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Borax (Sodium Borate)

Today's Chemical:

Sodium Borate (Borax)

EWG Risk Score:


What is it?

Sodium Borate is a mineral salt that's used as an emulsifier, pH adjuster, and slight saponifier. 

Safety Info:

  • One study of fruit flies showed decreased fertility, lifespan, and reproduction in flies fed small amounts of borax.  However, this study of mining workers who were exposed to borax daily showed no decrease in fertility.  From the studies available, it does not appear to be a human reproductive toxin.  
  • As with most powders, sodium borate can irritate lungs. However, a study of mine workers exposed to sodium borate dust found no long-term effects of exposure.
  • Borax, when ingested in moderate amounts can be toxic.  Moderate doses can impair immune function.  (Source.)
  • Minute amounts of borax have been found to be absorbed through the skin.  (Source.)
  • One interesting study found that DNA mutations caused by Titanium dioxide were significantly reduced by the presence of Sodium Borate. 

Steph's Opinion:

While borax can be a lung irritant while in powder form, and a skin irritant on sensitive skin, and an ingredient one would avoid ingesting, there appears to be no long-term health effects from small exposures, such as would be in a lotion or cream or laundry detergent.

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Reader Comments (30)

I use borax along with washing soda when I do laundry because I have very hard water. Seems to work really well, and after reading your take on it, I'll keep using it!

Mon, September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErica

Do you think it would be safe to use if I were using it as a laundry detergent?

Tue, September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJazz

I think the most important thing is to never ingest it. I had a doctor who had me taking it and I got SO SICK. All it does on the skin is just raise it to a high alkalinity. And your skin is naturally acidic.

Wed, September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Bradford

Borax is also found in Ant Baits. It's mixed with sugar, to attract them.

Tue, December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I am shocked by some of the light slaps many of these chemicals are getting in this blog. Borax safe enough to use on skin? Are you kidding me? Borax is used to kill roaches. ROACHES. Roaches who survive nuclear fall out. I find this blog to be suspiciously kind to this list of dangerous chemicals, grossly lacking in comprehensive facts, ill informed and opinioned and it lowers my previous sterling opinion of Bubble and Bee to sponsor such misinformation.


Fri, January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

Hi Wendy,
I'm sorry to hear your disappointment! I based my assessment on available studies and data..but perhaps there's something I missed? I'm always open to feedback and information. Do you have any links to other toxicity studies that I should consider? I'm always looking to improve the information that I make available. Were there other articles you were in disagreement with? I'm happy to consider your input.

Both of the studies above state that borax is not a health risk from dermal exposure. Is there something I'm missing?

Fri, January 7, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

The lady, Wendy, who chose to vilify you should check her facts. Boric Acid (Boracic Acid) is the ingredient that kills roaches. Borax (Sodium Borate) is a completely different product. She is "grossly lacking in comprehensive facts". What a shame to be so incendiary to someone who is trying to help us comprehend truth in labeling. Thank you, Stephanie, for being much kinder than I in your response to her. Also, thank you for your lovely products.

Wed, January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

I'm scared to be using this when doing the laundry. It was mentioned that it is not good for the lungs, but has no long-term effects to the body. I'm kinda confused. I bet the safest way still is to avoid using it now that I knew all about this chemical.

James Tan

Wed, March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Tan

Stephanie what do yo think about this article:

Mon, August 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

@Paz--She states that "Men working in boric acid-producing factories have a greater risk of decreased sperm count and libido." However she doesn't cite her source for this supposition. My article, on the other hand, cites a direct study that found that exposure in factory workers had no effect on fertility.

"Borax is a pesticide that poisons insects, fungus and weeds." While this is true, it does not appear to be a human toxin. And actually, because of its low toxicity, it's allowed to control pests in the buildings of organic processing facilities.

Wed, August 3, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thank you so much Stephanie!! You always have a great answer!! =)

Wed, August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

[Quote] "Borax is a pesticide that poisons insects, fungus and weeds." While this is true, it does not appear to be a human toxin.[End Quote]

I wish people could stop 'freaking out' about things used to kill insects and fungus and weeds long enough to think it through. VINEGAR is also used to kill weeds. Hot water and steam can also kill weeds and that doesn't mean vinegar and hot water are always dangerous to humans. Indeed, vinegar can be dangerous... I'm going to advise people not to wash out their eyes with it... and hot water and steam can sure as heck burn the skin right off a human, but that doesn't mean they aren't safe for humans when used properly.

People NEED to pause and think some things through before they freak out. Everything can be harmful when used incorrectly (even water)... what we should be freaking out about are the kinds of chemicals that are actually harmful but used in products anyway and excuses made for that.

Some substances that are safe for humans (when used correctly) will be lethal to insects. We need to look at the whole of the information before we freak out.

Thank you for your hard work here Stephanie. One of the things I truly appreciate about you is that you do always cite the sources for your answers. I find that admirable and it's why I trust your answers.

Tue, October 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

I have researched borax for many,many, years and have developed a unique skincare product with a form of borax and it works wonders.No problems whatsover.
There are natural elements that kill insects because of their systems which are not the same as human beings,but are NOT harmful to humans so wrong extrapolated thinking there.
borax is usualy encapsulted as it were in creams or lotions and this buffering effect assures it is slowly released.Many nautral ingredients if allowed straight on skin can irritate it,but in a lotion it works great.
The article was well researched and I back the author here.It is science not emotional responses that governs ingredients for skin.

Tue, January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDr.H.Davis

So glad I found this site. I bought Borax from Walmart to make 'silly putty' with my kids. My husband commented that it's toxic because I also bought ant traps that contain it.
I guess my husband mistook my silly putty experiment with the kids as being the same as ant trapping. I told him I'd make sure my kids didn't eat the goo :) or worse, get trapped in it!

Wed, May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

Just because it kills roaches doesn't mean it's toxic to human beings. If that's the case you shouldn't eat salt because it kills slugs.

Tue, August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

the LD50 for borax is the same as table salt. in-fact there is a school of thought that says it(boron) is actually a required micro nutrient and most Americans are deficient in it.

if you wish to know why so many main stream sites and parenting sites cry toxic look no further than its effectiveness at treating arthritis and its price tag for a box at walmart ($2.00) compared to the cost of big pharms drugs. it has also been shown to balance hormone levels and help the body eliminate excess fluoride.

I drink 1/8th teaspoon of 20 mules in a lt of water every other day and have noticed many positive changes in my mood and energy levels. you can buy boron supplements but even though 20 mules says not for drug use you will find that the purity level of the supplement and 20 mules are the same. 20mules states no additives so there is no reason to spend 10x more for something that is the same purity but is labeled supplement. if law didnt enforce purity it would be different but if you look into this you will find i am not making this up.

to call this stuff at all toxic at levels 1st worlders are exposed to is a joke at best and propaganda at worse.

Mon, December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I use borax on my carpet to kill fleas. I sprinkle borax all over my carpet and then sweep it into the fibers of the carpet. When swept in, it disappears and can't be seen. I read somewhere that it kills fleas, and it works! I have used this for years. Sometimes after vacuuming it needs to be reapplied.

Mon, April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

@ john... spot on. pharmaceuticals pushing for sales. natural elements made out to be toxic, like iodine, hydrogen peroxide and borax. Vital elements that our bodies need to detoxify all the unnatural products absorbed daily and general well being. Not to mention cures for cancer , arthritis, dementia etc. cancer research my eye! The solutions are there for any who dare!!

Mon, August 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterzainub

I agree there are many substances used in medications that are poisons but administered in adequate quantities is the key. I also have been consuming 1/8 teaspoon in one liter of water and have seen positive results in mental clarity, joints feel better and my constant stuffy nose is finally cleared after a decade of suffering from allergies. My allergy pills were more toxic than my borax . Thanks for the info.

Thu, September 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos (civil engineer)

Very enlightening, I had never heard of taking Borax internally,but now may just give it a try. I have a daughter that suffers with allergies,that may just benefit as well. I will be sure to pass this information on to her. I also applaud the way Stephanie handled this interchange and the way others here did their own due diligence and supported her findings. Education is by far the most valuable tool and that is why this sight is such a rich resource for those who choose to increase their understanding of the very products they use. Thank you for being here.

Fri, October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTirshatha

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