Ordinary salt has myriad of uses around the home

Sunday, September 27, 1987

Some things to do with salt that you (or even Heloise) may not have thought of:

No, seriously. Salt really does help your parsley chop better - a sprinkle or two absorbs excess moisture.

And that's not all, according to Bruce Bertram, technical director of the American Salt Institute. The organization, based in Alexandria, Va., acts as a clearinghouse of information for salt manufacturers and the general public on the production and uses of salt.

"One (use) that you may have heard of is abrading and removing tattoos," Bertram said, "like a mini-sandblasting operation including salt. I'm not completely certain why salt is used. Perhaps it's because it's not quite as abrasive as something like silica sand."

In some Caribbean islands, however, salt is used to help people through worse medical conditions than a mere unwanted decoration.

"Massive doses of salt are used in Haiti and Jamaica to override the voodoo curse. Particularly the making of the zombie," Bertram said.

"They're (users of voodoo) actually using a toxin from seafood. That toxin will create a deathlike trance." Supposedly, flushing the body with salt will stop part or all of the effects of the toxin.

"I don't know how true it is," he added. "It was in the press several years ago. It made the grand circuit of all the plants."

Of course, only a small percentage of the 42.2 million tons of salt consumed in America each year goes for tattoos, zombies and parsley.

And the home uses of sodium chloride, while they don't match the volume used each year by industry, are endlessly diverse.

For one thing, salt mixed with vinegar makes an effective copper polish. A mixture of salt and cinnamon will also scrub the burned-food smell from the oven and range-top burners.

"A pinch of salt in coffee will reduce bitterness," Bertram noted, leafing through some Salt Institute literature on the subject. It will also remove onion odors from hands and sweeten and deodorize thermos bottles.

"Boiling eggs in salted water makes them easier to peel," he said. An egg can be tested for freshness by dropping it in a cup of water in which two teaspoons of salt have been dissolved; a fresh egg will sink, an egg of questionable freshness will float, the Salt Institute spokesman said.

A bath of brine will also make pecans easier to shell, and a very small amount of salt in cake icing will prevent it from crystallizing.

The Morton company has spent years collecting a list of uses for salt. Among their suggestions: A little salt sprinkled in the pan before frying will keep hot grease from splattering.

A mixture of salt and turpentine will whiten enamel bathtubs and wash basins. Salt, cornmeal and turpentine is supposedly a good dry-cleaning solution. A cloth dipped in strong brine will brighten a carpet; sprinkling the carpet with dry salt before vacuuming eliminates carpet moths. A little more on the floor will deter ants.

But remember, always keep a fresh box around for zombies.