The Salt Institute claims it has about 14,000 uses. People have been cleaning with salt at least since the Middle Ages.
It’s only in the past half century or so that advertisers have convinced us to buy products that only clean one thing. Older products like salt, vinegar, lemon juice, baking (or washing) soda, and borax still clean just as well as the newer ones.
When you clean with salt and the others, you avoid a lot of packaging. Salt usually comes in a biodegradable paper package. It eliminates the environmental problems of plastic packaging.
Salt works much like soda or borax as a cleaner. It’s more abrasive, so it’s more effective for scouring, without scratching glass or other relatively soft surfaces. Salt also works as a catalyst with vinegar and other natural cleaners to boost their effectiveness.
First, and most generally, you can make a basic soft scrub paste with a little dish soap and lots of salt and soda.
Here are tips for cleaning specific surfaces:
Clean fabric with salt
Brighten curtains and washable rugs by washing them in salt water. If you have a faded carpet or a rug that won’t fit in the washer, soak a wash cloth in a strong saltwater solution, wring it out, and scrub the carpet vigorously.
Remove blood stains from clothing by soaking the cloth in cold salt water. It must be cold water to avoid making the stain settle faster. Launder it in warm water with plenty of detergent. If it’s cotton, linen, or another natural fabric that can take the heat, boil it after the laundry cycle is finished.
If you have a blood stain on a carpet that has dried, mix salt with just enough cold water to make a paste. Rub the paste gently onto the stain with a towel. Let the salt water soak up blood for about 15 minutes. Then blot the stain until the entire stain comes up. Vacuum the area after it dries to remove the salt.
Use salt to clean wine stains or pet urine while they’re still wet. Dab up as much as possible. Then cover the stain with a generous coating of salt and let it sit. The salt will absorb the color of the stain. After it completely dries, scoop up as much of the salt as you can, then vacuum.
Clean fresh grease stains from your carpet with a mixture of one part salt and four parts rubbing alcohol. Rub the mixture hard on the stain in the direction of the natural nap of the rug.
Clean metal with salt
Use salt to clean all kinds of metal. For brass and copper, make a paste of equal parts salt, flour, and vinegar. Rub it on the metal and let it sit for an hour. Then brush it off or use a soft cloth to remove it.
For cleaning rust, make the paste from salt, cream of tartar, and a little water (or salt and lemon juice). Let it sit, then brush it off.
Soak a stained enamel pan in salt water over night. Then boil it for a while the next morning.
If you have a cast-iron wok or other pan, you can keep it from rusting by washing it with salt and not water. While it’s still hot, sprinkle about a quarter cup salt on it and scrub it with a wire brush. Wipe it clean with a damp cloth, and then a rub it with a little vegetable oil.
Salt by itself can clean a lot of burns or spills from pots, pans, the oven, or stove surfaces. Just pour it on and scrub with either a wet or dry washcloth. For especially stubborn burns, sprinkle lots of salt and just enough water to make it damp. Let it sit for a while to lift the mess. (You can also use this technique for cleaning electric stoves with a glass top.)
To clean non-lacquered brass, bronze, copper, silver, and tin pieces, mix equal parts vinegar, flour, and salt. Rub the mixture on and let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse in warm water and buff the objects to a shine with a dry cloth.
If you get a buildup of rough, sticky spots on the bottom of your iron, cleaning it is easy. Sprinkle salt on a piece of paper. Heat the iron, then run it over the salt.
Clean glass with salt
Waitresses know this cleaning tip: Put some salt in the bottom of a glass coffee pot, add some ice cubes and swirl everything vigorously.
If your glassware has become discolored to the point that you can’t get it clean either in the dishwasher or by hand scrubbing, fill it with a mixture of salt and vinegar. Let it sit overnight. The stains should come out in the morning.
Rub lipstick smudges on the edges of glassware with salt before washing them. It will then come clean the first time.
Clean the ugly residue of your once-beautiful bouquet from the bottom of a vase by rubbing salt on the ring of deposits. Or if your hand won’t fit in the vase, fill it with a strong saltwater solution, shake it, and clear the residue with a bottle brush. Either way, rinse the vase so you don’t get a salt residue instead.
Clean other surfaces with salt
Add half a cup of salt to mop water. It will make wood floors brighter and keep tile floors clean longer.
If you drop a raw egg, cover the spill with salt your sponge or dish cloth will wipe up the egg instead of just pushing it around.
If you get white marks on wooden tables from beverage glasses or hot dishes, gently rub a thin paste of vegetable oil and salt on them until they come clean.
Scrub away stains from marble, ivory, or piano keys with salt and lemon juice on a soft cloth.