If you think Epsom salt sound like something you’d find in your grandma’s cupboard, you’re right: it’s a popular mineral additive that people used to swear by for relieving muscle aches and pains. Epsom salt is found in Epsom, England, where they soften the local water and have been valued for their therapeutic properties for hundreds of years.
So why haven’t you ever tried using Epsom salt? These days, you’re much more likely to pop an Advil and stay busy instead of soaking in the bath to relieve muscle pain.
That’s too bad, though, because keeping a carton of Epsom salt close at hand can help you through all sorts of tasks around your house and garden. They’re a surprisingly versatile pantry staple. Still uncertain? Try these 10 great uses for Epsom salt around your home, and you may just become a believer.
The lightly abrasive quality of Epsom salt makes it super useful in scrubbing away soap scum and mildew from the grout in your kitchen and bathroom. Just mix equal parts Epsom salt and dish soap together and apply in circular motions with a tooth brush. The chemical makeup of the Epsom salt helps to kill mold and mildew without making your bathroom smell like bleach.
Love the wavy texture of your hair after a day at the beach? You can make your own hairspray by dissolving two tablespoons of Epsom salt and a teaspoon of aloe into a cup of hot water. Once it’s cool, add it to a spray bottle and apply to the roots of damp hair for volume. You can also scrunch your hair in your hands to create waves that look like you spent a day lounging by the seaside.
Buff away dry skin and give yourself a foot massage at the same time with an Epsom salt foot scrub. To make it, stir up a paste made of one cup of Epsom salt, 1/4 cup of olive oil and a teaspoon of gentle liquid soap. You can also add essential oils for a little aromatherapy — lavender is quite relaxing. Apply to the soles of your feet as you massage them, then rinse away with warm water.
Baked-on cheese can be one of the hardest things to remove after a long day in the kitchen. If you have a casserole dish that’s not coming clean in the dishwasher, try adding a sprinkle of Epsom salt to the bottom of the dish, along with a squirt of dish soap. Use a sponge to scrub the mixture around. Just as Epsom salt helps to exfoliate your skin, it also helps loosen cooked-on debris — just don’t try it on a non-stick surface like Teflon.
The magnesium in Epsom salt is a crucial nutrient that helps plants take up nitrogen in the soil. Nightshade fruits like tomatoes and peppers in particular benefit from a shot of magnesium, so add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to the planting hole for each transplant that you set out in the spring. You can add an additional tablespoon for each plant as a side-dressing about six weeks later as well. This additive will help you grow bigger, better salad veggies!
Roses also benefit from the extra magnesium in Epsom salt, and many gardeners add 1/2 cup to the soil around their plants in early spring to encourage new canes and bushier growth. Though not everyone agrees that the flowers will be any bigger, most gardeners find that the rose leaves are greener and glossier. Healthier leaves may stand up to black spots and pests like aphids better in the long run, so it’s worth a try!
If you have raccoons in your neighborhood, you can keep them from toppling your trash or invading your garden by sprinkling Epsom salt around the areas you want to protect. Raccoons don’t like the taste or smell of Epsom salt, which makes it a good, non-toxic repellent. You’ll need to reapply it after each rain storm, though, as the salts will wash away easily. This may also be useful for other rodents like skunks and opossums.
Epson salt is also a great repellent for slimy garden slugs. You can sprinkle a line in the sand around their favorite treats — they simply won’t cross the barrier. This can be a good solution for organic gardeners who want to avoid spraying toxic chemicals in their gardens, and the Epsom salt offers valuable nutrient for the plants as well.
Car batteries are expensive, but a little automotive DIY can help your standard lead acid battery to last for many more years than your mechanic thinks it will. Many batteries lose the ability to hold a charge when sulfates build up in the battery cells. Adding Epsom salt will cause a chemical reaction that breaks down the lead sulfates, effectively “cleaning” your battery and breathing new life into it. To try this, dissolve eight ounces of Epsom salt into a pint of hot water and pour it into the battery cells with a funnel.
If you love the old-fashioned look of frost on the windows during the holidays — but have wisely upgraded to the latest, well-insulated models for your home — you can fake the look by making a mixture of 1/2 cup warm water, 1/3 cup Epsom salt and a few drops of dish soap. Stir it together until dissolved, then apply to glass in circular motions with a soft cloth. When you’re tired of the frosted look, simply rinse away with water and finish with an ammonia-based window cleaner.
Once you get started with Epsom salt, you might find yourself tackling all sorts of home and garden projects that you’ve been putting off. The best news of all? You never have to worry about overdoing it — you can always take a lovely soak in a warm, Epsom salt bath when your home improvement day is complete!