Borax is recommended for a lot of DIY “green cleaning” products around the house, but is borax safe? In this post, we’ll cover the basics about borax safety so you can make a more well-informed decision about using this product in your home.
When I was a brand-new mom, I thought I would save our family money by using a non-toxic laundry detergent recipe.
With loads of spit-upon baby clothes and cloth diapers, I suddenly had a lot more laundry to do.
And because I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom, my husband and I suddenly had to manage life on a tight budget.
For three years I faithfully made my own laundry soap by grating Fels-Naptha and then melting and mixing it with washing soda and Borax. Whenever it was time to make another batch of soap, I felt resourceful like Laura Ingalls Wilder – but couldn’t believe I was actually making my own laundry detergent.
When my family needed to relocate and ended up living with my parents for seven months, most of our belongings were kept in storage – including my boxes of Borax and washing soda. Life with two young children in a house that wasn’t our own was hectic, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of making my own laundry detergent.
So I switched to fragrance-free, dye-free store-bought varieties. Once my family finally moved and settled into our own home, I discovered that Fels-Naptha shouldn’t be used with septic systems. I finally began trying soap nuts (something I had wanted to do for years), but I also use a variety of other natural detergents, including my favorite – Molly’s Suds.
Now that I’ve been away from harsh fragrances for so long, I’m sure the distinct odor of Fels-Naptha would bother my now-sensitive nose.
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Surprising Facts About Borax
Around that same time, I found the results of the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
On a whim I thought I’d test how safe my homemade detergent had been.
An F! Yikes!
What Is Borax?
What’s wrong with Borax? It’s made with sucrose, lactose and sodium borate. But the sodium borate is what is toxic to humans and pets at high levels.
While Borax is not a carcinogen, studies performed in the European Union, similar to studies the U.S. FDA performs, show that sodium borate may damage fertility or unborn children.
It’s also designated a skin irritant and eye irritant.
And animal studies reveal that sodium borate disrupts animals’ endocrine systems.
What I Decided about Borax
The safety of Borax is debated in green circles – some people believe that as long as you use it as a cleaner and know that you won’t consume it, it’s safe to use.
And to a large extent, they’re right. Borax is a natural choice for adults who are looking to avoid toxic-filled chemical cleaning products.
I chose to stop using Borax long before I knew about the EWG’s rating. For quite a while I had used it to clean my home. I remember being glad that I had such a natural cleaner – so glad, in fact, that when I would sprinkle it in my toilet, I let my 3-year-old scrub the bowl with a brush.
When I learned that it could be used as an effective insecticide, I knew I didn’t want my toddler cleaning with it anymore. I stopped using it, but if I didn’t have children I might reconsider.
Since I’m a mom of young children, though, I don’t want to keep it in my house as a cleaner. I use a variety of safe and green ways to clean my home that don’t involve any store-bought cleaners, so I choose not to use Borax anymore.
Of course, even if you choose not to use borax and wish to make your own laundry detergent, there are other ways to do it such as this Homemade Sensitive Laundry Detergent.
Update from Adrienne – I’ve been rethinking this whole thing due to reading that table salt has the same toxicity as sodium borate. So there is definitely going to be a follow up post on this….
Do YOU use Borax?
What do you think about this?
Hilary Kimes Bernstein is a Christ follower, wife, mama, and journalist who writes about making healthy decisions that honor God and happen to help the environment at Accidentally Green.