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The Dangers of Borax

Posted by on Jan. 10, 2010 at 8:51 PM
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I am part of a lot of organic/natural/green living groups here on CM, and I read a lot of websites or blogs or whatever that are of similar topics.  One thing that I consistently see in "natural" cleaners & most specifically homemade laundry detergent is borax.  Since I see it so often, I feel compelled to share some of my research with you all.

Several months ago I decided I was going to make the switch to making homemade laundry detergent, for various reasons: healthy living (no more chemicals), eco-friendly, budget-friendly, etc.  Almost every single homemade laundry detergent recipe I found contained borax, and not being very familiar with it, I decided to research it. 

I was a little horrified to find that there are studies out there that cite concerns that borax is a toxic poison that may be connected to reproductive issues and birth defects in children.  It is unavailable in certain parts of the world, including parts of Europe, which to be honest did lend some weight to these studies.  I mean, Europe is definitely smarter than the vast majority of the U.S. when it comes to things like GMOs... [Not to make you guys think that I took this all at face value b/c Europe doesn't like it - I did do research on it]


Borax is often recommended as a "safe" pesticide, fungicide and cleaner, but it is officially classified as a poison. Government sites recommend that people who work with Borax use gloves and handle it with caution. Studies have linked it to reproductive problems in some lab animals, as well as a host of serious disorders at higher levels.

Boric acid is an acute eye and respiratory tract irritant, which is quite toxic if ingested. In addition, it is unavailable in parts of Europe because of concerns that it caused birth defects and problems with the reproductive organs of children. It is recommended that pregnant women and children in particular do not have exposure to Borax.

This is an excerpt from an article about the dangers of borax:

They have links to government and research sites that pertain to the dangers of borax, if you are interested in reading further.

So, naturally, after reading about these concerns with borax, I decided to try and find a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that doesn't contain borax (better safe than sorry) - it wasn't easy! But here is the recipe that I FINALLY found and I'm happy with:

2 gallons Water (hot)
1 bar Soap (grated)
2 cups Baking soda (yes baking soda–not washing soda)

  • Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
  • In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well.
  • Then add the baking soda, stir well again.
  • Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you all, because I feel like maybe this is information that isn't prevalent in a lot of the natural & organic circles.  I wouldn't want you mamas to use this stuff just as much as I wouldn't want to use them with my family. :) Hope this helps!

by on Jan. 10, 2010 at 8:51 PM
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by New Member on Jan. 11, 2010 at 7:43 PM

Just wanted to share some information that KayMMIV from a couple of other green & natural living groups I'm in shared in this thread (since she had researched A LOT more than I have):

[This is just some brief summaries/points that were important]

Only use the baking soda recipe if you DO NOT have hard water.  If you have hard water then you will need to use a recipe that uses washing soda instead.  Washing soda can be difficult to find in stores, but you can change baking soda into washing soda by baking it in the oven.  You will need to look it up online to find the specific temperature/duration, etc. :) Also, if you hard water, you will definitely not want to mix baking soda & a vinegar rinse since it can cause build-ups in your washer.  So, for all you out there that have hard water, you need to use a different recipe.  Here is a recipe that uses washing soda, rather than baking soda:

2 cups bar soap (grated)

2 cups washing soda

2-2.5 gallons H2O

1. Melt grated soap in saucepan with water to cover.  Heat over medium-low heat and stir until soap is dissolved.

2. Pour hot water in large pail, add hot soap and washing soda. Stir very well.

3. Use 1 cup per full load.

Other interesting tips she offered in concerns to the bars of soap you use:

pure castile soap is the best type to use if you have sensitive skin.  Ivory soap can be used, but may or may not cause irritation to sensitive skin.  Fels naptha soap should be avoided if there is an alternative.

Thanks to KayMMIV for sharing these tips! :)

by Member on Jan. 12, 2010 at 5:35 AM

Thanks for the info.  I've always wondered about Borax, and haven't used it.  I pick and choose my battles, and laundry detergent is one thing I have chosen not to do.  I became frustrated with how my clothes looked, and I figured taking better care of my clothes was a better environmental investment (so I wouldn't have to replace them sooner).  Anyhow, I have seen Borax for other uses and just skip it.  We use vinegar and baking soda, mostly.

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