Salt in the wrong place can be devasting to the environment – such as dry land salinity; or contamination of water supplies. But it’s also an incredibly useful substance – in fact, our bodies depend on external sources of salt for survival.
According to the Salt Institute, it has more than 14,000 known uses and Americans each use more than 16 tons of salt during over their lifetimes. Only a small percentage of that is ingested (but we still eat too much of it). The single major use of salt is on roads for deicing purposes – again, deicing with so much salt has its issues.
However, salt can be also be used in many different ways around the home as a more environmentally friendly alternative to harsher synthetic chemicals. Being so plentiful, it’s also very cheap – so you can save a lot of money in the process.
Here are just a few uses for salt:
Salt as a polish: By mixing salt and vinegar into a thick paste, it can be applied to brass silver and copper as a polish. Use a soft cloth to apply and buff, then rinse thoroughly in water and dry well.
Cleanups: This is one I learned as a kid working in a supermarket – for oil and egg spills, cover the area with salt – it’s a lot easier to pick up.
Salt drain cleaner: Equal quantities of salt and hot water poured down a drain can help get rid of nasty smells and dissolve grease, plus help slow future buildup. This probably shouldn’t be used in blackwater systems too often as it may upset the good bacteria that are crucial to breaking down solids.
Frost free windows and windscreens: Wipe down the inside of windows in your home and car with a sponge dipped in a saline solution, then dry. This will help prevent ice forming during freezing weather. Also, by rubbing a small cloth bag of moistened salt on your car’s windshield, this will help prevent ice from forming.
Scouring pots and pans: Pour rock salt onto greasy cookware before scouring to help cut through the grease
Removing tea and coffee stains: To remove tea and coffee stains on cups and decanters, sprinkle salt onto a sponge and use a circular motion when rubbing over the stains.
Sterilizing sponges: Kitchen sponges are the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of nasty bacteria. By soaking a sponge in a heavily saline solution, it will help kill these bacterial.
Pest deterrent: Pour a line of salt to prevent ants from crossing.
Earth friendly weed killer: A mix of 1 part salt to 3 parts boiling water can be poured directly onto weeds to kill them.
Mouthwash and gargle: Dissolve around a quarter teaspoon of salt into the equivalent of half a mouthful of warm water. Swish it around your mouth and gargle. I’ve also found this really helpful in dealing with toothaches.
Smelly cutting boards: A smelly cutting board simply means bacteria are present – and this is not only a whiffy problem, but a health issue. Bacteria are killed by salt, so by rubbing salt into your cutting board, let it sit for a little while and then rinse, your board will smell fresh and be bacteria-free!
Fire extinguisher: Keep a box of salt close at hand as an emergency fire extinguisher for grease fires. While it shouldn’t replace a proper fire extinguisher, it makes for a good backup.
Iron cleaner: Over time, irons pick up bits of junk that cause them to stick when you iron your clothes. To remove the gunk buildup, sprinkle salt onto a sheet of paper and then run the iron over it. Ensure you use a shot of steam to clean the jets after doing this and also wipe down the plate with a damp cloth once it cools.
Here’s a particularly interesting tip I came across a few times – by adding a pinch of salt to milk, it will keep for a lot longer without noticeably altering the taste!
This only just scratches the surface of the various uses for salt – there’s so many, you could go through many pounds of it a year. One thing to bear in mind though – while plentiful and cheap; too much salt winding up in our waterways or even in your yard can damage the environment; so as with all things, use it in moderation.