Many of my favorite homemade cleaning recipes include a lot of the same basic ingredients, like baking soda, white vinegar, etc. Many of these ingredients are quite familiar to most people, but there’s one ingredient in particular that still remains a mystery to many: borax. And since it is one of my go-to cleaning ingredients, I feel that it is my duty to show people just how useful borax can be! :-)
Today’s post will serve that purpose in two different ways. First, I’ll cover the basics by answering three of the most common questions that people ask about borax. Second, I’ll share over two dozen great uses for borax, from clearing a drain to preserving flowers and beyond! By the end of this post, you’re sure to have a whole new appreciation for this formerly mysterious substance. :-)
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What Is Borax?
Borax, also known as sodium borate or sodium tetraborate, is a naturally occurring mineral that is primarily mined from evaporated lakes in California and Turkey.
Borax is used in many different commercial applications, including as an ingredient in household cleaning products, as a buffer in chemical laboratories, to help extract gold in mining operations, and as a component of glass and ceramics.
Is Borax Safe?
The short answer is “yes,” and the slightly longer answer is “yes, as long as you use it responsibly.”
According to the Harmful Substances Database (HSDB), borax is not classifiable as a human carcinogen. However, like many other household substances (including baking soda and washing soda), borax can have a mildly irritating effect on skin. It can also be toxic to adults if ingested in large amounts, and potentially fatal to children if ingested in small amounts.
So in summary, borax is perfectly safe as long as you plan to handle it with the same care that you would use with any other household cleaning product (including keeping it away from children, using it in a well-ventilated space, wearing gloves, etc.)
Where Can I Buy Borax?
You can find borax in the cleaning or laundry aisle of most grocery stores. In my experience, most stores carry the 20 Mule Team brand on either the top or bottom shelf. (You can also get a four-pack of 20 Mule Team borax on Amazon, if you prefer!)
27 Brilliant Household Uses For Borax
1. Clean Your Carpets
Boost the cleaning power of your carpet cleaning machine by adding a 1/2 cup of borax per gallon of water to the reservoir.
2. Feed Fruit Trees
Sprinkle a cup of borax around a full-sized apple tree (or a couple of tablespoons around a young tree) every 3-4 years. This adds the trace mineral boron to the soil, which fruit trees need for good cell wall growth and for fruit and seed development.
3. Make Laundry Detergent
Borax is one of the main ingredients in the recipe for my favorite homemade laundry detergent. Because it produces a basic solution in water, borax helps to boost the effectiveness of the other cleaning ingredients in the detergent.
4. Deter Pests
Keep roaches, water bugs, and ants away by sprinkling equal parts borax and sugar anywhere you suspect they may be entering your home.
5. Preserve Flowers
You can use borax to preserve many varieties of fresh-cut flowers. Using borax helps removes moisture from the blossoms and leaves to help prevent wilting while they dry.
To use it, just mix one part borax with two parts cornmeal, and sprinkle the mixture into the bottom of a box. Place your flower(s) in the box, then sprinkle more of the borax and cornmeal mixture over the top. Cover the box and let it sit for about two weeks until the flowers are dry.
6. Kill Weeds
Use a sprinkle of borax to kill weeds that come up through the cracks in your walkways. (That’s why borax should be kept away from most plants, because it makes a rather effective herbicide!)
7. Dissolve Sticky Messes
Get rid of sticky, gooey, and gummy adhesive residue with a mixture of two parts borax and 1 part water. Rub the mixture onto the mess until the adhesive dissolves, then rinse clean.
8. Clean Cookware
The gentle cleaning effect of borax is perfect for use on porcelain and aluminum cookware. Sprinkle onto pots and pans and rub with a damp dishcloth to clean, then rinse thoroughly.
9. Clean Car Upholstery
Another homemade cleaning solution that benefits from borax is my homemade car upholstery cleaner. It’s the most affordable way I’ve found to remove dirt and grime from your car’s floor mats and upholstery!
10. Freshen Up Your Fridge
Mix up a cleaning solution of 1 quart warm water and 1 tablespoon borax, and use it to clean spills and grime inside your refrigerator. Not only will it clean your fridge, but it will deodorize it and leave it smelling much fresher!
11. Scrub Showers, Tubs & Tile
Sprinkle borax on a damp sponge or soft cloth and use as you would a powdered cleanser. You can even use this method to clean fiberglass surfaces without scratching up the finish. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
12. Remove Rust
Remove rust by mixing up a simple cleaning solution of 1-2 tablespoons of borax, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and enough water to make a paste. Apply the paste with a sponge or scrubber to your rusted items, and 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. Grab the full recipe for my homemade toilet bowl cleaner at the link below.
14. Prevent Humidifier Odors
To help keep your humidifier free of odor 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 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 get your outdoor furniture cleaned up for 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
You can use borax to remove odors caused by sweat or urine from a mattress. Dampen the surface of the mattress where the odor is most concentrated, then rub in borax with a damp cloth. Let the mattress surface dry completely, then use your vacuum to clean up the dried powder.
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 a bit more 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.
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 water, and a couple drops of your food coloring of choice. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix 1 tsp borax and 1 cup warm water together until dissolved.
Pour the glue mixture into the borax water 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 with 1/2 cup of borax followed by 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 the borax and 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. Get all the details and instructions in the post at the link below.
26. Make A Carpet Powder
Why buy carpet cleaning or carpet freshening powder from a store when you can make your own at home for pennies? Just sprinkle it over your carpets, let it sit to absorb dirt and odors, then vacuum your way to fresher, cleaner carpets. Get the full details below.
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, thanks in part to the cleaning power of borax! You’ll find the step-by-step instructions for whitening yellowed pillows below.
Do you have a personal favorite use for borax?