9 Surprising Uses for Epsom Salts You’ve Probably Never Thought Of
Epsom salts have been a staple for creating a soothing bath to wash away aches and pains. But there's much more this simple substance can do.
The history of Epsom salts
Epsom salts were discovered in Epsom, England, in the late 1600s and have been used ever since for all sorts of purposes. Don’t confuse the stuff for table salt—it’s mostly magnesium and has a bitter flavor. One of the most popular uses for Epsom salts is to soothe the sore muscles of athletes and to help remove splinters, explains podiatrist Bruce Pinker, a foot and ankle surgeon in White Plains, New York. They also have been used in beauty products. Here are some reasons you should consider keeping Epsom salts in your pantry or medicine cabinet.
An unusual use for Epsom salts is in the garden. The magnesium in the salt can enrich soil to help seeds grow stronger and give plants more nutrients, explains Dr. Pinker. Put a tablespoon or two in with each seed, or dissolve it into water and water plants with it. (See how gardening can help you stay healthy.)
Epsom salts are often sold as a laxative to help relieve constipation. Use only the amount suggested on the label or by your doctor, suggest experts at the University of Michigan Medicine. Never take Epsom salts if you also have severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or a sudden change in bowel habits that has lasted two weeks or more. Simply dissolve one dose of Epsom salts into eight ounces of warm water. A little lemon can make the drink more palatable. (Check out these other incredible health benefits of drinking lemon water.)
Have rough patches on your skin? The minerals in Epsom salts can help. “Epsom salt can reduce the thickness of one’s skin if soaking is performed,” says Dr. Pinker. “The magnesium sulfate also has an exfoliating effect on the skin which is beneficial.” Mix Epsom salts with coconut oil to make an all-natural salt scrub. (You’ll also love these homemade foot scrub recipes.)
Athlete’s foot treatment
Podiatrists often recommend soaking your feet in an Epsom salt bath to help reduce the pain and itchiness. “For athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), Epsom salt soaks can be helpful and soothing due to the effects of the minerals,” says Dr. Pinker. “However, antifungal creams are often more effective at addressing athlete’s foot conditions than Epsom salt soaking.” (Check out some more natural athlete’s foot treatments.)
Tile and grout cleaner
Let Epsom salts cleanse some of the grimiest parts of your house. Mix 1 cup Epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda, and 1/4 cup liquid dish detergent. Apply to dirty, durable surfaces like shower doors and grout, and let it soak in for at least a few minutes before you scrub it away. (Here are some home cleaning tips straight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Slug and snail deterrent
Sprinkling Epsom salts wherever your slug issue persists can be beneficial, according to Tejas Patel, MD, a dermatologist at Reforma Dermatology in Brooklyn, New York. “Once the slug makes contact with the Epsom salt, it starts to lose water which causes dehydration and ultimately death,” he says. “Simply sprinkle Epsom salts around your plants to keep the slugs at bay.” (Did you know that slugs might be the key to this new medical breakthrough?)
Itchy spot soother
Itchy spots become irritated due to inflammation, your body’s natural defense mechanism, explains Dr. Patel. “Your body fights foreign irritants via inflammation, which can be shown in a number of ways, including redness, heat, tenderness, swelling, and itchiness,” he says. As a remedy, he recommends applying a cold compress-soaked mixture of 2 tablespoons Epsom salts to one cup of cold water to soothe the itch from insect bites, eczema, and other skin conditions.
DIY bath bombs
Colorful, fragrant bath bombs have become a popular gift. You can create your own by mixing Epsom salts with other simple ingredients—baking soda, olive oil, citric acid, food coloring and a nicely scented essential oil. (Here’s how to make the best bath bombs for every mood.)
Several celebrities swear by an Epsom salts bath before a big event to help them look red carpet ready. This is because it can help relieve inflammation in the form of bloating. “When you take an Epsom salt bath, you reduce your swelling due to the properties of the Epsom salt,” says Dr. Patel. “The salt gets easily absorbed through your pores to get to the source of the inflammation.” Simply add about two cups of Epsom salts to your bath. Find out other daily habits that help reduce belly bloat.
- Bruce Pinker, DPM, a foot and ankle surgeon in White Plains, New York
- University of Michigan Medicine: “Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)”
- Planet Aid: “DIY Cleaning Supplies”
- Tejas Patel, MD, dermatologist at Reforma Dermatology in Brooklyn, New York