Can You Use Borax And Vinegar Together? (Find Out Now!)
Green cleaning products are all the rage. But how safe (and effective) are these so-called green products? Some still feature harmful chemicals or are far less effective than their traditional counterparts.
Borax and vinegar are two naturally derived grime-fighting powerhouses. Individually, they are strong cleaning agents in their own right. Together, borax and vinegar can tackle some of the toughest household messes in the laundry, kitchen, and bathroom.
While these cleaning agents should still be used responsibly, they create no harmful fumes and are kinder to the earth. Additionally, they’re also better for your wallet. Therefore, making your own cleaning solutions is a very cost-efficient way to keep a tidy home on a budget.
The Power of Vinegar
We already know and love vinegar in our cooking. This ubiquitous liquid gives us pickles, is a key ingredient in salad dressing, and even turns milk into buttermilk quickly. But, where else can it help in your home?
Vinegar in the Home
As a cleaning product, white vinegar is effective at combating mold and cleaning a variety of surfaces. In a Consumer Reports study of household cleaners, a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water tested higher than commercial sprays. It’s especially good at leaving a streak-free finish.
In the laundry, you can use vinegar to get rid of strong odors like cigarette smoke or mildew. A cup of vinegar at the beginning of the wash cycle will take care of that. You can also add a half-cup of vinegar to the laundry in the rinse cycle as a fabric softener.
To remove mold, a swipe of undiluted vinegar will remediate growth on wood and non-porous surfaces. However, you should avoid mixing vinegar and water for this purpose because mold feeds on water. Introducing more moisture to the affected area will only fuel the growth of more mold spores.
Some people even use vinegar in conjunction with castile soap or other natural soaps for cleaning. For best results, clean with the soap first and follow up with a swipe of diluted vinegar solutions. Mixing the two together can make the soap less effective.
What Is Borax?
Borax is made from boron, a naturally occurring element in the earth. People traded borax on the Silk Road for 500 years before it was discovered in California.
It became popular in the United States in the 1880s. (Fun fact: to this day, the largest boron mine is in Boron, California.)
20 Mule Team Borax is made from one of the many forms of sodium borate, specifically sodium tetraborate. It’s widely available throughout the United States at grocery and big-box stores in the laundry aisle. It’s also been used in a wide range of commercial applications.
Borax is a key ingredient in glazing for fiberglass used in cars, planes, boats, and even the space shuttle. People also use it in the creation of glass, particularly stained glass. In ceramics and porcelain, it can help maintain a pristine white color.
Other uses include flame retardants for cotton-based textiles and cosmetics. So, with commercial uses this varied, what’s it doing in your house?
Borax in the Home
Many people throughout the US use borax as a cleaning agent in their home. It’s great as a laundry booster alongside your favorite detergent. For example, a half-cup in your washer helps to fight stains, disinfect laundry, and remove odors.
In its powdered form, some people use borax to kill cockroaches. For most other uses, it’s most effective when dissolved in warm water. For example, restore dishes to their original cleanliness by soaking them in a warm water mixture for 30 minutes.
Borax and Vinegar Together
There is a myriad of ways to combine borax and vinegar in your home. They make a great team in the laundry, kitchen, bathroom, and beyond. The proportions of each formula are designed to fight a specific type of household grime.
- ½ cup borax
- Warm water
- ½ cup vinegar
For this formulation, use undiluted vinegar and borax dissolved in hot water. Stir ½ cup borax into warm water before adding ½ cup vinegar into the mix. Use this mixture to scrub hard-to-remove mildew spots in your shower and bathroom.
General Household Cleaner
- 1-quart warm water
- 1 tsp liquid soap
- 1 tsp borax
- ¼ cup white vinegar
Mix the ingredients together in a large bucket and pour the concoction into a spray bottle. This makes a great all-purpose household cleaner for the bathroom and kitchen. Keep the spray bottle handy (but in a safe place) until the next time you need it.
- 1 cup borax
- ¼ cup vinegar
This formulation makes a paste. Apply it to the inside of your toilet using a scrub brush. Let it sit for at least an hour, then come back and scrub the mess away.
- ¼ cup borax
- ¼ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup salt
This combination is excellent for removing stains from carpet. Apply it to the affected area and let it sit until dry, then vacuum up the excess. Always do a spot test in an inconspicuous location first to make sure the dye won’t run!
Are there any downsides to cleaning with borax and vinegar?
Many people report that homemade cleaning solutions like these often require a bit more elbow grease. Because these compounds lack the harsher chemicals of traditional cleaning products, they may work a bit slower on big messes.
The smell of vinegar can be quite strong and unpleasant– some people react to it differently than others. It can dry out your skin if you use it for an extended period without gloves on.
And it’s not for every surface: vinegar can damage marble, so use it with caution around marble objects. Always be careful to spot-test a cleaning solution before applying it to a whole area. Be careful what chemicals and solutions you introduce to porous materials like wood and marble.
Is borax harmful?
Some people believe that borax can be harmful to humans. In fact, the European Union and the United Kingdom banned borax.Though it’s not a known carcinogen, studies show that long-term exposure to boron and boric acid can damage your health. People who worked in boron mines and had daily, sustained exposure to the mineral showed these negative impacts. Household use isn’t sustained enough to cause this type of harm.Borax can be an irritant to sensitive skin, and contact should be avoided with eyes, nose, and mouth. Wear a mask and rubber gloves if you are concerned about inhaling it or feeling it on your skin. Due to its design, you should not use borax without diluting or mixing it with a solvent.Like so many cleaning products, borax’s biggest threat is that it’s harmful if ingested. As little as half a teaspoon of borax can be fatal to children. Therefore, be sure to keep borax and all household cleaners out of the reach of kids and pets.Ultimately, you need to use your best judgment and do your own research to decide if borax is safe for use in your home.
What is borax substitute?
Since the UK and EU outlawed borax, a substitute has become very popular. Its chemical name is sodium sesquicarbonate, and it looks and behaves much like borax itself.This substitute has many applications in cosmetics, including bath bombs and salts, deodorants, and hair care products. In addition, it also works as a water softener in swimming pools and water treatment plants.In the United States, this substitute is approved by the FDA as an anti-caking agent and acidity regulator. As a food additive, it only appears in small amounts in edible products.Given its wide use in products we put in and on our bodies, it’s generally considered safe to use sodium sesquicarbonate. Therefore, if you have concerns about the safety of borax, this substitute is a great option to use with peace of mind.
Ready, Set, Clean!
Borax and vinegar are two great tools for a clean, green home. Fighting smells and stains in the laundry or scum and scale in the bathroom are easier with these powerhouses.
As always, exercise caution with cleaning products to stay safe. Only you can decide your comfort level with certain products based on the best available information. Happy cleaning!
Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.
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