How to Use Borax in Your Laundry for a Fresh Load

container of borax next to a stack of towels

The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $7

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

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer
  • Large plastic tub
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  • Borax
  • Laundry detergent


How to Use Borax to Boost Detergent Cleaning Results

pouring borax into a container
The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija
  1. 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.

adding borax to a laundry basin

The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    borax next to white linens
    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija 

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

adding borax to water
The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija 
  1. 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.

  2. 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.


    Adding one-half cup of borax to the washer before adding every load of smelly laundry will help reduce odors during each wash.

    white linens in a laundry basket
    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija
Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler

Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Home Cleaning Chemistry. Utah State University Extension.

  2. "Boric Acid Technical Fact Sheet". National Pesticide Information Center, 2012,

  3. Hardness of WaterU.S. Geographical Survey.

  4. "Borax". Pubchem, 2021,

  5. "Boric Acid: General Fact Sheet". National Pesticide Information Center, 2013,