Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some of the many uses of Bi-Carb Soda

Bi-Carb Soda for Tooth Ache
Source:  Trove: The Bendigonian (Bendigo, Vic: 1914-1918)
Thursday 1 February 1917, page 5
Mum always had Bi-Carb Soda in the did her mother before her...........and so do I now!

From the time I was young,  I always liked how things "fizzed" when you added Bi-Carb soda.  It intrigued me.  I always wanted the job of adding the liquid to the Bi-Carb Soda when it came to cooking!

I can remember being distracted watching TV and I forgot to turn the stove hot-plate down for Mum, while she was busy doing something.  The result being a burnt pot.  Mum was not happy!  In the warm pot, she added a little water, bi-carb and vinegar and boiled it for while to clean, before scrubbing the pot clean.

Currant Soda Cake?
Sounds Good! I think I will try this one!
Source: Trove
Wedderburn Express and Korongshire Advertiser
Friday 20 March 1914, page 4
In addition to being used in many of the family recipes, passed down through the generations, Bi-Carb Soda was also used for many other tasks around the home;

  • In the fridge to reduce odours
  • As a cleaning agent:  usually as a paste (and often used with vinegar)
  • In hot water and used on a cotton ball as an eye soak to reduce styes.
  • To aid indigestion
  • To whiten teeth
  • In the laundry with the clothes 
  • As a soak for smelly kitchen cloths

My Grandmother, Eva Scott (nee Pilgrim) wrote in her journal "Dad died of a heart attack [1950].  We knew he'd had several, but he thought he had indigestion and used to take bi-carb soda."

There is always a box in the pantry
(and the fridge)
I recently received a book detailing over 500 uses for Baking Soda (in Australia, we normally call it Bi-Carb Soda).  I am astounded at the number of potential uses!

I don't mean to promote a brand but McKenzie's is the product that my Grandmother and Mother used and is the brand in our pantry today.  According to the packet,  the company was established in 1852 (the year after Victoria became a separate Australian colony).

The earliest record in Australia that I found about Bi-Carb soda was in 1836, when a jar (of unknown size) cost six shillings 1.  There were regular mentions of its import over the years.  In 1918, during World War 1, the maximum price of Bi-Carb Soda was fixed under the War Precautions (Price Regulation) Act 1916 at 4 pence per pound, for retail over the counter sales. The profit margin that importers and wholesales could derive was also restricted.2

In 1899, the following appeared in a newspaper:3
   Apart from the use of bi-carbonate of
soda as a relief for indigestion, both this 
form and the crude washing soda are
useful to the cook and the housekeeper.
   A burn caused by a hot iron will cease
to pain almost immediately if a piece of
soda, moistened with the tongue is put
on.  A scald or burn, if the skin is not
broken, can be cured by placing the burnt
part in strong soda water.
   Boil greasy tins in soda water once a
week, and use hot soda water for a greasy
   Put a piece of soda the size of a walnut
to a tablespoon of salt into a basin, and
pour on boiling water.  Allow dirty
sponges to stand in this for a short time,
when they will be quite clean and free
from grease.  Rinse in cold water.
Dissolve a cupful of soda in a gallon of
water, and leave a jar near the kitchen
sink.  Into this throw all pieces of soap
and remains of dry soap.  Dip
into the jar, and add to the water used
for washing and scrubbing very dirty
pans, earthenware, tinware, woodwork
(but not paint), and for washing kitchen
cloths and dusters.
   Common washing soda, dissolved in
water until the liquid will take up no
more, is said to be an excellent cure for
warts.  Moisten the warts with it, and let
them dry without wiping.
   A pinch of carbonate of soda put into
the teapot will increase the strength of
the tea.  This applies particularly to
places where the water is hard".

Do you have any unusual hints for Bi-Carb Soda?

1 The Sydney Herald, Monday 11 January 1836, page 3
2 The Daily News, Perth, Saturday 6th April 1918, page 8
3 The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic) Thursday 3 August 1899, page 1 of supplement

This post was prompted by Sepia Saturday.  Click for more posts.


  1. This brings back memories and I love the history behind the product too. It has a place in my pantry too, multiple uses.

    1. Not many companies last as long as McKenzie's have!

  2. I'm never without a box of baking soda in the pantry. A little in a small tub of water makes a good foot soothing soaker.

    1. I will need to try that. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Pour some soda down a clogged drain, add a cup of white vinegar, let it sit for 15 minutes; flush with boilding water. Works like a charm!

  4. So many old remedies are cheaper and better than modern concoctions. McKensies slogan "100% Australian family owned" makes the product sound like it was handcrafted on an organic farm.

    1. So many Australian products and services have been sold to overseas corporations. Many Aussies (like myself) like to support Australian owned companies (so that they remain in Australia). Yes is is a patriotic thing as well :)

  5. I always have a packet of mackenzies on hand. Made into a paste it is great to relieve insect bites and sunburn.

    1. I read that in my new book! I didn't know that so well definitely give it a try! Our sunburn remedy is an egg cup 3/4 filled with full cream milk, then add enough vinegar to make it curdle. Using a cotton ball use it all on the sunburn. It takes away the redness, eases the soreness and reduces/prevents peeling. It smells but it works!

  6. I have that little booklet of 500 uses for bi-carb soda too. In the school holidays my Mum would let us make homemade honeycomb with it, which we quite enjoyed until we realised it wasn't quite as delicious as those individually packed honeycomb blocks or the choc-coated Violet Crumble bars.

    1. You have reminded me that we did this too when we were kids. I had forgotten!

  7. I am particularly interested in that last tip given that we live in a hard water area.

    1. So do we (bore water). I used a tsp of Bi-Carb this morning with my shampoo and my hair does feel softer today.

  8. I use baking soda mainly for scrubbing stains from counters and dishes. I think I will try some of the other uses.

    1. There are a number of uses that I will need to try!