Green Alternatives to Using Borax for Cleaning

borax in a glass container

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

If you're hesitant about using borax for your green cleaning due to health and safety concerns, then consider some great alternatives.

You can easily substitute safer green cleaning ingredients in place of borax for all the uses commonly listed on the back of the "20 Mule Team Borax" box. Check out this list of borax's most common laundry and household uses and discover safe substitutes that are just as effective.

Laundry Booster

Got hard water? Then try boosting the effectiveness of your laundry detergent with baking soda instead of borax. It lowers the pH of hard water just as well as borax does, but is gentler and not toxic.


Zap odors with gentler ingredients like vinegar. You can use it as a room deodorizer in spray form, such as in this DIY All-Purpose Aromatic Vinegar Spray, or add it to your washing machine rinse cup to deal with a load of particularly smelly clothes. As a bonus, vinegar even acts as a natural fabric softener.

Toilet Bowl Cleaning

Combat toilet bowl odors, mineral stains, and even mildew with a non-toxic green cleaner, such as Eco-Me's Phil Toilet Bowl Cleaner, or simply pour in some baking soda, add a little vinegar, swish, and let it sit. Voilà! You have a clean toilet without using borax.


Want sparkling clean porcelain surfaces? Then use a simple paste of baking soda and water, or if you want to jazz up your cleaning routine with a little aromatherapy, whip up a DIY aromatherapy cleanser or disinfecting cream cleanser. They work just as well, or even better than borax, and are non-toxic.


Be gentle with your delicates by using a ready-made green laundry soap or your own homemade linen wash. You can make a lavender citrus linen wash, that is just as gentle on you and the environment as it is your delicates.

Garbage Pails

Instead of sprinkling borax in the bottom of your trash can, try baking soda or even coffee grinds. They work wonders. You can also use baking soda to clean your trash can. Throw in some vinegar for extra odor fighting action.


Considering borax is something you really don't want to get on your food (it can cause nasty acute health effects like vomiting, nausea, etc.), the last place to use it would be in cleaning out the refrigerator, right? But that's one of the suggestions on the borax box. Instead, try using a paste of baking soda and water and then rinse well with water. Or, try this Clean Everything Lemon Lime spray, which is made using fresh citrus juices and vinegar.


Get fabulous glistening fiberglass with a simple paste of baking soda and water, instead of using borax.

Baby Clothes

Hmm. Using borax to clean baby clothes would be the last choice. Instead, try a non-toxic, green laundry detergent with some baking soda to boost the detergent, and then add vinegar to the rinse cup to deodorize, soften fabrics, and remove any remaining traces of detergent. Your baby's skin will thank you.

Fine China

Borax for dinner anyone? If your answer is a resounding "no," then you might want to skip washing your dishes with it. A vinegar-water solution leaves your dishes just as clean and shiny by removing mineral deposits and dish detergent residues without the worry of leaving behind any poisonous borax for the next meal.


Once again, try using baking soda, vinegar, or both, to clean and deodorize instead of borax.