Borax, also called sodium tetraborate, is a powdery white mineral that has been used as a cleaning product for several decades. It has many uses:
- It helps get rid of stains, mold, and mildew around the house.
- It can kill insects such as ants.
- It’s used in laundry detergents and household cleansers to help whiten and get rid of dirt.
- It can neutralize odours and soften hard water.
Borax is marketed as a green product because it doesn’t contain phosphates or chlorine. Instead, its main ingredient is sodium tetraborate, a naturally occurring mineral.
People sometimes confuse sodium tetraborate — the main ingredient in borax — and boric acid, which has similar properties. Boric acid, however, is usually used exclusively as a pesticide and is much more toxic than sodium tetraborate, so it should be handled with extra special care.
While borax may be natural, that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Borax is an eye irritant and harmful if swallowed.
Borax exposure can irritate the skin or eyes and can also irritate the body if inhaled or exposed. People have reported burns from borax exposure to their skin.
High exposure to borax is believed to disrupt the body’s hormones.
How to safely use borax
- Generally, borax has been found as safe to use as a cleaning product if you take the appropriate precautions. Using borax safely involves minimizing your routes of exposure.
- Do not use cosmetic products that contain borax.
- Avoid inhaling borax powder by always keeping it a safe distance from your mouth.
- Use gloves when using borax as a cleaning agent around the house.
- Fully rinse the area you’re cleaning with water after washing with borax.
- Wash your hands with soap after using borax if it gets on your skin.
- Make sure clothes washed with borax are fully rinsed before drying and wearing them.
- Never leave borax in the reach of children, whether it’s in a box or used around the house.
- Avoid using borax and boric acid products around pets. This includes avoiding use of borax as a pesticide on the ground, where pets may be commonly exposed.
- Keep borax away from your eyes, nose, and mouth to minimize your risks of exposure when using as a cleaning product.
- Cover any open wounds on your hands when using borax. Borax is more easily absorbed through open wounds on the skin, so keeping them covered can reduce your risk of exposure.
IN AN EMERGENCY: In the event that someone ingests or inhales borax, especially a child, seed medical attention immediately.