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The 4 Best Substitutes For Epsom Salt

This article covers the best substitutes for Epsom salt in great detail and explains why they’re the best and how they compare to Epsom salt. Additionally, the article examines what Epsom salt is, how it works, where it comes from, and finally, how you can make a homemade bath salt.

First, the quick answer.

The 4 best substitutes for Epsom salt:

  1. Sea salt
  2. Magnesium flakes
  3. Mustard powder
  4. Bentonite clay

Now, let’s cover each in greater detail.

1. Sea Salt

Spoonful of Sea Salt

By far, the best and most similar alternative to Epsom salt for baths is sea salt. Sea salt exfoliates the skin, removing dirt, grime, and excess oils, leaving it smooth and silky. Additionally, sea salt relaxes muscles.

Dead Sea salt has a high moisture content, meaning it absorbs quite well. As such, it makes a great addition to soothing baths that implement essential oils or other ingredients. Also, Dead Sea salt contains far more minerals and nutrients than other sea salts. 

The minerals and nutrients in Dead Sea salt include:

  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Bromide
  • Iodine
  • Zinc

WebMD recommends sea salt baths for those suffering from psoriasis, as it soothes itching, pain, burning, and scaly spots associated with the skin condition.The International Journal of Dermatology published a study that concluded that bathing in Dead Sea salts improved skin hydration and soothed irritated skin.

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Differences Between Sea Salt and Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral salt known as “magnesium sulfate.” Sea salt, on the other hand, is mainly “sodium chloride,” or what we know as table salt. Experts consider sea salt more beneficial than table salt, as it contains additional minerals and nutrients.

Epsom salt is not a true salt. It’s only referred to as salt, thanks to its crystalline structure. It’s also much smoother than sodium chloride, which has higher moisture content and appears “crumbly” in texture.

People use both sea salt and Epsom salt in a variety of beauty and medical applications.

Can I Use Table Salt Instead of Epsom Salt?

As mentioned previously, table salt is not the same as Epsom salt. Table salt is 85% sodium chloride, whereas Epsom salt is mainly magnesium sulfate. Therefore, table salt does not provide the same healing benefits as Epsom salt because it does not contain the same amount of minerals.

You can use table salt instead of Epsom salt. Table salt offers some benefits thanks to its antiseptic, antibacterial, and astringent properties. The National Eczema Association recommends running a bath with a cup of table salt to alleviate any stinging sensations from a flare-up. 

However, this is not the same as a muscle-soothing Epsom salt soak.

In addition, if you’re looking for an alternative to Epsom salt for constipation purposes, table salt is not the answer. Some doctors recommend sea saltwater flushes to get bowels moving, but speak to your physician before trying this. It may be better to reach for a glass of prune juice.

2. Magnesium Flakes

Magnesium flakes are an ideal alternative for children or those with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate the minerals found in some Epsom or sea salts. While magnesium flakes come in similar packaging to Epsom salt, they are not the same product. 

They do, however, share some similarities when it comes to medical benefits. 

Magnesium flakes consist of magnesium chloride, as most magnesium supplements consist of the magnesium chloride compound. As mentioned throughout this article, Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate.

Therefore, the major difference between the two is the additional compound:

  • Chloride provides electrolyte balance in the body, which helps the optimal functioning of tissue, nerves, and muscle. Any imbalances in the body’s electrolytes can lead to dehydration and a general feeling of malaise. As such, if your electrolyte levels are low, soaking in magnesium chloride may help balance those levels.
  • Sulfate is an essential mineral for general well-being. It plays a role in metabolic processes and the function of proteins and insulin. Deficiencies in sulfate lead to inflammation, musculoskeletal disorders, and even blood problems. Therefore, Epsom salt baths may help balance the sulfate levels in the body.

3. Mustard Powder

Bottle of Ground Mustard

Mustard might be the last thing on your mind when thinking of Epsom salt alternatives, but mustard baths have been used for centuries for a multitude of ailments. Long ago, physicians used ground mustard and mustard seed to aid in digestion, promote appetite, reduce pain, and improve memory.

Today, people still use mustard in alternative medicine applications.

While there’s not much scientific evidence to prove that mustard has the same healing benefits as Epsom salts, studies show that it does increase peripheral blood flow, which could help with circulatory issues and pain.

Even Natalie Coughlin, the twelve-time Olympic medalist, takes advantage of mustard baths. To prepare for competitions, she runs a hot bath, adds mustard seed powder, and enjoys what she believes to be a muscle-soothing soak.

Integrate mustard powder into your next bath if you need an Epsom salt alternative for a soothing soak. Add 1-2 tsp (5.69 to 8.37 g) of ground mustard powder to your running bathwater. Soak in the solution for about 15 minutes before showering to remove any residue.

Alternatively, add a tablespoon (14.3 g) of mustard powder to a bowl of hot water as a soothing foot soak.

Of course, mustard powder has an odor, and most people are averse to pungent bathing experiences. Fortunately, you can make the mustard bath smell pleasant by adding essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus.

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4. Bentonite Clay

You might not expect to see clay when looking for an alternative to Epsom salt, but bentonite clay has multiple health benefits. Studies show that bentonite clay may be an effective therapy for a broad range of disorders.

Long ago, volcanic ash settled at the bottom of the sea, where the weight of the water constantly applied pressure. Over time, the ash became compressed, creating what we know today as bentonite clay, which is a thick, powdery compound that turns thick and liquidy with the addition of water.

Bathing in bentonite clay is different from bathing in Epsom salt, but it provides similar benefits in terms of soothing the skin.

Bentonite clay offers incredibly absorbent properties, helps transport oxygen to cells, and is a natural chelator. When bentonite clay comes in contact with a toxin, chemical, or heavy metal, the clay absorbs the toxin. This makes bentonite clay a popular ingredient in beauty products.

You can enjoy the healing benefits of bentonite clay by using the following instructions:

  1. Mix 3 cups (0.71 L) of bentonite clay powder with 2 cups (0.47 L) of hot water.
  2. Stir the mixture together until it becomes a smooth paste.
  3. Pour this mixture into running bathwater.
  4. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Rinse off in the shower after bathing to remove any remaining residue on the skin.
  6. Dry off with a towel and moisturize.

Pros and Cons of Epsom Salt Substitutes

While there is no single mineral compound or ingredient that provides identical benefits to Epsom salt, each of the substitutes listed in this article provides similar benefits. If you use them all together, you increase the number of benefits you’ll receive.

As always, though, each substitute comes with its pros and cons. Use the chart below to decide which Epsom salt substitute is best for your needs.

Epsom Salt SubstituteProsCons
Sea SaltBalances electrolytes
Provide minerals
Good for skin health
Soothes muscles
May cause skin dryness
Magnesium FlakesBalances electrolytes
Improves nerve function
Provides magnesium
Soothes muscles
Transdermal delivery is uncertain
Mustard PowderIncreases blood flow
Soothes muscles
Aids in digestion
Pungent odor
May discolor bathtub
Bentonite ClayRemoves toxinsSoothes skinMay be irritating to sensitive skin

What Exactly Is Epsom Salt?

Epsom salt is a naturally occurring compound of magnesium and sulfate. It is not a true salt, but rather, it’s named after a saline spring in England that produced bitter-tasting water, later discovered to be magnesium sulfate.

Over the centuries, people have touted Epsom salt as a remedy for dozens of ailments. Claims made include that Epsom salt soothes sore muscles, provides a restful night’s sleep, and relaxes both the body and mind.

Where Do You Get Epsom Salt?

You can get Epsom salt from most grocery, drug, and department stores, as it’s typically found in the pharmacy or cosmetics department. Epsom salt is also found online via a number of retailers.

In the 17th century, residents in England obtained water from a natural saline spring and boiled it, using it to bathe and soak in. Over time, they began raving about the water, claiming that it had numerous health benefits. Taking advantage of these claims, Nehemiah Grew patented the natural salt, retaining exclusive rights as a seller.

What Is Epsom Salt Good For?

Epsom salt is good for a wide variety of ailments, usually to soothe muscles and relieve constipation. However, there are other benefits, including providing magnesium, reducing stress, promoting sleep, and reducing swelling and inflammation.

Because magnesium is such an important mineral, low levels of magnesium can lead to a multitude of unwanted symptoms, including high blood pressure, heart problems, osteoporosis, and diabetes, and may even cause issues with nerve and muscle function.

As such, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough magnesium.

Keep in mind, however, that Epsom salt is not used in food applications. It’s a very bitter compound that is advertised as a bath salt or foot soak, not as a flavor booster.

Do Epsom Salts Really Work?

While there’s some controversy surrounding the efficacy of Epsom salts when used transdermally, some studies have shown that there are, in fact, health benefits when soaking or bathing in the compound.

Epsom salts really work. There is evidence that suggests Epsom salts have the ability to soothe muscles, alleviate constipation, and increase magnesium levels in the body, even when applied transdermally.

A study conducted by the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham concluded that blood and urine levels of magnesium and sulfate both showed significant increases after an Epsom salt bath every day for 12 weeks.

Additionally, a two-week pilot study concluded that transdermal delivery of magnesium showed a higher percentage of magnesium levels compared to those using a placebo.

These studies suggest that Epsom salts may actually be absorbed via the skin, giving us the added benefits of the supplement. 

Is Soaking in Epsom Salt Bad for You?

Soaking in Epsom salt is not bad for you and is considered safe for most adults and children. Those with sensitive skin, however, may find that soaking in Epsom salts aggravates their skin, leading to dryness. It’s not recommended to soak in Epsom salt more than twice per week. 

How To Make Homemade Bath Salt

While you can’t create salt, as it’s a naturally occurring substance, you can mix ingredients to create your own homemade bath salts. By creating your own bath salts, you control the ingredients that go into it. You can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like, depending on your preference.

To start, you’ll need the following ingredients to make 3 ¼ cups (0.77 L) of salt:

  • 2 cups (0.47 L) Epsom salt
  • 1 cup (0.24 L) Dead Sea salt
  • ¼ cup (0.06 L) Bentonite clay
  • 40 drops of Essential oils

Here’s how to make homemade bath salt:

  1. Sift the Epsom salt, Dead Sea salt, and bentonite clay in a medium bowl.
  2. Add in your desired essential oils for aroma.
  3. Sift the ingredients a second time to mix in the oils.
  4. Pour the mixture into a bottle with a lid.
  5. Run a bath.
  6. Add 4-5 tbsp (56.7 to 75 g) of the salts to your full bath once the water has finished running.
  7. Store the leftover salts in a cool, dry place.

You can make as many of these bath salts as you’d like, experimenting with different ratios and essential oil aromas. Additionally, if you want to skip the Epsom salt in this recipe, you can substitute it with magnesium flakes.

For more, don’t miss 11 Effective Substitutes for Soap in the Shower (Or Bath).

Warning: Any advice given in this article is based on research. I am not a medical professional and cannot speak from personal experience on whether the replacements listed here are medically safe or practical. I am only passing and summarizing information gained from research. I nor will be held responsible for any negative results achieved from using the information given here. Use at your own risk.