16 September 2011

Prep30: Store Less, Accomplish More, part 2: Salt

As mentioned yesterday, we're presenting the Store Less, Accomplish More (SLAM) sub-set of posts within the Prep30 series. Each post in the SLAM "mini-series" will focus on a single preparedness item that you can stock and use in many different ways. Whenever possible, we've selected items that store very well, either lasting indefinitely or at least several years.

You can use your 30-minutes prep time today to become familiar with today's SLAM item, which is salt.

Salt is a highly useful thing to keep on hand, since it's good for many, many things beyond enhancing the flavor of foods. It's also helpful as a cleaning agent, and is useful in some health and medical ways. In fact, the Salt Institute claims that there are 14,000 known uses for salt.

While I didn't find nearly that many on their website, they do list over 70 alternate uses for salt that you may not be familiar with. Here are the ones that may be most handy from an emergency preparedness and self-reliance point of view:
  1. Extinguishing grease fires: Keep a box of salt handy at your stove and oven and if a grease fire flares up, cover the flames with salt. (Do not use water on grease fires; it will splatter the burning grease.)

  2. Reduce flames and smoke in your grill: Also a handful of salt thrown on flames from meat dripping in barbecue grills will reduce the flames and deaden the smoke without cooling the coals as water does.

  3. Boiling water: Salt added to water makes the water boil at a higher temperature, thus reducing cooking time. (It does not make the water boil faster.)

  4. Cleaning greasy pans: The greasiest iron pan will wash easily if you put a little salt in it and wipe with paper. Remember this for your Dutch Oven or cast iron frying pan the next time you use them.

  5. Testing egg freshness: Place the egg in a cup of water to which two teaspoonfuls of salt has been added. A fresh egg sinks; a doubter will float.

  6. Removing pinfeathers: To remove pinfeathers easily from a chicken, rub the chicken skin with salt first.

  7. Keeping patios weed-free: If weeds or unwanted grass come up between patio bricks or blocks, carefully spread salt between the bricks and blocks, then sprinkle with water or wait for rain to wet it down. A salt/vinegar solution (described near the bottom of this page) will also work well in a sprayer. Be aware that salt will make the affected area unusable for any plants for an extended period of time.

  8. Killing poison ivy: Mix three pounds of salt with a gallon of soapy water and apply to leaves and stems with a sprayer.

  9. Gargling: Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water for use as a gargle for sore throats.

  10. Cleaning teeth: Mix one part salt to two parts baking soda after pulverizing the salt in a blender or rolling it on a kitchen board with a tumbler before mixing. It whitens teeth, helps remove plaque and it is healthy for the gums.

  11. Washing mouth: Mix equal parts of salt and baking soda as a mouth wash that sweetens the breath.

  12. Relieving bee stings: If stung, immediately wet the spot and cover with salt to relieve the pain.

  13. Treating mosquito and chigger bites: Soak in saltwater, then apply a mixture of lard and salt.

  14. Treating poison ivy: Soaking the exposed part in hot saltwater helps hasten the end to poison ivy irritation.
If you'd like to read up on more uses for salt, try Salt: Over 100 Helpful Household Hints by Christine Halvorson.

The great thing about plain salt is that it doesn't expire and is fairly inexpensive, both making it a good SLAM item for your preparedness supplies. NOTE: while plain salt doesn't expire or go bad, any salt with additives does have a shelf life. Morton Salt says:
Salt itself does not expire but added ingredients such as iodine [or calcium silicate] may reduce shelf life. The shelf life of Iodized Salt is about 5 years.
As you can see, plain salt can be stored indefinitely. It might form clumps, however, since there isn't an anti-caking ingredient already in the salt. To prevent (or at least minimize) this, store you salt in an air-tight container. If it does happen, just dry it in an oven, break up the clumps, and use it as normal.

UPDATE (17 September 2011):
After posting the above, I was reminded about "canning" salt by @CatastropheNet on Twitter. "Canning" salt is truly just "plain" salt (NaCl) without any additives (confirmed by question numbers 11 and 12 on this Morton Salt page). As such, stockpiling "plain" salt may be preferable, since it has a broader range of uses.

Do note that plain salt lacks the iodine of the now-common iodized salt. Too little iodine in your diet can be a problem, as can too much. Non-iodized salt shouldn't be a problem if you have other natural sources of iodine in your diet. To read more on dietary iodine and finding alternate foods containing it, read Iodine Deficiency from the University of Michigan and/or Foods High in Iodine from HealthAliciousNess.com

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