In fact, salt has more than 14,000 uses. According to the Salt Institute, an Alexandria, Virginia-based organization that represents the salt industry (www.saltinstitute.org), salt can be used for everything from thawing ice to relaxing tired muscles.
"While most of us think of salt in terms of seasoning our food," says Bruce Bertram, technical director for the Salt Institute, "salt is an essential ingredient in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products, ranging from foods and animal feed to chemical feedstock and highway deicers. Life cannot exist without salt."
Salt was recognized as a necessity in human and animal nutrition more than 4,700 years ago in one of the earliest medical reference works found in ancient China. In the centuries since then, salt has been used as money, has ignited wars and was essential to preserving foods as recently as 100 years ago - before refrigeration. Salt even garnered more than 30 references in the Bible, including the infamous moment when Lot's wife looked back on the destruction of Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt.
But what about around your household? Can salt play a more versatile role than simply another ingredient in a favorite cookie recipe? You bet, says Ramona Bennett, a marketing manager with Cargill Salt. Cargill Salt's Diamond Crystal brand of iodized salt (recognized by its classic red-and-white canister) can be used in dozens of applications around the home. So can other types of salt that are common to many households, including kosher salt, low-sodium salt, canning and pickling salt and sea salt.
"Salt is extremely versatile," says Bennett. "It can be used to clean kitchens and bathrooms, remove stains in clothing, relieve stress when added to a warm bath, or even extend the life of brooms and sponges."
Tricks of the Trade
As most people know, there are some foods that simply wouldn't be the same without salt - like french fries, steak or popcorn. And although most people use it every day, it still holds some surprises for food and beverages.
For instance, when enjoying a glass of red wine, sprinkle some salt into the glass to bring out the fragrance and taste of the wine. Or try adding a pinch of salt on top of citrus fruits and you'll notice the fruit's crisp taste immediately.
Around the kitchen, you may want to try boiling eggs in salted water; it makes eggs easier to peel. And to test for freshness, place an egg in a cup of water and add a couple teaspoons of table salt - a fresh egg will sink, a spoiled egg will float. Table salt is good for preventing mold on cheese (add a pinch of salt the next time you wrap your cheese in plastic wrap) and keeping milk fresher longer (add a pinch to the carton or bottle). Salt also can eliminate the burned food odor from an oven and stovetop burners, and can cut odors and prevent grease build up in sinks.
Healthwise, gargling regularly during the winter months with an iodized salt and water mixture will alleviate sore throats. For fresher breath, blend equal parts of salt and baking soda in warm water and swish. Apply cotton pads soaked in salt water (one tablespoon of salt in a pint of hot water) to reduce puffy areas around the eyes.
Sea of Flavor
Sea salt, harvested from the ocean, has been used for several thousand years. It is ideal for bringing out the freshness in salads and greens; it tends to make lettuce and other vegetables crisper. When cooking, grilling, baking or broiling beef, pork, poultry and seafood, sea salt brings out the natural flavors of the meat.
Sea salt is also perfect for long, steamy baths at the end of the day. Add a cup of sea salt to a warm bath and soak for at least ten minutes. Sea salt has a healing effect - it pulls toxins from the body and soothes the skin. Scented oils can be added to the bath for both fragrance and to soften skin.
For a stimulating facial, mix equal parts of sea salt and olive oil. Gently massage the face and throat with long upward and inward strokes. Remove the mixture after five minutes and wash with mild soap and water.