This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!
Ingredient: Sodium Borate (also commercially known as “Borax”).
What it is: A naturally occurring mineral called boron combined with oxygen and sodium.
What it does: Sodium borate cleans and whitens by changing water molecules into hydrogen peroxide. It also softens water (making cleansers more effective) and helps balance and stabilize pH levels.
Why we use it: Sodium borate is not only a versatile and effective ingredient, it’s also preferable because it’s natural and safe when used as directed.
Why we’re featuring it today: We had a customer ask specifically for us to write a blog post about sodium borate because there’s so much conflicting information about it online. (You ask, we answer!) Here’s a breakdown of the main things we’ve seen that could cause confusion:
The health impacts of boric acid are being attributed to sodium borate. Some of the most commonly cited studies are those that have been performed on “sodium borate and boric acid.” The assumption is that because the chemicals are close relatives, they’ll have similar effects. In some cases they do, but not always. Goodness knows why it’s acceptable to use such ambiguous language, but it’s rather common in the abstracts (and bodies) of the scientific literature. Many people skim an abstract and then misrepresent the results of these studies instead of poring over the detailed results to find out what the actual impacts were for each specific chemical. Suffice it to say, sodium borate is NOT boric acid. They are related, but different.
The EWG lists sodium borate as a 5-6 (or moderate hazard) in their Skin Deep Database. EWG’s assessments are a useful starting point for understanding what’s in your everyday products, but their ratings need to be taken into context. For our purposes, the rating in Skin Deep is totally inapplicable because we don’t use sodium borate in any of our body care products. So, the potential exposure is entirely different. Admittedly, they also rank our Stain Remover poorly, but that assessment doesn’t take into consideration the concentration or overall formulation of the product. You certainly don’t want to eat sodium borate or use it in its pure form on your skin, but in our formulation, used as directed, you really don’t have anything to worry about.
Here are the safety facts of sodium borate in a nutshell:
The Material Safety Data Sheet lists sodium borate as a health hazard of 1, the same as baking soda and salt.
Studies demonstrating evidence of significant harm are from very high exposure levels. Some of the biggest red flags people are waving in regards to sodium borate are due to a potential link to reproductive harm. But studies have only been done on mice that ingested high levels of sodium borate. (Again, not translatable to any of our products or most any uses of sodium borate.)
Sodium borate is classified as non-carcinogenic and only a mild skin irritant. It doesn’t penetrate the skin very well and it doesn’t build up in your system with repeat exposures. The one concern is with its potential to disrupt the reproductive system. Studies have not been done in humans regarding this; however, potential reproductive issues in mice are suspected from high levels of ingested sodium borate. (Again, our use of sodium borate is a very low concentration, isn’t intended to be ingested, and wouldn’t even be present on your clothing after its been washed.)
Still have questions about sodium borate? Let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to help translate the science and help you better understand our formulations.
Learn more: National Library of Medicine’s ToxNet Database
I really love this dish for breakfast and wanted to share it. This morning meal ticks all the boxes: delicious, easy, satisfying, and really good for you.
Oats are awesome and have so many great qualities (packed full of nutrients, massive fiber benefits, and inexpensive). But sometimes a bowl of warm oatmeal isn’t what I feel like in the morning. Instead, I’ve discovered a way to enjoy them without the cooking.
This recipe presents one version of the dish. You also can use different milk, fruit, seeds, nuts, and so on. Try this one first though — it’s my favorite.
*Serves about 2
Ingredients – Use Organic Options When Possible
Combine the oats and almond milk in a bowl about 30 minutes (or longer if you wish) before you want to eat them, so that the oats have time to soak up the milk. Then add the remaining ingredients and give it a good mix through. I like the berries and banana to get crushed up in the no-cook oatmeal. Garnish with mint.
Now that summer’s almost officially over (eek!), I’m bracing myself for the onslaught of school, work, and personal management tasks I’m going to face. Because I do enjoy the occasional deep breath and would love to continue to enjoy my roles as mother, friend, and wife, I’ve decided to employ an army of digital tools to support me. It’s become a sport for me, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you have a chore you loathe doing, there’s an app that will do it for you, or make it ridiculously simple for you to do yourself. Here are a few that make my house just a bit more sane, in any season.
Put bills on Autopilot.
A while back, I decided I was done paying bills that came in the mail. And they haven’t shut off my cable yet (thank goodness, because I’m obsessed with The Newsroom!). That’s because I started using Manilla, a bill organizing service that routes all my bills to one central dashboard and shows me exactly what’s due when. My credit cards, cell phones, water, power… even my Netflix subscription and magazines all in one place. Of course, there’s bank-level security and the accounts you route there are “read only” (so no one can hack in and drain your bank accounts), and the mobile apps let me keep an eye on things from wherever I am.
Amid the myriad gadgets I test on a monthly basis, there are moments when I find true game-changers. This past year, the Nest was one of them. Since installing this smart thermostat in my home, I have saved money on energy, and been kinder to the planet. My old thermostat had a schedule, but it involved a date with an instruction manual to change it, and it didn’t want to talk to my smartphone. Being able to tweak the temperature in my house while in bed, or on vacation, is truly magical.
The very best apps and services are ones that help out without asking me to do anything at all. That’s why I am in love with Piccolo, a service that pulls the best of my Facebook photos and sends me prints each month without me having to lift a finger. You know how you’re always lamenting not doing anything with all those pictures of the kids you take? I’d say this is a foolproof answer to your problem. Plans start at $10/month. Genius.
With Pinterest and the many mom blogs out there, you wouldn’t think I’d be short on ideas to keep my kids busy. But sometimes I just need a little help in that department, especially when seductive screens and devices are trying to lure my kids away. With a few taps and swipes I’ve got great ideas to keep them engaged. Little provides great age-appropriate activity ideas for any time of day, plus a library of kid-friendly videos for those times when you just need a few minutes to [insert sanity-restoring moment here].
I’ve got dreams, you know. I’m going to drink more water. I’m going to workout at 6AM before the kids wake up. I’m going to drink a protein shake and take all my vitamins. The tool that helps me make these dreams a reality is an unassuming little app called Lift. It simply gives me a daily checklist to swipe as I get things done, and offers me words of encouragement and the ability to tap into a community with similar goals to cheer me on. For me, having a list to refer to is half the magic — getting in touch with what I want to accomplish each day puts my goals front-of-mind, which helps me reach milestones and change habits.
When I give my acceptance speech for the imaginary “Best Homekeeper” award I’m not getting, I’ll be sure to thank my wireless router. Without it, I’d be alone in the wilderness and my home would devolve into chaos. Okay, that might be a tad dramatic, but I rely so heavily on being connected (to the cloud, to e-commerce, to my husband, team, friends…), that when there’s not enough bandwidth the whole system goes down. The Belkin AC900 Dual-Band Router can make all the difference in the world if your son’s a gamer, your daughter’s a Skyper, and your husband is binge-watching Breaking Bad. And set up is a cinch, right from your smartphone or tablet.
How do you use technology to help at home? Tell us what apps should make this list.
Carley Knobloch is obsessed with helping people use technology to make life easier (and more fun). As a Today Show contributor and HGTV host, she explores the world of home control and makes tech accessible to even the least savvy. On her blog, CarleyK.com, she writes about the intersection of home, style, and digital life. She’s appeared on CNN, Fox News, EXTRA, and in Real Simple and Bloomberg BusinessWeek. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, springer spaniel, and myriad tablets. Follow her on Twitter at @carleyknobloch.