How to Kill Bugs With Borax

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on January 11, 2023
5 min read

If you're looking for a way to get rid of bugs in your home, you may have come across borax as a solution. Borax is a pesticide registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and used in the U.S. Borax is also known as boric acid and is a compound of boron. You can find naturally occurring borax in fruits, vegetables, and drinking water. But natural boric acid sources differ from the compound used as a pesticide.

If you have children, you may be familiar with borax, the active ingredient in some homemade slime recipes. It's also found in various standard consumer products.  

Since borax is sold as a pesticide, it goes through a vetting process by the EPA. Based on studies done by the EPA, borax doesn't pose a serious risk to people or the environment.

Borax as a pesticide can be used in agriculture but is also used in other contexts: 

  • Residential 
  • Commercial
  • Medical
  • Veterinary
  • Industrial

Borax powder is boric acid and sodium borate salts that act as a pesticide. Borax powder's effectiveness comes from the amount of boron it contains. The level of boron in the pesticide also dictates how toxic it is.

Borax powder helps kill insects, spiders, and mites. It's even used as a fungicide and helps control mold, fungi, and weeds.

This type of pesticide has been around for quite a while. First registered in the U.S. in 1948, over 189 pesticide products have boric acid or one of its sodium salts in them today. Over time, many studies have examined the impact of boric acid on people, animals, and the environment.

Borax powder is considered a natural product and has even been suggested for use around your home. Borax comes in different forms, so you must be careful about handling these various forms. Also, determine if they're correct for what you want to use them for. The most common form of borax is powder form.

But borax powder can be a skin and eye irritant or get inhaled when airborne. Long-term studies of borax have found that it could be related to reproductive issues. Some studies on mice have shown that it disrupts the endocrine system, and long-term exposure can impact fertility.

If you accidentally consume borax, you might notice symptoms like: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea

If you have borax poisoning, your diarrhea and vomit might be blue or greenish. If you breathe in borax, you might notice a dry mouth, nose, or throat. Coughing, shortness of breath, and nosebleeds are also associated with inhaling borax.

The EPA has found that boric acid is not a carcinogen, and there's no evidence indicating that borax can cause cancer. 

Boric acid's toxicity has acute effects. Since it's mostly a face, mouth, and eye irritant, it's not considered poisonous. It's generally safe to use for recommended purposes.

Boric acid kills insects when they eat it. It works by messing with their stomachs and affecting their nervous system. Borax is also able to damage the outside of the insects.

Borax powder works as a fungicide by drying out and stopping mold growth. Boric acid and borax also kill plants by drying them out. Other borate-derived salts can kill plants by stopping them from producing the energy they need to survive.

Some of the insects that borax kills include ants, flies, and other insect larvae. Borax is an ant poison, and it controls flies around manure piles. It also prevents larvae from growing. 

The main insect borax kills are termites. Borax kills termites in a few ways. It is an insecticide and kills them on contact. It also makes treated material unappealing for termites to eat. Borax is also a digestive poison and repellent that keeps termites away. 

Depending on the level of borate concentrate, the pesticide can poison the termite over an extended period. Higher doses of borates can be a long-lasting antifeedant that deters termites from feeding.

In addition to being a pesticide, borax powder is a great herbicide. The boric acid disrupts photosynthesis and suppresses plant growth and algae growth. This is useful for swimming pools and sewage systems that need algal growth management.

As stated above, borax is also a fungicide and helps preserve wood by controlling fungi that decay the wood. This is great for lumber and timber products. 

Beyond being a pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide, you'll also find borax in other consumer products. A few are listed below: 

  • Auto products
  • Home maintenance 
  • Beauty products
  • Pet care

Borax is also used as a cooling agent, anti-freezing agent, adhesive, and even building material. Boric acid is a versatile compound that appears in many forms and is used in many ways.

Acid is naturally occurring. You can find it in soil, water, and plants. Boric acid moves through the ground, and that's how you'll find it in plants, vegetables, and fruits. Boric acid is nontoxic to birds and slightly toxic to freshwater fish when it occurs naturally. Boric acid doesn't affect the environment in waterways. It's nontoxic to frogs, toads, and even bees. 

But the boric acid and borax that you handle as a pesticide or in certain forms need to be handled with care to avoid eye and skin irritation.

Before handling any pesticide, look at the label and determine what protective equipment you must wear. When using borax as a pesticide, you should take the following precautions: 

  • Wear a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, shoes, and socks.
  • Use approved chemical protective eyewear.
  • Wear waterproof gloves, like nitrile gloves, not cotton or leather.

It's also always safe to keep an emergency eyewash bottle nearby just in case the borax gets in your eyes.

Make sure you're using borax in a well-ventilated area. If you're using it inside, it's safe to open a window or turn on a fan. If you spill the borax on your clothes or skin, make sure you wash them immediately to reduce irritation possibilities.

Avoid inhaling dust, and vacuum around the area where you use the borax in case dust is settled on the ground.