate.
Today, baking soda is just as popular as a household cleaner and personal care ingredient as it is a cookery staple. It’s cheap, nontoxic, and its applications — alone or with other ingredients — are seemingly endless. My favorite? I ditch the Drano and use it, along with distilled white vinegar, as a safe drain de-clogger. Aside from being inexpensive and eco-friendly, it’s endlessly entertaining to watch the two ingredients react (kitchen volcano!) I also, like many folks, keep boxes of Arm & Hammer in my fridge to absorb odors. Plus, I use it to clean my often-gnarly electric toothbrush.
Instead of listing every single cool use for baking soda here, I thought I’d open it up to you in the comments section. Please, feel free to share your favorite ways to use baking soda, Arm & Hammer or not, around the house. Bonus points for sharing something unusual and unique (and no, denture cleaning does not count)!