The first borax uses I ever learned revolved around using it and other cleaning ingredients like baking soda and vinegar to make DIY cleaning solutions. While many of my go-to cleaning ingredients are familiar to most people, borax is one that remains something of a mystery to many. But that’s what I hope to change by writing this post!
First, we’ll review some borax basics by answering a few of the most common questions people ask about it. Then we’ll take a look at over two dozen uses for borax, from clearing drains to preserving flowers and beyond!
By the end of this post, you’re sure to have a new appreciation of this formerly mysterious substance.
5 Frequently Asked Questions About Borax
What Is Borax?
Borax, also known as sodium borate or sodium tetraborate, is a naturally occurring mineral that is used as an ingredient in household cleaning products, chemical laboratories, gold extraction, and glass and ceramic production. Borax is not edible or safe to ingest, nor is it the same thing as baking soda.
How Does Borax Work?
With a pH of around 9.5 (similar to toothpaste or hand soap on the pH scale), borax is a slightly alkaline substance that forms a basic solution when added to water. This is one of the reasons why borax is often advertised as a “laundry booster” – adding borax to your washer raises the pH of the water, effectively boosting the performance of your laundry detergent.
What’s The Difference Between Borax and Washing Soda?
The main difference between borax and washing soda is that washing soda is more alkaline than borax. Both borax and washing soda have a lot of uses in the laundry room and around the house. Basic solutions, like borax solutions and washing soda solutions, are especially effective at breaking down the acidic, fatty, and oily substances that lead to food stains and greasy messes.
Is Borax Safe?
Like many cleaning agents, borax powder can cause inflammation and irritation if it comes into contact with your eyes, nostrils, or mouth. But as long as you handle it with the same care you would use with any other household cleaning product — including keeping it away from children, wearing protective gloves, and using it in a well-ventilated space — it’s perfectly safe to use borax as directed.
Borax is also safe to use in conjunction with many other cleaning ingredients, including vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, and more.
Where Can I Buy Borax?
You can usually find borax in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores and big box retailers, and it’s readily available online. In grocery stores, it is usually on the same shelf where you find washing soda. (If you’re looking for it in-store, make sure to check the top and bottom shelves when you’re looking for it!) The most common brand in stores is 20 Mule Team Borax, named for the method used to transport it away from surface mines in Death Valley in the late 1800s.
27 Brilliant Uses For Borax Around The House
1. Clean Your Carpets
Boost the cleaning power of your carpet cleaner machine by adding 1/2 cup of borax per gallon of water to the reservoir. You can also make a DIY carpet stain remover spray with borax.
2. Feed Fruit Trees
Sprinkle 1 cup of borax around a full-sized apple tree (or a couple of tablespoons around a young tree) every 3-4 years. This will add boron to the soil, a trace mineral that fruit trees need for cell wall growth and fruit and seed development.
3. Make Laundry Detergent
Borax is one of the star ingredients in the recipe for my favorite homemade laundry detergent. Because it produces a basic solution in water, borax helps boost the effectiveness of the other cleaning agents in the detergent.
4. Deter Pests
Keep roaches, water bugs, and ants away by sprinkling equal parts borax and powdered sugar in areas where you suspect they may be entering your home. Sweep the mixture into cracks around floors and windows where pests can get in, but don’t put it anywhere where pets may be exposed to it.
5. Preserve Flowers
One of my favorite ways to use borax is to preserve fresh flowers, because it helps removes moisture from the flowers while preserving their color and appearance. Just mix borax with twice as much cornmeal, then sprinkle a handful of the mixture into the bottom of a box. Place your flower(s) in the box, cover them with more borax and cornmeal, then cover the box and let it sit for two weeks, or until the flowers are dry.
6. Kill Weeds
Sprinkle borax onto weeds that come up through the cracks in your walkways to kill them. (That’s why borax should be kept away from most plants — it’s a rather effective herbicide!)
7. Dissolve Sticky Messes
To get rid of sticky adhesive residue or messes, combine 2 parts borax and 1 part water, then rub the paste onto the mess until the adhesive dissolves. Rinse well afterwards.
8. Clean Cookware
Borax is a great option for gently cleaning porcelain and aluminum cookware. Sprinkle it onto pots and pans and rub with a damp dishcloth, then rinse thoroughly.
9. Clean Car Upholstery
Another homemade cleaning solution that’s powered by borax is my homemade car upholstery cleaner. It’s easy to make, and it’s the most affordable way to remove dirt and grime from your car’s floor mats and upholstery!
10. Freshen Up Your Fridge
Make a borax cleaning solution of 1 quart warm water and 1 tablespoon borax, then use it to wipe up any spills or grime inside your refrigerator. Not only will it clean your fridge, but it will leave it smelling much fresher too!
11. Scrub Showers, Tubs & Tile
Sprinkle borax on a damp sponge or soft cloth and use as you would a powdered cleanser. It’s a great way to clean fiberglass surfaces without scratching up the finish. Rinse the surfaces thoroughly with clean water after!
12. Remove Rust
Remove rust with a simple cleaning solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of borax, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and enough water to make a paste. Apply the paste with a sponge or scrubber to rusty items, then scrub until the rust is gone. (Be sure to rinse and dry the item thoroughly afterward.)
13. Clean Your Toilet Bowl
You can use borax, white vinegar, and essential oils to make an all-natural toilet bowl cleaner that works just as well as the store-bought stuff!
14. Prevent Humidifier Odors
To help keep your humidifier free of odors and bacteria, dissolve 1/2 cup of borax in 1 gallon of water and add it to the tank. Run your humidifier for 10-15 minutes, then dump out the tank and rinse everything well with clean water.
15. Erase Sink Stains
Remove stains from stainless steel or porcelain sinks with a paste of 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Use a sponge or cloth to rub the paste into the stains, then rinse with warm water.
16. Clean Outdoor Furniture
Use borax to clean up your outdoor furniture at the beginning or end of the patio season. Mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap, 1 teaspoon of borax, and 1 quart of warm water in a spray bottle and spray it generously over outdoor furniture. Wipe the furniture clean with a damp rag, or rinse well with your garden hose.
17. Sanitize Your Garbage Disposal
Clean and sanitize your garbage disposal by sprinkling 3 tablespoons of borax into the drain. Let it sit for about an hour, then rinse the drain well with plenty of warm water.
18. Deodorize A Mattress
To eliminate mattress odors caused by sweat or urine, dampen the area where the odor is most concentrated, then sprinkle borax directly onto the area and rub it in with a damp cloth. Let the powder and mattress surface dry completely, then vacuum the mattress thoroughly. (Once the smell is gone, remember to clean your mattress periodically to keep the dirt, grime, and smells at bay!)
19. Deodorize Your Trash Can
To deodorize a smelly garbage can, fill it with water and add a big scoop of borax. Let it soak for an hour or so, then rinse clean. Dry it completely, then sprinkle more of the borax into the bottom of the can to help deter bugs and absorb odor-causing moisture.
20. Refresh Linens
Remove mildew and musty odors from linens by soaking them in a solution of 2 quarts of water and 2 cups of borax. Allow the linens to soak for a few hours, then rinse clean. Once they’re free of mildew, you can refresh your clean linens with homemade lavender linen spray.
21. Make Slime
You can use borax to make homemade “slime” that your kids or grandkids will love! You’ll need a couple of bowls, some water, a bottle of school glue, food coloring, and a bit of borax.
In one bowl, combine 4 ounces of school glue, 1/2 cup of water, and a couple drops of food coloring. In a separate bowl, stir 1 teaspoon of borax and 1 cup of warm water together until dissolved.
Pour the glue mixture into the borax solution and stir. Once the “slime” comes together, discard any excess water and knead the slime a bit more to finish.
22. Kill Fleas
Sprinkle borax on dog beds, carpets, and other areas where you suspect that fleas are hatching. Let it sit for an hour or so, then vacuum thoroughly before use.
23. Make An All-Purpose Cleaner
You can use borax, washing soda, and Castile soap to make a great all-purpose cleaning spray. It’s perfect for wiping down surfaces and cleaning up everyday spills and messes.
24. Unclog A Drain
Unclog drains by sprinkling 1/2 cup of borax into the drain, then pouring in 2 cups of boiling water. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then run warm water through the drain for a few minutes to flush out any loosened clogs.
25. Make A Scouring Powder
You can use borax to make a homemade scouring powder that’s great for scrubbing sinks, tubs, and other grimy surfaces.
26. Make A Carpet Powder
Why buy carpet cleaning or carpet freshening powder from a store when you can make your own carpet deodorizing powder at home for pennies? Just sprinkle the mixture over your carpets, let it sit to absorb dirt and odors, then vacuum your way to fresher, cleaner carpets.
27. Whiten Yellowed Pillows
It’s nearly impossible to prevent your body’s natural oils from seeping into your pillow, which is why pillows tend to take on a yellow hue over time. But there’s a simple method you can use to whiten and brighten your pillow, with the help of borax and other household cleaning staples like laundry detergent, bleach, and dishwasher detergent!
28. Remove Mold And Mildew
To tackle spots of mold or mildew, combine 1 cup of warm vinegar and 1 cup of borax to form a paste. Apply the borax paste directly to areas of mold or mildew, like the black gunk under the rim of the toilet. Let it sit for an hour or two before scrubbing and rinsing.
29. Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent
Making DIY dishwasher detergent is inexpensive, especially if you already have the ingredients on hand from making laundry detergent or other homemade cleaners. This homemade dish detergent works really well, fights hard water spots, and comes in handy as a scouring powder, too!
What are your favorite borax uses?