Using Borax to Destroy Dinge: Does it Work?

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1 out of 5 leaves

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that works as an all natural cleaning agent.  A thorough review of available literature suggests that Borax is generally safe for household cleaning, although it is wise to keep it out of children’s reach. The most commonly suggested use for Borax is as a laundry booster — does it work?  Does Borax brighten up dingy whites?

The Good

  • Better for the Earth – Borax is mined from the earth, and boxed up with minimal processing
  • Better for You – Borax is generally safe for household cleaning – just don’t eat a ton of it!
  • Saves Money – Borax is generally cheaper than OxyClean (another natural-ish laundry booster)
  • All natural – Borax is sodium borate, a naturally occurring mineral in the Earth’s crust

The Bad

  • There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the safety of Borax – most of it seems to be stemming from the known safety concerns of boric acid (or sodium tetraborate decahydrate) vs generally benign Borax (sodium tetraborate).  Note that the EWG does not recommend Borax, but also does not distinguish between Borax and boric acid.  This is a well-researched article discussing all the known facts.*
  • SPOILER ALERT! Borax does not help whiten dingy whites.

My Experience

Using Borax to Brighten Dingy Whites: Does it Work?

For reasons I can’t figure out, my kid’s washclothes are seriously dingy.  Like white turned to yucky grey dingy.  Especially in the middle.  I don’t know if my kids are just that dirty, or if the mild kid’s soap I use locks in the dirt, or somehow inhibits my laundry detergent??  Whatever it is, the kid’s washcloths are capital D – Dingy.

See what I mean?

Using Borax to Brighten Dingy Whites: Does it Work?

But.. there’s always a silver lining, right?  I plan to try out some all natural ideas for brightening whites and post the results for you!  Today, I tackle Borax!

I never really knew what Borax was until I joined the crunchy mama community.  It turns out it’s an old-school cleaner that’s been around since before our grandmothers.  Much of what’s sold in the US is mined in California, my current state of residence.  It’s mostly sold as a laundry booster – you add 1/2 cup of Borax powder along with your regular detergent to soften water, and increase the cleaning power of your soap.

I picked up a box of Borax at Target (got distracted for about 5 months…) and then dumped in a 1/2 cup with a standard load containing about half of my dingy washcloths.  I was excited to see the boosting power of the white powder, and finally get those cloths clean.

Well….  no need to give you a before and after picture, because the Borax-washed, and not Borax-washed cloths looked exactly the same.  Borax did not brighten my dingy whites.

It’s a Green Idea Fail!  So disappointing.  There are many other uses of Borax that I’m looking forward to trying out, but brightening whites is not one of them.  Perhaps I’ll try this boiling laundry with lemons idea next?

Have you ever successfuly used Borax to destroy dinge?  What’s your secret?  Do you have other natural ideas for brightening whites?


*Concerning Borax safety: As always, it is up to YOU to do your own research and decide what’s best for your family.  I don’t recommend doing, or not doing anything just because your favorite blogger said so on the Internet!  Do your own homework, people!

Shared at Natural Living Monday

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17 Responses to Using Borax to Destroy Dinge: Does it Work?

  1. Paula says:

    Hi –
    I do not use Borax much in the laundry room. I do love my OxyClean. And it does whiten whites.

    The way I use borax is in the kitchen. It is great in combination with baking soda as a scrubbing agent. For my stovetop, which always needs scrubbing, it works wonders on cooked on gas stove grates. The grates and all other stovetop parts come clean with some straight borax and a little soap to cut the grease.


  2. Kissiah Aiken says:

    Washing soda seemed to work better than borax for me.

  3. Marysa says:

    How long did you let your items soak?
    Sometimes I let clothes soak in a bucket before adding to the wash.. even overnight. I had some clothes with berry stains, and shockingly, they were gone when soaked in Borax. I don’t know about white clothes though.

  4. Hi! I have not tried borox to brighten whites. We are an oxyclean family here.

    You would have been a featured post on Natural Living Monday but there is no link back! If you add it let me know and I will add your featured post. Thanks!

  5. cmtigger says:

    I haven’t used borax to brighten, but I’ve found that it really removes odors. If the odor is really bad, an overnight soak in borax is really needed. It’s even gotten cat pee smells out of things for me.

  6. Christina says:

    I find that the combination of borax with washing soda and HOT HOT water does help. The longer the soak, the better too. I read somewhere that borax needs very hot water to create the cleaning reaction. The results are good enough for me, along with the price difference from oxyclean, to stick with the borax.

  7. Pingback: Using Lemons to Naturally Brighten Whites and Destroy Dinge – Does it Work? | Green Idea Reviews

  8. Lynda B says:

    Stay away from fabric softeners and mild laundry detergent sold as “kid safe” – I’ve found that they can lock in stains and don’t thoroughly wash out of the fabric, making it dingy over time. Couple this with kid-safe body wash on your washcloths, and you’re setting the stage for that perfect dingy look! The mild kid-safe detergents won’t remove the body wash and dirt that is collecting over time.

    Any laundry detergent that is hypoallergenic, dye free, and fragrance free is safe for baby clothes. I’ve always used All Free and Clear, but there are others, too. You can also use dishwashing detergent like Ivory Liquid, which helps remove food stains from kids clothes. It, too, is hypoallergenic and gentle, yet cuts grease. I agree with Christina, in that soaking with borax (or OxyClean) in hot water is the trick, before washing, to brighten laundry. But for removing the grunge that has set into your kids clothes/washcloths, you’ll need something to cut the soap that has clung to the fabrics and that is giving it that dingy look. If the clothes have not been dried on high heat time and again (which makes it nearly impossible to remove soap scum and most other stains), try a cup of white vinegar and hot water, with your laundry detergent. You may even need to soak the items in vinegar before hand. It works on soap scum that builds up on cloth shower curtains, so it may work for dingy clothes, too. Vinegar also works on stains related to urine and poo, human and pet. It also kills germs.
    Good luck, and happy stain fighting!

  9. Nan says:

    I swear by Borax. It’s the only thing that gets those nasty yellow stains out of my white sheets. Before throwing my whites into a washing machine, I soak them for about about 2 hours in a mixture hot water and a 1/4 – 1/2 cup of Borax depending on the size of the load. It works every time.

  10. Lisa says:

    Borax is a great green solution to sugar ants! Just google the recipe, but if you combine it with syrup and water to make a paste, and then make a separate blend with powdered sugar for a powder– bam! In a mater of days you’ve wiped out sugar ants in your kitchen. (the adult aunts eat the syrup liquid, then take the powder back to the next to feed the larva. wipes out them all). Took a little time for me to find the right ratio but it definitely worked. Was thrilled to have a green solution to avoid toxic chemicals in our home.

  11. NancyNC says:

    So, was there anything that DID help your dingy washcloths?

    • Victoria says:

      Nope. But I’m pretty sure the liquid soap I was using caused a permanent stain. That dinginess showed up on my new washcloths after the first use. I called the company and they swore they had never heard anything like this. Ugh.

  12. Jessica says:

    Did you ever try soaking in hot water and borax like the other commenters suggested? If so, did it work?

    • Cecilia says:

      I used borax on whites and found that they came out whiter but you have to patient and soak the item overnight.. My husband has an problem with perspiration and his gholf shirts smelled awful just using detergent I use borax with the detergent and all his shirts come out smelling fragrant

  13. MEHRUN MALIK says:

    Is this true?
    I read somewhere that if you use borax & dish washers detergent & the usual
    detergent, it would remove all stains etc & the whites really come out very white.
    Anyone can help me on this & the how much to use?

    • Karen says:

      Mehrun, I always soak my sheets in a solution of borax, dish soap, and laundry detergent before throwing them in the washing machine. My sheets are the worst offenders for accumulating body oil stains and this concoction works wonders! I can’t really help on amounts, I just throw stuff in and let it soak with warm water. It would also probably depend on the size of your sink or container you’re using to soak in since we would probably have different amounts of water using different containers, but I just sprinkle in the borax, give a couple squeezes of dish soap and about the same amount of laundry detergent, swirl around the water to make sure it’s evenly distributed, then add my sheets to soak. It works every time. I haven’t used this method for other stains, but if you have any oil based stain, I can promise you this will definitely work. I know you posted your comment over a year ago, but hopefully you will find this if you haven’t found an answer elsewhere.

  14. tony says:

    how about a 100 years of dirt?
    in france you can find farm stored hemp,flax and nettle blend sheets 2 sheets stitched together because they where loomed at home.

    the french way for vintage linens is soaking in water and time.

    borax and washing soda need time to work in water in the bath or bucket
    min 12h if you can 24 or 48 hours.
    borax and washing soda are old time more natural products that work but you cannot rush them.
    once soaked then a regular wash can happen i use castille or savon style soap washing soda borax in the machine.

    the long soaks are for aged stored or heavy dirt stain problems oxy type a couple of spoons can also be added to a long soak