Hello! I am starting a new series on Homesong under the broader CLEAN & TIDY umbrella called Humble Helpers. It’s an idea that sparked in the middle of the night after Theodore Louie insisted on snuggling in our bed, and I insisted he go over to dad’s side because pregnancy, and then dad insisted he go back to his own bed, alas I was up and awake for like two hours in the wee hours with the owls and the raccoons ruminating. Oh, mom life. You are hard but I love you.
What is Humble Helpers about, you ask? It is a series dedicated to all the humble things we, as homemakers and nurturers of the home, tend to overlook in the vast sea of home tools and aids. It is about getting back to the bare bones of basic home keeping, cleaning without fuss and frill, and about taking simple, budget friendly measures to tackle everyday situations within one’s home.
This series was born out of overwhelm, truth be told. Because there are just so many, too many, products on the market right now, some great, many awful, being sold to the everyday consumer as cleaning must-haves. And it’s simply not true. Who must have them? The exasperated Target shopper, that’s who. But are all manufactured cleaning products and tools bad? Nonsense! Some are entirely wonderful and helpful. Especially if making things is not your thing. Some smell like acorns and pine trees. But some are just a big, fat waste of time and money. Some are full of ingredients that despite being ‘green’ are not entirely so. Some are laden with chemicals so harsh that you’d never spray them on your counter if you knew what they were, let alone near your baby.
What this series aims to do is shine a light on the humble helpers you most likely already have, so to offer you different, more mindful ways, to care for the spaces you live in. We shall start with salt. The humblest of the bunch.
You have some in the kitchen, right? Scientifically known as sodium chloride, NaCl, salt is both essential to our homes as well as our bodies. Historically, salt has played a significant roll in the development of cultures and countries, even being traded for gold in several points in time, a precious mineral that does much more than season our food. As both an ancient and modern preservative, salt is the main ingredient behind your favorite dill pickles and cured salmon. For food preservation, it presents and delays bacteria from forming, thereby preventing various food from spoiling. And when it comes to it’s usefulness in the cleaning department, it acts as a mild abrasive, absorbent solution, and freezing deterrent. Salt is a marvelous, marvelous mineral!
Let’s talk about the different kids of salt that exist most commonly in households, because not all salt is salt!
Refined Salts | First, there is refined salt, meaning salt that has gone through a purification process to strip trace minerals, thereby changing the chemical structure from large to small crystals.
- Table Salt: contains anti-caking agent, preferred in most cleaning recipes
- Kosher Salt: does not contain anti-caking agent, preferred in most cooking recipes
Unrefined Salts | Second, there is unrefined salt, which is essentially, sea salt. Unrefined salt is sea salt in its natural state, with trace minerals intact.
- Sea Salt: edible salt from the sea, preferred in most cooking recipes
- Rock Salt: non-edible salt mined from the earth, used to lower temperatures and not to be consumed
*Epsom salt is neither refined or unrefined salt, but rather magnesium sulfate, mainly used for healing and medicinal purposes.
20 Clever Ways to Use the Humble Helper Salt at Home
- Brass Cleaner | Mix 2 tablespoons TABLE SALT + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar to form a paste. Use soft cotton cloth and apply to brass, rub, and rinse clean with water before drying.
- Wood Cutting Board Sanitizer | Rub cutting boards with 1/2 a lemon and sprinkle KOSHER salt on top. Let sit for 10 minutes, rub with the other 1/2 of the lemon and rinse with hot water.
- Ice Melter | Sprinkle ROCK SALT on icy walkways to prevent slipping.
- Rust Remover | dip 1/2 lemon into TABLE SALT and scrub the rust off with a cotton cloth. Once clean, rinse with water and dry.
- Garden Pest Fighter | Sprinkle TABLE SALT on areas where garden pests, or indoor ants, tend to roam. Salt deters these critters.
- Healing Foot Soak | Add 1/2 cup EPSOM SALT + 1/2 cup baking soda to your warm water basin. Add preferred essential oils, and soak your feet for as long as desired.
- Bottle Chiller | Add 1/2 cup KOSHER SALT + 1 cup cold water to a bucket full of ice. Tuck bottles in and enjoy cold beverages in about ten minutes!
- Soiled Carpet Cleaner | Sprinkle TABLE SALT on muddy carpet or soiled rug and let sit to absorb. Vacuum clean!
- Oven Spill Absorber | Pour TABLE or KOSHER SALT on oven spills before the spill has a chance to bake on for easier clean up once the oven has cooled down.
- Natural Fabric Softener | Mix 1 cup EPSOM SALT + 10 drops of essential oil in a glass jar. Add 1 tablespoon to the bottom of your washing machine before adding your clothing. Read more on natural laundry care here.
- Natural Whites Brightener | Add 1/4 cup TABLE SALT + 1/4 cup baking soda to 1 gallon of boiled distilled water. Add yellowed garments for 30 minutes to 1 hour, and rinse with cold water. Air-dry in the sun.
- Fridge Cleaner | Mix 1/4 cup Table Salt + 1/4 cup baking soda and sprinkle over spills and let sit. Scrub with cloth soaked in hot water, then wipe clean.
- Hair Softener | Mix ratio of 1 tablespoon EPSOM SALT + 1 tablespoon your favorite conditioner over double boiler until salt is dissolved. Massage mixture onto hair and scalp, and leave on for 15-30 minutes and rinse with warm water. Can make in larger batches and store in glass jar for future use.
- Natural Body Scrub | Mix 1/2 cup SEA SALT + 1/3 cup olive oil + 10 drops essential oil in mason jar. Scoop out and scrub onto skin in the shower, removing dead skin cells. Rinse and pat dry.
- Fire Tamer | toss 1 cup (as needed) of TABLE SALT on the fire and do not add water, for it can intensify the flames
- Copper Cleaner | dip 1/2 lemon into KOSHER SALT and scrub the tarnished copper clean then rinse with distilled white vinegar. Once clean, rinse with water and dry with cotton cloth.
- Cast-Iron Cleaner | Add 1/2 cup TABLE SALT + 1/4 cup olive oil to cleaned cast-iron that has been heated on stove. Scrub with cotton cloth or paper towels until clean. Rinse with hot water and dry again over medium heat on stove. Repeat as needed.
- Enamel Scrubber | Mix 2 tablespoons of TABLE SALT + 2 tablespoons of baking soda + 1 teaspoon water to form a paste. Apply to discolored or stained enamel and scrub with soft cloth or non-abrasive pad. Wash with hot water and dry before storing.
- Drain De-Clogger | Add 1/2 cup TABLE SALT + 1 cup baking soda to a clogged drain and let sit overnight. Rinse with 3 cups of boiling water or distilled white vinegar in the morning.
- Play With It | Make your own homemade play-dough for your little artists to mold and shape. Find the recipe here.
Thoughts on the new series? What other humble helpers of the home do you suggest we explore? I have a little list and some research going, but I’d love your input as always. xx
*Recipes and information sourced from this space along with the book ‘Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Soda’ by Shea Zukowski.
Ruxandra - This was a surprising collection of blessings hidden in salt, thank you for that. And it sounds like a beautiful series!
There is an old fairy tale from the Romanian folklore, called “Like salt in food”, wherein the plot is weaved on how humble and overlooked, but how essential, salt is: http://www.xxymagazine.com/an-english-translation-of-romanian-fairy-tale-like-salt-in-food-by/18044
admin - Ruxandra, ‘blessings hidden in salt’…what beautiful words. And thank you for sharing the fairy tale! xx Amanda
Haley - Baking soda!
admin - Haley, such a good household essential. The uses are endless! xx Amanda
Farai Harreld - Vinegar for sure!
admin - Farai, ooh absolutely. The uses are endless! xx Amanda
Naomi Jaensch - Amanda, this is so helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it! xxx
Melissa - Love this series! Definitely going to clean up my enamel Dutch oven this weekend, thank you for the tip! I also use kosher salt to clean my cast iron when I don’t get the chance to wash it right after cooking with it (not that that ever happens 😬). Just sprinkle a decent amount of kosher salt on the skillet dry and use a dry cloth or paper towel to scrub up any chunky build up. Gross. But effective!