11 ways to use Borax at home
- Borax is a mineral that has been used for cleaning since the 1800s.
- It is alkaline, so it softens the water, allowing for more effective cleaning.
- Borax can be used for laundry, mopping floors, and making all-purpose cleaners.
Homemade cleaning solutions are useful when trying to save money, reduce waste, or reduce your use of certain chemicals like bleach. Borax is a workhorse that all DIY enthusiasts can use at home.
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used as a cleaner since its discovery in the late 1800s. As an excellent all-purpose cleaning agent, it loosens stains and lifts dirt, says Fredrika Syren, founder of The Zero Waste Family and author from “Zero Waste for Families”.
From cleaning your floors to cleaning your laundry, here are 11 ways to use borax in your home.
What is borax?
Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a naturally occurring mineral that forms when salt lakes evaporate or as a byproduct of mining. It contains the element boron, an element that is an ingredient of plant cell walls.
Borax helps increase cleaning power because it softens water. Hard water, which about 85% of Americans have in their homes, is high in calcium and
, so it can leave mineral deposits and prevent soap or detergent from dissolving, Syren says. This makes the soap less effective for cleaning. When you add borax, it binds to calcium and magnesium, removing them from the water. Much of the cleaning power of borax comes down to its role as a water softener. When the water is soft, detergents and soaps work more effectively, Syren says.
Also, borax is alkaline. Alkaline materials – those with a high pH – are excellent at breaking down fats (like oils and greases) and proteins, including those that cause odors. That’s why borax can help remove stains from your shift or remove odors from your mattress. With that in mind, here are the specific ways you can use borax in your home.
1. Boost your laundry detergent
Just a little borax can improve the cleaning power of laundry detergent. Add borax when washing whites or fighting acidic stains like tomato sauce, Syren says.
How to do: Add 1 tablespoon of borax with your normal laundry detergent. If you have hard water (which you can detect with a water test strip), add half a cup to each wash cycle, Syren says.
2. Refresh your garbage disposal
Trash cans can get downright nasty, but cleaning them with borax can help remove built-up dirt and grime, reducing foul odors.
How to do: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of borax into the grinder. Let it sit for an hour, then run the disposal for 2 minutes with running hot water.
3. Fight mold
Mold and the accompanying musty smell can make even a clean home feel dirty, but it’s common for mold to crop up in the bathroom or basement, especially in warmer months. and wet. A borax solution kills mold and can keep it from coming back since borax is toxic to plants in high concentrations, Syren says.
How to do: Mix 1 gallon of warm water with half a cup of borax. Spray the solution on an area that has mold and let it dry. Then wipe with a slightly damp cloth. To prevent mildew, let the mixture dry without wiping it (you shouldn’t see any residue).
4. Remove the pencil or pen from your walls
Borax can cut through crayon wax and pen ink, so it’s perfect for those dreaded moments when your child decides the wall is your canvas. While it’s safe for most surfaces, it’s best to spot test in an inconspicuous area before using, Syren says.
How to do: Mix 1 tablespoon of borax in 1 cup of warm water, Syren says. Apply the mixture to the wall, covering the stain. After 10 minutes, wipe off the mixture with a damp cloth.
5. Remove odors and stains from your mattress or carpet
Just as borax can lift dirt and debris, it can sweep up odor-causing particles. This is especially useful on carpets and mattresses, after spills or accidents.
How to do: Very lightly moisten the mattress or mat by spraying it with water or vinegar. Sprinkle a small amount of borax on top. Then, rub the mixture lightly using a circular motion. Let the mixture dry completely, then vacuum up the residue.
6. Clean your floors
Borax removes dirt and stains from tile, linoleum and wood floors, Syren says. Adding it to your floor cleaning solution will soften the water and improve cleaning power.
How to do: Fill a mop bucket with lukewarm water. Add 2 tablespoons of borax, 1 tablespoon of castile soap and 4 tablespoons of vinegar. Mix well, then wash normally.
7. Strip your laundry
Even when laundry comes out clean, invisible dirt, minerals and other materials can accumulate. Stripping the laundry – letting it soak in a mixture of borax, detergent and water – removes these particles, giving you sparkling clothes.
How to do: Fill your tub or basin with lukewarm water. Add half a cup of borax, half a cup of baking soda and 3/4 cup of laundry detergent for every gallon of water. Mix well, then add your detergent. Leave to macerate for 5 to 6 hours, stirring every hour. Then run it through a typical wash cycle.
8. Scrub your toilet
Cleaning toilets with borax couldn’t be easier, Syren says. The borax helps remove stains or material, which means you don’t have to scrub as long.
How to do: Simply sprinkle half a cup or borax into the bowl. Leave for an hour, then brush and rinse. For hard water stains, let the borax sit overnight.
9. Clean grout
Over time, grout in your bathroom, kitchen, or floors can become dirty and discolored. Borax can remove those stubborn stains.
How to do: Mix one part borax with two parts baking soda. Add enough vinegar to make a paste. Put on gloves, then use your fingers or a toothbrush to apply the mixture to the grout, pressing lightly. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, then wipe off with a damp cloth.
10. Remove rust
Rust forms when an acidic material, including water, comes into contact with metal. Alkaline borax counteracts this, breaking up rust stains. Borax can be used to remove rust from stainless steel pans, old gym equipment, and anything a little rusty around your home.
How to do: Make a paste using equal parts borax and lemon oil or vinegar. Wear gloves and use a dry cloth to spread the paste over the rusty surface. Let sit for an hour, then wipe with a damp cloth.
11. Mix an all-purpose cleaner
Add borax to your homemade all-purpose cleaner for extra potency. “It’s great for cleaning and safe to clean almost anything,” says Syren. This spray solution can be made ahead and used on counters, microwaves, windows, etc.
How to do: Dissolve 1 teaspoon of borax, 1 teaspoon of castile soap and 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 2 cups of hot water. Allow the mixture to cool, then pour it into a labeled spray bottle, using a funnel to avoid spillage. Spray surfaces then wipe clean with a paper towel or microfiber cloth. Be sure to store the mixture out of the reach of children or pets. You can store this mixture for up to three months, but be sure to shake or stir it before using as the borax can settle to the bottom.
Borax is an alkaline mineral that softens water. Soft water is better at removing stains and odors, which is why borax is an excellent cleaning solution. Borax can be diluted in water and used for everyday tasks, from washing laundry to wiping countertops. Although safe for cleaning, borax can irritate the skin, so always use gloves when handling it.