If you walk the laundry section in the grocery store, you’ll find borax in a plain-looking box with a wagon train on the front of the box. 20 Mule Team Borax is made in the United States starting in 1891, and borax deserves a place in your homestead cabinets.
As homesteaders, we love versatile items. If we can use them for more than one thing, it goes into our cabinet. Who has space for things that are used for one thing, and that’s it?
Homesteaders love borax because it’s a naturally occurring mineral that comes from boron, and we use it alongside other multi-purpose products like white vinegar and baking soda.
Borax isn’t listed as toxic, but it can cause some mild skin irritation, and it could be poisonous if you decide to ingest large amounts. So, it’s always best to keep this chemical away from children.
What is Borax?
Borax is sodium tetraborate or sodium borate, and it’s not boric acid as some people think. Sodium tetraborate is a salt of boric acid, but they aren’t the same thing chemically.
Borax is used in the process that makes boric acid, but, unlike boric acid, borax is a naturally occurring mineral. Of course, natural doesn’t mean it’s safe for human use, but we’re just looking at the differences here.
Powdered borax is what we use in the methods we list below, and it comes in soft, colorless crystals that dissolve in water. Borax is used in many commercial applications, and it’s an ingredient in household cleaning products, in chemical laboratories, to help mining operations, and as a component of glass and ceramics.
Borax Uses on the Homestead
1. Make Laundry Detergent
If you like to make your laundry detergent, borax can be used alone or as a booster in your current detergent recipe. Borax is great for laundry because it helps to clean and deodorize clothes, towels, and bedding. It also is a whitener, so it helps to make whites whiter and colors brighter.
Borax is a fantastic all-purpose cleaner so it makes sense that it has awesome powers as a laundry booster, too!
2. Beats Laundry Stains
If you live on a homestead, your clothes will have stains – no doubt. Add in kids, and you’ll find yourself battling dirt and grime all the time.
Treat your clothes by adding one tablespoon of Borax and two tablespoons of water. Then spread it over the stain. Let it sit on the clothing for 30 minutes before scrubbing out the stain and tossing it in the washer.
3. Keep Pests Away
Are you having problems with insects and other pests around your home? If so, borax is an effective way to beat them back. Sprinkle equal parts borax and sugar around areas that you think insects might enter, such as ants, roaches, water bugs, and termites.
4. Kills Ants
It’s summer, and you have ants in your kitchen. Mix equal parts borax and sugar, then sprinkle it along the ants’ path. You can add a bit of water to make a liquid and put cotton balls on your counter. They’ll lap it up and take it home to the anthill, killing all of them.
5. Clean the Carpet Stains
Just like laundry, borax can be used to clean your carpets and help keep them smelling fresh. All you need to do is add ½ cup of the powder to each gallon of water in your carpet cleaner. It’s particularly great if you have pets because borax is a deodorizer.
6. Kill Weeds
Ideally, you don’t want to put borax on your flowers, but it can help to kill weeds that pop up along your driveway or walkway. You can sprinkle the borax powder directly onto the unwanted plants.
7. Homemade Febreeze
Febreeze is expensive and full of chemicals, but we all want our house to smell good. Mix ½ cup of Borax with a pint of water. Put it into a spray bottle, and add some of your favorite essential oils to the mix for a fragrance.
Use this to spray your couches, carpets, rugs, pillows, and more.
8. Kills Mold
Mold is dangerous for your health, especially if you have a toxic black mold. Even basic mold can make you feel sick in your own home.
To kick mold, make a paste with borax and water to start the process. Place the paste on the molded area and let it dry. Then, when it dries totally, it will flake off in powder. Sweep up the powder and rinse off the rest of the paste.
9. Nourish Fruit Trees
To keep your fruit trees healthy, try adding borax to the soil around your fruit trees. Mineral boron spread around the base of mature fruit trees can help to enhance growth and seed development.
10. Carpet Deodorizer
Borax is a fantastic carpet deodorizer as well. Those shakers of carpet deodorizers in the store are full of chemicals that you don’t want around your kids.
Mix 1 part Borax with 1 part baking soda, and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Sprinkle over your carpet, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Vacuum it off of your rugs.
The measurements will be different for everyone. If you don’t have a lot of carpets or just a rug or two, a ¼ cup of each should be sufficient.
11. Homemade Dish Soap
Dish soap can be expensive, so why not consider making your own? The ingredients are cheap, and handmade dish soap works just as well to get your dishes clean.
One of the most basic dish soap recipes is one tablespoon of finely grated soap, 2 cups boiling water, and one tablespoon of Borax. Cool before you use it.
12. Scrub Pots and Pans
Do you have something stuck on your pots and pans? Or, are you looking for a cleaner that won’t destroy your aluminum or porcelain pots? If so, borax is the answer. Just sprinkle a bit of the borax into the pots and pans and scrub with a damp washcloth. Then, rinse as usual.
13. DIY Floor Cleaner
Another way that you can use borax is by making a floor cleaner with it. It’s an inexpensive, effective homemade floor cleaner. All you have to do is mix a ¼ cup of Borax with ½ cup of vinegar in a bucket of hot water. Add in a squirt of liquid dish soap, and you’re ready to start mopping the floor.
14. Freshen Your Fridge
If you have a sticky spill and mess inside your refrigerator or freezer, try mixing one tablespoon of borax with one quart of warm water. It’s a simple, yet effective, solution that works great, plus it even helps to deodorize your fridge as well as get the messes up.
15. Make an All-Purpose Cleaning Spray
To make a cleaning spray, mix two tablespoons of borax, two tablespoons of white vinegar, a squirt or two of liquid dish soap, and two cups of hot water into a spray bottle. It’s a great cleaning spray for messes throughout the day.
16. Clean Your Kitchen and Bathroom
You can use borax to clean sinks, tubs, and other surfaces because it won’t scratch the finish. All you have to do is sprinkle borax on a damp cloth or sponge, plus you can sprinkle over stains before scrubbing and rinsing.
17. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
All you need to do is put one to two cups of borax into the toilet bowl and leave it to sit overnight. The next day, scrub whatever is leftover, and you’ll see amazing results. Your toilet will shine like a new penny.
18. Window Washer
As you probably can tell by now, there isn’t much that borax can’t clean, including windows. Mix two tablespoons of borax with three cups of water. Wipe down the windows with a rag that is dipped in the borax mixture. Then, do this again with equal parts vinegar and water. Finally, dry the window.
19. Removes Sticky Adhesive
Have you ever had some sticky adhesive that you couldn’t remove no matter how hard you tried? Borax is your new best friend. Just mix a 2:1 ratio of borax and water. Spread it over the adhesive. It will remove any sticky mess that you have on your hands.
20. Freshen Your Humidifier
If you don’t clean your humidifier often enough, it can develop a nasty odor over time, and who wants to deal with that? Not you!
Instead, add one tablespoon of borax per gallon of water inside of your humidifier. Let it sit until you’re ready to use it again. Empty it, and fill it with fresh water.
21. Kill Fleas
Dealing with fleas is one of the most frustrating pests to deal with, and animals around the home increase the likelihood that you’ll find fleas in your home.
Sprinkle the borax on the carpets, pet bedding, and other areas where fleas could live or hatch. Let it sit for an hour then vacuum it thoroughly. Make sure you put all of the vacuumed material into a tied bag, so the fleas don’t escape back into your home. Then, dispose of it outside.
22. Fights Mice
Homesteaders often have mice problems; it comes with the territory – literally, but that doesn’t mean you have to like them or want them in your home.
So, if you spot a mouse in your house, sprinkle some borax along the walls where they typically travel. Mice hate how borax feels on their feet, so they’ll try to avoid that area in the first place.
23. Clean Outdoor Furniture
Outdoor furniture can be challenging to keep clean because it’s exposed to the elements. If you have kids, there’s a good chance your outdoor furniture is even messier, so it needs to be cleaned.
Make a solution with one teaspoon of borax, one teaspoon of dish soap, and one quart of warm water. Mix this in a spray bottle, and spray down your outdoor furniture. Then, wipe the furniture clean with a damp cloth or rinse it with a hose.
24. Minimize Litter Box Odors
There isn’t anything much grosser than a litter box that stinks. Any indoor cat owner can tell you that it’s problematic even if you clean it daily and buy the fancy litter.
Just sprinkle a few tablespoons into the litter box and mix it. It will help stop odors from happening.
25. Clean Trash Cans
You can use borax to sanitize and deodorize indoor and outdoor trash cans. All you have to do is fill the bin with water, then add a half-cup or a cup of borax, which depends on the size of the container. Then, let the solution soak in the trash can for around an hour and then rinse it out thoroughly.
After, sprinkle some more borax on the bottom of the clean and dry trash can for odor protection.
26. Unclog a Stopped Drain
Borax can help to loosen up clogs in a kitchen or bathroom drain by pouring a half cup of borax and then two cups of boiling water into the drain. Then, it needs to sit untouched for about 20 minutes, then run warm water to dislodge the clog inside of your pipes.
27. Cleans Garbage Disposal
If you have a garbage disposal, it can be the source of some terrible odors if you don’t clean it. Never stick your hand into a garbage disposal. Hopefully, you’ve watched too many scary movies to understand why that’s just playing with fire.
To clean a garbage disposal, just put three tablespoons of Borax down into the drain and let it sit for an hour. Rinse the disposal out with warm water.
28. Get Rid of Old Tree Stumps
Do you have an old tree stump that needs to come out of the ground but you don’t want to pay to have it grinded? Borax can convince tree stumps that aren’t budging that it’s their time to go.
All you need to do is sprinkle a little Borax on the stump until you can tell that it’s dead. Then, you should be able to push it over with a tractor. It takes some time, but it’ll save you hundreds of dollars.
29. Deodorize Mattresses
Mattresses hold onto unpleasant odors forever, especially urine. It feels like it’s impossible to get scents out of beds.
To use borax to deodorize mattresses, moisten the mattress surface where the odor starts, and then rub in the borax with a damp rag. Then, the mattress needs to completely dry before using a vacuum to remove the dried powder.
30. Rust Remover
What homestead doesn’t have a bit of rust? Borax is a powerful agent to remove rust, so you can make your farm tools look bright and new when scrubbing with borax.
Mix borax with warm water and lemon juice to create a paste. Then, apply the paste to the rusted area. Wipe or rinse clean.
Another option is to dissolve one cup of borax powder and two cups of white vinegar in a gallon of hot water. You can use this solution to scrub rusty tools and disinfect garden tools, livestock water tanks, and playground equipment.
31. Preserve Fresh Flowers
If you want to preserve fresh flowers for whatever reason, you can use borax to do so. Mix one part borax to two parts cornmeal and fill a box with half of the mixture. Then, put the flowers on top of the powder and cover it with the remaining powder mixture.
Close up the box and leave it in a cool and dry place for 7-10 days. Then, take out the flowers and use a paintbrush to brush off the mixture. You can use the mixture again if you remove any leaves or petals.
32. Take Care of Your Pool
Having a pool sounds lovely, and on hot days, it feels great to float in your backyard without noise. At the same time, pools are a lot of work, and you have to be committed to taking care of them.
Borax can make pool maintenance a bit easier. It can help to raise or maintain your pool PH levels.
33. Put Out a Grease Fire
Keeping borax in your kitchen can be helpful if you have a grease fire. If one unexpectedly flares up, toss a little borax on it to put it out.
34. Fire Retardant
Borax could be used to make a DIY fire retardant, but remember, that should only be done if you are in a survival scenario. Don’t rely on a homemade fire retardant for emergencies.
So, to make this, mix seven ounces of borax with three ounces of boric acid and two quarts of warm water. Then, dip fabrics into this solution or spray them thoroughly. Make sure they’re soaked and leave the clothing to dry.
35. Clean Hair Utensils
If you use the same comb or brush each day, those items need to be cleaned too, but it’s so easy to forget about them.
Take a ¼ cup of borax and a tablespoon of Dawn dish liquid (or any liquid dish soap for that matter), and put them in the sink with warm water. Run your hair utensils through the mixture, and let them soak. Rinse and let dry.
36. Make Crafts
Do you have children? If so, you can use borax to make your homemade slime or homemade bouncy balls. Kids love these simple crafts. They’re perfect for play dates or parties as well!
37. Dishwasher Booster
If you have a dishwasher and want to get the dishes cleaner, using borax can be a booster. Sprinkle 1-2 cups of borax into the basin of the dishwasher. Run it as usual. You’ll find the dishes and dishwasher cleaner than usual.
38. Clean Out The Dishwasher
Is your dishwasher acting up and leaving pieces of food on the plates? Are you finding stains or cloudy glassware? If so, it’s probably a sign that your dishwasher is crying out for a good cleaning, and you can use borax to get the job done.
First, sprinkle copious amounts of borax on the inside door and the bottom of the dishwasher. Scrub with a wet brush. Now, put in a new load of glassware, silverware, and dishes, just like you would normally.
It’s that simple. You’ll notice a difference quickly. For even better results, add a ½ cup of borax to each dishwasher load.
39. Clean Porcelain Sinks
You know by now that borax has some serious cleaning power. But you don’t need to limit its bathroom uses to just a toilet bowl cleaner! It also works wonders on porcelain sinks.
Mix it up with a cup of warm water and pour it into your sink. It will get rid of mold, mildew, and stains without doing damage to your sink.
40. Clean Stainless Steel
No matter what kind of stainless steel fixtures you’re trying to get clean, borax is the way to go. It is excellent for cleaning stainless steel surfaces like refrigerators, faucets, and more.
Keep Borax on Hand
As you can see, borax is a useful and cheap household product to keep on hand. It’s versatile, and you can find so many ways to use it. For the price, you have no reason not to put a few boxes of borax in your homesteading cabinet.
What is your favorite way to use borax on the homestead? Are there any more you can add? Leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to pin this on Pinterest too!
Despite its widespread use in many everyday items, borax has been deemed highly toxic when ingested by humans. Depending on the amount of intake, borax is potentially fatal and care should be taken to ensure that it stays out of reach of children and pets.
Experts disagree on whether or not such a mixture is safe — while some argue that it is safe in very small quantities, others do not recommend mixing the two at all. In general, most people agree that mixing borax and vinegar is safe and effective.
In the early 19th century, borax quickly rose to become a household staple; its many uses as a cleaning agent and preservative made it a necessity in many kitchens. However, by the end of that century, borax had become much less popular due to the rise of other cleaning solutions.
Bethany is a mom of three living on a suburban homestead in Eastern Ohio. She’s an avid gardener and advocates living a frugal lifestyle.