DIY Repurposing

19 Surprising Alka-Seltzer Uses for the Home and Garden

This medicine cabinet staple is a treatment for far more than relieving digestive issues. Put Alka-Seltzer tablets to work cleaning stained coffee cups, dishwashers—even laundry stains!
Savannah Sher Avatar
Closeup of a young woman dropping an effervescent antacid in a glass of water.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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That recognizable refrain of “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is” can be applied to many problems that have nothing to do with heartburn or indigestion. Alka-Seltzer, sold in audibly effervescent tablets, can help you handle a host of issues around the house—and provide some fun and entertaining activities for families. The secret lies in Alka-Seltzer’s patented blend of citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, and aspirin, which unleashes powerful cleaning power on tough household grime and stains. Here are just a few unexpected ways Alka-Seltzer can come in handy around the house.

1. Clean the Coffee Maker

A coffee maker sits on the counter full of coffee behind a rack of clean dishes.
Photo: istockphoto.com

If your morning cup of joe tastes a bit stale, your coffee machine probably needs a good cleaning. Alka-Seltzer can help make it fresh again. Fill the chamber of your coffee maker chamber with water, and drop in four Alka-Seltzer tablets. Let the fizzing action work for 15 minutes, and then run a brew cycle to thoroughly clean the machine’s inner workings. Rinse the chamber two or three times, and finish by running one more brew cycle with plain water before making coffee.

2. Banish Bowl Residue

This is an overhead view of a toilet with limescale stains in the bowl.
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A pair of Alka-Seltzer tablets can relieve you of tough toilet bowl stains. Drop in the tablets, wait 20 to 30 minutes, give the bowl a quick scrub with a toilet brush, and flush. The stains will be history, and the toilet clean and deodorized.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Toilet Bowl Cleaners We Tested This Year

3. Fashion a Funky Lamp

A glass against a white background with a blue homemade laval lamp inside.
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Bring back the spirit of the ’60s with a DIY lava lamp. Remove the label from an old soda bottle or other clear plastic container. Fill a quarter of the bottle with water, and then add vegetable oil up to the halfway mark. Add 10 to 12 drops of food coloring before breaking an Alka-Seltzer tablet into six pieces and dropping them into the mixture. To complete the effect, go into a dark room and shine a flashlight through the bottom of the bottle. Groovy!

4. Unclog the Drain

A close up view of a sink drain beneath soapy water that has built up because the drain is clogged.
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Get quick relief from a sluggish or clogged drain by dropping a few Alka-Seltzer tablets down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Let the mixture work for 5 to 10 minutes, or until you hear the fizzing stop. While the Alka-Seltzer is doing its job, boil a kettle of hot water on the stove, then pour it down the drain to rid your pipes of any remaining residue. (If the clog is stubborn, it might require a second dose of hot water.) Bonus: Flushing the drain with hot water should also help with unpleasant drain odors.

RELATED: How to Unclog a Sink Drain: 5 Methods That Work

5. Revive Jewelry

A woman's hand places a ring into a small glass teacup containing water with other pieces of jewelry being cleaned.
Photo: istockphoto.com

Make your own inexpensive jewelry cleaner by combining two Alka-Seltzer tablets and a cup of water. Place dull or discolored jewelry into the water for a couple of minutes until the fizzing stops, and then rinse with water. Your jewelry will shine like new! Don’t try this trick with delicate pieces or porous jewelry, such as pearls or opals, because the citric acid in the Alka-Seltzer may damage them.

6. Get Glass Sparkling

Woman pouring water into glass from glass jug on countertop in kitchen.
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Stubborn stains or wine residue that lingers on the bottom of narrow-necked vases or decanters can often be tricky to remove using standard methods. Once again, Alka-Seltzer comes to the rescue: Fill the container halfway with water, and drop in two tablets. Let stand until the fizzing stops, and then rinse the vessel thoroughly with plain water. (The container may need a second treatment if it’s very dirty.) This method can also be used to clean a dirty glass thermos.

RELATED: 9 Brilliant Cleaning Hacks Everyone Should Know

7. Remove Stains From Clothing

A close view of a white shirt collar with yellow and green stains on it.
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White clothes can inevitably become dingy over time, with T-shirts and dress shirts alike bearing telltale yellow underarm stains that can be tricky to remove. While there are products that are specially formulated to eliminate this stubborn discoloration, Alka-Seltzer also does the trick. Put the affected items in a gallon of warm water and add two Alka-Seltzer tablets. Let them soak for half an hour and then scrub the stained areas before throwing the laundry into the washing machine.

RELATED: 15 Laundry Mistakes You’re Probably Making

8. Blast Burnt Food

Greased ceramic tray with remains of olive oil and burnt food after roasting food in the oven.
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If your glass cooking dishes have acquired a grimy patina of burnt and baked-on food residue, use Alka-Seltzer to blast them clean. Fill the kitchen sink with water, and drop in five or six tablets. Place all your gunked-up glass cookware in the sink, and let it soak for about an hour. Lightly scrub and rinse with water—the burnt-on bits should flake off easily. For extra cleaning power on tough stains, add a cup of vinegar to the soaking water.

9. Freshen the Fridge

A close level view of a refrigerator shelf with a salad inside tupperware, an unwrapped piece of cheese, and juice and condiment bottles in the back.
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Sometimes even the cleanest refrigerator can take on an unappealing smell. Deodorize the fridge with one tablet of Alka-Seltzer in a cup of water. Keep the cup in the fridge for about 30 minutes to eliminate lingering scents. Repeat every week or so to ensure that the appliance retains its fresh scent.

RELATED: How to Clean a Refrigerator

10. Clean Plastic Containers

A woman meal preps in the kitchen. She is putting black berries, strawberries, peas, and nuts into clear glass food storage containers with lids.
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Plastic food containers are handy for storing leftovers and packing a lunch for work or school, but when they’re filled with tomato-based sauces they can become stained with an orange tinge. Eliminate this discoloration by filling the container with warm water and adding a tablet or two of Alka-Seltzer, depending on the container’s size. Allow the mixture to sit for ½ hour before rinsing it out, and the container will be as good as new.

11. Deodorize a Cooler

Cooler filled with food for a camping trip.
Cooler filled with food for a camping trip.

After a camping trip or a day tailgating, unpleasant odors can linger in the cooler. While you can try cleaning it with soap and water, Alka-Seltzer may actually be more effective. Fill the cooler with 2 inches of water, then drop in three tablets and let them dissolve. Let the mixture sit for an hour before rinsing out the cooler.

RELATED: The 10 Best Yeti Cooler Alternatives That Are Cheaper—But Just as Good

11. Eliminate Caffeine Stains

An empty dirty espresso cup on a marble table top.
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When you drink tea or coffee from the same mug every day and don’t rinse it out right away, brown stains tend to develop around the bottom. Because Alka-Seltzer is slightly abrasive, it’s able to scrub away those stubborn stains even when your standard dishwashing detergent can’t get the job done. Fill the mug with warm water and drop a tablet in before allowing it to sit for 10 minutes.

12. Soothe Bug Bites

A woman in her garden crouches down to itch a mosquito bite on her leg.
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Itchy mosquito bites are a nuisance, and they can be maddening if you don’t have calamine lotion or another treatment on hand to soothe the discomfort. An Alka-Seltzer in the medicine cabinet can save you a trip to the drugstore. Add a tablet to warm water and then apply the mixture to a cotton ball and dab the bite for instant relief.

RELATED: 13 Time-Tested Tricks for a Bug-Free Backyard

13. All-Purpose Cleaner

a woman wearing an apron uses a spray bottle and rag to wash a stainless steel counter top.
Photo: istockphoto.com

While Alka-Seltzer comes in handy for a variety of specific tasks, it can also be used generally as an all-purpose cleaner. Add three tablets to 8 ounces of warm water and allow them to foam up. Use the mixture to clean practically any hard surface in your home, aside from delicate materials that can’t handle even a gentle abrasion.

14. Polish Silverware

A close view of a pile of silverware.
Photo: istockphoto.com

You can polish more than just jewelry with Alka-Seltzer. To give silverware a shine, simply drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a bowl of warm water and place the silverware in the solution. Let it soak for a few minutes so the Alka-Seltzer can break down tarnish and residue. Rinse the silverware with water and dry it with a clean cloth.

15. Clean the Dishwasher

Dishwasher detergent powder tank with steel base.
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If you’re out of dishwasher detergent, Alka-Seltzer can be the next best thing. Place a tablet in the detergent compartment of the dishwasher and run a hot water cycle. The mixture of Alka-Seltzer with hot water helps break down grease and grime, leaving your dishwasher squeaky clean.

RELATED: How to Clean a Dishwasher

16. Remove Algae From a Bird Bath

A close up of a colorful bird perched on a birdbath.
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If your bird bath is in need of a clean, Alka-Seltzer can be a simple and effective method to get rid of built-up algae. Use a dry brush to lightly scrub the bird bath. Add one to two crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets on the dry surface and continue to scrub. Rinse the bird bath thoroughly to get rid of any remaining grime.

RELATED: How to Clean a Bird Bath the Right Way

17. Remove Rust From Tools

Overhead view of rusty tools on a wooden workbench.
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Fill a container large enough to cover the rusty tool part with warm water and drop one to two Alka-Seltzer tablets into it. Place the rusty tools into the solution, ensuring they’re fully submerged, and let them soak for a few hours. After soaking, use a metal file or brass brush to remove any remaining rust.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Remove Rust From Metal Using Kitchen Ingredients

18. Clean Grout

Gray tile floor with grout being cleaned by an adult male with a scrub brush and soap.
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To clean grout effectively, crush four or five Alka-Seltzer tablets in a small bowl of warm water, letting them dissolve completely. Pour the fizzy mixture into a spray bottle and spray onto the grout lines between the tiles. Scrub the grout with a dry brush (an old toothbrush can work, too) to remove dirt or stains. Rinse the area with water to reveal clean and fresh tile.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Clean Stained Grout

19. Repel Mice and Rats

A rat hides in a house under wooden planks and looks out.
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While there isn’t much scientific evidence as to why Alka-Seltzer will get rid of mice and rats, it’s a widely accepted remedy. Cover one to two tablets with peanut butter and place them in areas of your home where you’ve noticed rodent activity. While it may work for some, it’s not a long-term solution for rodent control, and more conventional pest control methods are recommended as a follow-up.