Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline substance that can be used for baking as well as cleaning. 

Associate Professor Roderick Bates, from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at Nanyang Technological University, says: "As a weak alkali or base, it can be effective in neutralising acidic things, such as removing certain pesticides and the odour of smelly feet, but a wash with plain water would do just as well in many cases."

He adds that it is non-toxic and thus safe for most uses. He says baking soda may have some antibacterial properties, but cautions against claims that it can prevent and heal cancer.

Also, be sure not to confuse it with baking powder, which is also used as a leavener in baking. Unlike baking soda, baking powder, which contains baking soda and other ingredients, is not ideal for cleaning.

Photos: Ng Sor Luan

What: Baking soda can be used safely to clean fruit and vegetables before cooking. It is said to be effective in removing certain pesticides.

1. Put fruit and vegetables in a bowl and cover with water. Mix in a spoonful or two of baking soda (pictured).

2. Soak for about 30 minutes.

3. Rinse the fruit and vegetables thoroughly and pat dry before eating or cooking.

Tip: This method of cleaning is especially useful if one intends to eat fruit and vegetables with the skin on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline 'Baking soda'.