Sign up for Living Green emails
Get tips and resources to live sustainably. Join the growing green living community.
A brief history of borax
Before 2000, borax was a common household item, a popular, effective cleaning product. It disinfects, whitens and fights mold and mildew. It also kills ants.
Many DIY cleaning recipes featured borax as an eco-friendlier option to petroleum-based ingredients in conventional cleaning products.
But the safety of borax (its salts and precursors) has been under review. Health Canada’s science-based screening assessment recommends minimizing exposure.
Six reasons to go borax-free:
- You want your home to be pesticide-free (borax kills ants).
- You can clean well with food-grade ingredients only — baking soda, salt, lemon, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
- You can use borax-free “green” cleaning recipes.
- You won’t risk poisoning your child or pet.
- You can clean risk-free while pregnant.
- Your kids can help make the cleaners and do the cleaning!
Simple “green” cleaning substitutes for borax
- Use food-grade hydrogen peroxide (three per cent) in a spray bottle. Spray on hard surfaces and wipe clean.
- Rub half a lemon on a dirty cutting board, then wipe clean. (Add salt for extra cleaning power.) Place the other half in a bowl, microwave for one minute then use it to rub down the inside of your microwave. Let sit for a few minutes and wipe clean. Lemon juice is a mild antibacterial acid that bleaches and disinfectants. (Helps fight stains, too.)
- Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. It can tackle household bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria.
- Add essential oils such as lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, tea tree, lemongrass, thyme, lavender, rosemary and eucalyptus to the concoctions above. They have antibacterial, antifungal and grease-cutting properties.
- Try liquid or powdered oxygen bleach. Follow product instructions. Safe for cloth diapers!
- Add baking soda (125 millilitres) into each laundry load.
- Use washing soda (sodium carbonate). It’s more caustic and as a higher pH than baking soda.
To fight mould and mildew:
- Clean with salt or use diluted white vinegar (50:50) carefully on tub and tile.