How to Use Borax Around the House

By Amanda Lutz Updated January 30, 2024

Borax is one of the unsung heroes of the cleaning world. A natural compound also referred to as sodium tetraborate, this powerful cleaning agent can be used in nearly every room of your home. Our guide details its various uses, including removing stains and making your floors sparkle.

What Is Borax?

Borax is a chemical compound made largely of the element boron. First popularized in the 1800s, it’s an all-purpose cleaner best known for its ability to eliminate tough stains. Borax is alkaline, meaning that it’s excellent at breaking down grease and oil.

Borax is a soft, white, crystal powder that dissolves readily in boiling water and is widely available at most hardware and grocery stores. It lifts dirt and is highly effective at cleaning furniture. As powerful as borax is as a cleaning agent, however, it should be used with caution. Keep borax away from your eyes and ears as well as animals and children. Borax should also never be ingested.

Borax Uses in the Laundry Room

One of the best ways to use borax is as a laundry booster and stain remover. Borax serves as a water softener, making soap more effective at cleaning by allowing laundry detergent to dissolve better. To boost your laundry detergent, simply add about 1 tablespoon of borax.

You can also use borax as a presoak to deodorize and remove tough stains and odors instead of bleach. To do this, add 1/2 cup of borax for every gallon of water in the washer and let the affected clothing items soak in the borax solution for 30 minutes. For really tough stains, let them sit longer. Drain the solution, discard it, and wash your clothes as usual.

Borax can also be used to make laundry detergent. Combine 1/2 cup of borax, 1 cup of soap flakes, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1 cup of washing soda in a reusable, resealable container. For a standard load in the washing machine, use about 1/2 cup of the solution. Depending on how much laundry you do in a week, your homemade laundry detergent could last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Borax Uses as a Household Cleaner

Borax is a powerful household cleaner due to its ability to remove rust, dirt, and tough stains. It’s particularly effective at cleaning sinks, including those that have deep-set stains.

To clean sinks and countertops, make a paste of 1 cup of borax with 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Mix these ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Use a sponge or a cleaning cloth dipped in the solution to scrub away spots on stainless steel surfaces and porcelain sinks.

It’s normal for food waste to build up in kitchen garbage disposal drains, causing them to become smelly over time. Borax is a great way to clean and freshen kitchen drains. Add up to 3 tablespoons of borax directly to the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, turn on the disposal and run hot water for up to a minute. If you have a kitchen sink that’s slow to drain, unclog it by adding 1/2 cup of borax and 2 cups of hot water into the drain. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes, then flush it thoroughly with warm water.

Outdoor furniture gets exposed to the elements, but borax can be used to freshen it up. Shake up 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, 1 teaspoon of borax, and 1 quart of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly onto the outdoor furniture you wish to clean, and use a cloth to rub the stain or dirt away. Dry the furniture with a microfiber towel and repeat as necessary.

Borax Uses as a Bathroom Cleaner

The bathroom is one of the busiest rooms in the home and one that’s prone to germs and mildew. You can use borax as a bathroom cleaner to cut through tough dirt and reveal sparkling surfaces.

If you have some time, borax can be an effective toilet bowl cleaner. Just pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet bowl, and let it sit for about eight hours. After the time has passed, scrub the toilet bowl with a scrub brush. If you notice water spots on your bathroom fixtures, sprinkle a damp sponge with borax powder and gently rub fixtures to restore them to a sparkling condition.

Finally, borax is a great way to remove mildew and prevent future mold. Make your own mildew prevention spray by mixing 1/4 cup of borax per quart of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly on any mildew in the bathroom. Wait about 15 minutes, then use a soft-bristled nylon brush to scrub away the mildew. Rinse well and then ensure that the area is dry. If any areas are particularly prone to recurrent mildew, spray the same solution on those areas and allow it to air dry.

Borax Uses in the Dishwasher

The dishwasher is one of the hardest-working appliances in your home, but if you notice that dishes are coming out cloudy, it may be time to give it a thorough cleaning. Borax is a fantastic cleaning solution for your dishwasher. It can also boost the cleaning power of your dishwasher detergent.

Start by removing all of your dishwasher’s racks and sprinkle dry borax on the inside of the door and on the bottom of the appliance. Lightly scrub the inside with a soft-bristled brush and wipe it down. You can either run a cycle without dishes in it or fill it with dishes and run a regular cycle. Either way, your dishwasher will look far better after freshening it up.

Borax can also be used to boost your dishwashing detergent’s cleaning power. Simply sprinkle 1/2 cup of borax in the bottom of your dishwasher and load it with dirty dishes. Add your regular dishwasher detergent to the dispenser and start the cleaning cycle as you normally would. Your dishes should emerge sparkling clean and free of grease spots and grime.

Borax Uses as an Insecticide

Thanks to boric acid, borax works as a pesticide that can keep areas free from bug infestations. Cockroaches are a common pest that can quickly multiply and become a nuisance. If you’re having a roach issue, sprinkle borax in areas where you’ve seen them roam. Borax will poison and dehydrate roaches when they approach the area again.

Ants are another common pest, especially during the summer. To make an effective do-i-t-yourself (DIY) ant repellant, mix one part borax with three parts sugar. The sugar acts as bait, while the boric acid kills ants on contact. Sprinkle the mixture wherever you’ve seen ants in or around your home.

Bedbug and flea bites can be itchy and painful, leading to lost sleep and various hygiene concerns. You can use borax to fight bedbugs and fleas, killing them at the source. To repel them using borax, sprinkle it around the sides of mattresses, furniture cushions, or anywhere else you’ve seen bedbugs or fleas.

While borax is an effective pest control measure, it should be used with caution if children or pets are nearby. Always be sure that children or pets won’t be in the areas where you place borax, especially if it’s in a common area such as a kitchen floor or hallway.

Our Recommendation

Borax is an all-natural cleaner that can eliminate stains, lift dirt, and freshen sinks, garbage disposal drains, and toilet bowls. It’s also a fantastic product for removing stains from your laundry, especially when used as part of a homemade laundry detergent.
As with any household cleaning product, be cautious when using borax around children or pets. Never ingest borax, and keep it far away from your eyes, ears, and skin. If any irritation develops or you suspect that someone has ingested borax, contact a medical professional immediately.

Borax Uses FAQ

Why is borax no longer used?

While borax is no longer used as widely as in the past, it’s still an effective and popular cleaning product. Borax fell out of popularity as trendier cleaning supplies were introduced, but it’s still available nationwide, and many homeowners swear by it.

Can you mix borax and vinegar?

You can mix borax and vinegar to make an effective household cleaner perfect for cleaning sinks and countertops. Simply mix a paste of 1 cup of borax and 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar. Lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar in a pinch.

What should I not use borax on?

Borax is safe to use in most rooms in the house, but there are a few situations when you shouldn’t use it. Since it’s a skin irritant, avoid using borax directly on your skin or on clothes that you don’t plan to immediately wash. You should also avoid using borax directly on bedsheets or linens without washing them first. If you experience any skin irritation while using borax, discontinue use immediately and speak with a medical professional.

What are three uses of borax?

Borax has a plethora of uses, but three of the most popular are as a laundry detergent booster, toilet bowl cleaner, and household cleaner. Many homeowners also use borax to kill and deter pests or as a natural booster to remove tough dirt and grease stains on dishes.

Is borax safe to use around pets and children?

Borax is a powerful household cleaner that should be used with caution around pets and children. Make sure that children and pets won’t be in areas treated with borax and that they aren’t at risk of touching or ingesting the product in any way. If you suspect that a pet or a child has had contact with borax, contact a medical professional immediately.