Borax has long been touted as a green cleaning superstar, but what is borax, and how safe is it?
Borax is a salt derived from boric acid, and in cleaning recipes it can help boost stain-fighting and grease-cutting power. It’s used in all sorts of products and industries from making homemade cleaning supplies to replacing mercury in small-scale gold mining operations. You can even find borax in food products as a preservative, though its use in foods is banned here in the U.S.
How harmful could a salt be, right? This might be old news to some folks, but the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning flunked borax as a green ingredient. Kirsten Hudson at Organic Authority says:
“At the very least, borax can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Exposure to borax can also disrupt hormones and cause damage to the male reproductive system. A safety review by the Environmental Protection Agency found that chronic exposure to high doses of borax, or its cousin boric acid, causes testicular atrophy in male mice. Animal studies also show disruptions in ovulation and fertility in females when exposed to borax.“
This isn’t the first time EWG has questioned borax’s safety. Back in 2011, they also recommended cutting borax out of your green cleaning regimen.
There isn’t any solid research yet on how borax affects humans when we’re exposed to small amounts through cleaning supplies, but if you operate according to the cautionary principle, it’s probably safest to avoid borax until it can be proven safe at those levels. On the next page, check out five borax-free cleaning recipes!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by AlishaV