When you checked the label on your eco-friendly detergent, you may have noticed the term “borax” listed among the ingredients. Borax, a naturally-occurring white mineral salt used in the production of boric acid, dissolves readily in water when in powdered form and contains chemical properties that help change some water molecules to hydrogen peroxide, a liquid with oxidizing properties often used in bleach and disinfectant. When compared to commercial brands of powdered detergents or laundry soaps that include chemically engineered and potentially harmful compounds, borax may sound like a perfect alternative. But before you pick up (or mix up) a washing solution with borax, you may want to consider some studies conducted on the safety of this mineral. 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, even touching borax can cause skin irritation or a rash. Inhalation of borax can lead to serious respiratory problems, nausea and vomiting. A boric acid fact sheet published by The National Pesticide Information Center warns that eye exposure to borax can result in eye irritation lasting up to 21 days, or, in severe cases, irreversible corrosive damage to ocular (eye) tissue.

Borax may damage the male reproductive organs and even harm fetal development. In clinical trials involving rats, The National Pesticide Information Center reported testicular atrophy in test rats that ingested borax, along with a link to fetal skeletal deformations and reduced fetal weight in pregnant rats.

Borax also poses some serious health hazards for infants. Accidental ingestion of borax can lead to convulsions, seizures, headaches and even coma or death in infants.

Exposure to borax can also harm your pets. The National Pesticide Information Center lists abdominal pain, fever, retching, and diarrhea as symptoms suffered by animals after ingesting just a small amount of boric acid. Large amounts of consumed boric acid can result in depression, seizures and even death in animals.

 The warnings linked to borax make it highly questionable as a safe washing agent, not to mention a serious potential health hazard around pets, infants and other members of your household. Consider substituting baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, for borax the next time you’re in need of a nontoxic cleaning product. A solution of 2 tablespoons of baking soda combined with a quart of water makes an effective cleaner and odor remover that you can use safely throughout your house. When choosing an alternative washing solution, check the ingredients carefully to ensure your product is not only all-natural, but also a safe choice for you and your loved ones.

References:!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2005-0062-0004  (baking soda solution)

Originally posted 2013-10-23 11:35:36.


4 Responses

  1. I make detergent with washing soda, borax and a laundry bar. It is cheap and my favorite. Do you know of any recipes that don’t use borax?

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful article, Andrea. I have been concerned about the use of Borax in my home as well. It is important to remember Borax and boric acid are not the same thing and you seem to use them interchangeably through this article. Warning labels referring to boric acid shouldn’t be used as an argument against Borax 🙂

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for your comment! Do you still avoid using borax in the home? If so, what alternatives do you use. Also, I agree boric acid and borax (the salt form of boric acid) are different, but they do share many properties. And as far as I can tell, the article does not interchange boric acid and borax.

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