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What is Cream of Tartar Used For? These 13 Handy Household Tasks

Find out how to put this mysterious baking staple to work, both in the kitchen and beyond!

Cream of tartar is one of those ingredients that we all have in our cupboards, but rarely use to its full potential. That’s probably because most people don’t realize just how many useful things you can do with cream of tartar, both in the kitchen and beyond!

But I hope to change that with today’s post, because I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about cream of tartar. By the end of this post, you’ll not only have a much better understanding of what cream of tartar actually is and what it does, but you’ll know plenty of practical ways to use it too! 🙂

What Is Cream Of Tartar?

Let’s start with a question that we’ve all asked ourselves at some point: “What is cream of tartar?” Cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate, is an acidic white powder that is often used as a stabilizing ingredient in baking (especially in meringues!), and as a cleaning agent for brass and other metals. (It’s quite useful for cleaning other things too, as you’ll learn a little later in this post!)

Interestingly, potassium bitartrate is formed as a byproduct during the winemaking process, when the natural tartaric acid in grapes crystallizes during fermentation. After being filtered out of the wine, those crystals are purified and processed into the white, odorless powder that we all know as cream of tartar.

The acidity of cream of tartar really comes in handy when it’s used an ingredient in baking. It can help stabilize ingredients that tend to lose air bubbles after being whipped, such as egg whites and cream, and it can add volume and thickness to desserts and baked goods.

As long as you store cream of tartar in a cool, dry location, it should stay fresh almost indefinitely. (When in doubt, use your eyes and nose—if it’s white and powdery and smells tangy or acidic, it should be fine to use!)

Substitutes For Cream Of Tartar

If you’re working on a recipe that calls for cream of tartar and don’t happen to have any on hand, don’t worry! There are a couple of different things you can use as a substitute for cream of tartar, depending on what you have lying around in your kitchen.

Lemon juice and white vinegar are both acidic enough to work nicely as a cream of tartar substitute, but you’ll want to use about twice as much of them. For example, if your recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar, you could use 1 teaspoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar as a substitute.

But as I mentioned above, cream of tartar isn’t only useful for baking! Next, we’re going to explore 13 surprising uses for cream of tartar, both in the kitchen and elsewhere around the house!

13 Practical Ways To Use Cream Of Tartar

1. Deter Ants

Use cream of tartar to deter ants from their gathering places on your driveway or sidewalks. All you have to do is sprinkle a bit of the powder around the areas where they congregate.

2. Stain Remover

Add enough lemon juice to a small dish of cream of tartar to make a paste, then apply the paste to clothing or carpet stains. Let it sit for an hour or two, then either machine wash the item or blot the item clean with a damp cloth. (This works particularly well on ink stains!)

3. All-Purpose Kitchen Cleaner

Make a paste of cream of tartar and a bit of white vinegar to make a great all-purpose kitchen cleaner. Use it to clean burner pans, grout lines, ovens, sinks, and even to remove mold and mildew. Store the mixture in a squeeze bottle for easy application.

4. Erase Collar Stains

Makeup, lotion, sunscreen, and other products often leave behind oily residues on shirt collars. To remove those oily stains, dampen the collar area with water, then sprinkle some cream of tartar over the area. Rub the powder into the stain with an old toothbrush, then launder the shirt as usual.

5. Restore Scratched Dishes

Make a paste of cream of tartar and water and use it to scrub away scratches or stains on your dishes. Simply apply the paste, scrub with your fingers or a sponge, and rinse with water.

(Note: I typically prefer to use Bar Keepers Friend for this job, but if you were in a pinch and happened to have some cream of tartar in your cupboard, I think this tip could really come in handy!)

6. Coffee Pot Cleaner

Clean stains and old coffee residue out of your coffee pot by sprinkling cream of tartar inside. Add boiling water to fill the pot, let the water cool to room temperature, then rinse well.

7. Make Baking Powder

Make your own baking powder at home is as simple as mixing 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar. As an added bonus, the resulting baking powder is fully gluten free, unlike some brands you’ll find in stores.

8. Shine Stainless Steel

Clean and shine your stainless steel appliances! Add 1 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup of cream of tartar to a small bowl and mix well. Dip a sponge into the mixture, scrub your stainless steel, then wipe clean with a damp cloth. Buff with a dry microfiber cloth until it reaches your desired shininess! 😉

9. Remove Rust

You can remove rust from metal by mixing up 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, 1/4 cup baking soda, and just enough hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Apply the mixture to a rust spot, let it sit for 30 minutes, then wipe the surface clean.

10. Clean Up Copper

Clean and brighten copper pots and pans with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Rub the mixture onto the copper surface, then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

11. Stabilizing Egg Whites (AKA “Meringue Must-Have!”)

When making meringue, add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every 2 egg whites in your recipe. The acid from the cream of tartar helps to stabilize the egg whites and add volume to the finished product.

12. Pretreat Whites

Keep your white clothes and linens extra bright with this simple soak! Fill your sink or a bucket with lukewarm water, and add 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every quart of water you’re using. Soak your whites in this solution for a half hour or so before laundering them as usual.

13. Toilet Touchups

Could your toilet bowl use a quick touchup? Sprinkle cream of tartar around the inside of the toilet bowl, then give it a quick scrub with your toilet brush. Flush to rinse.

Do you have any favorite tips and tricks for using cream of tartar?

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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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