What Is Sodium Borate?

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, water soluble mineral sediment that’s created through the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes (1). Most of the sodium borate in the U.S. comes from the seasonal lakes in the Mojave Desert in Southern California (1).

What it does:

Sodium borate cleans and fights stains (2,3). It also softens water, making other cleansers more effective (4).

Why we use it:

Sodium borate is not only a versatile and effective ingredient for cleaning products, it’s also preferable because it’s naturally-derived and safe when used as directed. It’s so mild, the Material Safety Data Sheet classifies sodium borate as a health hazard of 1, the same as baking soda and salt. So, it helps our Stain Remover tackle tough stains in a gentle way.

References:

  1. U.S. EPA. Boron. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from http://www3.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/mining/minedock/id/id4-bor.pdf
  2. Olson, W., Bode, M., & Dubbel, P. (1994). Hard Surface Cleaning Performance of Six Alternative Household Cleaners lJnder Laboratory Conditions.
  3. Mahale, G., Shailaja, G., Bhavani, K., Sadhana, K., Jayashree, Y., & Patel, H. M. (1994). Efficiency of chemicals in removal of stain on textile materials.Textile dyer & printer, 27(13), 20-25.
  4. Hibbard, P. L. (1934). The significance of mineral matter in water. Journal (American Water Works Association), 884-890.

This post was revised as of 1/14/2016.

 

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  • Meg

    Thank you! I love this series. I wish more people would take the time to learn about these types of issues.

    • You’re welcome, Meg! We love engaging in educational dialogue with our community because we know how tricky it can be to make sense of ingredients and labels. Please let us know if you have any questions about other formulations — we’re here to help!

  • Sarah W

    Hi, thanks for this post, there certainly is a lot of confusing information out there. I am not a scientist, so please forgive my ignorance. In your post you mention that sodium borate becomes hydrogen peroxide in water. Do you know why people are advising against using products containing borax in grey water systems that go on soil if the boron doesn’t remain? Or does some of it still remain? I am just trying to figure this all out. Hope you can help! Thanks.

    • Jim Trompe

      Too much boron in soil is toxic..as is too little. Same for humans it is essential but over 30mgs per day toxic effects are seen. Boron is toxic to insects..not essential for them.

  • Laura Taccona

    FYI – EWG links sodium borate with high developmental, reproductive and endocrine concern.

  • Molly

    Hi, why do some supplement for consumption added sodium borate. The amount is small like 0.5mg per serving. Does it harm the body in long run?

    Regard molly

  • Buhle Moyo

    Sodium borate is rated F on EWG.org which is concerning as some people take it orally…