Is Borax Safe to Use for Natural Cleaning?

Many people today make their own household cleaning products, and really it's no wonder why. In fact, the frustration in making a choice between traditional toxic cleaners (not an option) or a somewhat "green" cleaner that really doesn't work very well is what brought Tim and Kevin to create Better Life in the first place. Many people are just like Tim and Kevin, and feel there is no choice but to make their own products or simply just like to whip up a batch on their own.

Unfortunately making your own cleaning products isn't the safest choice. There are several things you should consider when making your own products. These homemade cleaning products lack performance testing, safety testing and often are not safe for surfaces in your home. Additionally homemade cleaners are often mixed with commercial cleaners (like dish soap or borax) which may not be compatible and unsafe. These homemade products are unstable and need to be used immediately after making them otherwise they will spoil (grow bacteria, yeasts and mold). 

Speaking of borax we often get asked if it is safe. The answer is no. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral but it is not safe or eco-friendly.  Borax is also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. It is a boron compound and a salt of boric acid.

Borax is listed as a poison, pesticide, and an fungicide. It is poisonous, especially to young children. Even as little as a teaspoon could prove fatal if swallowed by a young child. For this reason it is not safe to use around children or on surfaces that come in contact with food.

The infant death rate from boric acid poisonings is high. However, boric acid poisoning is considerably rarer than in the past because the substance is no longer used as a disinfectant in nurseries. It is also no longer commonly used in medical preparations.

Studies by the EPA have linked it to reproductive problems, kidney and liver problems, nervous system issues, and it is a skin and lung irritant. The other big issue with borax is that it accumulates in your body. So, the more you use it the more toxic it becomes to your body. Chronic exposure is especially harmful in children.

And as far as eco-friendly, borate is an open-pit mined mineral and borax is toxic to aquatic life. 
Environmental Working Group senior scientist Rebecca Sutton wrote a great article here.

We are very proud at Better Life to offer a completely safe and natural solution. A responsible solution. Our formulas far exceed U.S. and European biodegradability standards. Our cleaning power comes directly from plants and therefore is completely safe for people, rivers, marine life, pets and the planet at large. It was no small task to create Better Life, a natural solution that actually works, but every day we're glad we did.
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Laura, I agree that Borax has some great uses. I use ant traps that have borax in them. It is a great pesticide, but I know many mothers who let their children use borax solutions because they think they are non toxic. While it may take a quart for an adult to suffer acute reactions, this is a substance that builds in our systems and can cause issues as stated in the EPA report I cited. And as I said in the comment above, the EU lists it as a Substance of Very High Concern. So, it’s not just me throwing out “scary ‘facts.’”

When we make home concoctions, I know I am not there measuring out things 5% to 95%. I might add a little powder and then some water and spray it on. That is why I added this caution. I know I am not alone in my haphazard methods.

Remember too, borates cover a large group of chemical compounds. So, while one borate may be recommended for health, that doesn’t mean the whole “family” is.


Hi there! Just wanted to put some info out there. Borax isn’t any MORE toxic than TABLE SALT. The median lethal dose of borax is about 3g/kg, meaning three grams per kilogram of weight. The median lethal dose of common potassium chloride, or common table salt, is about the same. Melamine, which is the big scary chemical involved with the tainted infant formula in China a year or so ago has an even larger median lethal dose, meaning that IT IS LESS TOXIC.
While I don’t condone using borax in products that are used for cosmetic use, I have used it in small amounts as ant and roach killer. I use it in my laundry, in my cleaning supplies and in my bath salt. In fact there is evidence to suggest that borate is a life essential mineral for humans.
It is an EXCELLENT pest/herbicide when used in a 5% solution in which water is used as the other 95%. For this solution to be toxic to a human a person, depending on weight, would have to drink roughly a QUART to have acute consequences.
So, before you throw out scary “facts” to deter people from using this substance, find out what EXACTLY you are dealing with. Thanks and have a nice day!


Just a question. I’ve been looking into this and found that borax is really not boric acid which is what the EPA used in their studies. Do you know anything more about this. Also, compared to the ingredients in “traditional” cleaners, where do you think borax would fall? the studies show huge amounts of boric acid affecting people, not teaspoons. I’m not getting any clean answers from EPA, EWG or others about these questions.


Hi Leslie!
While the EPA is remaining vague on Borax, Europe has been very clear.
According to the International Chemical Secretariat that includes: European Environmental Bureau
WWF European Policy Office
Friends of the Earth Europe
Greenpeace European Unit
The European Consumers’ Organisation
Women in Europe for a Common Future
Center for International Environmental Law
The Health and Environment Alliance

Borax is included on their “SIN List” The SIN list is a list of the most hazardous chemicals according to EU legislation
The SIN List contains substances that are identified as Substances of Very High Concern according to REACH.


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