In the laundry detergent section of most grocery stores, you will notice an old-fashioned looking product with a wagon train on the label. First introduced to Americans in 1891, 20 Mule Team Borax is made in the U.S. by Henkel, a subsidiary of the Dial Corporation.
The distinctive image on the packaging and the product’s name come from the teams of 18 mules and two horses that pulled large wagons full of Borax out of Death Valley, California to the closest railroad tracks in the late 19th century.
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Made from the naturally occurring mineral boron, borax deserves a place in your home alongside other natural multi-purpose products such as baking soda and white vinegar. In fact, the product is so useful that you should consider stockpiling it for emergency purposes.
Before we get into its many uses, let’s clear up a common question about borax. Is it safe? The answer is the same as with most natural products: yes, if you use it responsibly. Also called sodium tetraborate and sodium borate, borax is a compound of boron, which is a mineral.
Borax is a white powder comprised of soft crystals that dissolve easily in water. Mined for centuries from evaporated lakes in Turkey (and more recently in California), borax is not identified as toxic. However, like many other natural substances (including baking soda, for example), it can cause mild skin irritation in some people, and it can be poisonous if ingested in large amounts.
Now that you know what borax is and what it isn’t, here are 25 uses for borax that will make you want to start stockpiling it:
1. Make Laundry Detergent – Used alone or as a booster to your current detergent, borax helps clean and deodorize clothes, towels, and bedding. It can help make colors brighter and whites whiter.
2. Clean Your Carpet – You can also use Borax to clean your carpets and help keep them smelling fresh by adding a half-cup of the powder to each gallon of water in your carpet cleaner. Pet owners especially will appreciate the deodorizing ability of borax.
3. Keep Pests Away – Borax is an inexpensive and effective way to deter insects and other creatures from your home. Try sprinkling equal parts of borax and sugar around suspected entryways for ants, roaches, termites, water bugs, and even mice.
4. Nourish Fruit Trees – By adding the mineral boron to the soil, borax can help keep your fruit trees healthy. Lightly spread a cup of borax around the base of your mature fruit trees every few years for enhanced growth and seed development.
5. Preserve Fresh-Cut Flowers – You can dry and preserve fresh-cut flowers naturally with a mixture of borax and cornmeal. Here’s a video showing the simple process.
6. Kill Weeds – You should keep borax away from your flower beds, but it is excellent for killing weeds that pop up in your driveway or on a walkway. Just sprinkle the powder directly on the unwanted plants.
7. Clean and Freshen Your Fridge – Get rid of sticky spills and messes inside your refrigerator or freezer by mixing one tablespoon of borax with one quart of warm water. This simple cleaning solution will also deodorize your fridge.
8. Dissolve Adhesive Residue – Mix two parts borax with one part of water and apply to sticky adhesives. Rub the mixture until the residue dissolves and then wipe or rinse clean.
9. Clean Cookware – Similarly, you can dissolve grease and grime from your cookware by sprinkling borax on your porcelain and aluminum pots and pans. Rub in the borax and then rinse well. It also works great on crockpots.
10. Clean Car Mats – Car mats take a beating, but a solution of borax and water can get them looking and smelling clean again.
11. Remove Rust – Mix enough borax with warm water and lemon juice to create a paste. Apply the paste to the rusted area, rub, and then wipe or rinse clean.
12. Kill Fleas – Sprinkle borax on carpets, pet bedding, and other areas where fleas are living and hatching. Let the powder sit for an hour before vacuuming thoroughly. Dispose of vacuumed material in a tied bag and place it in an outside trash bin.
13. Clean and Deodorize Your Humidifier – Dissolve a half cup of borax in one gallon of water and pour it into the humidifier tank. Run the machine for about 15 minutes. Pour out the tank water and then rinse the tank well with clean water.
14. Clean Your Kitchen and Bathroom – You can use borax as you would other powdered cleansers to clean sinks, tubs, and other surfaces without scratching the finish. Simply sprinkle borax on a damp cloth or sponge, or you can sprinkle it directly on stains before scrubbing and rinsing.
For stubborn stains in stainless steel or porcelain sinks, try making a paste of one cup borax and one-fourth cup of lemon juice. Work the paste into the stain before rinsing with warm water.
15. Clean Your Toilet – Replace toxic toilet bowl cleaners with a homemade solution of borax and white vinegar.
16. Deodorize and Sanitize Drains and Garbage Disposal – Place three tablespoons of borax directly into the drain. Let it sit for an hour before rinsing well with warm water.
17. Unclog a Sluggish or Stopped Drain – You can loosen clogs in a kitchen or bathroom drain by pouring a half cup of borax followed by two cups of boiling water into the drain. Let the drain sit untouched for about 20 minutes. Then run warm water to dislodge the loosened clogs.
18. Clean Trash Cans – Use borax to sanitize and deodorize both indoor and outdoor trash cans. Fill the bin with water and add a half-cup or a cup of borax (depending on the size of the bin). Let the solution soak for an hour and then rinse well. For added odor protection, sprinkle more borax in the bottom of the clean, dry can.
19. Clean Outdoor Furniture – Make a gentle solution of one teaspoon borax, one teaspoon dish soap, and one quart of warm water. Use it in a spray bottle to clean your outdoor furniture. Then wipe your furniture clean with a damp cloth or rinse well with a hose.
20. Deodorize Mattresses – Did you know you can safely remove unpleasant odors from mattresses with borax? First, moisten the mattress surface where the odor originates, then rub in borax with a damp rag. Allow the mattress to completely dry before using your vacuum to remove the remaining dried powder.
21. Make an All-Purpose Cleaning Spray – Mix two tablespoons of borax and two tablespoons of white vinegar and a squirt or two of liquid dish soap with two cups of hot water in a 16-ounce spray bottle. This solution is great for cleaning up everyday messes.
22. Whiten Yellowed Pillows – It’s almost impossible to keep bed pillows from developing a yellowish hue as they absorb natural oils and drool as we sleep. Here are directions for whitening yellow pillows and linens with borax.
23. Raise Pool Ph – You can replace expensive pool chemicals with borax to increase the Ph of your swimming pool water. Here’s how to do it.
24. Remove Wall Stains and Fingerprints – Use a borax and water paste to remove crayon, pencil, and other unwanted marks from your walls. Try an out-of-the-way test spot first to make sure it doesn’t harm your paint or wallpaper.
25. Revive Old China – You can safely renew colors of old china dishes with borax. Here’s how. Soak the plates and cups in a sink filled with warm water and a half cup of borax for at least a half hour. Then rinse well with clean, warm water.
Bonus Reason: Make Homemade “Slime”. Here’s a recipe for some fun with the kids and grandkids. All you need are two bowls, water, food coloring, a bottle of white “school” glue, and borax.
First, mix four ounces of the glue with a half-cup water and a few drops of food coloring in one of the bowls. In a separate bowl, stir together one teaspoon of borax with one cup of warm water until dissolved. Then, pour the glue mixture into the borax solution and stir.
As the “slime” begins to form, pour away any excess water and knead the slime to the desired consistency. Repeat the process for other colors. Store your slime in air-tight containers.
According to the 20 Mule Team Borax website, the first 20 mule teams hauled borax a grueling 165 miles through Death Valley. A fully-load rig included a 1,200-gallon water tank and weighed 36.5 tons. Railway expansion ended these animal-drawn wagon trains, but their image lives on as the trademark for 20 Mule Team.
The brand became a household name in the 20th century when the company sponsored the radio program “Death Valley Days,” which eventually became a TV show that starred Ronald Reagan.
Today, in addition to its familiar packaging and its place on supermarket shelves, borax is mined for use in soap, fertilizers and even cell-phone glass.
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