Some borax information to get you safely using borax.
I hope that this page of borax information which will help you decide to use this eco-friendly cleaner.
Borax is a wonderful, powerful cleaning agent to add to your arsenal of green and eco-friendly home cleaning products. It was a trusted cleaning product back in Victorian times - it was probably a familiar to most of our great great grandmothers.
While borax is generally regarded as safe if used correctly, be sure to read the safety advice below.
See here for purchasing borax.
Borax is a natural product in that it can be mined. Death Valley in the US has natural deposits of Borax. It can also be synthesised for industrial needs.
It has fallen into relative disuse in recent times, doubtless because of the powerful chemical cleaners which now dominate supermarket shelves. Because of the recent interest in green cleaning materials and green living it is staging a come back.
So just how green and eco-friendly is borax?
And how safe is borax as a natural household cleaner?
Here is some key borax information to help you decide.
The chemical formula for household borax is B4O7Na2. 10H2O.
Borax is a name for several different but similar chemical compounds, of which probably the commonest is sodium decahydrate or sodium borate. They all contain sodium and boron.
Borax is toxic enough to kill ants, fleas and cockroaches and other unwanted insect life.
Its effects upon the environment are not yet well documented but it can be toxic to aquatic life if too concentrated. It is regarded by the Australian government as a low threat to the environment but a moderate threat to health.
Boric acid or boracic acid is an acid which can be derived from borax. The chemical structure is: H3BO3. It also occurs naturally. It is more toxic than borax.
Boron, a valuable trace metal derived from foods and soils, is quite toxic in excess. In fact, it is so toxic that it can be used as a herbicide. It is a metal element which does not occur in pure form naturally on earth. Here we are mainly dealing with borax (sodium borate).
This is the most crucial borax information - and yet reports about borax safety give a rather mixed message. Here's what I've gleaned about borax safety.
Borax needs to be stored carefully because it is toxic if swallowed. While this may be unlikely to happen, even by accident, anyone using it should be aware because of the dangers of very young children playing with it - as with any household compounds.
Even as little as a teaspoonful could prove fatal if swallowed by a young child. For this reason, be very careful if using it anywhere near food and wipe up spills immediately.
It is regarded as relatively safe otherwise.
(See below for safety advice when using borax.)
Borax as a skin irritant
There is a slight hazard of contamination through skin contact. It may cause irritation and redness from prolonged contact. If you have any cuts or abrasions on your hands you should use rubber gloves when handling it or using it in solution. This is a good idea, even in any case with cleaning products.
Borax can also be bought as a powdered hand soap.
As it comes in a stable, crystalline powder there's very little danger of inhalation. However, if you use it as a fine powder you should protect yourself against inhalation and wear safety goggles. Also, be especially careful if you decide to use it on carpets; it could be inhaled by floor crawling family members or pets.
It is probably easy to get unduly concerned about the safety of borax; if you look at the toxicology data for common salt, it is not that different! Even salt can be hazardous if you ingest too much of it.
Borax and reproduction
The EWG has classified it as a moderate hazard. There is some concern over its potential effects on reproductive health, in addition to the concerns outlined above. It may act as a hormone disruptor if breathed in. There are plenty of good alternatives to borax for anyone who is concerned.
See this Mother Earth article for more information on alternatives to borax.
For most purposes, borax is thought to be quite safe if you keep it out of reach of children and take precautions if there is a risk of dust inhalation. Please see below for some safety recommendations for borax.
Boric acid safety
Borax is related to but not the same as boron - which is now thought to be an essential trace element in human nutrition. Some people take "Borax tablets" as a medicine for a variety of complaints. The amounts of borax contained in these preparations is extremely small and should present no health threat, used correctly.
Boric acid (which is not the same as borax) is known to be especially toxic to infants as their systems can eliminate it only slowly. It should not be used even in solution as a home remedy for childhood infections.
Some people use boric acid for yeast infections. I've no idea how good or safe this is but you can read reviews here: Boric acid powder reviews
Natural health through good nutrition may be a better long-term answer.
Borax has several different cleaning properties.
It can act a little like hydrogen peroxide in that it has a bleaching effect when dissolved in hot water. A reaction occurs in which a little hydrogen peroxide is produced (H2O2).
It also enhances the cleaning power of other cleaning agents. Bleach for example, is made stronger by mixing with borax. (However I do not recommend using anything with bleach, other than water, as the danger from fumes can affect our health.) It can be used to pre-soak clothes before washing or even as a substitute washing powder.
Borax has anti-microbial properties and it inhibits moulds and fungal growth. It can be used to prevent or remove smells from appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
It is quite strongly alkaline, so it's probably best to wear gloves if you are putting it into washing up water or using it for cleaning surfaces. It's not very reactive which means that it can be safely combined with other cleaning products.
Don't mix it with acids or store it with acids.
I've been using it for a few weeks now and it's really very good indeed. It's quite safe if used correctly, it's effective and it's fairly cheap. What more could you possibly want?
Here's a look at what it does and what it's good for.
Borax is a fantastic product for getting rid of grease. Use it around the house, much as you would use washing soda. You can clean sinks and drains by pouring a hot solution down the water ways. Borax works best when combined with hot water.
Borax is good for cleaning windows, tiles and enamel surfaces. You can sprinkle a little onto a soft damp cloth - or you can make a solution of about a tablespoonful in 2 or 3 litres of hot water. Use a stronger solution on grubby paintwork.
I recently used it for cleaning my bathroom and it was noticeably effective and fast for cleaning tiles and paintwork. There was no detectable smell present, which to me was a bonus.
Use it as part of your washing up to get through grease. You can add it to the water along with the washing up liquid. Rinse with clean water after use.
You can also use it to clean surfaces such as chopping boards. However you should rinse surfaces thoroughly after use as borax is a little toxic.
For cleaning the oven, make up a paste of borax, washing soda and vinegar. Apply it with a brush and leave the mixture to do its work for a few hours. Wipe away the dirt with a damp cloth.
As mentioned above, use it to clean and freshen your washing machine and as an additive to make detergent go further.
Borax can also be used as a deterrent to insects and even mice. Sprinkle it along places where mice run - they don't like getting it on their feet.
Boric acid (boracic acid) is a derivative from borax which is also used for killing insects. It is generally regarded as safe if used properly. Again, it should not be taken internally nor breathed in, as the chemical may cause respiratory problems. Boric acid is quite toxic for small children.
See also the safety advice below for how to use borax responsibly. It is potentially dangerous to young infants - see below.
Always keep borax away from food.
It is quite toxic if ingested. As little as a teaspoonful could possibly kill a small child or make them quite sick, if swallowed, so keep it well out of reach of children.
Keep borax clear of acids in storage areas.
Swallowing borax could provoke gastic upsets.
Nevertheless it is regarded by Rio Tinto (who manufacture it in California) as having "low acute toxicity".
If you use it carefully, borax is a good, effective and environmentally friendly cleaner. While there are some health concerns, I tend to err on the side of caution and use washing soda and bicarb for most cleaning rather than borax, as they are cheap, readily available and largely doubt-free.
Borax should be available in the bigger - or better - hardware shops and DIY stores. I haven't found it that easy to find in Britain. I bought mine on Ebay which is a little expensive when you add in the postage.
In the UK Dri-Pak make it and distribute it (and you can buy it directly from them in larger quantities - my next move!) They also sell a borax substitute which works much like borax.
In the US it is produced by Rio Tinto in California under the name 20 Mule Team. You can buy Dial Corporation 20 Mule Team Borax here from Amazon.
Here are a couple of good titles to get your green cleaning skills up to scratch:
Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living has lots of good advice on safe cleaners made from simple and common ingredients.
The Naturally Clean Home: 100 Safe and Easy Herbal Formulas for Non-Toxic Cleansers also has many excellent recipes with the added bonus that most of them smell wonderful, too!
Greenfootsteps Home - for more easy green living ideas
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