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The Top 10 Uses for Borax: The $10 Superhero No Home Should Be Without

We tapped home and garden experts so you can make the most of this versatile, inexpensive helper

When you think of borax, you might picture your mom or grandma reaching for their go-to box on wash day. But the laundry staple is so much more than a detergent booster — its potent cleaning, bleaching and deodorizing properties make it a powerhouse for tackling some of your toughest mess magnets. Here, you’ll find a roundup of the best, expert-backed uses for borax so you can get any part of your home gleaming in no time!

What is borax and is it safe to use?

“Borax is a laundry product and it contains only one ingredient, sodium borate, which is a chemical compound that occurs naturally,” explains Gary Pilarchik, co-author of the forthcoming book Grow An Edible Landscape and of the popular You Tube channel The Rusted Garden. It is most commonly used as a laundry detergent booster, and you can find borax in the laundry aisle of supermarkets and grocery stores or online for as little as $10 for 4 pounds (Buy from Amazon, $9.33).

Generally, borax is safe to use in smaller quantities, but like any household cleaning product, it’s important to take some precautions when handling it to avoid potential health issues, like skin rashes, vomiting, nausea and respiratory problems. These precautions include wearing gloves, washing your hands after using borax and cleaning any clothes you spill it on. You may even want to wear goggles and a face mask if you’re in a small, enclosed space. Be sure to also fully rinse any area where you use borax. Continued misuse over a longer period of time can cause hormone and toxicity issues, especially if ingested or put on your skin.

What are the best uses for borax

Right up there with vinegar and baking soda, borax belongs in your arsenal of cheap and easy DIY home-cleaning agents. It can be used in the following ways to make your home cleaner, fresher-smelling and less sticky! Read on for more!

#1 Use for borax: Unclog a drain

Woman sprinkling a spoonful of borax down sink drain to unclog drain

Kitchen drains often get clogged when liquid fats from dirty pots and pans go down the drain, then harden inside the plumbing, reveals home DIY expert Karrie Truman of Even bathroom sink drains can clog from toothpaste and other bathroom products sticking to the walls of the pipes.

To use borax as a drain cleaner: pour ½ cup of borax down a clogged drain, followed by about 2 cups of boiling water. Wait 15 minutes, then run the water for about 5 minutes. The hot water melts the fat and grease, while the borax dissolves grime, helping dislodge and move the gunk down the pipe.

Also smart: While cleaning the kitchen drain, sprinkle the bottom of the sink with borax, then spritz on white vinegar; let sit for 1 hour before rinsing with hot water. Research shows that 45% of kitchen sinks harbor bacteria because germs from dirty dishes multiply in the moist environment, but the borax lifts grime while the vinegar disinfects by killing the bacteria.

#2 Use for borax: Eliminate ants

“I have used borax as an ant killer for many years, and I find it to be very effective,” says Pilarchik. “Within a couple days, you should see results.” That’s because borax wards off ants in two ways: first as a poison when they ingest it, and second by destroying the waxy coating on their exoskeleton that protects them from water loss. The key to attracting ants to borax is to mix it with a sweet substance that they’ll be enticed to eat, like sugar.

To make Pilarchik’s DIY borax ant bait: stir 1 Tbs. of borax and 1 Tbs. of water until borax dissolves, then add 2 Tbs. of sugar to the jar and stir for 30 seconds. Add 2 additional tablespoons of sugar to the jar, give it a quick stir, then place the jar on its side in the garden, yard or anywhere that you are having a problem with ants.

While Pilarchik notes that most ants eat sugar and will be attracted to this bait, if you notice the ants aren’t eating it after several days, you may be dealing with an invasion protein-eating ants. To lure them in, simply stir 1 Tbs. of plain gelatin (its protein will feed the ants) into the sugar and borax mixture. No plain gelatin on hand? You can substitute it for 1 Tbs. of any flavor of powdered gelatin instead.

Additional borax uses for bugs: waterbugs, fleas and other pests can be deterred by it too. Just mix it with equal parts sugar and sprinkle wherever your unwanted friends like to hang out. Also smart: Sprinkle borax along the floor near the walls to keep any mice away. They don’t like the feel of the borax on their feet and will stay away from your home.

#3 Use for borax: Wipe out weeds

Spray bottle filled with a  weed killer solution placed next to planted flowers in a garden

Creeping Charlie and/or other lawn invaders cropping up in your garden or front yard? Try this low-cost, nontoxic fix: Dissolve 1¼ cups of borax in ¼ cup of warm water (if it doesn’t dissolve, toss it in a blender), then mix into 2.5 gallons of water. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture and spray on the leaves of the weeds (taking care to avoid lawn grass itself when possible). Boron (one of the 4 ingredients that make up borax) is an essential nutrient that plants need to grow, but when plants receive too much of it, they weaken and perish.

#4 Use for borax: Remove stains from clothing

We know that the trick to keeping brights looking bright is to wash them on the cold setting, since hot water can grip onto fabric dyes and pull color out of clothes, causing that faded look. But if you’re worried that clothes won’t get as clean in a cold wash, try adding ½ cup of borax to the drum of the washer along with your load of laundry. It will go to work removing dirt and grime in any water temperature.

What’s more: borax can be used to lift and spot-treat stubborn pigmented stains from berries, tomato sauce, wine and more. Simply mix 2 Tbs. of borax, 1 cup of water and 1½ cups of vinegar, then pour into a 24 oz. spray bottle; mist over stains and let sit 1 hour before washing. The acetic acid in vinegar works to dissolve pigments on contact. And when mixed with water, borax lifts the pigments’ bond to fabric so it can be washed away. Plus, borax offers a whitening action that ensures the spot vanishes.

#5 Use for borax: Get rid of soap scum

Lifting soap scum from your bathtub and glass shower door is easier than you think, assures Becky Rapinchuk, author of The Organically Clean Home. “Simply mix 14 cup of Borax and 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle, spritz around your bathroom, and let sit for 15 minutes.” After that, all you need is a damp sponge to erase the scum. The credit goes to a chemical reaction that turns Borax molecules into a natural bleaching agent whenever it’s mixed with hot water.

#6 Use for borax: Dishwashing detergent pods

Homemade dishwashing detergent pods drying in an ice cube tray and stored in a lidded jar

If you find yourself with a dishwasher full of dirty dishes and no dishwasher detergent pods, you can get your dishes clean with a mixture of borax and pantry staples. Just combine 2 cups of baking soda, 2 cups of borax, ½ cup of coarse salt, ½ cup of white vinegar and 15 drops of lemon essential oil, then pack the mixture into an ice cube tray and let dry overnight or until the cubes harden. Store in a closed jar (away from pets and kids), adding one pod to the detergent compartment for each cycle. Baking soda nixes grime, salt scrubs food, lemon deodorizes and borax and vinegar disinfect.

#7 Use for borax: Deodorizes shoes

Smelly shoes? Urine in places other than the toilet? Borax is the answer. Sprinkle it anywhere to neutralize odors, or add ½ cup to the drum of your washer in every load of laundry to boost the cleanliness and remove unwanted stink from fabrics. You can even combine ½ cup of borax with 2 cups of warm water and a few drops of your favorite-smelling essential oil to the solution for a homemade Febreze-like fabric deodorizer. Just mist over stinky clothes or fabrics and let absorb.

#8 Use for borax: Removes rust

Removing rust from metal patio furniture or even garden tools is as easy as reaching for a little ketchup and borax! The surprising pairing creates a chemical reaction that banishes rust spots, assures Erinn Witz, co-founder of Just fill a spray bottle with water and sprinkle in 2 Tbs. of borax, then shake well. Use it to spray your tools, then cover them with a thick layer of ketchup and let sit for 2 hours. Rinse with water and dry them with a rag. “Your tools will be gleaming like new,” Witz insists.

#9 Use for borax: Cleans keyboards

DIY cleaning putty (made from white glue, borax and water) spread over keyboard keys

Skip blowing compressed air onto your keyboard, which pushes dirt deeper inside. Instead, use cleaning putty, says DIY whiz Melissa Burnell of Store-bought putty costs about $10, but you can create your own for pennies. Just mix 2 Tbs. of white glue and 1 Tbs. of water. In a separate bowl, mix 4 Tbs. of borax and 4 Tbs. of water. Combine until a “slime” forms. Simply knead it a bit, then press onto your keyboard — the gunk will come right off!

#10 Use for borax: Removes sticker residue

If you are having a hard time removing the price tag from an item or find yourself scraping away at residual glue on a jar or container, borax is the answer. Mix 2 Tbs. of borax with 1 Tbs. of warm water and rub the paste onto the sticker until all residue dissolves. Borax breaks down the sticker’s bonding agents. (Click here for more ways to get sticker residue off or glass.)

For more cleaning hacks and brilliant uses for household items, click through these stories:

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13 Brilliant Uses For White Vinegar Guaranteed To Make Your Life Easier

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