Over the years, I have learned that superstars of preparedness are those items that serve multiple purposes. In many cases, these are common, everyday items that we already have on hand. Not only that, many of these multi-taskers are budget friendly and available everywhere. Some good examples include vinegar, salt, honey, duct tape, coffee filters, and even microfiber cloths.
There is one preparedness multi-tasker whose list of uses is so diverse that you will wonder why you had not thought of stockpiling it previously. I am referring to old fashioned Epsom salts.
Let’s start with a bit of history. According to this article on PubMed, the purgative effect of the waters of the town of Epsom UK were first discovered in the early seventeenth century. Epsom, the town, was subsequently developed as a great English spa where high society flocked to take the medicinal waters. Eventually, Dr. Nehemiah Grew, a distinguished physician, botanist and early Fellow of the Royal Society, extracted Epsom salts from the spa, and the rest is history.
Since then, Epsom salts have been used for a multitude of beneficial purposes—from fertilizing gardens worldwide to easing muscle aches and other ailments. But what about specific uses to the prepper and survivalist?
With the able assistance of Carmella Tyrell, here are 10 ways to use Epsom Salts both now and during a major disruptive event.
What are Epsom Salts?
Did you know that Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate) have many medicinal, household, and garden uses? If not, then you probably dismissed them as an important part of your prepper stockpile. Nevertheless, in a pinch, Epsom salts can be used in place of more expensive items and perhaps even work better than expected. If you are looking to save money, create a smaller cache of diverse bug out gear supplies, or just want to make it easier to manage your home, it is well worth looking into Epsom salts.
Epsom Salt or Magnesium Sulfate is a common mineral found throughout the world. You can obtain your own Epsom Salt by boiling down ocean water (you can also get table salt from the same source), or pick up the crystals from around mines, hot springs, or other areas where magnesium sulfate can leach from the rocks and bind with water. Since Epsom Salt is so common in the environment, you can be assured of a steady supply of it when other items in your stockpile run out.
Controversies and Precautions When Using Epsom Salts
Many people believe that when Epsom salts are mixed with warm water, it becomes possible for the salts to pass through the skin as magnesium and sulfate. Even though magnesium is very important for maintaining good health and is necessary for many bodily functions, too much can be dangerous. For example, if you use too many laxatives with magnesium in them, they can cause kidney damage. While there is considerable debate over whether or not magnesium from Epsom salts can get past the skin and into other parts of the body, it is still best to exercise caution. By the same token, if you take Epsom salts internally, or even use them for other applications, handle them with care so that you do not cause permanent damage to your body.
10 Ways to Use Epsom Salts
1. Relax Muscles
When it comes to relaxing muscles, Epsom salts work best when dissolved in warm water. They do not dissolve or work as well when mixed with oil or lotion, so it is best not to combine them with these carriers. There are many ways to use Epsom salts as a muscle relaxer. My two favorites are:
Take 1 ½ cups of Epsom salt and mix them in 4 – 6 cups of hot water (you can speed this up by getting hot water from the coffee maker) and then adding the Epsom salts into a bowl of hot water. Next, run enough water into the bathtub for soaking. The water should be warm and comfortable long enough so that you can stay in the water for about 15 minutes. Add the Epsom salt solution to the tub, get in, and soak for no more than 15 minutes. If you have arthritis or other long-term pain, you may have to soak once a day for a few days. Follow manufacturer instructions so that you do not use Epsom salts longer than what might be safe.
Take 1 cup of Epsom salts and add them to a foot bath full of warm water. Soak for about 15 minutes to ½ hour.
2. Reduce Inflammation
To reduce inflammation in swollen or sore muscles, you can soak in an Epsom salt bath, or simply use a moist compress over the affected muscles. To make an Epsom salt compress, mix 2 cups of Epsom salts to one gallon of warm water, and then let it get cold. Soak a towel in the cold water, and then loosely wrap the region with the moist towel for 15 minutes.
3. Relieve Constipation
As noted above, you need to be very careful when taking Epsom salts internally. That being said, the magnesium in these salts is well known for relieving constipation. You can use Epsom salts in two ways to resolve this problem:
If you do not want to ingest Epsom salts, try soaking in a mixture of warm water and Epsom salts. Just use 5 cups of salt in the water instead of just 1 ½ cups as you would to relieve sore muscles.
When ingesting Epsom salts to treat constipation, try dissolving 2 – 4 level teaspoons of Epsom salt in 8 ounces of water. If you are treating someone between the ages of 6 and 12, drop the Epsom salt amount down to 1 – 2 level teaspoons in 8 ounces of water. If you do not have a bowel movement after 4 hours, you can try a second dose. Do not take more than two doses in a 24 hour period, and do not use Epsom salts for more than 5 days.
4. Soothe Insect Bites
Epsom salts can be used to relieve redness, itching, and irritation associated with mosquito and other insect bites. You can bathe in Epsom salts as you would for relieving sore muscles, use a cold compress, or apply an Epsom salt paste. To make the paste, just dissolve one teaspoon of Epsom salts into 1 cup of hot water, and then put it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to speed up the process. Apply the paste to insect bite once you clean it and pat the area dry. You can also use these three solutions for poison ivy, poison oak, rashes, and sunburn.
5. Emergency Battery Electrolyte
As with other uses for Epsom salts, there is a considerable amount of controversy surrounding their usage in enhancing or restoring automobile batteries. You can try adding a mixture and Epsom salt and hot water to old or weak batteries to see if it will help. Just be aware that if the plates inside the battery are excessively worn, or the contacts that join the cells together are in bad condition, it is not likely the Epsom salts will be of much help. Do not forget to wear goggles, acid-proof clothing and shoes, and work in a well-ventilated area for the sake of safety. Never underestimate what battery acid can do, especially if you don’t have much experience with batteries and how to make repairs to them.
6. Garden Fertilizer
Plants are no different from other living things in the sense that they need magnesium in order to remain healthy and carry out many functions necessary for life. Unfortunately, many soils and old garden plots do not have enough magnesium. You can correct this problem by adding Epsom salts at a rate of 1 cup per 100 feet when you turn the soil over prior to planting.
You can also fertilize plants with Epsom salts during the growing season by drenching them. Use a mixture of 1 – 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt to 1 gallon of water. Just pour the mixture at the base of the plant so that it goes straight to the roots. This is especially useful for tomatoes, and peppers which always need more magnesium. For these plants, apply the mixture every two weeks. You can also use Epsom salts for roses. Instead of using a liquid mixture, apply one teaspoon of Epsom salts per foot of plant growth to the soil, and then water the plants.
Fruit trees, your lawn, and flower beds will also do better if you apply Epsom salts to them. Be sure to look up each species of plant or tree so that you know how much Epsom salt to use. Typically, if you see yellow or curled leaves and don’t have anything else on hand, you can try to revive the plant with Epsom salt.
7. Improve Seed Germination
No matter whether you are starting seeds that have low viability, or you often find that seedlings are weak and tend to die off, Epsom salts may just be the cure to your problems. Gardeners have noted for decades that Epsom salts improve germination and that the seedlings tend to be much sturdier once they emerge.
Aside from providing magnesium, the Epsom salts also provide extra sulfur, which seedlings also tend to need in greater quantities as they emerge and start to grow. Take one tablespoon of Epsom salt and add it to a gallon of water. Use this mixture to water the seeds when you first plant them.
8. Reduce Transplant Shock
Seedlings, trees, rose bushes, and just about everything else in your garden will have to be transplanted at one time or another. While losing some plants is always to be expected, you can reduce the number of losses and accelerate growth by using Epsom salts. Here are a few methods to try:
If you are planting new trees or bushes, soak the root ball in ½ cup of Epsom salts to 1 gallon of water
For moving plants from containers to soil, water them with 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts to 1 gallon of water as soon as you are done planting them. This will ease shock to the roots and also improve the ability of the leaves to provide nutrients for the rest of the plant.
You can also try adding one tablespoon of Epsom salts to each hole, cover it with a thin layer of soil, and then place the new plant in the hole. As the plant grows, the roots will reach the Epsom salts later in the growing season when they need it most.
When using Epsom salts for transplanting, do not forget that too much can also be harmful to the plants. Always test the soil for nutrient content before adding Epsom salts or other fertilizer so that you create an optimal balance instead of creating harmful disruptions.
9. Deter Raccoons
To many people, raccoons are cute creatures that are admired for their cleverness and pretty fur patterns. On the other hand, they can be quite a nuisance in the garden and around your home. Epsom salts can be used to keep raccoons away from the trash can, the hen house, and even out of your garden. Simply sprinkle Epsom salts around the area that you want to keep raccoons out of. You will need to sprinkle more Epsom salts after it rains because it is the smell and taste of the salts that deter the raccoons. If you are sprinkling Epsom salts around the border of the garden, you may need to replace the salts after watering the garden if the salts become moist.
Do not forget that raccoons are also very clever. If they are deterred from reaching their goal via a ground route, they can just as easily climb or find some other way in. You may need to use other deterrents (this includes removing or eliminating things that attract them) in combination with the Epsom salts in order to keep the raccoons at bay. Always study where you see signs of the animals and their possible paths so that you can succeed in outwitting them. Unfortunately, if you cannot deter the raccoons, then you may need professional help in order to trap and remove them.
10. Easily Clean Pots and Pans
Have you ever baked or fried something and wound up with a mess at the bottom of the cooking vessel? If so, then you also know that soaking, scrubbing, and scouring can be frustrating tasks.
Epsom salts can help with loosening grease and grime so that it is easier to clean heavily soiled pots and pans. Start off by mixing ¼ tablespoon of Epsom salt and ¼ tablespoon of dish detergent in warm water. Let them sit and soak in the pot or pan that needs to be cleaned. When you are ready to start scrubbing, you can also add some Epsom salt onto troublesome areas, as it will release the grime faster. If the pots or pans are not heavily covered in grime, grease, or burnt food, you can simply add the Epsom salts directly to the soiled surface and scrub.
- Cochise College – Epson Salts
- WebMD – Why Take an Epsom Salt Bath?
- Oregon State University – Magnesium
- Epson Salt Council – Doctors Say Epsom Salt Helps Reduce Itching from Summer Ailments
- Battery University – Additives to Boost Flooded Lead Acid
- Best Plants – 21 Epsom Salt Garden “Cheats” You Don’t Want To Miss!
- Plant Care Today – How To Improve Your Seed Germination Using Epsom Salt
- Mc Gill – Raccoons
As you can see, there are many places in your home where Epsom salts can be useful. Furthermore, in a time of crisis, you may find that having several bags of Epsom salts on hand will also be of immense value.
About Carmela Tyrrell – I have been a prepper for many years and enjoy applying gardening, homemaking, and other skills to this fascinating subject. I am always looking for new ways to live a better life by cutting reliance on all things “municipal” and embracing self-sustainable living. Please see survivorsfortress.com for more of my articles on different aspects of prepping.
The Final Word
Anecdotally, I can tell you that tossing a handful of inexpensive Epsom salts into garden soil at the time of planting will result in stronger, healthier plants. In addition, if you grow flowers (and you should), the blooms with be stronger and more colorful.
I can also attest to healing properties of an Epsom salts foot bath. As someone whose feet are frequently in pain, a nice, hot foot bath can mitigate the aches that seem to manifest themselves late in the day. Add a few drops of essential oils to the foot bath and not only do you have pain relief, but you also have the soothing benefits of aromatherapy.
One last thing. Don’t discount the value of budget friendly Epsom salts for barter. With so many uses, Epsom salts are useful not only now, but in the event we have a major disruptive event and will have something useful to trade with your neighbors in a barter economy.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article as well as other personal favorites.
Epsoak Epsom Salt 19.75 lbs: I suggest purchasing Epsom salt in bulk. Just be sure you are getting 100% Magnesium Sulfate without scents or other additives. I store my Epsom salt in mason jars that have been sealed with my Food Saver Jar Attachment (see below). Also check out the 25 lb. package for even more savings.
Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, (Pack of 36): No list of DIY cleaning supplies would be complete without these wonderful microfiber cloths. They will last you for years and will allow you to replace paper towels forever. Truly. I color code using blue for glass and windows and the other colors for everything else. I love these.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), an in expensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food. There is also a version for regular sized jars. See How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.
60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product. Currently, a pack of 60 (in three 20 unit packs) is about $13 with free shipping.
Ball Regular & Wide Mouth Jar Storage Caps: I must have 30 or 40 of these. I love to use mason jars for panty storage and for those items I go through quickly, I see no need to use the vacuum seal gizmo that goes with my FoodSaver.
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