One of the very first things I did when I first started prepping was to bolster my pantry with basic staples that could be used for a variety of purposes. When it was suggested that I store salt, and lots of it, I was a disbeliever. After all, conventional mainstream wisdom had taught me that salt was the bad guy.
But is it really?
I made it my mission to determine whether salt is a good thing, a bad thing, or simply something best treated as an item to “use in moderation”.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated and revised to include MORE ways to use salt for survival!
- 1 Salt As the Bad Guy
- 2 But Is It Really That Bad?
- 3 Why Do You Need Salt in Your Prepper Pantry?
- 4 [NEW] 50 Ways to Use Salt for Survival
- 5 Notes On The Role Of Salt In Survival Medicine
- 6 Putting Back Salt For Minimal Cost
- 7 Storing Salt Long Term
- 8 What type of salt should you store?
- 9 The Final Word
Salt As the Bad Guy
According to the Mayo Clinic, lowering your salt intake can help lower your blood pressure and your risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who consumed more than 7 grams of salt per day had a much higher risk of death than those who consumed 3-6 grams per day.
The authors estimate that reducing salt intake could save between $10 billion and $24 billion in health care costs annually. In light of this, many experts are calling on food manufacturers and restaurants to lower the amount of salt in the foods they sell.
But Is It Really That Bad?
On the other hand, salt/sodium is vital to keep our bodies functioning normally. It is a main component of the extracellular fluids in the body. It is important for regulating hydration and also aids other body functions, such as the transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
So although I personally have issues when there is too much salt in my diet, for many the moderate consumption of salt is perfectly fine.
Why Do You Need Salt in Your Prepper Pantry?
For most of us, the amount of salt needed to stay healthy can be already be found in processed, packaged, or canned foods. Let us hope that we have stored enough of these foods – especially the canned items – that we will never need to worry about adding more.
Having gone most of my adult life avoiding salt, coming to terms with adding salt to my survival pantry was true mind-shift. Not only is there a physiological need for our bodies to ingest salt in one form or another, but there are a multitude of other uses aside from food enhancement and food preservation.
Which leads me to the next point: what are the uses of salt in an emergency situation?
Salt has been an integral part of civilization dating back as far as 6050 B.C. It has been such an important element of life that it has been the subject of many stories, fables and folktales and is frequently referenced in fairy tales.
It served as currency at various times and places, and it has even been the cause of bitter warfare. Offering bread and salt to visitors, in many cultures, is traditional etiquette.
Aside from all of the uses that salt performs in terms of baking, food flavor and food preservation, salt has a number of other uses that you may never have thought of.
[NEW] 50 Ways to Use Salt for Survival
The following list is a combination of suggestions from ‘Above Average’ Joe, my own uses, and the tips from you, the readers, who are always a wealth of information.
- Food preservation Salt can be used as an off-grid way to preserve meat, fish and game that is caught in the wild. While some may think that you have to use curing salt, table salt can also prevent spoilage. Canned foods that have higher sodium levels will stay shelf stable for longer. Some salted and smoked foods will keep very well without refrigeration. With proper curing, country ham can be made or fish can be salted and smoked for year round meat. Check out our post on “How To Cure Your Own Pork”.
- Supplemental use Table salt can provide the nominal amount of dietary sodium once the canned and processed foods are gone. While the modern diet makes it easy to get way too much salt, during an extended emergency, salt could become very scarce. There is a reason back in the old days people would boil off hundreds of gallons of water just to recover a small amount of salt.
- Taste enhancement (perhaps this should be number one!)Just a little salt can make a big difference in otherwise bland foods. Rice and beans are a lot better during a long emergency if you have some seasoning.
- Dental hygiene A salt paste can be used to brush your teeth
- Remove Rust Make a paste using 6 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Apply paste to rusted area with a dry cloth and rub. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
- Perk up coffee flavor Add a pinch of salt to the coffee in the basket of your coffeemaker. This will improve the coffee’s flavor by helping to remove some of the acid taste. This is a big help too if you are stuck drinking low quality coffee or old coffee during an emergency.
- Clean cast iron skillets and pots If our cast iron cookware is gunked up with bits of food, make a paste from salt and a bit of water then scrub it clean. To speed the process, boil a small amount of water in the pot, add some salt and use a llong-handledbrush to whisk away the burned on food.
- Eliminate fish odors Removing fish odor from your hands is simple with Salt. Just rub your hands with a lemon wedge dipped in salt, then rinse with water.
- Cut cutting board odors To help cut odors off of your wooden cutting board, simply pour a generous amount of Salt directly on the board. Rub lightly with a damp cloth. Wash in warm, sudsy water.
- Soothe sore throats To alleviate the discomfort of a mild sore throat, gargle several times daily with a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon Salt and 1/2 cup warm water*. It’s like taking a liquid lozenge. Salt water solutions also help reduce bacteria and irrigate any actual sores or abrasions inside your mouth and throat.
- Treat your tootsie’s To prepare a salt water bath, pour 6 quarts (1-1/2 gallons) warm water in a large basin. Mix in 1/4 cup Salt and 1/4 cup baking soda. Soak feet for up to 15 minutes. You can add a few drops of essential oil for a more luxurious experience.
- 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).
- Testing egg freshness Place the egg in a cup of water to which two teaspoonfuls of salt has been added. A fresh egg sinks; if it floats, toss it.
- Cleaning greasy pans The greasiest iron pan will wash easily if you use a little salt in it and wipe with paper towels.
- Cleaning stained cups Rubbing with salt will remove stubborn tea or coffee stains from cups.
- Save the bottom of your oven If a pie or casserole bubbles over in the oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spill. It won’t smoke and smell, and it will bake into a crust that makes the baked-on mess much easier to clean when it has cooled. This trick can save a lot of time over the years.
- Fend off fire from a rogue BBQ Toss a bit of salt on flames from food dripping in barbecue grills to reduce the flames and calm the smoke without cooling the coals (like water does).
- Removing pinfeathers To remove pinfeathers easily from a chicken, rub the chicken skin with salt first. If you ever have to butcher your own chickens, this trick is going to save you a lot of time and ensure that you don’t have the unpleasant discovery of feathers while eating.
- Preventing mold To prevent mold on cheese, wrap it in a cloth dampened with saltwater before refrigerating.
- Keeping milk fresh Adding a pinch of salt to milk will keep it fresh longer.
- Scaling fish Soak fish in salt water before descaling; the scales will come off easier.
- Non-stick pancakes Rub salt on your pancake griddle and your flapjacks won’t stick.
- Keeping cut flowers fresh A dash of salt added to the water in a flower vase will keep cut flowers fresh longer.
- 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. Use some caution if you have plants you like nearby. Salt run off can affect things you want to grow and thrive.
- Killing poison ivy Mix three pounds of salt with a gallon of soapy water and apply to leaves and stems with a sprayer.
- Deodorizing shoes Sprinkling a little salt in canvas shoes occasionally will take up the moisture and help remove odors.
- Relieving bee stings If stung, immediately wet the spot and cover with salt to relieve the pain.
- Deterrents Sprinkle salt at doorways, window sills and anywhere else ants sneak into your house. Ants don’t like to walk on salt.
- Clean teeth Use one part fine salt to two parts baking soda–dip your toothbrush in the mix and brush as usual.
- Melt snow and ice Sprinkle salt on snow or ice to melt away.
- Removing soot Occasionally throw a handful of salt on the flames in your fireplace; it will help loosen soot from the chimney and salt makes a bright yellow flame.
- For soap making Salt is a component in some soap recipes. It stimulates a chemical reaction that hardens the soap.
- Nasal Rinse Mix well 1/4 cup salt & 1/4 cup of baking soda and store in an air tight container, use 1/4 tsp. for each rinse. This can help stop a cold virus in its tracks, can help with seasonal allergies, and can relieve sinus pressure. Many people use a neti pot for this purpose. I have cured many sinus issues just using this method as well as gargling with salt water.
- Dispose of disposal odor To help remove odors from garbage disposals, pour 1/2 cup of Salt directly into the garbage disposal. By running the disposal following manufacturer’s directions, you’ll send those odors down the drain.
- Fill in holes in drywall or plaster To fill in damage to walls just mix equal parts corn starch and salt and use like a putty. This is great for those minor fixes where you don’t want to fool with the mess and expense of plaster or drywall compound.
- Clean sponges. Soaking sponges in salt water will kill bacteria and other germs that stink and can make you sick. For best results put sponges in boiling salt water and allow to soak for 20 minutes and rinse. Air dry your sponges and use as needed. This can help you get more wear out of sponges rather than getting grossed out with them and throwing them away.
- Prevent greens from wilting. Salad greens will last longer if you sprinkle some salt on them. This can be helpful if you are making a big salad for a potluck or just trying to get ahead on your food prep during the course of your day.
- Make nuts easier to crack. Soaking nuts in a salt brine solution will make it much easier to get nuts out whole rather than in tiny pieces. If you have a lot of nuts to crack, this can save you a lot of time and result in a higher quality product overall.
- Put a stop to suds. A lot of soaps and laundry detergents do not suds like they used to because phosphates and other sudsing agents have been eliminated or reduced. However if you do get yourself in a sudsy situation you can sprinkle a little salt on them to reduce the mess. Good to remember next time you go overboard with the bubble bath!
- Wash dirty greens in salt water. A salty solution will make the dirt come off of garden greens and other produce much easier. Those that like to forage for plants will find this trick handy for reducing prep time. I am going to use this one next time I go dig wild leeks!
- Cleaning wounds. While salt no doubt hurts, it does create an inhospitable environment for bacteria and germs. Salt water solutions are excellent for irritating and rinsing out some wounds. In a major survival situation, if I found myself needing to disinfect, I would pour salt on a wound because some pain is far better than an infection if you don’t have antibiotics.
- Remove grease stains. Mix one part salt and 4 parts alcohol to create a grease-cutting solution. Of course, always test a small portion of fabric before use if you have an item that is somewhat delicate.
- Remove stains on glass. Mixing salt and vinegar together creates a natural cleaner for glass that can get rid of those stubborn stains. If you have water with a lot of mineral deposits in it then this
- Remove wine or juice stains. Sprinkle salt on carpets or clothing where red wine or dark juice has been spilled. Let sit for a few minutes and then rinse away the stain with cold water. I do love that salt is less harsh and doesn’t have the incredible odor of commercial stain removers. Those that are sensitive to cleaning agents will be glad they discovered this use for salt. Another bonus is that salt in small amounts is not at all toxic to kids or pets.
- Wooden clothespins last longer when boiled in a saltwater solution. So you just bought some really nice clothespins and want them to last? Just take the time to boil them in some salt water and that will help preserve them. No need to go back to plastic pins thinking they will last longer.
- Add salt to laundry to help keep colors bright. If you find that your clothes are fading fast then try adding some salt. Just a tablespoon per load can make a big difference and possibly save you money over expensive laundry treatments.
- Salting and drying hides. You can do a reasonable job tanning hides with just salt but even if you use other items for your tanning process, salt is going to be involved at some point. A fresh hide is salted first to prevent spoilage and start the drying process. Several saltings are quite common when tanning.
- Cure that stinky sink drain. A warm salty solution can help eliminate any odors from your drain and won’t cause damage to your pipes or septic tank. A little salt water is a lot more gentle on your septic than some commercial cleaners. While theoretically, you could use enough salt to kill the good microorganisms in your septic system, you would really have to dump a lot down it for that to happen. The occasional drain pipe refreshment is not going to do that.
- Prevent clothes from freezing on a clothesline. If you add a few tablespoons of salt to the rinse water when doing laundry it can help prevent that annoying freezing to the line in the winter time. This means you can enjoy line dried clothes more of the year. For those that are homesteading off grid and rely on clotheslines, this trick can save a lot of time and frustration. Check out the BDS post on “Best Off Grid Laundry Options” for more tips.
- Clean a broom. Soak brooms in salt water for 20 minutes and then remove and air dry. This will also help your broom last longer.
Notes On The Role Of Salt In Survival Medicine
Prevention is invaluable in a major survival situation or long emergency. Saltwater rinses for issues like sinus inflammation can help prevent a more serious infection that requires antibiotics. You really don’t want to use antibiotics unless it is truly necessary. A minor irritation on the skin like a bad pimple, in grown hair, blister, or other pustules can often heal quite well if you use salt water soaks and rinses. A one ounce medicine measuring cup, shot glass, or even a small jelly jar can be used to soak key areas. Put salt and hot water in the container and cup it over the affected area to form a seal. Soak for 5-10 minutes. This can be done 3-4 times per day if you have a lot of drainage. You can reduce the frequency after signs of healing appear. It is important to make sure that you are not tempted to make the water too salty as that can cause lots of drying. The initial soak can be saltier than the others if you are concerned about making sure it is thoroughly clean. A normal saline soaking solution like that recommended for wounds like ear piercings is ⅛ tsp salt per 8 ounces of water.
For flushing wounds, you can create a makeshift sprayer using a bidet bottle. Sanitize by washing the bottle well with hot soapy water or soak in a very salty solution before putting your milder saline solution in the bottle. The pressure can be nice for flushing out debris from scrapes and wounds. This is a cheaper way than the expensive canned and under pressure saline solutions that simply might not be available during a SHTF scenario.
Salt is useful but be careful to monitor its effects on do not use too often.
Remember, salt can be used for bacteria prevention and cleaning but it is not a replacement for real antibiotics. If your irritations and wounds do not show signs of improvement after a few days or get worse, then you need to consider your next step. Salt has its limitations and you also need to make sure that you are not using too much. Excessive drying of the skin is not good for healing. You want to keep bacteria away but if you salt your own hide too much you can actually prevent healing.
Putting Back Salt For Minimal Cost
One way to put back salt is to buy it in large bags as water softener salt. This is food grade salt after all. It goes in the water you use daily in some cases. I know it is rock salt but you use a grinder or even a mortar and pestle to turn it into usable chunks. Last time I checked it was under $8 for a full 40 lb bag at Lowes and other home improvement stores. Just remember to double check the bag to make sure there is absolutely no additives besides salt. Some contain additives for dealing with a lot of iron in your water.
Another way to make sure you are adding to your salt stash is to just throw a few of the larger paper cartons of salt into your cart every time you grocery shop. If you catch a sale you can stock up.
Storing Salt Long Term
I recommend repackaging salt that comes in paper containers because they have little protection from water. Salt really never goes bad. You just have to keep out bugs, dirt, and moisture. Bugs don’t really like salt so moisture is more of your enemy. Vacuum sealed bags with moisture absorbers offer a lot of protection. Pint sized bags offer a decent portion size while gallon sized bags may be more appropriate for those that plan on using salt for a lot of the things on this list.
Salt Is Corrosive
Another reason to store salt well sealed is that it is corrosive to metals. Just a little salt can cause pitting and rust to happen fast. Those that live near salt water for any major length of time know all about this. If salt leaches out onto something due to excessive moisture it can cause damage. Salt stored in vacuum sealed bags and put in a plastic tote or similar will keep well and avoid this issue.
What type of salt should you store?
For many purposes, not just any salt will do. Here’s a rundown on the different types of salt that are available, and the best ways to use each type. Note: this information was compiled from Authority Nutrition.
Iodized table salt
This is the inexpensive salt you can find at any grocery store, discount center, or even dollar store across the country. It’s cheap and simple to acquire.
Unfortunately, when it is refined all of the beneficial minerals are removed. Perhaps part of the reason that salt is so hard on your body is that most of us end up consuming this version. It is refined to the point that it’s mostly sodium chloride.
It often has additives like iodine and anti-caking agents.
This kind of salt is fine for cleaning purposes, but don’t look to it as a health supplement.
Kosher salt is very similar to regular table salt, but it is sold in flakes as opposed to finely ground. The original use of kosher salt was in the Jewish faith, to remove all of the blood from meat as per their religious requirements.
Sea salt is derived from evaporating ocean water. The darker the color, the more “impurities” it has – but in this case impurities can be trace minerals and nutrients.
While it isn’t as refined as the table salt above, the serious pollution in our oceans means that sea salt may not be the healthiest option. It can be very high in heavy metals, and post-Fukushima, even radiation, depending upon the origin of the salt.
Celtic salt is a type of sea salt that comes from a specific region in France. It is grayish in color and a moist texture, unlike other types of salt that are completely dry.
It contains the same minerals as regular sea salt, and the percentage of sodium chloride is slightly lower than other salts.
Pink Himalayan Salt
Pink Himalayan salt is harvested in Pakistan. The pink color comes from iron oxide. Pink Himalayan salt also has other minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
It is often very coarse, but if you prefer it to be finer, just use a pepper grinder on a fine setting.
The Final Word
While good quality salts do have some trace amounts of minerals and nutrients, keep in mind that they are just that: TRACE AMOUNTS. While a certain amount of salt is necessary for your survival, it is not a source of adequate nutrition.
Going with one of the natural sources of salts for consumption is better for your body. It is processed more easily and does not contain the additives that cheap table salt does.
I have checked a number of sources and the consensus is that you should store 5 to 10 pounds of salt per person as a one year supply. This seems like a lot to me but, given that salt is so cheap, there is no harm in stocking some for emergency purposes. And now that I think about it, with so many uses, I would recommend storing a bit more for use as barter currency.
Remember that salt is easy to store. You can use Mylar bags, buckets or even re-processed jars or soda bottles. Just remember that you should not use an oxygen absorber because if you do, the salt will turn in to a solid brick! Use a moisture absorber instead.
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Bargain Bin: Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article.
Himalayan Institute Ceramic Neti Pot: The Neti Pot has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to alleviate sinus and allergy problems. The Himalayan Institute introduced the Neti Pot in 1972 and this bestselling Neti Pot makes nasal irrigation easy and comfortable. Inexpensive plus it requires no electricity. Non-iodized sea salt or course kosher salt is recommended when using a neti-pot.
Morton Salt Kosher Salt, 3 lbs..: I personally use Kosher salt for all of my salt needs, including bread making. I appreciate the fact I can get it in bulk from Amazon.
Bob’s Red Mill Sea Salt – 2 lbs.: Bob’s Red Mill Sea Salt is made from purified Pacific sea water by an all natural evaporation process. It has a high sodium chloride content and contains all of the minerals that are usually refined out of ordinary earth salt. Sea Salt is excellent for both table and cooking use. This is the salt I use in my DIY scrubs.
Celtic Sea Salt, Coarse Ground, 1 lb..: This is completely unrefined kosher and hand-harvested authentic sea salt from the coastal region of France. Unlike ordinary table salts, Celtic Sea Salt products provide potassium, magnesium and other important trace minerals.
Sherpa Pink Gourmet Himalayan Salt, 5 lbs..: Himalayan salt has become well known for its amazing health benefits. It re-mineralizes the body with minerals and trace elements essential to our health and well being. Himalayan pink salt is rich in trace minerals, including Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Iron. I am personally ordering this salt; I have heard so many fantastic things about it.
Bamboo Jar Salt: For a splurge, order a bamboo salt jar!
Smart Soapmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably: If you want to learn to make your own soap, this book by my friend and neighbor, Anne Watson, is the best. The Kindle version is only 99 cents but it is also available in print.
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