Borax (also known as sodium borate/ sodium tetraborate/ disodium tetraborate) is a boron compound that is used in detergents, cosmetics, fiberglasses, insecticides, etc. The term borax originated from the Persian word - burak.
In good old days, it was used in preservation of mummies in Middle East. Chinese used this substance to make pottery glazes and for cleaning purposes. Borax was also used as a flux in soldering to scour metal before welding in Medieval Europe. So borax has been quite a handy compound since ages.
Do you know how borax properties help in cleaning and bleaching activities? When you drop colorless crystals of borax into water, they dissolve by converting the water molecules to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This basic solution has a pH of 9.5 and hence, helps in increasing the effectiveness of cleaners and bleaching agents.
Major Uses of Borax
One of the significant uses is as a detergent buffer. This is because borax has the ability to retain a pH in the range of 9 - 10.5 which helps in effectiveness of detergent reactions.
Also, it is used in laboratories to make buffers like gel electrophoresis of DNA. Borate buffers are commonly used as equilibration solutions in DMP (Dimethyl pimelimidate dihydrochloride) based cross linking reactions of proteins.
Flux for Welding
A combination of borax and ammonium chloride is used as flux in welding purposes. This is because borax helps in lowering the melting point of unwanted iron oxide during welding. Mixed with water, it also acts as a flux in soldering metals like gold and silver. This flux is also used in pre tinning tungsten with zinc, thereby making tungsten more ductile.
Fertilizer for Plants
Borax is a good fertilizer for plants. It helps in enriching the soil and killing the weeds. One can try by sprinkling this powder on all the possible locations where weeds might grow. The weed growth over a period of time stalls. However, minimal amounts must be used for fertilization purposes as excessive borax is toxic in nature for plants.
Sanitizer for Floors and Toilets
It is an excellent sanitizer and floor cleaner. Spraying the solution on soiled floors and toilets reduces the smell and decimates the bacteria. A solution of borax (½ cup) and water (1 gallon) will serve your purpose perfectly! Besides, it is an effective homemade rust remover as well.
One of the most common use is tough stain removal from sink, rugs, windows and fabrics. For heavy stained sinks, use a solution of borax (1 cup) and lemon juice (¼ cup). Soak the cloth in this solution and rub off the stain. Rinse with warm water and your sink will be sparkling clean!
To remove stains from fabric, all you need is a solution of this chemical element (½ cup) and hot water (2 cups). Soak the fabric in the solution for a few hours until the stain starts disappearing.
To clean glass windows, take a sponge and wet it in a solution of borax (2 tablespoons) and water (3 cups). Wipe the windows with the sponge and the result will be a clear glass window devoid of stains.
As a Deodorizer
Garbage bins and trashcans, if not emptied properly can have residual garbage still remaining. This can produce a funky stench, which can be quite unbearable. To get rid of this odor, dusting or sprinkling borax in the disposal unit will help remove the smell.
Allow the powder to stand in it for about 15 to 20 minutes before flushing it with water. This will completely remove the odor from garbage disposal units.
Borax is an excellent agent to keep mice off your house. Sprinkle borax in areas which is frequented by rodents, especially along the sides of walls. Since mice do not like the feel of borax on their feet, they normally avoid coming back.
Mildew and mold, growing in damp corners of the house can cause serious respiratory problems. If allowed to spread, the mold may begin to smell and release spores. A thick paste of borax and water, smeared on the mold will Inhibit fungal growth. Once the paste dries, scrape it off the walls, without damaging the paint. This will also prevent its recurrence.
Other Applications of Borax
- Borax is used an anti fungal agent in foot soak, cellulose insulation and fiber glass.
- Nuclear reactors use borax as a neutron absorber to control nuclear chain reaction and nuclear reactivity.
- Borax use for fleas eradication is the most common and efficient one. It is used as an insecticide to keep away cockroaches and ants.
- It is also used for coating dry meat like ham to protect it from flies and insects.
- This mineral is an efficient additive in ceramic slips. It is an important ingredient in starch, dextrin, polyvinyl alcohol and polyvinyl acetate based adhesives.
- Swimming pools use this substance as a buffering agent to regulate the pH value.
- Borax is a major agent that helps in clearing engine block leakages and solving radiator issues in car.
Natural Sources of Borax
Borax is abundantly found near water bodies (like seasonal lakes) where there is repeated evaporation activity all through the year. This mineral compound is abundantly found in South western United States, South America, Romania and Turkey.
Borax is not acutely toxic in nature. But over consumption or excess exposure to borax can lead to respiratory ailments, skin irritation and gastrointestinal problems with symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
The next time you find filthy pests bugging you, or your car radiator failing to function or a stubborn stain refusing to go off your clothes, you surely know what cleaning product to look for!