borax brand name and generic

7 Reasons You Would Be Smart to Add Borax to Every Wash Load

Borax’s chemical name is sodium tetraborate. Sodium tetraborate is a salt compound from boric acid but not an acid. It is a salt found naturally in evaporation lakes with the most commercially important deposits found in Boron, Calif. Sounds boring right? Perhaps but only until we discover the power of borax to solve all kinds of home laundry issues.

boron Calif fields

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 hauled initially out of the California and Nevada deserts. Borax is readily available in supermarkets in the laundry or cleaning aisles and online under various brands, including generically.

Reasons to Add Borax to Wash Loads

Adding up to 1/2 cup* of borax to every load of laundry—whites and 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, the water is not extremely hard where I live, so I add about 1/4 cup to a full load, one tablespoon to a small load. Up to 1/2 cup for a full load would be appropriate for hard water. 

 

borax brand name and generic

1. Borax is safe with bleach

We know it can be dangerous 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 turbocharges bleach’s whitening power. But even if you don’t like to use bleach, it is still a whitener.

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 as we expect they should.

4. Borax releases soap residue

The rinse cycle of your washing machine is supposed to remove all of the detergent, soap, bleach, and 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 flow easily 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 removes body and baby odors; smells from workout clothes, sick room clothing, and linens. Borax inhibits the enzymes that produce those bad odors.

6. Borax is a laundry disinfectant

Borax inhibits 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 one more way that borax comes to the rescue. Do this: Pre-soak your laundry for 30 minutes in one tablespoon of borax per gallon of warm water or add 1/2 cup of borax to the washing machine pre-soak cycle.

Precautions

Eyes

You don’t want to get borax in your eyes. Borax is corrosive to the eye; contact can cause irritation and burning, and a possible visit to the emergency room. If contact occurs, flush your eyes out with water for 15 minutes. Always wear safety glasses while handling borax.

Carpet

Don’t breathe in borax. Although sprinkling carpets with borax, allowing to sit and then vacuuming may attack odors, that is a terrible idea. Borax dust is known to irritate the respiratory tract, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Homemade slime

Before allowing your child to attend a slime-making party or hosting an event of your own, make sure borax is not on the supply list. Kids love slime and they especially love making it. They do not know about the risks and dangers of borax and other slime ingredients. If borax comes into contact with the skin, it may cause irritation or even a severe chemical burn. Check this recipe to make slime that does not contain borax.

Skin

Wear gloves when handling borax or homemade cleaners made from borax. Exposure to skin may cause redness, rashes, or chemical burns. If skin comes into contact with borax, wash it immediately.

Toys

Avoid cleaning toys with borax. If a borax residue remains, this could become a problem for a child with respiratory problems.

Homemade skin products

Numerous websites instruct people to clean their skin and treat acne with borax. Undiluted borax should never be used directly on the skin because direct exposure can cause a rash, irritation, or even toxicity.

Aluminum cookware

The reaction between borax and aluminum pots, pans, and bakeware, can leave dark, ugly stains that are nearly impossible to remove. Just avoid that. And never ever put aluminum items in the dishwasher. Handwash only.

 

 

 

 

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41 replies
Newer Comments »
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I think you are going to be amazed, Lija. Actually I was embarrassed at first, but that went away quickly when I saw the outcome!

      Reply
  1. Patricia P Moore says:

    Mary, first, I love you for all the tips you are sharing with so many people. You surely are an angel.
    I am 80 and absolutely love my “water-hog,” top-loading, older Whirlpool washing machine. I hope it outlasts me. I cannot understand the less-water, front-load machines, sorry. My question: Can I/should I up the Borax and white vinegar to 1 cup in my loads?

    Reply
  2. Cindy says:

    Hi Mary, thank you for all the money saving tips! What are your thoughts on using baking soda alone as a laundry detergent?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I wouldn’t even think of it. You need some type of detergent to kill germs and bacteria and baking won’t do that. Baking soda, has some water softening properties, and that allows soap or deterent to clean a lot better. It’s a booster. Super washing soda is similar to baking soda, but much more effecived

      Reply
  3. Cinnamon rolls says:

    For Christmas I made your “home made rolls” they were so easy! Big and beautiful and delicious! Thank you for all you great ideas!

    Reply
  4. Jerry says:

    I have lung disease and want to use borax, so what precautions should I use? Just goggles and a hepa mask, or what kind of mask?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I suppose the regular face mask you believe thwarts you against COVID-19 would also protect you against any inhaling borax particulates. However, you would be best advised to check with your pulmonologist!

      Reply
  5. EMMA says:

    HI MARY
    I ORDERED OVEN CLEANER TABLETS AND SUPPOSE TO COME WITH A MIXING BOTTLE WELL I NEVER GOT THEM. PAID FOR VIA PAY PAL PLEASE HELP

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Sorry Emma … I don’t know anything about this and I have never offered or recommended such a thing. Did you respond to an advertisement? You’d be best to contact your credit-card provider to dispute the charge. That will get you a refund at least.

      Reply
  6. Pat says:

    Hi Mary – My husband has a respiratory disease COPD. Since he would not be exposed to Borax dust, could I use it in our laundry?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Check with his Dr. I am not a doctor, and don’t pretend to be. That being said, if borax becomes a routine addition to the laundry, I would make sure he NEVER does the laundry. Look at the disappointment on his face. But I would continue to use it because in my mind the borax is dissolved, does its job and then residue is rinsed out because I add an extra rinse with white vinegar to make sure that happens.

      Reply
  7. EILEEN GERBASI says:

    Can borax be used in newer machines that say you should only use detergents for HE washing machines? I appreciate your daily advice!!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I cannot make any hard and fast guarantees but I have a front loading HE as do many of your fellow ECers. We use borax religiously. I mostly add it to the reservoir for “Prewash” and then select the cycle that starts out with a prewash soak. But you can alternatively add borax to the detergent reservoir for a cycle that does not include prewash. OR just throw it in with the clothes before you shut the door.

      Here’s the deal with HE and all the warnings and scare tactics. An HE washer uses precious little water. That’s what makes it “high efficiency.” If you dump in a detergent that creates a lot of suds, that’s a big problem. The drum fills up with suds and then all the mechanics of being able to wash and rinse with hardly any water goes awry. I’ve read horror stories.

      You want a detergent that makes few if any suds (our homemade detergent is perfect because it is all but suds-less) known as HE compliant detergent. Borax does not make suds. That is the key piece of information. Neither does washing soda. Fels Naptha makes no suds. Blue Dawn DOES make suds, but we use so little of it in the homemade detergent that it becomes negligible and perfect for HE machines. Hope that helps.

      Thanks for your kind words. That recharges my batteries 🙂

      Reply
  8. Pam says:

    Hi Mary. We have a whole house water softener. I also add ~1/2 c. white vinegar to each load, per your past suggestion (really helped w/my husband’s work out clothes odors and musty towels!). Do you think I should add the Borax in addition to the vinegar? Thanks, as always.

    Reply
  9. Debbie says:

    Hi Mary.. I use your homemade laundry soap – should I still add more borax?
    ps. Thank you for all your great tips & ideas! Now when we have a household dilemma, my husband says
    “What does Mary say about it?”, he thinks your fab too!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      (Hello to hubs!) Yes, especially if you are seeing dingy whites. If you are not and your water is naturally soft, it would be optional. 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 in the prewash cycle (which I use routinely), one tablespoon for a small load. For areas with hard water, 1/2 cup for a full load would be more appropriate. 

      Reply
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