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 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.

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 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. 


borax brand name and generic

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


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.


Don’t breathe in borax. Although sprinkling carpets with borax, allowing to sit and them vacuuming may attack odors, that is a very bad 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 skin, it may cause irritation or even a severe chemical burn. Check this recipe to make slime that does not contain borax.


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.


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

Homemade skin products

Numerous websites exist that instruct people to clean their skin and treat acne with borax. Undiluted borax should never be used directly on the skin because direct exposure to it 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. Andnever ever put aluminum items in the dishwasher. Handwash only.



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10 replies
  1. EMMA says:


    • 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.

  2. 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?

    • 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.


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

    • 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 🙂

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

    • 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. 


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