Borax’s chemical name is sodium tetraborate. Sodium tetraborate is a salt compound from boric acid, but it is not an acid. It is a salt that is found naturally in evaporation lakes with the most commercially important deposits found in Boron, Calif.
What on earth?
There is a difference between boron, borate, boric acid, and borax. Boron is an element that exists in nature. Borax is a combination of sodium, boron, and oxygen and can be mined from the earth in its crude form.
Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve in water. Borax is an ingredient in many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. 20 Mule Team Borax is a trademark, named for the method by which borax was originally hauled out of the California and Nevada deserts. Borax is readily in supermarkets in the laundry or cleaning aisles and online under a number of different brands including generically.
Reasons to Add Borax to Wash Loads
Adding up to 1/2 cup* of borax to every load of laundry—whites as well as colorfast items (check labels)—will do all kinds of wonderful things to keep your white things white, your laundry, and your washing machine odor-free.
*The amount of borax depends on the hardness of your water. For example, where I live the water is not extremely hard, so I add about 1/4 cup to a full load, one tablespoon to a small load. For hard water, up to 1/2 cup for a full load would be appropriate.
1. Borax is safe with bleach
We know that it can pose a danger to mix bleach with highly acidic things like vinegar. The result can be deadly chlorine gas. But don’t be paranoid about this. Only a few specific things react with bleach in that way. I can assure you that borax is NOT one of them! It is safe to mix with chlorine bleach and detergents and has been proven to improve the cleaning power of both.
2. Borax whitens whites
Think of borax as a maintenance product that will keep white things white. Paired with chlorine bleach, it turbo charges bleach’s whitening power. But even if you don’t like to use bleach, it is still a whitener on its own.
3. Borax softens hard water
Borax has a pH of 9.24. This changes the pH of the entire wash load making it slightly alkaline, which is ideal for cleaning. Touch the water once you add borax. See how it feels slick or even a little bit “slimy?” That’s what we mean by soft water. Soft water releases dirt and stains much more effectively than neutral or hard water, which prevents laundry detergents from working the way they’re supposed to.
4. Borax releases soap residue
The rinse cycle of your washing machine is supposed to remove all of the detergent, soap, bleach and of course the dirt from the washed items. But that doesn’t always happen, especially if you have hard water. The result? A build-up of soap and laundry products in washed clothes and linens. You will know that when your towels come out scratchy and stiff. Your whites turn a dingy shade of gray. Borax keeps the soap dispersed—not stuck or clinging to the fabric fibers. That means it is more likely to easily flow down the drain with the rinse water.
5. Borax tackles odors
Borax attacks both mold and fungi. Those are the culprits that make your clothes and the inside of your washer give off a stinky, musty smell. Borax also gets rid of body, baby, workout clothes and sick room odors in clothing and linens. Borax inhibits the enzymes that produce those bad odors.
6. Borax is a laundry disinfectant
Borax is known to inhibit bacteria, mold, fungus, and many other organisms. Amazing isn’t it?
7. Borax works as a stain remover
We know how tough tomato, mustard, grease, and oil stains can be, right? Well, here’s just one more way that borax comes to the rescue. Do this: Pre-soak your laundry for 30 minutes in a solution of one tablespoon of borax per gallon of warm water or add 1/2 cup of borax to a pre-soak cycle.
When You Should Avoid Using Borax
Homemade skin products
The reaction between borax and aluminum pots, pans, and bakeware, can leave dark, ugly stains that are nearly impossible to remove. Just avoid that. Andnever ever put aluminum items in the dishwasher. Handwash only.
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