The Power of Borax

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Before it became the "green" thing to do I used Borax for everything from disinfecting diaper pails to controlling bugs. While being environmentally friendly, borax handled a multitude of laundry, cleaning and sanitizing jobs around the house. Depending on the cleaning job, borax could be used along with other natural products that were already on hand, such as vinegar, baking soda or lemon juice. There was no need to have a cabinet filled with the latest expensive cleaning products – just a box of borax.

So, what is Borax?

Borax, which is also known as sodium borate (or sodium pyroborate, sodium tetraborate decahydrate and a few other terms), is a natural mineral compound that was discovered over 4000 years ago. It is found deep underground in the Western United States as well as in China. It is used widely for commercial purposes, however it is best known in most households for its cleaning power. Borax is odorless, not flammable and can be safely mixed with most other cleaning agents. Borax is not harmful to washing machines, plumbing or septic tanks and does not contain chlorine or phosphates.

The pH of borax is about 9.5 - the optimal pH range for a washing solution being 9 to 10.5, as the effectiveness of detergents is maximized at this level. The use of borax is an instrumental factor in maintaining pH levels, thereby boosting the effectiveness of detergents. For other uses such as disinfecting and pest control, the components of borax (boron, salt, and/or oxygen of boron) inhibit the metabolic processes of many organisms.

Is Borax safe?

Even though Borax is natural, you should not automatically assume that it is safer for you than other man-made products. Remember the old adage, “too much of a good thing can be bad.” Knowing that Borax is commonly used to kill ants, fleas and roaches would be another clue. In quantity, it is also toxic to people. Generally, Borax is safe as it has no toxic fumes and is environmentally-friendly, however it should be used properly and with common sense. Do not use borax around food and keep it out of reach from children or pets.

What else can Borax be used for?

Twenty Mule Team Borax is best known as a laundry booster, but it should not be limited to just cleaning your clothes. When you discover the many uses of borax, you will never want to be without a box. Following are a few of the many ways to use borax in your home.

Laundry Help – Add a ½ cup of Borax to every load of wash along with the recommended amount of your regular detergent. Front-loading washing machines and large capacity machines can take ¾ cup measure.

Hand Washables – Dissolve up to ¼ cup of borax in warm water, add a few tablespoons of detergent and soak items in the sink for about ten minutes or so. Rinse thoroughly in cool water and dry according to care label (usually hang or dry flat).

Stain Remover - Mix 1/4 cup borax with 2 cups water. Sponge on to stain and let dry, or pre-treat before washing. This is good for blood, chocolate, mud, coffee, mildew and urine stains.

Baby Diapers and Clothes – I always liked to get a jump start on diaper cleaning and disinfecting by presoaking flushed-out, soiled diapers in a diaper pail filled with hot water and a ½ cup of Borax for at least 30 minutes prior to washing. It will help to reduce odors and staining, along with making diapers more absorbent.  In the wash, use ½ cup of Borax and laundry detergent to clean bibs, diapers and bedding in hot water.

Flea Control – Sprinkle on carpet/flooring and let sit for a few hours, or overnight, before vacuuming. Remember to keep area clear of pets and children until borax is completely removed. If you have respiratory sensitivities, it may be wise to use a mask when you vacuum.

Deodorizing Garbage Disposals – Just sprinkle a few tablespoons down the drain and after 15 minutes or so, flush the drain with warm water. Actually, any drain that you feel may accumulate build-up and odors, can benefit from a little borax now and then. It can also be a great alternative to caustic drain cleaners. To unclog a drain you can try pouring a ½ cup of borax down the drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. After it sits for about 10 to 15 minutes, flush the drain with hot water. You may have to repeat the process a few times if it is a tough clog.

Clean and Deodorize Refrigerator – Dissolve one tablespoon of borax per quart of warm water and use it to wipe down the insides of the refrigerator.

Deodorizing Garbage Pails - Trash cans get smelly after a while, so soaking them with a mixture of hot water and a ½ cup borax can help to eliminate odors. After it has dried sprinkle in additional borax to help absorb future odors.

Sink and Bathtub Cleanser – Borax alone is a great non abrasive cleanser. When mixed with lemon juice into a paste, it can help to get rid of sink and bathtub rust stains. Works great on toilets too!

Get Rid of Mold and Mildew - Mix borax and warm water and use a spray bottle to spray on and wipe off. If you have areas that are prone to mold, wash down with borax and do not rinse. The borax residue will fight mold growth.

Carpet Stains - Mix borax and warm water into a paste and rub into carpet stains. I have never had any problem, but to be extra careful you may want to test an inconspicuous area for colorfastness.  After it has dried, vacuum the remaining powder. For wine stains and other liquid stains, dissolve a cup of Borax in a quart of warm water, leave for 30 minutes and sponge off. For smelly areas, dampen the area, sprinkle with Borax and vacuum when dried.

updated 7/2015.