Sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda, is a widely used ingredient in kitchens everywhere. As its name implies, it’s particularly prevalent in baking and is an essential component in various types of bread and cakes. But neat freak Melissa Maker has been using it for a very different means; the owner of housekeeping service Clean My Space has been putting the chemical compound on her mattress – with surprising effects.
One reason why the use of baking soda is so widespread in cooking is that the substance acts as a leavening agent. In essence, it makes a bread or cake mixture lighter by producing gas bubbles as it cooks in the oven. That’s why you often come across holes when you slice home-baked bread.
That being said, baking soda use isn’t limited to baking. The ingredient is commonly used when soaking pulses as it acts as a softening agent. In fact, the peas used to make mushy peas, the popular British accompaniment to fish and chips, are often left overnight in water containing sodium bicarbonate for this very purpose. Other areas of world cuisine, Latin American and Asian chief among them, use baking soda to help tenderize meat.
Elsewhere, baking soda is used when making coatings for meat. Crispy fried chicken wings would certainly be a lot less crispy without the magic ingredient as baking soda allows steam from the meat to escape. Remove the baking soda from the mix and the coating added to the chicken would struggle to survive the deep-frying process. Rather than add texture to the wings, it would detach itself from the meat.
Baking soda is a pretty handy thing to keep in the store cupboard, then. But if its versatility in the kitchen isn’t enough, there are also a number of extra-culinary uses for this remarkable chemical. For example, it can act as an effective weapon against cockroaches. You see, when the critters ingest baking soda and then drink water, gas is produced which causes the pests’ stomachs to burst. Cruel, but effective.
What’s more, sodium bicarbonate is also employed by used-book traders as a way of combating mold. Thanks to its mild cleansing properties, the chemical compound helps prevent organisms from growing and also counteracts the smell that can accumulate on old books.
Meanwhile, because baking soda is an alkaline substance, mixing it with something acidic can make for some effective reactions. Combine it with vinegar, for instance, and you can use it to clean your drains. The method couldn’t be simpler: simply pour baking soda down the drain to coat the pipe, then follow it with vinegar for the reaction, wait for a few minutes and rinse well with water.
Despite bicarb’s well-known versatility, Melissa Maker’s new idea for using the substance might be the most out-there yet. On a video uploaded to her YouTube channel, the Toronto-based sanitation pro raised an interesting point: apparently, the vast majority of people don’t bother cleaning their mattresses. Maker then followed this revelation with a somewhat grosser one.
It turns out that human beings perspire a lot during the night – regardless of the temperature outside. In fact, most people lose about half a pint of sweat while they’re asleep. And your mattress soaks up a good portion of this, after your perspiration has soaked its way through your bedding, that is.
But that’s not all. Mattresses are also exposed to all manner of drinks and spills, including dropped food, water, oil and dust. Yet when most people think about cleaning their beds, they often just change the sheets and pillow cases. The furthest many will go is washing their duvet.
Moreover, although it’s clear that our mattresses do need cleaning, it’s hard to know how to go about it. After all, all those springs and padding make them cumbersome beasts; you can’t just stuff one into a washing machine. Well, this is where Melissa Maker’s idea might just come in handy.
The domestic goddess outlined her method on the YouTube video. Shot in a suitably pristine-looking bedroom, she explains, “The problem is, once you strip away all the sheets you’re left with a mattress with a cover that you can’t remove. It’s not like there’s a zipper and you can simply unzip the cover and throw it into the wash.”
Maker’s solution is relatively straightforward. To start with, you need to vacuum your mattress. However, it is important not to use the same attachment that you use to vacuum the floor. Otherwise, you risk making your mattress even more unsavoury than it was before.
“You can fancify your mattress vacuuming by adding another step,” Maker says on the video. “And this is deodorizing. I guess with all that sweat, dust, and other fun stuff that your mattress handles, it can start to develop its own unique aroma.”
At this point, Maker reveals her secret cleaning ingredient: baking soda. The hygiene hero suggests taking a sieve and sifting baking soda over your mattress. Once done, you should leave it in place for 30 minutes then simply vacuum it away.
There’s one important thing to bear in mind, though, as Maker makes clear. “Note that [this method] won’t really clean or remove any stains,” she says. This is because you’re not introducing any moisture to the mattress – you’re using a “dry cleaning method.” But no need to panic. Happily, there is a way to shift those stains by adding another household ingredient and a natural resource to the mix.
“Stains can usually be removed with a mixture of salt, baking soda and water,” Maker elaborates. “So just create a paste of equal parts, rub it on the area and then brush it off 30 minutes later. Then use some cool water on a damp cloth to remove the excess and then allow the mattress to dry.”
Although Maker’s mattress-cleaning methods will likely solve any issues involving smells and stains, she also recommends another product. Maker says simple mattress protector can be a boon, since it acts as a kind of buffer between you and your mattress. So, instead of having to perform a deep clean on the mattress, you can simply remove the protector and wash that instead.
Interestingly, it isn’t just mattresses that escape our attention when we’re cleaning our beds. It seems pillows are regularly neglected, too. Yet that needn’t be the case, since most pillows will fit in domestic washing machines. Moreover, a wash cycle at 60 degrees will likely take care of most bacteria present.
If you have pillows made from a synthetic material, just be careful about how you dry them. Your machine should be set to the very lowest heat setting. If you’re not careful, the material inside can clump together, leaving your pillows a misshapen mess – and your next night’s sleep an unmitigated disaster.