Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
As a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride, salt is necessary for human life. Before refrigeration, it was the primary means of food preservation, and a proper balance of salt in the diet is essential for the body to function properly. People have traded with salt over the centuries, and our own Western pioneers followed guidebooks that recommended 10 pounds of salt per person for the arduous journey along the Oregon Trail.
If salt is not part of your stockpile inventory, you are overlooking a versatile survival item. This article will review the different types of salt and the many reasons you should stockpile salt.
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Different Kinds of Salt
Salt occurs naturally throughout the world, with seawater as its most plentiful source. However, not all salt is the same, so let’s examine the different varieties of salt.
You probably have a cardboard 26-ounce canister of salt on your kitchen pantry shelf right now. This familiar product, which sells for less than a dollar in grocery stores, is what we consider an all-purpose table salt. You can buy it with or without added iodine, and it often contains an anti-clumping agent.
Sea Salt (also called Mineral Salt, Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt, or Celtic Sea Salt)
Since all salt can trace its origins to the sea, some salt labels can be misleading. Generally, the term “sea salt” on the label means that the product is unrefined, meaning it contains other minerals. The actual minerals vary according to the salt’s source. In other words, Himalayan salt contains different minerals than Celtic salt.
Kosher and Pickling Salt
Kosher salt, which has a large, coarse grain, typically contains no additives, such as iodine. Pickling salt has a fine grain and does not contain an anti-clumping agent. It dissolves quickly in liquids, making it useful for canning.
Rock salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits. Industrial rock salt is sold for use in ice cream makers and is not intended for human consumption. On the other hand, food-grade rock salt can be used for cooking. It’s important to read the label carefully.
Although it is often called rock salt, the kind of salt spread on roadways in the winter as a de-icing agent comprised mostly of calcium and magnesium chlorides and is not for human consumption. All types of salt can be used to help melt ice, however.
Why Stockpile Salt?
Now let’s look at some of the reasons you should make salt a part of your emergency supply.
Health and Hygiene
Salt helps the human body balance electrolytes and is essential for proper cell function. The American Heart Association states that most adults need at least 500 mg (1/10 teaspoon) of salt per day up to a maximum of 1,500 mg (1/4 teaspoon) per day.
Because of the high salt content in many processed foods, the average American eats closer to 3,400 mg (2/3 teaspoon) every day. However, in a disaster scenario, we can assume we will not be eating as much frozen food or fast food and therefore not consuming as much salt.
According to the Harvard Medical School, sodium helps fluid levels, muscle function, and the transmission of nerve impulses. A lack of sodium causes the body to retain fluid in an effort to conserve its stores of the mineral. A sodium deficiency can lead to dizziness, fatigue, seizures, confusion, headaches, weakness, and vomiting.
In addition to these basic bodily system needs, here are some other ways salt can come in handy when it comes to personal care:
- Gargling with warm salt water can soothe the pain of a sore throat or a mouth sore.
- You can make a natural toothpaste by combining one part salt with two parts baking soda.
- Salt can soothe the pain of insect stings and bites. You can moisten the area of a bee sting and place a small pile of salt on it for quick pain relief. Or make a poultice of salt and olive oil to help relieve an itchy mosquito bite.
Food Preservation and Flavoring
By drawing out the moisture in a food, salt creates an environment where bacteria, fungi, and other dangerous organisms cannot survive. Salt is part of the process of curing meat and is necessary for fermentation.
Salt also enhances the flavor of foods. A pinch of salt can enhance sweetness or suppress bitterness in almost every food.
Because of its abrasive structure, salt is also useful as a cleaning agent. You can use it by itself or along with other natural products, including baking soda, white vinegar, or lemon juice.
Here are some examples of how to use salt in cleaning.
• Sprinkle salt on oven spillovers to lessen smoke and odor and to make clean-up easier when the oven has cooled.
• Pour hot salt water down your kitchen sink on a regular basis to help prevent a buildup of grease in the drain.
• Gently rub a mixture of salt and vegetable oil to remove white rings left on wood tables from beverage glasses or hot plates.
• Mix salt with dish soap to remove stubborn residue on coffee mugs and tea cups.
• Use a stiff brush and a solution of salt and white vinegar to scrub cutting boards before rinsing with hot water.
• Deodorize and clean the inside of your refrigerator with a soda water and salt solution.
• Clean and freshen smelly kitchen sponges by soaking them overnight in a saltwater solution.
In addition to its use as a preservative and as a cleaning, salt can help in other ways in the kitchen.
• You can keep the color of peeled apples or potatoes fresh by placing them in a pot of lightly salted water until you are ready to either cook or serve them.
• To help prevent mold growth, try wrapping cheese in a paper towel or small cloth moistened with salt water before storing it in the fridge.
• Soaking pecans and walnuts in a saltwater solution for a few hours will make shelling them easier.
• Add a pinch of salt to the bowl when whipping cream or beating egg whites, and you’ll notice quicker and firmer peaks. A pinch of salt will also help keep cake icing smooth for spreading.
Salt also can help keep you safe when cooking or grilling. While water can splatter burning grease, making things more dangerous, salt will help smother the fumes of a grease flare-up. You can also use salt to extinguish the waning flames of a fireplace or campfire safely.
Other Uses for Salt
Here are some other uses for salt around your home and property.
You can get rid of weeds in the cracks of your sidewalk, patio, or driveway by spreading salt between the cracks and then sprinkling the area with water.
After blotting spills of wine, grape juice, or ketchup on a tablecloth or clothing, cover the stain with a pile of salt. Then soak the cloth in cold water for 30 minutes before laundering. This method also works on bloodstains.
If the stain is on your carpet, use club soda to dilute the color before blotting with a clean cloth. Then, sprinkle the stain with salt and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before vacuuming.
Adding salt to your laundry detergent also can help remove sweat stains and odor from clothing. If you have hard water, salt can help cut down on the extra suds you probably get.
Salt will also help prevent color fading or bleeding in new bedding and towels. Just add a quarter cup of salt to the first few washes to help set the colors of the fabric. Later, you can revive colors by washing them in a saltwater solution.
Try sprinkling salt on window sills or doorways where you have seen ants. They tend to steer clear of salt.
Sprinkle salt or a combination of salt and baking soda inside your athletic or canvas shows to absorb odor and moisture overnight.
How to Store Salt
The best way to store salt is in an airtight container placed in a cool, dry location away from sunlight. Since bulk quantities of salt are sold in bags, you can repackage it in smaller containers for easier access and safer storage. If you want to store salt in its original cardboard containers, you can. Just place them in a larger plastic container with a lid.
When stored properly, table salt will last indefinitely. Sea salts may deteriorate somewhat over time due to the other minerals they contain.
Here are a few storage tips:
- Iodized table salt will slowly turn yellow after time. Although it might not look appetizing, it will still be safe to eat. Stockpiling salt without iodine to solve this problem.
- Oxygen absorbers are not recommended for storing salt.
- Seasoned salts (salts combined with herbs and seasonings) will lose taste over time due to the degrading of the plant products, not the salt.
- Do not store salt in metal containers. Salt can leach elements out of the metal over time.
- Don’t confuse table salt with Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), which is an entirely different compound.
Most experts say you should figure on storing about three to five pounds of table salt per person per year. If you plan to preserve food, you’ll need to adjust the types of salt and the quantities accordingly.
Although, as we’ve pointed out, salt is essential for our health, too much salt can be harmful. Two common problems associated with a high sodium diet are water retention and elevated blood pressure.
We’ll leave you with another benefit of stockpiling salt – it can be used for bartering. At a time when the world seems very uncertain, that purpose may be as important as any of the others we’ve mentioned.
“There must be something strangely sacred about salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.” — Khalil Gibran
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