Deserving of the accolades normally reserved for white vinegar and baking soda, borax is so much more than simply a laundry detergent booster. Used in many-a household for more than 100 years, borax is a naturally-occurring mineral, a product of the seasonal evaporation of salt lakes. It is composed of boron, sodium, water, and oxygen.
Highly alkaline, the pH of borax is 9.3 and this basic quality is what gives borax its stellar cleaning, disinfecting, deodorizing, and freshening powers. Since most residential water is pegged at a pH of between 6.5 and 8.5, the addition of detergents in your washing machine often means the water pH isn’t neutral.
Water that is too alkaline or acidic won’t clean your clothing nearly as well, and worse yet, can even damage the fibers over time. By adding a half cup of borax to your washing cycle along with your regular laundry detergent, the water becomes softer and is brought to a more neutral pH level of about 8.
Borax is a natural, green, and safe alternative to bleach. Read on to discover other ways borax can be used around the home and garden.
1. Remove Clothing Stains
Best for grease, oil, and protein stains, pre-soak discolored and soiled clothes and linens in the washing machine by using a half cup of borax for each gallon of warm water. Allow it to soak for 30 minutes before adding laundry detergent and running the wash through as usual.
2. All-Purpose Cleaner
In lieu of Ajax and other powdered cleansers, sprinkle some all-natural, scratch-free borax on a damp cloth and scrub away at tiles, sinks, faucets, grout, counter tops, tubs, toilets, cookware, and appliances for clean and shiny bathroom surfaces and kitchen fixtures. Always rinse each cleaned surface with water when done. You can also pour some borax into the toilet bowl and scour with a scrub brush to clean and disinfect.
3. Boost Dishwasher Detergent
Taking care of those cloudy glasses, hard water spots, and soap stains, borax not only ratchets up the cleaning power of your dishwasher detergent, it also cleans and disinfects the interior of the dishwasher itself. Sprinkle a cup or two of borax into the basin of the dishwasher, add detergent, and run the dishes through as you normally would. You can also make your own powdered dishwasher detergent using borax, here’s how.
4. Neutralize Odors
An eco-friendly alternative to products like Febreze, make an odor neutralizing spray by dissolving a half cup of borax with 1 ½ cups of warm water and transfer to a spray bottle. Feel free to add 5 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil to create a fresh fragrance.
5. Treat Boron Deficiencies in the Garden
If your plants are stunted, their foliage is browning at the leaf tips, or you are unable to get them to bloom (and thus fruit), your garden soil may not have enough of the micronutrient boron. Apples, broccoli, cabbage, onions, pears, carrots, alfalfa, and corn are especially hungry for boron and do well with a foliar spray of 5 tablespoons of borax in 5 gallons of water with a few drops of dish soap as an emulsifier, and spray the leaves and stems evenly on affected plants.
6. Pest Control
The boron in borax is fatal to insects that groom themselves, such as ants, fleas, cockroaches, silverfish, and beetles. Apply a very light dusting of borax to problem areas around the home, or make an insect bait paste by mixing borax with honey or corn syrup.
7. Rust Remover
Combine together borax and lemon juice to form a paste. Apply this mix to rusty objects, allowing it to set for at least 30 minutes, and then scour with a scrub brush. Repeat these steps if necessary, and always rinse clean with water when finished.
8. Unclog Drains
Clogged sinks can be naturally cleared by pouring a half cup of borax down the drain along with two cups of boiling water. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so and flush with hot water.
9. Shine Windows and Mirrors
For streak-free glass, thoroughly mix three cups of warm water with two tablespoons of borax until it is completely dissolved. Dip a clean cloth into this mixture and wipe down windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. Use a little elbow grease to buff and shine.
10. Kill Weeds
Mix 1 ¼ cups of borax with 2 ½ gallons of water and transfer to a weed sprayer. Since borax doesn’t discriminate, carefully douse the leaves of unwanted plants in your yard while avoiding the ones you wish to keep, and try to only spray the foliage and never the soil itself.
11. Eliminate Black Mold and Mildew
Treat areas affected with mold and mildew with a combination of one cup of borax and one gallon of water. Spray or wipe the solution on to the problem area, scrubbing thoroughly with an old toothbrush. When finished, you don’t need to rinse the solution away – borax will continue to disinfect and inhibit fungal growth long after the initial treatment.
12. Remove Adhesive Residue
Whether it’s taking an old label off a glass jar or removing a pesky price sticker from a recent purchase, you can use borax instead of commercial products like Goo Gone. Dissolve a half cup of borax in ¼ cup of warm water to easily remove glue, gum, tar, and other sticky spots.
13. Clean & Spot Treat Carpets
The next time you use a steam cleaner on your carpets, add a half cup of borax for each gallon of hot water. No steam cleaner? You can also lightly sprinkle borax on your rugs and carpets, wait 30 minutes, and vacuum it up. For stubborn stains, mix a half cup of borax with two cups of warm water and use a cloth to blot the stain thoroughly.
14. Preserve Fresh Flowers
Creating beautiful dried flowers that don’t look sad and wilted is easy, just set aside an airtight container and make a mixture of one part borax to two parts cornmeal. Add some of this dry mix to the container, place your fresh flowers within, and gently cover them with the rest of the borax cornmeal powder. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for two weeks.
15. Better Homemade Candle Wicks
For longer lasting candle wicks that reduce ash and smoke when burned, try bathing heavy twine in a solution of two tablespoons of borax, one tablespoon of salt, and one cup of boiling water, allowing it to soak for 24 hours. Hang wicks to dry for two days before use.