Baking soda (the commercial name for sodium bicarbonate) is versatile and inexpensive. Unlike many products used around the house, it’s not a harsh chemical. Easy and effective ways to use it…

Odor absorber. You probably know that baking soda absorbs smells. You may even have an open box in your refrigerator. But did you know that humidity in the fridge causes a crusty layer to form on the surface, preventing the bicarb from doing its job?

Every few weeks, stir the box’s contents, and replace the box after two months. Don’t bother buying the newer peel-down “fridge” box — the original box works just as well and is cheaper. Pour the old baking soda down the sink drain with hot water to help break up grease that causes clogs.

Don’t limit the smell-neutralizing talents of baking soda to the fridge. Sprinkle it in smelly sneakers, on the bottom of garbage cans and in litter boxes. You can even sprinkle it on your dog — then brush or comb it out.

Underarm deodorant. When you have dried off after a shower, pour about a half teaspoon of baking soda in your left hand and distribute it on your right armpit. Do the same with your right hand and left armpit.

Bean degasser. Here’s how to make beans more tolerable — or make you more tolerable when you eat beans. Put dried beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Add one tablespoon of baking soda for every eight ounces of dried beans. Let the beans soak overnight on the counter. Next day, drain off the water, add fresh water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender.

Roach and silverfish killer. Mix equal parts of baking soda and sugar, then fill jar lids and bottle caps with the mixture and place them around the problem areas. Next day, vacuum up the dead insects. Caution: Do not use this roach eradicator if you have children or pets who can get at it.

Microwave cleaner. In a one-quart microwavable bowl, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with one cup of water. Zap it in the microwave for three minutes. Using a paper towel, wipe off the condensed steam on the microwave’s inside walls and door. Finish by wiping it again with a damp cloth.

Car washer. Prepare a solution of one-quarter cup baking soda in one quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs and tar from car lights, chrome, windows, tires, etc.

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January 1, 2009