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”.
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.
34 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.
1. Food preservation Salt can be used as an off-grid way to preserve meat, fish and game that is caught in the wild
2. Supplemental use Table salt can provide the nominal amount of dietary sodium once the canned and processed foods are gone
3. Taste enhancement (perhaps this should be number one!)
4. Dental hygiene A salt paste can be used to brush your teeth
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 long handled brush to whisk away the burned on food.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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).
13. Testing egg freshness Place the egg in a cup of water to which two teaspoonful’s of salt has been added. A fresh egg sinks; if it floats, toss it.
14. Cleaning greasy pans The greasiest iron pan will wash easily if you use a little salt in it and wipe with paper towels.
15. Cleaning stained cups Rubbing with salt will remove stubborn tea or coffee stains from cups.
16. 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.
17. 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).
18. Removing pinfeathers To remove pinfeathers easily from a chicken, rub the chicken skin with salt first.
19. Preventing mold To prevent mold on cheese, wrap it in a cloth dampened with saltwater before refrigerating.
20. Keeping milk fresh Adding a pinch of salt to milk will keep it fresh longer.
21. Scaling fish Soak fish in salt water before descaling; the scales will come off easier.
22. Non-stick pancakes Rub salt on your pancake griddle and your flapjacks won’t stick.
23. Keeping cut flowers fresh A dash of salt added to the water in a flower vase will keep cut flowers fresh longer.
24. 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.
25. Killing poison ivy Mix three pounds of salt with a gallon of soapy water and apply to leaves and stems with a sprayer.
26. Deodorizing shoes Sprinkling a little salt in canvas shoes occasionally will take up the moisture and help remove odors.
27. Relieving bee stings If stung, immediately wet the spot and cover with salt to relieve the pain.
28. Deter ants Sprinkle salt at doorways, window sills and anywhere else ants sneak into your house. Ants don’t like to walk on salt.
29. Clean teeth Use one part fine salt to two parts baking soda–dip your toothbrush in the mix and brush as usual.
30. Melt snow and ice Sprinkle salt on snow or ice to melt away.
31. 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.
32. For soap making Salt is a component in some soap recipes. It stimulates a chemical reaction that hardens the soap.
33. 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.
34. 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.
Now granted, some of these uses are handy dandy but not 100% survival and prepper-centric. Still, as this demonstrates, there are a ton of day to day uses for salt that will make our lives easier if not more pleasant.
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.
The other thing worth mentioning is 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!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!