What Is Borax?

Borax is widely used as a household cleaner and a booster for laundry detergent. It’s a combination of boron, sodium, and oxygen. It’s also known as sodium tetraborate.

Borax is often found in dry lake beds in places like California’s Death Valley, where the water evaporated and left behind deposits of minerals.

Household Uses

The best-known use for borax is as a cleaner, but it’s also an ingredient in many other household products, including:

Kids can mix borax and glue to make a putty-like “slime.”

Medical Research

Scientists have been studying whether boron and boron compounds might help your body fight conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis, but more research is needed to know if or how they might work.

Borax can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if you swallow it by itself, and large amounts can lead to shock and kidney failure. It's banned in U.S. food products. It also can irritate your skin and eyes, and it can hurt your nose, throat, and lungs if you breathe it in. If you're around it often, it can cause rashes and might affect male reproductive organs.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on June 19, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Library of Medicine, Toxicology Data Network: “Borax.”

National Park Service: “Mining in Death Valley.”

20 Mule Team Borax: “Laundry uses.”

National Pesticide Information Center: “Boric Acid.”

Boy’s Life: “How to Make Slime With Glue and Borax.”

Royal Society of Chemistry: “Boron.”

Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine: “Growing Evidence for Human Health Benefits of Boron.”

Journal of Trace Elements in Medical Biology: “In vivo and in vitro effects of boron and boronated compounds.”

Environmental Health Perspectives: “Essentiality of boron for healthy bones and joints.”

International Program on Chemical Safety: “Sodium borate.”

Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology: “The adjuvant use of calcium fructoborate and borax with etanercept in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Pilot study.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Osteoporosis Self-Care.”

FDA: “Food Additive Status List.”

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