What Is Borax Good For – What Can You Clean With It?

What is Borax good for cleaning?

Borax is a natural occurring mineral (a compound of the element, Boron). It has lots of practical uses (some listed below). It is often purposed as an affordable, natural cleaning, odor eliminating, eco-friendly cleaner used around the home.

Where does borax come from?

One of the largest deposits is located in Boron, California, home to the U.S. Borax Boron Mine. The largest borax mine in the world.

What can you clean with Borax?

(list below)

Borax is used in a variety of laundry and cleaning products. Perhaps most famously the “20 Mule Team Borax” laundry booster.

borax-multi-purpose-cleaner

Being preparedness-minded and looking for more natural solutions to problems, I do keep a supply of Borax on hand:

>> 20 Mule Team Borax
(view on amzn)

Today there are lots and lots of cleaners and brands to choose from. Many of these cleaners are marketed towards specific cleanup purposes with their unique ‘special’ formulas.

Here’s the thing… More profits are made if they convince you that you need these special cleaners – “re-formulated”, “improved”, or “advanced”, etc..

The brands are constantly reinventing themselves and offering more choices and formulations, however somehow you keep paying more and more.

Borax though (marketed as a laundry booster), has many household uses. It is comparatively quite cheap (inexpensive) when making your own cleaning solutions. It cleans, disinfects, deodorizes, softens water, and even “neutralizes” ants.

Lets look at a few uses for borax:

Borax Uses

Laundry Booster (add 1/2 cup Borax to wash load for brighter, cleaner, deodorized clothes)

[ Read: How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent ]

Floor Cleaner (1/3 cup Borax, 1 gallon warm water, squirt of dish washing detergent, splash of ammonia)

Window Cleaner for very dirty windows (1/3 cup Borax, 1 gallon warm water, wash with soft cloth (don’t “scrub”), then rinse using fresh water with soft cloth before drying to minimize streaks. Squeegee works best for no streaks.)

Toilet Disinfectant and Cleaner (1/2 cup Borax added to basin water, let stand for awhile, then clean with toilet brush)

Car Wash Cleaner (1/8 cup mixed with about 1.5 gallons of water)

Eliminate Urine Odor on mattress – handy for accidents while toilet training a youngster (dampen area, sprinkle and rub in Borax, let dry and vacuum)

Ants (mix equal amounts of Borax and powdered sugar, place near ant problem area – keep away from pets)

Carpet Stains (mix Borax with water to make paste, rub into stain, let dry and vacuum)

Unclog drains (dump 1/2 cup Borax into drain, let stand for 15 minutes, then dump in hot or boiling water )

Prevent Weeds from growing in pavement cracks (sprinkle Borax in cracks)

Garbage Disposer cleaner and sanitizer (dump 1/4 cup Borax into disposer, splash in just a little water and let stand for an hour or so, rinse with hot water)

Tile and Grout Cleaner (sprinkle Borax with just enough water to paste, scrub with brush)

Carpet Powder Deodorizer  (sprinkle Borax on carpet, let stand overnight and vacuum)

Flea Killer (sprinkle Borax on carpet, let stand overnight and vacuum)

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 to add boron, a trace mineral, to the soil. It is needed for good cell wall growth and for fruit and seed development.)

Tub Soap Scum Removal (2 parts baking soda, 1 part salt, 1 part borax)

Fungus (It takes very little of the chemical to utterly INTERDICT the growth of fungus’s, so you could make up a batch in warm/hot water, and apply liberally. Rose growers have known this for decades.)

Welding Flux (Use 20 Mule Team Borax for welding flux when performing a forge weld)

Bed Bugs (Sprinkle where necessary – the same as for fleas)

RV Dirty Water Holding Tanks (Use it in the dirty water holding tanks in an RV / motor-home to eliminate those unpleasant smells)

If you have your own uses for Borax, leave a comment and let the rest of us know…

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32 Comments

  1. I have used borax soap for cleaning my body after work, especially under-arms, helps keep that stench away as borax is antifungal/antimicrobial. Did you know that wood treated with boric acid is not only termite proof, but also fire- resistant? Also used in cellulose insulation to make it fireproof and bug proof. Anyone remember the old “Death Valley Days” TV show that was sponsored by 20 mile team Borax? Also used as a flux for forge welding and brazing. And if you are making certain types of rocket fuel, it was used in that too, or so I was taught by my late father, a propulsion engineer.

    1. Gonna date myself and say yes, remember the Death Valley Days.
      One of the mineral supplements that should be taken once a week or so is Tri Boron. When the family farm was raising their cows on healthy earth, humans got enough boron from the animals grazing the grasses that up took boron in the leaves. Most of us eat commercial farm raised animals that are not eating heathy grasses. So we can be low in boron. Helps with strong bones, wound healing and antioxidant. Do your own research.

      Boron can effect vegetable plants also, either too much or too little.

      Boric Acid is boron. Antiseptic, antiviral, anti fungal which is why it is used in swimming pools. When I was young momma would boil some water add boric acid, cool and use as an eyewash if I got something in my eye. Had one of those glass eyewash cups. I have a cup they are still available and keep boric acid in the medicine cabinet. Consider adding to the list. Eyes are important, yes?!!! No prescription needed.

      1. Mrs U,
        Many of the desert soils have had the boron leached out of them. Had one block of merlot grapes that would not produce. Soil test showed no boron. So I foliar sprayed micro-nutrients and boric acid. The next year I had grapes like crazy! Amazing what very minor amounts of trace elements can do for plants. I can see it would do the same for humans too!

    2. Minerjim
      Yes, loved that show.
      Wondering how do you apply the boric acid to the wood? Are you mixing it with water to use with a garden sprayer? If so, what ratio of dry to the water to obtain fire proofing & termite control? Would be interesting to know how you do this, as I have never heard of it being used in this manner.

      1. AC ,
        They use boric acid treated wood in the tropics a lot. IIRC, 5% boric acid rings a bell for wood treatment. You will have to put a sealer on the wood afterwards, boric acid is water soluble, so protect it from the weather. My father developed the cellulose insulation (its treated with borates) standard for the state of California back in the 80-90s. That standard made sure all the cellulose made/sold in the state uses the correct borate chemicals to assure fire resistance.
        I think if you try this yourself you should apply the 5%boric acid solution to dry wood and let it soak in and dry. Try several coats. Maybe treat a scrap piece first, then try to burn it with a torch.it may char on the surface, but will not support combustion.

    3. Minerjim if you were to harvest some BLM firewood in those 12 foot sections “To be bucked at home”, debarked them and treated with that Boron spray it would be a long lasting animal shelter I suspect. Sepp Holzer would make a octagon Hogan style shelter out of them and earth shelter it.

      Guess I need a 5 gallon bucket of Borax now :-) Thanks for the ideas.

  2. It can also be used to kill ant and termite nests. I have done this, but I have no idea how well it worked (but no more ants, so it did that much!)

    Edit: Looks like I didn’t read very carefully!

  3. I used it exclusively when I had my fishidermy business on Toledo Bend lake by preserving the fish skins. I soaked them for 4 days in borax solution and water, then while wet, put the carved styrofoam under the skin, sewed it shut. It retained elasticity of the skin and I used fillers to help shape the fish with a big belly. I then carded and dried them for 3 days for painting. It took out the fishy smell and worked great.

  4. I use equal amounts of borax and arm & hammer and grated fels-naptha(or Zote) for my laundry detergent..I mixed a gallon in Sept. 2019, and still have a half gallon left.

    1. Jay Jay,
      That was my Mom’s old recipe. She would also sometimes add a bi th of borax when she made lye soap too.

    2. Jay Jay, if you are using that as a dry powder- you can also add oxi clean or dry bleach to it and mix it in well for a more robust effect… If one adds to a liquid the peroxide base looses potency.

  5. Just yesterday I found a very old, yellowed index card with the following typed on it: “Root Crops: 2 TBS 20 Mule Team Borax mixed with 1 gallon of water.” This note is so old I can’t remember if I ever tried it so don’t know the effect it would have on root crops. I may try it this year to see what happens.

    1. KayS,.
      You will probably get bigger root crops. Boron directly supports root development. I may just try your recipe on my carrots and see how they do. It can’t hurt.

    2. KayS and Minerjim I did look it up a LOT of interesting information about uses for Borax in farming.

      KayS your recipe is a heavier than usual root crop fertilizer. It would be used as a foliar feeding Sprayed on the root crops. Minerjim also used on potatoes. A LITTLE goes a long way especially dry. Cut and Paste here:

      Mix one part of boron with ten parts of water to get a wholesome liquid fertilizer mixture. Spray this mixture on your plants to get desirable results.

      To make a more diluted solution, you can also mix a tablespoon of boron with three gallons of water.

      If you are unsure of boron use in your garden, I would recommend that you start off with a little area in your garden.

      You need to be careful while using borax as a dry fertilizer. Overuse of borax can have toxic effects on your garden soil.

      If you have a large garden space, about 6 tablespoons of Borax sprinkled evenly throughout the garden is enough. I’d have to mix it into something like dry compost evenly just to spread it as described. Bear in mind that a single boron application can last as long as three years.

      1. NH Michael,—Second that on the careful application. A little goes an awfully long ways! Borax is used to kill fungus/mildew. There are lots of beneficial fungi/mycorrhizae organisms in the soil that help your plants ‘digest’ their food. Don’t want to be knocking out the good guys! For that reason, I’d go with the diluted foliar feed.

        1. I agree Farmgirl, but I was limited on the amount of information I could cut and paste so I picked what I thought best useful. More research is worthwhile as well as a Soil Test to see if you NEED Borax at all.

          The difference between “Dirt” and Soil is the healthy beneficial fungi and those mycorrhizae organisms.

          That anti-fungal sounds VERY Useful in keeping underground log structures like earth sheltered greenhouses viable for decades.

          1. NH Michael—It does sound good for that! I did check out the earth sheltered greenhouses, and really liked them. Not sure how to fit that in right now – future project. I’m thinking fence posts… I did Not know it was a fire retardant. If one lived in fire prone areas, would a house application be possible? I guess a sealant would have to go over it so it didn’t wash away over time?

          2. Farmgirl,
            Boric acid fence posts would probably leach out in a wet climate. Might work well in a dry one, like a desert. Boric acid treated wood is the environmentally sound alternative to copper-arsnic treated. BTW, most boric acid treated wood is pressure treated to push the boric acid deep into the wood.

          3. Kula,
            Wet environment? More data please. I know it can protect wood, as borate treated wood is still made. But in your experience it did not work. What was the application? Not doubting you for a minute, just want to hear about the circumstance. Thanks.

          4. Minerjim
            data from local lumber yard suggests that the borate treatment is primarily for termite/insect resistance, it does offer some protection from mold but generally is not rated for wet locations, or for direct contact with soil. For that incised treated with other chemicals is recommended or an alternate building product.

            from experience, borate treated wood posts rot within a year or two, borate treated deck boards same thing, our climate here at the homestead and our AO is not particularly wet, but apparently wet enough that rot is king!
            Species makes a difference, pines rot really fast, doug fir a bit slower but only buys a year or two, cedar and anything other than pure red redwood rots within years. Stuff like teak or ipe last longest with no rot, this is why everyone has gone to concrete, steel, composites, or very expensive species like teak or ipe for exteriors stuff. That or they just plan on replacing rotted stuff every 5-8 years.

            this is just from experience doing repairs and remodel work here for the last 30 years, so an amateure
            😎 🤙🏻

          5. Kula,
            Thanks for the info! At our age, we still all amateurs at this stuff, thats why it is so good to share stories.

          6. I found char-burning the fencepost end that goes into the ground works much better—when I researched log forts built in the 1700’s, they rotted from the ground up but not underground because they burnt the ends and have been preserved all this time and that’s how they found many of the old forts and their layouts.

          7. Stardust,
            Have done this too, and they do seem to last longer than if you did nothing to them.

          8. Farmgirl Minerjim is correct it leeches out and thus the pressure treated boric acid lumber deep inside. However IF you live in an area where the crawlspace of your home stays dry then the home made spray on is useful for log preservation in a plastic sheeting water proofed underground-earth sheltered structure.

            Mike Ohler of the 50.00 and up underground home fame built most of his structures in Idaho with very good results for decades now. His big issue was preserving the posts used in the posts used in the PSP system. I helped replace a rotting post one time, not that hard just disruptive to home life like any home improvement project. I find that once I dig down to mineral dirt here in NH that it tends to remain dry around here, just like the crawlspace.

            In places like Kulafarmer lives moisture is everywhere, I doubt there is a dry crawlspace in his area. Damp areas like the Pacific NW Rainforests and the Louisiana same situation.

          9. NH Michael, Minerjim, Kula, and Stardust,—-Thank you for so much good info! Research takes time, which is a bit tight right now, so I greatly appreciate you all sharing your experiences. My climate is not all the way to desert, but is drier than the Midwest was. It sounds like fence post treatment is not the best use of Borax, but the reminder about charring the wood is helpful. I’d seen that done before, just forgot about it. That might be something to experiment with.

            Regarding the fire retardant properties of borax, I’m wondering how fire retardant it is. Where I live now, forest fires are a concern. Working on mitigation, mowing, firebreaks, etc… but wondering if borax could be used on buildings, like a sprayed on coating, to provide some protection. That could be a school project…testing various wood types with coating and other treatments. Interesting!

          10. Farmgirl,
            There are borate fireproofing treatments out there on the market. As for firefighting stuff, the Scottsman Corp used to sell a hose-end sprayer and a gel foam concentrate. You would spray your home with it when the fire got close, it kept a wetted surface on your place for about an hour. Had that setup when I lived in the Front Range
            Thankfully never had to use it.

          11. Check scottyfire dot com and download their catalog. Hose end foam sprayer for ght (garden hose thread), with gallon jug of foam concentrate.

          12. Minerjim
            Thank you on the fire info. I saw the gel used on homes outside of Reno one year(news). Homes sprayed with the gel survived but the others were a total loss.

      2. NHM,
        Good general guidelines, thanks. Boron is easily leached from soils. Different crops have different uptake requirements. My grapes are grown in desert soils with a ph that is different than the uptake ph range of the vines. Very hard to spread boron on ground and get uptake, so I foliar spray, like 2ppm boron, on the leaves. You can get boron toxicity if you add too much. I’d go light on the boron to be safe.

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