What is Borax?
Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Unlike boric acid, sodium tetraborate is not toxic.
Sodium borate is a soft white crystal that dissolves easily in water. If exposed to dry air, it loses its hydration and becomes sodium tetraborate pentahydrate. This can be found in the same section as laundry detergents in the supermarket.
In this article, we will discuss some lesser known uses of borax.
What is Borax Made of?
The white, powdered borax that you usually find in the grocery store consists of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water. It is not boric acid, which is more acidic and might easily turn toxic if absorbed through broken skin.
I’ve been using borax as an ingredient in homemade laundry detergent for several years now. It’s inexpensive and easy to find at any grocery store.
Borax has a wide variety of uses around the house. Did you know it has many other cleaning uses besides the laundry?
Sodium borate is different from its more acidic parent, but are there any cautions? With a pH around 9.5, Borax is highly alkaline, which makes it irritating to the skin and eyes when used undiluted.
In any form – borax, sodium borate or boric acid – undiluted borax should not be used as an eyewash or skin scrub nor should you drink it, (which I’m pretty sure you already figured out.)
But for occasional indirect contact, using sodium borate in things like cleaning products is safe.
So, what are the common (and less common) uses for borax? Continue reading to learn more.
Uses for Borax
This old time product has many uses besides your laundry
Borax Cleaning Uses
Is borax safe as a cleaner? Let’s find out.
- Used as an aid to your carpet cleaning machine. Just add 1/2 cup of borax sodium tetraborate per gallon of water. See a more detailed recipe in the “Other DIY Recipes Using Borax” subtopic.
- Borax makes a great toilet bowl cleaner. Pour one box of sodium borate powder into the toilet and leave overnight. You’ll see amazing bathroom results the next day!
- Clean mold and mildew. Mix one cup of borax with one quart of hot water. Pour into a spray bottle. Spray on mold and mildew until it is saturated. Wait several hours, then rinse thoroughly.
- Clean the floor. Put one-fourth cup of borax and one-half cup of vinegar into a bucket. Fill it up with hot water. Add a small amount of dish soap. Use the solution to mop your floors.
- Used as an all-purpose cleaner. This is one of the most common borax uses. Mix two tablespoons of borax with two cups of water. Mix the solution in a spray bottle, and you have your very own all-purpose cleaner.
- Borax cleans violin strings! Just dampen a brush then dip in borax. Then, rinse with warm water. But make sure that the water or borax does not get in contact with the body of the violin.
- Borax is a rust remover. Mix borax with warm water and lemon juice to create a paste. Then, apply to the area with rust.
- Used in cleaning outdoor furniture. Combine borax with warm water and dish soap. Place the solution in a spray bottle then start spot cleaning.
- Clear clogged drains. Borax is a much less toxic alternative to regular drain cleaners. Pour 3.5 oz (100 mg) of borax down the drain, then add 13.5 fl oz (around 400 ml) of boiling water. Let sit at least 15 minutes and flush with several more cups of boiling water. If necessary repeat until the obstruction is gone. Your sinks will thank you too!
- Get rid of urine smell. Borax is very effective at removing persistent urine odors from a mattress. So, if your kid has wet the bed, dampen the problem area, rub it with borax, and use a vacuum cleaner to remove the solution once everything has dried off.
- Keep windows and mirrors stain-free. Add 1 tbsp of borax to 10 fl oz (300 ml) of water, soak a clean sponge in the solution and give your mirrors and windows a nice wash.
- Disinfect the garbage disposal. To keep nasty bacteria and mold buildup at bay, give your garbage disposal unit some TLC every two weeks. Just pour 3 tbsp of borax down the drain, leave it there for around one hour, and flush with hot water afterward.
- Make (crazy cheap) DIY laundry soap. You’ll need just borax, baking soda, and a bar of Fels-Naptha. Preparedness Mama has a whole step-by-step guide to making this lifesaver. Check it out here: Stocking Up On DIY Laundry Soap.
Borax Uses in Your Garden and Backyard
These less known uses for borax include non-invasive ways to improve the health of plants and animals.
14. Used as a solution to promote fruit and seed development for fruit trees. Just spray a solution of borax powder and water (10:1) onto the soil around, say, a full-grown apple tree every 3 to 4 years. The borax solution will add boron to the soil. Click here for the tops signs of boron deficiency in plants.
15. With the help of borax, freshly-cut flowers can be preserved for an extended period of time.
16. Sprinkle sodium borate powder on the floor to get rid of mice.
17. Borax can be used to combat bugs including ants, cockroaches, and other pests. Just sprinkle equal parts of borax and sugar on the area where you think the pests are present. However be wary that borax can be very toxic to small kids and pets if ingested in large quantities. (Here are several more natural methods of pest control for your yard and garden: Natural Garden Pest Control Methods)
Warning: Don’t use borax freely in your garden as it can be toxic to plants. Use a diluted solution on some plants and see how they react. If it is too much dilute it some more.
Other DIY Recipes Using Borax
18. GooGone Remover: Mix 1/2 cup borax with 1/4 cup of water (always use this 2 to 1 ratio) until completely incorporated. Rub on hands or household items to get rid of adhesive residue.
19. Carpet Cleaner: In a pint mason jar, mix 2 cups of cornmeal with 1 cup of borax. Sprinkle the mixture over your carpets and leave for at least an hour. Add an essential oil if you choose. Vacuum it up and enjoy fresh carpets. You can use a regular jar lid into a shaker by punching nail holes through it.
For more DIY natural cleaners that are just as effective as their commercial counterparts – but much milder on your health and pocket, see our related post: Make a DIY Natural Cleaning Kit.
20. Sprinkle borax to kill weeds in the yard and in sidewalk cracks. Be sure you do not get any in your garden as it will kill any plant it lands on!
21. Flea destroyer: The humble borax can help you get rid of some of the nastiest home flea infestations. Just mix the chemical with regular table salt in equal parts and scrub the mixture onto furniture, carpet, cracks and other places fleas might have set their base. Wait 24 hours and vacuum.
Repeat the process until you get rid of all the fleas (in serious infestations, you might need to do it every 12 hours). The borax-based solution will dry out both the fleas and their eggs. Warning: Do not use this solution on your pets’ coat as it is toxic to them.
22. Old-time pink eye remedy. Before people rushed to their GP for every minor ailment, pink eye used to be treated in just a few days with a mild borax-based treatment.
Mix 1 cup of warm distilled water with 1/8 tsp Mule Team Borax. Sterilize the entire area around the eye with a cotton ball soaked in the solution and add a couple of drops of the mix in the affected eye.
23. Athlete’s foot treatment: Borax is very effective at fighting off stubborn fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. You’ll need to make a borax – hydrogen peroxide solution to soak your feet in. Borax is the key ingredient but hydrogen peroxide will help it get into the skin better.
Mix 1 part 3% hydrogen peroxide with two parts of hot tap water, not boiling, to dilute the hydrogen peroxide to 1 percent. You need to get the hydrogen peroxide down to 1% because otherwise it would be too abrasive on your skin. The human skin produces hydrogen peroxide on its own so you need to give it just one gentle boost in case of a fungal infection.
Next add 1 cup of borax to the peroxide-water solution and stir. Make sure that all the borax is dissolved then add a spoonful of borax and dissolve that too. Keep adding borax until it no longer dissolves. At that point, the solution is saturated with borax.
Use 3 quarts of the solution to soak your feet. Make sure that the solution is warm and that is covers your feet entirely. Before the soak, gently clean your feet with mild liquid soap. Don’t use too much soap as you don’t want to strip your skin of its protective natural oils when dealing with a fungal infection.
Repeat the treatment every day for about one week. Then, repeat every other day until symptoms subside.
24. Crystals: Yes, you can make borax crystals with boiling water! Just mix borax with hot water. Hot water molecules will allow the crystals to form.
25. Natural joint pain relief. Borax in minuscule doses has been used internally for decades as a natural treatment for arthritic pain and even osteoporosis. It is believed that the powdered white mineral is so effective at it that it prompted Big pharma pull some strings in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world to get it banned.
We don’t know how much of this story is truth or fiction, but there are legions of arthritis sufferers that swear by the method.
What other ways can you use borax? Cleaning, disinfecting and pest control will most certainly be involved. Be sure to check out the infographic below (pin it for later) and learn some old-fashioned ways to use borax for more than your laundry. This is the kind I purchase at my local grocer or on Amazon: 20 Mule Team Borax.
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Disclaimer: This post was not designed to diagnose, give medical advice or prescribe any kind of treatment. It is intended only for educational purposes. For any health issue and conditions consult with a healthcare professional.
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More Uses for Borax: