Lets face it; we all struggle to fit 101 things into a backpack or suitcase when leaving for a trip. But what would you say if I told you there was one single product out there that you can use to clean your teeth, wash your hair, minimise spots, soothe your stomach, clean your clothes and stop your shoes from smelling? Imagine how much space you’d have left in your bag for shoes if you could reduce your wash bag to just a couple of items!

Introducing the wonder item no Travelette should ever be without: BAKING SODA! No longer banished to the back of your cupboards on the rare occasion that you’re baking: baking soda has so many uses it might just change the way you pack your bags forever.

Here are some weird and wonderful uses for baking soda, you can thank us for exposing this secret later.

1. Face exfoliator & spot cream

Removing dead skin cells leaves your skin soft and smooth and the most natural way to do this is with baking soda. Simply make a paste with a little water and scrub away; it works great on elbows and feet too. In a concentrated paste form applied straight to a spot it helps dry out and clear your skin from acne.

2. Breath freshening mouth wash

If you’re prone to bad breath from time to time (too much garlic bread last night?) baking soda will be your new best friend. Add one teaspoon to half a glass of water, swish, spit and rinse. The odours in your mouth are neutralized – not just covered up- so there’ll be no stopping you kissing all the boys you meet on your travels.

3. Toothpaste

Sprinkle baking soda in a small dish, dip in your damp tooth brush and then brush like you would normally to freshen those pearly whites. It tastes a little bit like the sea; salty but bearable.

4. Shampoo

Simply add a little baking soda to damp hair and rub it well from root to tip – just like you would with regular shampoo. Baking soda helps brighten up dull hair removing residue left behind by styling products so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.

5. DIY deodorant

Mix four tablespoons of baking soda with about ten drops of your favourite essential oil and apply to underarms. The mix naturally absorbs odours instead of just covering them up.

6. Bath soak

Add 1/2 cup baking soda to your bath for a relaxing and refreshing soak. Your skin will feel silky smooth afterwards as baking soda will not dehydrate your skin like soap.

7. Soothe your stomach

If you are prone to suffering from acid stomach, heartburn, gas, and other tummy issues then baking soda is a great quick relief; it’s slight alkalinity can neutralize the acid causing the problem. Simple mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of warm water and drink it.

So Travelettes, not only is baking soda the best kept beauty secret around these days, it can also be used around the house as a great, cheap, eco-friendly cleaner.

8. For cleaner clothes

Adding a cup of baking soda to your wash helps give your laundry a boost. Your liquid detergent work harder for you making your clothes cleaner, fresher, brighter thanks to a better balance of pH in the water. Additionally, in a concentrated form rubbed directly onto your t-shirt it can remove oil and grease stains, blood, grass and sauce.

9. Fight smelly sneakers

Smelly feet and shoes happen to the best of us; for me it’s when I’ve been wearing tights & ballet pumps all day whilst running round town. Yet this embarrassing problem is totally preventable! Simply shake a little baking soda into your shoes between wearings & tap out the excess before wearing them again. It works by absorbing odour causing moisture & neutralising your shoes.

10. Make your own paint

Feeling creative on your trip? Want to leave a lasting mark on the top of your bunk? Mix together 2 tablespoons of baking soda. 2 tablespoons flour, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 packet of dry unsweetened drink mix and 2 tablespoons of water and you’ve got a great kid friendly set of paints. For a brighter colour just add a few drops of food colouring to your mixture. When you’ve finished making a mess painting, leave the paints to dry in little pots and you’ve got a set of homemade watercolours.

For even more uses of baking soda (oh yes the possibilities are literally endless; did you know it can also be used to extinguish small electrical fires!?!) check out this site. Dont forget to think of us the next time you go backpacking and avoid a hernia because your wash bag is no longer the size of Russia.

*last 3 photos by Katja Hentschel

lorna stokes This post was written by Lorna Stokes, part of the travelettes team from 2009 to 2013. Originally from the UK but currently based in Brussels after stints in Canada, Peru, Italy and a job for the French military, she’s always had an unquenchable thirst for exploring new places! She’s still travelling the world with her family so catch up with her adventures on Instagram & Twitter.