Your collection of kitchen spices is packed full of fantastic choices. One that you probably have on hand, but may not use as often? Alum powder! It’s quite affordable, available at any grocery store (for about 50 cents an ounce!) and best of all the benefits are plentiful. Sure it’s great for cooking, baking and canning, but even if you don’t regularly cook, it’s a must-have. Why? It can help with so much more! Read on to learn all about this natural, white powder and the multiple beyond-the-kitchen alum powder uses.
What is alum powder?
Alum powder, also known as crystallized potassium aluminum sulfate, is something you’ll find in the spice aisle of the grocery store (Buy from Walmart, $2.18). The white powder is traditionally used for pickling ingredients because it retains crispiness. In fact, Woman’s World’s Food Director Julie Miltenberger uses alum powder when she makes pickles. “This mildly sweet powder helps keep my homemade dill pickles crisp, so there’s that telltale snap when I bite into them.” Alum powder is also used as the acidic component of some commercial baking powders.
But cooking isn’t the only thing alum is known for these days. This pickling spice is also used in natural deodorants because it has moisture-blocking properties. You’ll find it in products labeled as “mineral deodorants.”
Besides these two most common uses, this versatile substance is capable of a lot more around the house and in your beauty routine. It can also be helpful in other baking tasks that may be less known. Here, 10 amazing alum powder uses.
1. Alum powder rejuvenates skin
No need to buy specialty beauty products to rejuvenate your skin: Alum powder is a great exfoliant! “Alum facilitates the removal of dead skin cells, making way for newer, rejuvenated skin,” shares Randall Higgins, pharmacist and skincare specialist at Good Glow. “Over a period of consistent use, one might observe a decline in the prominence of acne scars and dark spots.” Since alum is an astringent, it also temporarily shrinks pores and tightens skin.
To do: Mix 2 Tbs. of alum powder with 2 Tbs. of rose water (it calms skin) until it forms a paste. Clean your face, then apply the mixture and leave on for 10 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water and pat dry to finish.
For more alum powder uses to tighten skin, watch the video below:
2. It helps preserve fruit
When you’re whipping up a delicious baked good using apples or pears, the fruit can began to brown when sliced and exposed to air. The save: “A sprinkle of alum powder can preserve their freshness and prevent discoloration,” says professional baker and chef Sarah Bridenstine of Baking Kneads. “This comes in handy, especially when prepping fruits in advance for pies or tarts.”
3. Alum powder protects outdoor cushions
Over time, outdoor cushions can become ridden with mildew, especially when exposed to a lot of rain or outside moisture. An easy way to keep them in tip-top condition: Launder the cushions as usual, then soak them in a solution of 2 gallons of hot water and 1/2 pound of alum powder. Stir well until the alum is dissolved. Alum’s moisture-blocking ingredients will safeguard the material from any kind of water damage.
4. It nixes stains from a cutting board
After chopping some fresh tomatoes for your homemade salsa, your cutting board is covered in bright red stains that you worry will set. To remove them, make a paste of equal parts alum powder and lemon juice then use a sponge to rub at the stains. The acidic combination will break down and lift stains so all you have to do is rinse the cutting board with water.
5. Alum powder can be used to help with naturally dye fabric
If you prefer to create natural dyes to color fabrics for your craft projects, alum powder can help! “By acting as a bonding agent, alum enhances the connection between your fabric and natural dyes made from various sources like purple cabbage, berries, onion skins and avocado pits,” shares natural dye expert Shellie Pomeroy of Silk & Willow. “This ensures a vibrant and long-lasting color in your textiles.” A good place to start: place ¼ cup of alum in the colored-water per one pound of fabric.
6. It can be used as a DIY deodorant
Although there are deodorants you can buy that include alum powder, you can go right to the source to help cut down on sweat and control body odor! To do: Mix enough water with a small amount of alum powder to form a paste and apply it to underarms. Alum constricts sweat ducts in the skin to minimize sweating. It also creates a barrier that prevents underarm bacteria from multiplying, so you feel and smell fresh.
7. Alum powder ensures perfectly whipped egg whites
It seems like whenever a recipe calls for a stiff peak with your egg whites, it can be tough to get them just right. The baking secret: “Adding a pinch of alum powder can bolster the consistency, making your meringues, soufflés, and angel food cakes rise with pride,” shares Bridenstine. Just sprinkle it into your eggs before you begin whipping for best results!
8. It removes unpleasant odors
The salmon you made was delicious and you can’t wait to enjoy leftovers tomorrow. The only problem? The fish is stinking up your fridge! To cut down on smells, place a small bowl of alum powder on one of the fridge’s shelves. The powder will absorb odors so your fridge will smell fresh in no time.
9. Alum powder helps heal minor cuts
When you accidentally get a small nick, don’t rush to put on a bandage just yet. Once you’ve washed the cut, grab your jar of alum first. “Alum powder can be used as a natural astringent and antiseptic by dissolving a small amount in water and applying it to minor cuts and wounds to help stop bleeding and prevent infection,” says David McLean, owner of Soapstones Natural Skincare. It also helps accelerate the healing process to avoid any scarring.
10. It polishes utensils
“When combined with water to form a paste, alum powder becomes an effective agent for polishing copper and silver,” says Bridenstine. “By dissolving discoloration, it can restore the shine to both heirloom pieces or everyday kitchen utensils, making them look brand new.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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To discover other spice cabinet staples that do double duty, keep reading: