If there's a more versatile and inexpensive home product than baking soda, it's waiting to be discovered.
For years baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has been sort of a domestic security blanket - a trusted, natural helper whose usefulness outstrips its commonly known uses in leavening baked goods or deodorizing a refrigerator.
That's why Vicki Lansky keeps a jumbo-size box in her bathroom.
"It may sound strange, but you can use it for brushing your teeth, cleaning the sink, or as an underarm deodorant," says Ms. Lansky, the author of "Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of."
Lansky is hardly alone in singing the praises of baking soda, which was first introduced as a leavening agent in 1840.
Today, many dairy farmers use it to increase milk production. In fact, cows are the chief consumers of baking soda, which helps them achieve optimum digestion when it's blended into their feed.
Peter Ciullo, a chemist, has also written a book, "Baking Soda Bonanza" that sets forth "hundreds of ingenious household uses."
A personal favorite, he says, is to use baking soda to clean the windshield of his car, which gets oily driving to and from work.
Mr. Ciullo suggests sprinkling the soda on a damp sponge to create a paste that is wiped on the glass. Once dry, it can be wiped off, leaving a clean, streak-free window or windshield.
As a glass cleaner, it "tends to be a little messy," he agrees but it does the job with no harm to the car's finish.