Sodium borate (aka borax) first appeared as a naturally occurring mineral in the dry lake beds of Tibet and along Silk Road trading routes in the eighth century C.E. However, borax reached its popularity zenith in the 19th-century when marketing teams touted it as a cure-all and a wonder material. It was unlike anything other on the market at the time.
And today there are more borax uses than ever. It's not just a popular household cleaner, but it's also used to make kid-friendly slime, kill pests and preserve fresh flowers.
Borax is a white dried powder substance that's also known as sodium borate — or sodium tetraborate. It's mostly marketed as a household cleaner and is made of boron, sodium and oxygen.
Powdered borax has exceptional cleaning power when added to washing soda or laundry detergent. Or you can create your own DIY all-purpose cleaner by adding equal parts borax and baking soda for fighting grime and mildew around the house.
It's easy to find borax in the laundry aisle of grocery stores or big box retailers. Just look on the top and bottom shelves because it's often stocked there.
How to Make a Borax Mixture
While it once was the go-to household cleaning staple, borax fell out of favor when other major brands came onto the market. But you can still use borax for many of your everyday cleaning needs. Just follow these steps to mix a borax solution:
Dissolve 1/2 cup of borax powder in 1.5 cups of hot water.
Mix the borax solution with 1 teaspoon of dish soap or castile soap and 4 teaspoons of vinegar.
Borax is odorless, so add a few drops of your favorite essential oil or lemon juice to give your cleaning spray bottle a clean and calming scent.
5 Ways to Use Borax Around the House
1. Attack Your Ant Problem at the Source
Create a solution with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of borax powder. The sugar will attract the ants to bring the sweet, deadly treat back to their home, stopping your ant problem at the source.
Unlike boric acid, borax powder is considered safer in small doses, yet it should never be ingested. Always keep your ant traps away from children and small pets. Use your borax solution to kill other pests, including spiders, mites, roaches and water bugs.
2. Use as a General Household Cleaner
Fill up a spray bottle with the borax mixture mentioned above to get the grime-fighting power of commercial cleaning sprays without harmful chemical additives. Spray on areas prone to soap scum and mildew buildup, such as porcelain sinks, bathtubs and showers.
Use the borax spray to spot clean carpet, stainless-steel surfaces and outdoor furniture. Add some lemon juice to the mixture and you'll have a potent rust remover. Just apply a few dabs of the mixture to rust stains and let it sit for a few hours before you scrub, rinse, clean and dry.
3. Weed and Feed in the Garden
You can use borax in the garden since it's an excellent herbicide. Just sprinkle borax directly on the weeds you want to kill and watch them wilt.
But you also can sprinkle borax (just a few tablespoons) around your young fruit trees every few years to replenish the soil with boron. This mineral in the soil will boost fruit and seed development and help your fruit trees live longer.
Borax even helps preserve freshly cut flowers. Mix equal parts borax and cornmeal in a small container and cover thin-petalled flowers like tulips and roses with the mixture and seal them for two weeks. The powder will dry the petals of your arrangements to save them forever.
4. Fight Bad Odors
Your garbage disposal, trashcan and shoe rack are typically some of the major problem areas in your home, but you can tackle these issues with a borax paste.
For example, instead of scrubbing away in the bathroom for hours, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of borax around the rim of your sink, tub and toilet bowl. Use a damp sponge and warm water to work the borax into a light paste, and let it sit for a few hours.
To rinse, carefully pour a few cups of boiling water to remove the paste. The bathroom will be clean and smell fresh too.
5. Boost Your Laundry Detergent With Borax
Homemade laundry detergent with borax was a staple of American homes for generations, but it lost some popularity when manufacturers mass-produced synthetic alternatives with fresh and pleasant scents.
However, many consumers are using borax as a laundry booster to their favorite laundry detergent. All you have to do is add one-half cup of borax in with your detergent when doing a load. If you need to to whiten and brighten dingy clothes, presoak them in one-half cup of borax and 1 gallon of water for at least one hour and then wash them normally.
Now That's Useful
One of the most unusual uses for borax is to treat dog mange, a widespread skin ailment that causes rashes, hair loss and weakened immune systems. Mix borax and hydrogen peroxide and apply it to your dog's fur with a damp washcloth to tackle mites that have burrowed deep into your pet's skin. Take your pet's hygiene regime a step further and use your borax cleaning spray or detergent booster to clean dog beds and scrub away any stains on the mattress surface. A clean, hygienic bed will reduce the risk of return pests and ensure your pet gets the cozy rest it deserves.
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