Borax, a combination of sodium, boron, and oxygen, is a natural substance mined from the earth in its crude form, found in abundance in the deserts of California and Nevada.
Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft, colorless crystals that dissolve in water. Borax is an ingredient in many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. The trademark 20 Mule Team Borax is named for the method by which borax was originally hauled out of the California and Nevada deserts.
Adding up to 1/2 cup* of borax to a load of laundry—whites as well as colorfast items (check labels)—will do all kinds of wonderful things to keep your white things white, and your laundry and washing machine odor-free.
*The amount of borax depends on the hardness of your water. For example, where I live, the water is not extremely hard, so I add about 1/4 cup to a full load, one tablespoon to a small load. For hard water, up to 1/2 cup for a full load would be appropriate.
There are at least seven reasons you should consider adding borax to your laundry’s prewash cycle (if your machine has that option) or wash cycle.
No. 1: Borax Is Safe With Bleach
We know that it can pose a danger to mix bleach with highly acidic things like vinegar. The result can be deadly chlorine gas. But don’t be paranoid about this. Not all products react with bleach in that way. I can assure you that borax is not one of them! It is safe to mix with chlorine bleach and detergent, which has been proven to improve the cleaning power of both.
No. 2: Borax Whitens Whites
Think of borax as a maintenance product that will keep white things white. Paired with chlorine bleach, it turbocharges bleach’s whitening power. But even if you don’t like to use bleach, it is still a whitener on its own.
No. 3: Borax Softens Hard Water
Borax has a pH of about 9.24. This changes the pH of the entire wash load, making it alkaline, which is ideal for cleaning. Touch the water once you add borax. See how it feels slick or even a little bit “slimy?” That’s what we mean by soft water. Soft water releases dirt and stains much more effectively than hard water with a lower pH, which prevents laundry detergents from working the way they’re supposed to.
No. 4: Borax Releases Soap Residue
The rinse cycle of your washing machine is supposed to remove all of the detergent, soap, bleach, and, of course, dirt from the washed items. But that doesn’t always happen, especially if you have hard water. The result? A buildup of soap and laundry products in washed clothes and linens. You will know that when your towels come out scratchy and stiff, and your whites turn a dingy shade of gray. Borax keeps the soap moving freely, not trapped in the fabric fibers. That means it is more likely to easily flow down the drain with the rinse water.
No. 5: Borax Tackles Odors
Borax attacks the source of odors to get rid of body, baby, workout, and sick room odors in clothing and linens. It inhibits the enzymes that produce those bad odors.
No. 6: Borax Is a Laundry Disinfectant
Borax is effective to kill germs, bacteria, and other organisms. It is a disinfectant, biocide, insecticide, pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide. Just one more reason to add it to a load of laundry.
No. 7: Borax Works as a Stain Remover
We know how tough tomato, mustard, grease, and oil stains in clothing and towels can be. One more way that borax comes to the rescue. Do this: Pre-soak stained laundry for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of borax per gallon of warm water or add 1/2 cup of borax to the pre-soak cycle.