Around the House, Borax Is as Good as Gold

January 26, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

Buried deep in the Mojave Desert is one of the biggest and richest deposits of borax on the planet—one of the best-kept secrets of the Southern California desert. Around your house, this pure white mineral is as good as gold.

Commercially, borax is marketed as 20 Mule Team Borax to boost the power of laundry detergent. Look for it in the laundry aisle of grocery and discount stores everywhere.

How Does Borax Work?

Borax has a pH of about 9.5, which makes it alkaline, forming a basic solution when added to water. Basic solutions are super useful for both cleaning and laundry purposes because of the way they break down acidic, fatty, and oily substances—all the things we find in laundry stains and in the kitchen.

Is Borax Safe?

Used in the way it is intended around the house, borax is perfectly safe, as long as you plan to handle it with the same care that you would use with any other household cleaning product: Keep it away from children; avoid ingesting it or getting it into your eyes, nose, or mouth; use it in a well-ventilated space, avoiding skin contact by wearing gloves.

Sink Stains

Stubborn pot marks—even rust stains—will disappear when you make a paste of 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Put some of the paste on a cloth or sponge, and rub it into the stain, and then rinse with warm water.

Drain Clogs

Before calling a serviceman or using caustic commercial drain cleaner, try this trick on that sluggish drain: Pour 1/2 cup borax into the drain, and then slowly pour in 2 cups boiling water. Let the mixture set for 15 minutes, and then flush with hot water. If the problem is severe, repeat as necessary.

Glass Cleaner

Dissolve 2 tablespoons borax in 3 cups warm water. Use as you would any liquid glass cleaner on mirrors, windows, and glass surfaces. You’ll be amazed at the spotless and streak-free results.

Attack Mildew

Dissolve 1/2 cup borax in 2 cups hot water. Rub this solution into the mildewed area on fabric or upholstery. Allow it to soak for several hours or until the stain disappears. Rinse well. Or soak the entire item in a solution of 2 cups borax in 2 quarts warm water overnight or until stains disappear.

Carpet Stains

Remove stubborn stains from rugs and carpets. Thoroughly dampen the area, and then rub in some borax. Let the area dry, and then vacuum or blot it with a solution of equal parts vinegar and soapy water, and let dry. Repeat if necessary. Don’t forget to first test the procedure on an inconspicuous corner or closet or on a carpet scrap before applying it to the stain.

Freshen Disposal

If your garbage disposal gets a little stinky now and then, you can freshen it and get rid of mold and bacteria with borax. Every couple of weeks, pour 3 tablespoons borax down the drain, and let it sit for 1 hour. Then turn on the disposal, and flush it with hot water from the tap.

Toilet Cleaner

Clean the toilet with borax and a stiff brush. Dampen the brush; sprinkle borax liberally onto the wet brush, and then scrub. Your toilet with glisten without a single toxic fume.

Weeds and Ants

When applied around the foundation of your house, borax will keep ants and spiders from entering your home. Sprinkle it on the weeds and vegetation in driveway, walkway, and sidewalk cracks. Caution: Borax is toxic to plants, so make sure you only sprinkle it on vegetation you want to kill.

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Copyright 2020 Creators.com