Using borax in the laundry can whiten and brighten clothes, get rid of odors, and soften hard water to reduce mineral deposits left behind on fabrics.
What Is Borax?
Borax is a natural mineral, sodium tetraborate, which has been mined and used for thousands of years. A chemical compound of the element boron, also known as sodium borate or disodium tetraborate, it is a soft, white, many-sided crystal powder that dissolves readily in water.
Borax is already an ingredient in some laundry detergents, including DIY detergents, and it has many uses throughout the house, as well. Borax for laundry is safe to use as directed, do not ingest it, and keep it out of the reach of children and pets. Learn below how to properly use borax in your laundry.
|Detergent||Safe to use with any laundry detergent|
|Water Temperature||Can be used in any water temperature|
|Cycle Type||Add to wash or presoak cycle directly in the washer drum|
|Special Treatments||Aids in softening hard water|
Equipment / Tools
- Large plastic tub
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Laundry detergent
How to Use Borax to Boost Detergent Cleaning Results
Add to Each Laundry Load
Less expensive liquid laundry detergents are often mainly water and do not contain sufficient active ingredients to leave freshly-washed clothes clean. Add one-half cup of borax to each load to boost the cleaning power of your detergent.
The dry powder should be added directly to the washer drum in a front or top-loading washer before adding the dirty laundry.
How to Use Borax to Whiten Dingy Laundry
When borax is added to water, it converts some molecules in the water to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a mild oxidizing or bleaching agent. Just as other oxygen-based bleaches, hydrogen peroxide breaks down safely into water and oxygen.
Use as a Presoak
To whiten dingy washable items, add one-half cup of borax for every gallon of water. Add the white clothes and allow them to soak for at least one hour (longer is better). The clothes should then be washed as usual.
Boost the Performance of Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach is added to the washer from the automatic dispenser about five minutes after the wash cycle begins. It is safe to add borax at the beginning of the wash cycle with the detergent when also using chlorine bleach.
Reduce Residue Left in Fabrics
The borates in borax help to keep detergent dispersed throughout the wash water in each load, so it's more likely to rinse out. Getting rid of residue left in fabrics leaves them whiter, brighter, and softer to the touch.
How to Use Borax to Improve Water Quality
Some areas of the country have acidic or hard water that causes problems in the laundry room. Adding borax to a laundry routine can help improve water quality.
Improve Acidic Water
Borax has a high pH of about 9.24. When you add one-half cup per load of laundry to water, it changes the pH to around 8 (a neutral pH is 7). This slightly alkaline pH is ideal for cleaning. Since borax acts as a buffering agent, it helps to keep the water at this pH, even after detergent or other cleaners are added. For you, this means cleaner clothes.
Soften Hard Water
Hard water is found in 85 percent of America and is defined as having high levels of calcium and magnesium; the greater the concentration of these minerals, the harder the water.
Hard water prevents laundry detergent from working as it should leaving your clothes gray and dingy. Since borax contains sodium, adding one-half cup per load helps to soften the wash water, so your clothes come out looking great.
How to Use Borax as a Stain and Odor Remover
Borax is an effective stain remover for both food and grease stains. It also inhibits the growth of fungi, mold, and bacteria, which can cause strong odors in clothes.
Use a Spot Stain Remover for Washable Clothes
Mix one tablespoon of borax with two tablespoons of water. Spread the paste on the stained area of the garment. Let it work for at least 30 minutes before washing as usual.
Neutralize Odor in Washable Laundry
To remove offensive smells like mold, sweat, and cooking odors from clothes, create a presoak solution of one-fourth cup of borax per gallon of water. Submerge the stinky laundry and let it soak for at least 30 minutes. Wash as usual.
Home Cleaning Chemistry. Utah State University Extension.
"Boric Acid Technical Fact Sheet". National Pesticide Information Center, 2012, http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/archive/borictech.html.
Hardness of Water. U.S. Geographical Survey.
"Borax". Pubchem, 2021, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Borax.
"Boric Acid: General Fact Sheet". National Pesticide Information Center, 2013, http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/boricgen.pdf.