Salt used to be (quite literally) worth its weight in gold. In fact, the old saying “not worth his salt” comes from the fact that soldiers of the Roman empire received part of their pay in salt.

Today, salt is ubiquitous. It lurks in processed foods and is one of the most inexpensive items in the cooking and baking aisles at the grocery store.

As a food and nutrition writer, I know it’s not a good idea to *eat* too much salt. However, I’ve recently discovered a lot of other ways you can use salt to improve your health, on the cheap.

Make A Salt Scrub

I can’t walk into the health and beauty section of any grocery or drugstore without tripping over something with the word “exfoliating scrub” on it. “Exfoliate” means to remove old, dried-out skin cells, which helps the skin replenish itself.  I’m not about to spend a dollar an ounce for an exfoliating scrub, however. I use this recipe by Ric Chamberlin, a licensed massage therapist, for an exfoliating salt scrub.

You Need

  • Half cup of oil (cheap olive oil is fine)
  • 1/4 cup of sea salt (from the dollar store)

The Steps

  • Mix the oil and salt in a bowl.
  • Rub it into skin in the shower. Rinse off well.

This salt scrub will get rid of those nasty dead skin cells and help improve your circulation, and you’ll be on your way to healthy, glowing skin.
Make an Breathing Treatment

Salt spas seem to be popping up all over the country in wealthy areas, and some even have artificial “salt caves.”

Although the concept seemed a bit “crunchy granola” (aka hippie nonsense), I’ve come around to it. Salt mines have a long history of use as spas to help people suffering from breathing problems. This is now called “Spelotherapy,” and a study published in the Journal of International Rehabilitation Medicine reports that people with obstructive lung diseases experienced a “sharp and long-lasting” improvement in symptoms.

Okay, great, but I don’t have the cash to drive to Boulder or Vail and sit in a salt cave whenever I get a chest cold. That’s where salt inhalers come in. These simulate the environment in a salt cave in your own home. While ceramic “salt pipes” or “salt inhalers” are available online starting at about $40.00 I decided to make my own.

You Need

  • Salt inhaler refill salt, about $3.00 from Vitacost. (Make sure to get coarse.)
  • A used (clean) spice jar with a flip-top lid that has holes for sprinkling
  • Cheesecloth
  • Duct tape

The Steps

  • Cut the bottom off the spice jar.
  • Add enough salt to fill the container loosely.
  • Tape a piece of cheesecloth over the cut, open end.
  • Open the lid to the “sprinkle” lid, stick the lid end in your mouth, and breathe in the salt.

As with all home remedies, check with your doctor before you try this, especially if you have any chronic health conditions.

Clean Up Without Chemicals

I, somehow, missed the message that salt makes a great cleaner. A friend who is very sensitive to chemicals told me she uses salt as an abrasive cleaner. Light bulb!

Even though we don’t have any allergies or sensitivities in our house, I really don’t want to scrub out the sink I wash my dishes in with something that says “harmful or fatal if swallowed” on the label. Most often, I use salt to scrub out sinks, the tub, and the toilet. A little salt sprinkled in the wash with your laundry will remove stains and brighten colors.

Keep Your Hair Healthy

A final fun and unconventional use for salt is to use it on your hair. This one was new to me, but I have fine, colored hair, and washing it the traditional way every day tends to make it frizz (not to mention fading my color). However, I don’t like it when my hair feels greasy.

The answer is dry shampoo, but commercial dry shampoo is crazy expensive. I make my own using a recipe I found at The Fun Times Guide. To make it, you mix one tablespoon of table salt with a half cup of cornmeal and put in a clean shaker. Shake a little into your roots and brush out; the dry shampoo will remove dirt and excess oil without damaging your hair.

Do you use salt for personal care or cleaning? What do you do with it? Tell us in the comments.

This has been a guest post by Melanie 
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

The Salt: It's Not Just for Cooking Anymore