Eat. Home. Live.

In depth ramblings about cooking, homekeeping, and whatever else I decide to write about.

Natural Cleaning-The Science Behind Borax

I know that many people feel like natural cleaning supplies aren’t as good. Some people may wonder if they even work at all. I decided that I would explore the science behind Borax and the reason it cleans so well so that people who are hesitant to use it can understand that it does work, and there is science to back it up. Borax really is a great cleaner, it is environmentally friendly, and very inexpensive (you only need 1/4 cup to clean a toilet.) I am going to explore other natural cleaning agents, along with the proper amounts to use, and what not to use them with in my series entitled “Natural Cleaning.”

First, let me Share a few basic facts about Borax. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral. It is odorless, white, non-flammable and non-reactive. It can be mixed with other cleaning agents, even with bleach.  It is slightly abrasive, and is used as a  multi-purpose cleaner, and disinfectant.

Borax’s cleaning power comes from several things. First, it converts some water molecules to hydrogen peroxide which is a natural disinfectant and whitening agent. This reaction is occurs more efficiently in hot water. It also has a high pH, which makes it basic. This quality allows it to enhance the cleaning power of bleach and other cleaners (hence its use as a laundry booster.) This is also the quality that helps it to “soften” the water. Several ingredients in Borax kill germs by inhibiting their metabolic processes. It basically shuts them down so they can’t work anymore. This action also makes it toxic to people (as the right amounts of any germ killing agent would be.) It specifically can cause liver cancer if consumed in high doses over a number of years.

What does all of this mean? This means that it cleans,  mildly disinfects, and deodorizes. According to  Purdue University, it is more effective at removing soil than bleach cleaners. What this means is that you will have to do less work when removing dirt than you would with many other cleaners (only pine cleaners were rated higher.) It was, however, much less effective at killing than germs than bleach and vinegar (vinegar was rated as one of the most effective.) I don’t generally consider this a problem in toilet cleaning because I don’t put my hands in the toilet, and the toilet is cleaner than many may think due to it being flushed with water so frequently. If you are worried about germs, I would focus on disinfecting the toilet seat and other area that the body touches with vinegar, rubbing alcohol, bleach solution, or an enviro friendly disinfectant.

Pros: Inexpensive (Less than $5.00 for a 76 oz. box– only a very small amount is needed for cleaning), multiple uses, cleans dirt better than many conventional cleaners, no fumes, environmentally safe.

Con:  Isn’t as good at  at killing germs as many registered pesticides like bleach and pine cleaner; hard for some people to find.

How to use: There are instructions for several uses on the box, including as a toilet cleaner and laundry booster. For scouring powder, mix: 1/4 c Borax, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 1/2 cups water.  Stir together in a container until well mixed. Apply to needed area and scrub. Rinse well. For an all purpose cleaner, mix: 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup borax, 1/2 gallon water. Mix well and pour into spray bottles (or use it mop floors, etc…). Make sure to mark the spray bottles. You can spray this on surfaces and then wipe them down to clean.


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This entry was posted on January 13, 2011 by in Greener Cleaning, Home, Live.