Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 12, 2011: The Many Uses of Borax

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As I shared with you at the beginning of this month, borax (sodium tetraborate) is another staple to keep in your pantry for cleaning uses all over the house since it works really well as a detergent.

Most of us are familiar with the Twenty Mule Team brand of borax. I think about it every time I go visit my in-laws in California because we pass right by the mining operation in the state’s infamous Death Valley.

It’s interesting to note how the company got its name. The mine, a rich source of minerals, was first operational in the 1880s. The problem, however, was how to get the borax out of the valley and to the freight train that would distribute it around the country. The solution? Twenty teams of mules hitched to heavy-duty wagons which weighed over 18 tons each when loaded. These mule teams had to traverse 165 miles, starting at an elevation of 190 feet below sea level and ending at an elevation of 2,000 feet above sea level. Although it’s more romantic to think that horses were the biggest boon to taming the West, it’s actually mules that did the heavy lifting, making them much more valuable than a horse.

It’s strange to think that a mineral ore could be such a good cleanser, but it really is. I’ve already shared with you that it is a key ingredient in homemade laundry detergent, but it’s much more diverse than that. Plus, borax is safe for septic systems. It’s a natural ingredient, but it is toxic when taken internally; avoid contact with your eyes and wash your hands after using it.

Here are some additional uses for borax:

• Toilet cleaner – just sprinkle in the bowl of your toilet as you would powdered cleanser. For tough stains, swish it around and let it sit for an hour or overnight.
• Garbage disposals and sink drains – Sprinkle a couple tablespoons into the drain and let stand for a minimum of 15 minutes. Flush with warm water (turn the disposal on). It not only cleans, it freshens your drains.
• Even if you don’t use my recipe for homemade laundry soap, do add about a ½ cup of borax to your regular laundry detergent to make it work better.
• Carpet cleaner – use ½ cup of borax dissolved in about a cup and a half of warm water. Apply the mixture to carpet stains with a sponge or rag. Let it sit for half an hour then rinse with plain water. Vacuum after drying.
• Dishwasher – borax removes mineral stains. If you do not wish to use the following recipe for dishwashing powder, add a ¼ cup of borax to the bottom of your dishwasher to soften the water and reduce spots and film on your dishes.

Borax Dishwashing Powder

1 cup baking soda
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. To use, add one tablespoon to each compartment of your dishwasher.

Tip: I have to be honest with you... While this recipe does a great job of cleaning your dishes, I found that over time it left a chalky white film on my dishes. I tried experimenting with the amounts of ingredients and adding vinegar to the rinse agent receptacle but nothing really solved this problem. I would only recommend using this formula once in a while (and that’s the reason I don’t use my dishwasher but once in a blue moon).

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