15 Ways to Use Borax Throughout Your Home

Glass container of borax with soft bristled brush and fabric in bucket

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $3 to 5

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, a chemical compound of the element boron, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. It is a soft, white, many-sided crystal powder that dissolves readily in water and aids in stain removal, sanitation, and even repels insects. 

The most familiar packaging of borax is as 20-Mule Team Borax found in mass-market stores and grocery stores. You can also buy borax in bulk at farm supply stores, hardware stores, and online. Much less expensive than commercial cleaning products, you can make your own DIY cleaning solutions, including laundry detergent, and use borax in amazing ways.

Before You Begin

Borax can irritate the skin and eyes, and it can be dangerous when inhaled or ingested. However, borax is generally safe for humans, as the average person doesn't come in contact with enough to be harmful. But it's still best to handle it with care.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 Washing machine
  • 1 Large plastic tub
  • 1 Sponge
  • 1 Small bowl
  • 1 Spray bottle
  • 1 Garden hose
  • 1 Soft-bristled brush
  • 1 Microfiber towel

Materials

  • 1 Borax
  • 1 Lemon juice
  • 1 Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 Dishwashing liquid
  • 1 Label

Instructions

Use Borax in the Laundry Room

Borax can make an excellent laundry booster. It whitens whites, brightens colors, softens hard water, neutralizes odors, and helps to remove stains. Many laundry detergent formulas contain sodium borate.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water contains a high concentration of minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Hard water is found in 85 percent of the United States. With a high concentration of these minerals in the water, unless the water is treated, the calcium and magnesium attach to the fabric in a laundry load and leave clothing and linens feeling stiff and covered with a residue that dulls color.

Borax in glass container next to basket of laundry for cleaning

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Use as a Pre-Soak to Remove Stains or Odors

    Add one-half cup of borax for every gallon of water in the washer or a large plastic tub. Add the dirty items and soak for about 30 minutes in the borax solution before laundering. Drain the solution from the laundry before washing as usual.

  2. Boost Detergent Cleaning

    Add one-half cup of borax to the washer drum before loading in dirty laundry to boost the cleaning power of your usual laundry detergent.

  3. Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

    Mix one-half cup of borax, one cup of soap flakes, one cup of baking soda, and one cup of washing soda in a resealable container to make your own laundry detergent. Use one-half cup of the mixture per load of laundry in a standard top-load washer or two tablespoons in a high-efficiency top- or front-load washer.

Use Borax as a Household Cleaner

Use borax to remove stains from stainless steel surfaces, porcelain sinks, and outdoor furniture.

  1. Remove Stains From Sinks and Laminate Countertops

    Make a paste of one cup borax and one-fourth cup lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a small bowl. Use a sponge dipped in the paste to gently scrub the stain. Rinse the area with warm water.

  2. Freshen and Unclog Kitchen Drains

    Add three tablespoons of borax to the garbage disposal and let the powder sit for at least 15 minutes. Turn on the disposal and flush it with hot water for one minute.

    To unclog a slow, greasy kitchen drain, pour one-half cup of borax and two cups of boiling water into the drain. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes (30 is better) and then flush with warm water.

  3. Remove Pet Urine Stains and Odor From Carpet

    In a small bowl, mix one-fourth cup each of borax, salt, and vinegar. After blotting away as much of the pet urine as possible with paper towels, apply the paste to the carpet and scrub lightly with a soft-bristled brush. Let the paste remain on the carpet for 30 to 45 minutes, then vacuum it away. Use a damp sponge to remove any remaining traces of the paste.

  4. Clean Plastic Outdoor Furniture

    In a spray bottle, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, one teaspoon of borax, and one quart of warm water. Shake to mix and label the bottle clearly.

    Spray the solution onto the plastic furniture and use a soft-bristled brush or cloth to gently scrub the surfaces. Rinse well and dry with a microfiber towel.

Use Borax as a Bathroom Cleaner

  1. Add Borax to Toilet Bowl

    Pour one cup of borax into the toilet bowl at night or when the toilet will not be used for about eight hours. After eight hours, scrub the toilet bowl with a brush to remove stains.

  2. Remove Water Spots

    The minerals in water can leave spots on fixtures, Sprinkle a damp sponge with borax powder and gently scrub chrome fixtures to remove water spots and grime.

  3. Remove and Inhibit Mildew Growth

    Mix one-fourth cup of borax per quart of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto mildew growth in the bathroom, wait 15 minutes, and use a soft-bristled nylon brush to scrub away the mildew. Rinse well and dry the area. Lightly spray the same solution on mildew-prone areas (do not rinse) and allow it to air-dry to help inhibit future mildew growth.

Use Borax in the Dishwasher

Cloudy glassware, bits of food, and stains are all signs that your dishwasher needs a thorough cleaning. Borax can clean a dishwasher and boost the cleaning power of your dishwasher detergent.

Borax being scrubbed inside dishwasher door for cleaning

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Clean the Dishwasher

    Remove the racks from the dishwasher. Sprinkle dry borax on the bottom of the dishwasher and on the inside of the door. Dampen a soft-bristled brush and scrub the inside of the appliance.

  2. Boost the Cleaning Power of the Dishwasher

    Sprinkle one-half cup of borax in the bottom of the dishwasher before loading it with dirty dishes. Add your regular dishwasher detergent to the dispenser and complete the cleaning cycle as usual.

Use Borax as an Insecticide

Borax can serve as a powerful insect repellent and insecticide. Just make sure kids and pets won't encounter it as you control pests.

Borax and sugar sprinkled along floor walls to prevent insects

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Control Roaches

    Sprinkle borax in areas where you've seen roaches. When they walk through it, it has a poisoning and dehydrating effect.

  2. Repel Ants

    Borax alone will often repel ants. So mix one part borax with three parts sugar to act as bait, and then sprinkle it where you have an ant problem.

  3. Fight Bed Bugs

    Studies have shown that ingestion of boric acid in even small amounts results in a high mortality rate for bed bugs. Sprinkle dry borax around the sides of a mattress, bed platform, or furniture cushions.

Watch Now: How to Remove Hard Water Stains in a Toilet

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. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
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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. How Safe is Borax? Because Health & Center for Environmental Health.

  2. Hardness of Water. U.S. Geographical Survey.

    1. Low-Toxic Cockroach Control. University of Nebraska Extension Service.
    1. Sierras, Angela. Wada-Katsumata, Ayako. Schal, Coby. Effectiveness of Boric Acid by Ingestion, But Not by Contact, Against the Common Bed Bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)Journal of Economic Entomology, vol. 111, no. 6, 2018, pp. 2772–2781. doi:10.1093/jee/toy260