Is Borax Toxic or Safe?

is borax toxic or safe_ juicygreenmom

Is Borax toxic or safe? This has been a topic of debate for the last few years now, without really clear cut answers. Many DIY cleaning products are made with Borax. However, Borax can be irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs, likely because it’s so alkaline. On EWG’s Skindeep Database, it has a score of 5-6, labeling it a moderate hazard depending on usage. So what’s the real deal?

David Suzuki’s Queen of Green used to have cleaning recipes with Borax as an ingredient, but with the caveat that it be “handled with respect” (i.e. don’t mix in the kitchen, keep it away from food, and clearly label your cleaners containing Borax). In the Queen of Green coaching Facebook group, she recommends relying on it less and less.

Ecoholic Adria Vasil explains that the European Union originally stated that boric acid/Borax were reproductive toxins at high levels in 2010, and was then placed on a list of potential hormone disruptors (Substances for Very High Concern). Basically this meant that it is not known for sure to be a hormone disruptor, but that more research is needed to investigate whether it is or not. Now, though:

“However, the European Commission has since labelled boric acid a category 1 endocrine disruptor, which means at least one study in living organisms has found it messes with hormones in some way, and it is prioritized for further study.” (Ecoholic column)

Also, in Europe “[Borax has to] come with the warning ‘May damage fertility. May damage the unborn child.'” (Ecoholic column)

EWG’s article comes out and says outright that Borax is “not the green alternative it’s cracked up to be”. There are no regulations for requiring warning labels for Borax in Canada or the US. However if you are erring on the side of caution, it may be better to phase Borax out of your DIY cleaners. I’ve decided myself not to use it anymore. For some other DIY green cleaning recipes, check out my post here.

Another place to look for Borax is in playdough or silly putty recipes for kids to play with – read more from Healthy Child and their recommendations here.

Will you continue to use Borax?


18 Responses

  1. I used it a couple of years ago in homemade laundry detergent. I soon realized our jeans were becoming thin and actually tearing. Our expensive sheets were doing the same. I have never used it since and have no plans to. I do not believe it is a safe product.

  2. I’ve been using borax for years in my laundry mix without any wear or tear on our clothes and sheets. But I use it quite sparingly. I haven’t found a good recipe for detergent without borax – do you recommend any that is tried and true? πŸ™‚

  3. As someone with severe MCS/ES, most cleaning products are completely off-limits to me (causing disabling symptoms that can take hours to days to recover from, as well as leaving residues in my laundry that really aggravate Fibromyalgia).
    Borax is something I can use without having MCS or Fibromyalgia reactions to, although I do have to take some respiratory precautions and do use it in moderation, only when needed, not as a regular laundry booster.

      • Soap nuts are definitely a good option for everyday kinds of laundry.

        I don’t think they are strong enough for removing any new (ie formaldehyde) or daily life (2nd and 3rd hand fragrance) chemical residues from clothing, so something like a little borax with hydrogen peroxide would be better then.

        I have used the soap nuts occasionally, but I am not fond of the slight vinegary smell they have so have to use them only at times when I can open the windows (I don’t have a washer or dryer and have to do everything by hand).

        It’s definitely a challenge these days, with so many toxic chemicals allowed everywhere.

        • I hear you about the chemicals everywhere! They really are everywhere.
          I’ve never noticed a vinegary smell with my soapnuts – that is odd! And I do use vinegar in place of “fabric softener” but when my clothes dry, they no longer smell like vinegar. I wonder if there could be a brand difference?

          • I sensitized to non-organic vinegar. I found some organic vinegar I can use (sparingly) but in clothing I would still have to use some baking soda and many rinses to get the traces out!!!
            Remember that I have severe MCS/ES, and have to avoid all exposures to fragrances and many other everyday products and materials that emit VOCs and any environments they are found in (so I am housebound), and can therefore detect scents and chemicals most people have no idea exist.

          • Oh wow. I didn’t realize that vinegar could even be an irritant to you! πŸ™ I’m sorry. It’s like you have this incredible super power that actually makes it hard to live. πŸ™

          • In this world, my superpowers make life very challenging indeed…I have learned things no-one wants to learn…

            And these days, people can develop allergies or “sensitivities” to anything. Our bodies were not designed to have 24/7 exposure to pollutants, and they are starting to break down. Children are especially vulnerable.

            Pediatricians are telling pregnant women to avoid fragranced products and many other things those of us with superpowers have been warning about for years…

            Problem is, it’s impossible to avoid fragrance now. They have put some of those chemicals into almost everything, and as they are airborne, they migrate into everything else that is in the same environment. (like smoke)

            IFRA seems more powerful than the tobacco lobby was.

  4. I think that Borax is a great household product and it is much safer to use it as a cleaner than any toxic cleaning product. The important is to keep it in mind that it can be harmful and to avoid using it in the kitchen and to try not to inhale it. I live in England and here everybody knows that there are certain risk using Borax but many people are using it as a cleaner mostly. I believe that if you are aware of the negatives it is already safer. Thank you for sharing!

    • I agree with you that knowing to be careful with it definitely makes a difference – and it is most certainly a safer product than many conventional cleaners out there! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. This is very interesting statement. I know about many people that use Borax as a main ingredients to their cleaning receipts, and never heard them complaining. However, may be it is depend from the quantity and the way is used. I will share with them this post, in order to know about the problems that Borax can cause them!

    • Thanks for your comment Caroline. I agree, that if you treat it cautiously, it can certainly be an effective cleaning agent, and you may not cause yourself harm if you are careful. I just like to err on the side of caution.

  6. Borax is absolutly safe. In fact is safer than common salt; believe it or not.
    I take 3 g of borax in pure water three times a day & 500 mg of magnesium chloride (one pill or capsule). Both are excellent supplement for bones and joints. Believe it or not; there is nothing better. And that’s only one of many health benefits.

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