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47 Smart Uses for Salt (series): Personal Care

September 20, 2011

Originally published at Care2.com on July 4, 2011

How many ways can you use salt? According to the Salt Institute, about 14,000! I can’t think of another more versatile mineral. The use of salt to preserve food was one of the early cornerstones of civilization (preservation lessened the dependence on seasonal food, and provided sustenance for traveling over long distances). However, salt was very difficult to obtain. With modern production methods, nowadays salt is the most common and readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world; in fact, the supply of salt is inexhaustible.

Since at least medieval times salt (sodium chloride) has been used for cleaning–and ensuing generations have continued to rely on it for all kinds of nifty tricks around the house. (Ah, for the days before toxic chemicals promised the convenience of an easy fix!) So with its non-toxic friendliness and top-dog status as an endlessly abundant resource, let’s jump on the granny bandwagon and swap out some toxic solutions for ample, innocuous and inexpensive salt.

But first, let my inner science geek pipe in for just a second (although if I eat dinner with you, I promise not to ask you to please pass the sodium chloride). There is a whole class of chemical compounds called “salts,” but the salt we’re talking about is good old sodium chloride–an ionic compound with the formula NaCl. Sodium chloride is the salt most responsible for the salinity of the oceans and of the extracellular fluid of many multicellular organisms (which is why it is vital for us), and the major ingredient in edible salt. There are a number of forms of salt produced for consumption (and by default, housekeeping!): unrefined salt (such as sea salt), refined salt (table salt), and iodized salt. Kosher salt is sodium chloride processed to have flat crystals. And in case you’re wondering, Epsom salt is an entirely different animal: magnesium sulfate to be exact (which is a salt that I consider to be, essentially, miraculous).

Okay, lab coat off, Hints-from-Heloise hat on. Here are just a few of the many ways you can put salt to good use in your home:

Personal Care

Extend toothbrush life. Soak toothbrushes in salt water before your first use; they’ll last longer

Clean teeth. Use one part fine salt to two parts baking soda–dip your toothbrush in the mix and brush as usual. You can also use the same mix dissolved in water for  orthodontic appliances.

Rinse your mouth. Mix equal parts salt and baking soda in water for a fresh and deodorizing mouth rinse.

Ease mouth problems. For cankers, abscesses and other mouth sores, rinse your mouth with a weak solution of warm salt water several times a day.

Relieve bee sting pain. Ouch? Immediately dampen area and pack on a small pile of salt to reduce pain and swelling. More bee-sting tips here.

Treat mosquito bites. A saltwater soak can do wonders for that special mosquito-bite itch–a poultice of salt mixed with olive oil can help too.

Treat poison ivy. Same method as for treating mosquito bites. (Salt doesn’t seem to distinguish between itches.)

Have an exfoliating massage. After bathing and while still wet give yourself a massage with dry salt. It freshens skin and boosts circulation.

Ease throat pain. Mix salt and warm water, gargle to relieve a sore throat.

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