Borax is an amazing substance. The many uses of borax make it a great choice to put back for hard times or a long emergency. Just to get it out of the way, there are some people that really think borax is toxic or bad to use. I advise doing your own research before you start using anything that you have not before.
Personally I have used borax for years and consider it a lot better than using a lot of chemicals in the house. I also want to point out that borax has been a common household item for a very long time, well before the days of a million different cleaners on the aisle.
At the same time it is important to note that borax is not to be consumed internally. Some people (very few) can get irritated skin from it. Also since it is a powder you want to avoid breathing a lot of it in as the particles are quite fine.
The brand I am most familiar with is 20 Mule Team. It is available at basically every grocery store and online household retailer. Some retailers do try to mark it up too much online so be sure to read how much you are actually getting for the price you are paying. Here is a link to the best deal I could find on it. Amazon seems to offer it for the lowest price year after year.
How is borax produced?
Borax is a mined substance. It never goes bad or out of date, making it a great option for long term storage.
Fun fact: 20 Mule Team gets its name from the teams of mules used to transport mined borax out of the mines in Death Valley to the nearest railroad spur. The 20 Mule Team would pull 9 metric tons of borax in a wagon for 168 miles to get it to the railroad. That is quite a feat under such brutal conditions. The mules also had to pull the weight of a 1200 gallon water tank with them so they could make the long journey.
So how long was a 20 mule team and wagon? An outstanding 180 feet. Over the course of 7 years, the mules employed at the mine hauled 20 million pounds of borax to the railroad spur. Eventually, a railroad line reached the mine so there was no longer any need for a mule team.
The Many Uses of Borax
1. Cleaning floors
Some borax, water, and a rag or brush and you can get things really clean. Put a few tablespoons of borax in a gallon of water to and mop well. It really gets the grime off.
2. Ridding areas of insects
Sprinkling some borax in cracks and crevices will keep insects away.
Matt and I have not bought commercial laundry soap in over a year at this point. I just use a few simple ingredients and blend our own. It cleans our clothes well, costs, less, and doesn’t irritate our skin like some commercial soaps can. Making our own detergent powder also means we don’t have a bunch of boxes or jugs to dispose of. We can put back a years worth of soap in a 3-gallon bucket.
4. Give your fruit trees a boost every 3-4 years.
Use 1 cup of borax around full-size fruit trees. If a tree is still quite young then reduce it to a few heaping tablespoons. Borax will ensure that your fruit trees have a good level of boron which can help them be healthier and produce better.
While small amounts of borax can be beneficial, sprinkling it in the cracks of patios or sidewalks will prevent weeds from growing through.
6. Remove glue and adhesive residues.
Make a paste of 2 parts borax and 1 part water and rub with a rag. This should remove a lot of adhesive residues without using a really harsh cleaner.
7. Cleaning fridges and freezers
Mix up 1 ½ tsp of borax in a pint of water and use this as a cleaning solution. This is especially useful for those that are suffering from odors in their fridge or freezer.
8. Toilet bowl cleaner.
Those little containers of toilet bowl cleaner cost something. You can clean your toilet with a combination of borax and vinegar. It also helps remove any stains that may already be creeping under the rim of the bowl.
9. Scrubbing porcelain or metal sinks
I have a ceramic coated cast iron double sink in my kitchen. While I often use Bon Ami or Barkeepers Friend, I also use borax. Mix a teaspoon of lemon juice with a ¼ cup of borax to make a paste. Scrub with a sponge or similar. This will brighten up a white sink that has seen some serious kitchen use.
10. Refresh mattresses and upholstery.
If you are worried about a fabric, always do a patch test before using any type of cleaning method. Borax can help freshen up musty bedding. You can do this for people and pet mattresses alike.
First mist some water on the mattress. Now sprinkle it with borax. After everything dries you will need to use your vacuum to remove any dried borax. The result is a mattress that doesn’t smell like sweat. This is a good trick to know if you have kids that are in various stages of potty training.
11. Soak your smelly trash cans in borax and water to refresh and thoroughly clean them.
Fill your trash can with warm water and sprinkle a few tablespoons of borax in it. Let it soak for 1-2 hours depending on just how smelly and dirty it was. Rinse it out well and allow to dry. Now would be a good time to add a spritz of something that smells good if you want.
12. Control fleas in areas frequented by pets.
A solution of water and borax can be sprayed where pets sleep or hang out a lot. If you spray bedding just make sure to allow it to dry and then vacuum so you don’t leave any dusty borax powder for pets to inhale. I like this solution because it is a more natural method than using chemical flea killers. Some pets have sensitive skin too so using something natural can be helpful.
13. Unclog a backed up sink.
One of the small complaints I have about our house is that we used a small sink for our bathroom that had been salvaged from an older house. It looks fine. It is a classic oval bathroom sink. My problem is that it seems to clog a lot. It is not like we use that sink a lot for things that would make it clog either. Well, one solution for cleaning a clog is to use borax and boiling water.
Mix a ¼ cup borax and 1 cup of boiling water for small sinks or double that for larger kitchen sinks. Pour it in the drain and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. If that doesn’t work then go on to something more serious but if you can use borax, it is a lot easier than taking pipes apart or using harsh drain cleaner.
14. Remove yellow stains from pillowcases or other light-colored sheets or curtains.
Treasured or well used white and lighter colored linens can get a yellow cast to them. This can be caused by skin oils, nicotine, and more. Soak linens in borax and water for a few hours and you can remove a lot of that color. This is a good way to do it without using a lot of bleach which can be hard on fabrics when used to excess.
15. Remove rust
Borax will remove rust from items when mixed with a little warm water and lemon juice.
16. No scratch cast iron cleaner.
Scraping too hard on cast iron can take the finish off. Mix equal parts borax and salt. Use to scrub your cast iron. You may want to rinse and dry afterward to remove any residue.
17. Fire suppressant
Borax will put out a fire just like baking soda if needed. Throw it on the flames and it will smother it.
18. Remove and kill mold.
A paste or spray of borax can effectively kill mold. Some people prefer a paste because it offers nice thick coverage. Leave it on for 10 minutes or longer and then wipe clean.
19. Clean grimy windows
Add a few teaspoons of borax to a cup of water and use the solution to scrub windows. Some people recommend following the scrubbing with a vinegar and lemon rinse. Regardless you will want to use something to rinse after scrubbing.
Vinegar and lemon make an excellent rinse after scrubbing windows with borax.
20. Clean your dishwasher
A cup or two of borax in the bottom of your dishwasher will clean a load of dishes and your washer at the same time. Since borax is a natural deodorizer, it will eliminate any lingering smells, especially if you have let the dishes sit dirty longer than is desirable.
21. Prevent regrowth on stumps.
Some trees seem to send out a ton of regrowth. If you don’t want this to happen you can sprinkle some borax on the stump or stubs of the shrub. It may take a few times to stop all the growth but it will save you some time compared to dealing with a ton of shoots and spreading over the years.
22. Shower grime removal with no scratching.
Like so many people, a lot of our shower is made of plastic. This means some scrubbers and cleansers are not ok to use. Borax mixed with a little water to form a paste will remove the grime and shower scum. If you have mold starting to form, it can help kill that too if you let it sit on the mold for a little bit of time before rinsing.
After cleaning with borax I sometimes spray some daily shower cleaner or refresher too just to make things smell nice and prevent build-up from happening sooner rather than later.
23. Reduce cat litter odor.
A few tablespoons of borax mixed in with your preferred brand of cat litter can help reduce odors. This is a great solution for homes with multiple cats using the same box.
24. Refresh and clean a gross garbage disposal.
Just a few tablespoons of borax sprinkled into a garbage disposal can work wonders. Just make sure to give it at least an hour before pouring some warm water down it. If it is really gross, leave it for 2 hours.
25. Make Candle wicks
26. Stop candle wicks in homemade candles from smoking.
Mix equal parts salt and borax. Soak the wicks and allow to dry. They will not smoke when you light them up.
27. Make your place inhospitable to mice and other rodents.
The theory as to why mice seem to dislike borax is that it is not comfortable on their feet. I am not sure about that but I do know that people sprinkle it around areas where there has been mouse activity and it seems to reduce or eliminate the problem depending on the severity of infestation.
28. Clean the strings on musical instruments so that they perform better and for longer.
A dampened brush or similar dipped in borax can be used to scrub the strings of a musical instrument to extend their life. Allow strings to dry and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.
29. Clean and polish pots and pans.
If you have a pot or pan that has some really stuck on food then you may want to try a paste of water and borax. For really stuck on there grime, allow the paste to soak in for a few minutes and then scrub. This will also help with lingering odors or any discoloration that may be a problem.
30. Clean stained grout.
A paste of borax and water will effectively clean grout. Use an old toothbrush or at least a really cheap one to really get into all the nooks and crannies.
31. Borax contains boron, a substance that is known for blocking radiation.
I would not rely on borax to save me in a nuclear even but it is interesting that it has some radiation blocking properties. Some say that you can take a bath in borax and water to help decontaminate your skin from the fallout. What I read was 1/8 cup borax in a bath and then soak and wash in it for 20 minutes and rinse well. Personally I think I would wash myself well and then do the soak to reduce exposure as quickly as possible.
Here are a few links with more information. I am no nuclear expert but I think this is interesting.
This document talks about using borax to decontaminate equipment and comes to you via the EPA website.
32. “Grow crystals” for crafts.
This might be a fun project to do with kids. I am surprised how pretty the geodes and crystals that you can make with borax actually turn out.
33. Clean the grime off of hairbrushes and other styling equipment.
A few tablespoons of borax, a dash of dish soap, and some water will effectively clean combs and brushes. Just make sure to rinse well.
The main thing to remember about storing borax is that it needs to be kept dry. Since the most economical way to buy borax is in paper boxes, you may want to store those boxes in a plastic storage tote or dump the borax into a bucket that you can seal up. Just make sure to label it since it doesn’t look remarkably different from many other white powders used for cooking or cleaning.
When you start putting back a lot of preps, it becomes very important to organize and label so you can find things when you need them or not just open up the wrong thing.
A box of borax lasts a long time for cleaning and other household uses. The only time I use a lot is when I am mixing up a large batch of laundry detergent. A few boxes of borax will allow me to make 6 months of laundry soap or more.
What do you use borax for? Have you made it part of your preps?