Monday, April 19, 2010

Sodium Borate sounds so much nicer than 'Borax'

Borax... ugh what an ugly name. Maybe because I'm a Speech Pathologist... or maybe because I love languages, but the 'sound' of a word affects me. It's so harsh, with that super harsh 'eh' (wish I had IPA symbols here lol). We've been watching Masterchef New Zealand (like a cross between Top Chef and a cooking-type Idol) and I had no idea that New Zealanders changed their 'eh' to 'ee' (like beater for 'better')... SO interesting! I love accents.

Anyhoo, back to Borax. Although not glamorous, we hear about it often in the green world as an eco-friendly cleaner. But what exactly IS it?

Borax is also known as sodium borate, a boron compound (mineral) and a salt of boric acid. It occurs in naturally evaporite deposits produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes (wiki). In this sense it can be mined (which isn't that wonderful when you think about mining methods) and it can also be synthetically produced.

Borax is a known respiratory and skin irritant and can be toxic if ingested.  Especially by cats and infants, can't let them munch on this stuff. At the same time, all info seems to be pointing at similar safety levels as salt and baking soda.

Now, of course it's better than using say, petrochemicals or hormone disrupting synthetic ingredients for cleaning, but what I wanted to know was is it safe to be dumped into our water ways? Since I can't seem to find anything in my usual sources (David Suzuki, Greenpeace, Grist, Ecoholic etc) I'm assuming it's probably pretty similar to flooding our ecosystem with any other natural compound... It's not like our lakes would love salt ocean water either.

Alrighty- so borax, despite it's scary as crap sounding name, seems to be a pretty decent eco-cleaner (if you have more info, please let me know!). I've heard it used for a ridiculous amount of things, from making laundry detergent to deterring ants (bugs HATE this stuff).

Why I bought it?

Well, although I know it's really unyogic of me, I am not really a proponent of 'catch release' when it comes to bugs (and well, mice- don't hate me!). Andrew was more the sort to trap a spider under clear container and leave it there for hours. But that was mostly because he was too chicken to smush it (he said it reared up at him and challenged him- mano a spidero...). In our relationship, when there is a bug Andrew calls me over and well, I get stuff done.

Back to borax, we have this silverfish problem here in Halifax. At my parents house we always had silverfish in the bathroom, they're harmless and grey and not that gross (ok, up close in this wiki article they kinda are). So I didn't worry about it. But Halifax has these weird mutant stripey, long antenna'd tan silverfish and they had invaded our entire place. NOT just the bathroom.

I read in Ecoholic (2006) that borax is great for silverfish. Even though I figured it was crap, I bought some anyways. In a pretty recycled paper box with vegetable based ink that said 'eco-pioneer' (yep, advertising so works on me, which is why I hate greenwashing) Sprinkled it around the baseboards where they seem to 'live' and....

It worked!! No more silverfish, EVER! YES! I didn't see any little 'bodies' (sorry guys) so I'm assuming that they just don't like the 'smell', or maybe they brought some back to their hive or whatever... like ants. Anyhoo, whatever the reason it is fantastically awesome. I even convinced my mom to use some... and wouldn't you know it works for her too!

The only downside- you have whitestuff around your baseboards... which looks kinda sketchy. Although it's probably safe to sweep it up now...
Also, if you have cats or small children, not really the safest idea.

Another use of borax that I have found wonderful is as a scrub-mechanism for the tub and sinks and tiles. Baking soda really doesn't cut it, but borax... sigh. Works like a charm :) Plus it's CHEAP.

There you have it, a very non-sexy post. Check out this list on Green Components on uses for borax! Since I now have 2 kilos of the stuff, I'll have to start using it more regularly (maybe I'll put it in a more easily accessible glass container...). What do you use Borax for?

Article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at 


  1. You are a much stronger woman than I. I clicked on the silverfish link and nearly peed my pants. If those things were in my house I would just move far far away and then curl up in a ball and weep until I healed from the emotional wounds they left behind. Kudos to you for a much more rational and eco-friendly idea. : )

  2. I use borax to clean the loo. it's a lot better than most bleach based loo cleaners. I just make sure I keep it away from the cats. Mind you I don't let them near the table salt either!

  3. great post! I'd actually been contemplating buying some. I was looking into making my own laundry detergent once our current supply is depleted.

  4. I just bought an eco-friendly stain remover that has borax as the main ingredient. It works like a charm! I was totally sucked in by it because a/ back when I was buying nasty, eco-awful stain removers, they never bloody worked, and b/ the seller mentioned how she uses it (diluted) as a laundry and pots/pan cleaner when she goes camping. :) I was sold right then! I love multi-use items.

  5. I have heard it is great for cockroaches as well. I'm sure that is what everyone loves to hear, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I live in Arizona, and we get massive, flying cockroaches. The only upside is that they do not travel in packs. The major downside is that they don't care if your house is spotless. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. okay i asked to myself, what is a silverfish, read jamie's comment, and now refuse to go look up what it is because i am the same way.

    borate/borax is also awesome for ant killing. although same thing, you don't want to eat it and guess where they show up? kitchen cabinets. so i line the edges of my cabinets. hard thing? waiting for them to eat it and DIE DIE DIE! :) but it's the only thing that works...just wish i could put a curse on the ants as every time they show up i get a big case of the creepy crawlies :(

  7. But Borax rhymes with Lorax!
    And the Lorax speaks for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!! So of course it's a decent eco-cleaner!!!

    No offense, Lisa, but I'm shocked that an eco-yogini like yourself isn't more up on her Dr. Seuss...

    Otherwise, cool post...and as for the mice, thing: I remember once I lived in this trailer that was totally mouse-infested. Vegetarian riends were horribly shocked when I bought traps. They said I should be like them, and get a cat, to which I replied "you know one thing the traps won't do? They're not gonna torture the mouse for fun all afternoon before finally getting bored and deciding to kill it...."

  8. Great info! I'm gonna try it on my slow drain. Been using the Earth Worm drain product and it hasn't been working. I'm trying to hold of on that nasty drain o stuff.

  9. Its a key ingredient in most cold cream recipes. Which I use as a make up remover and general face cleanser.

  10. I use Borax to make laundry detergent and my homemade tub scrub. On a side note - David Suzuki will be here on campus in two weeks. Can't wait to meet him in person. I'm a fan since I'm 16 years old.

  11. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought about the Lorax and the sweet Truffula trees!


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