Borax is an old school, tried and tested laundry detergent ingredient. If you’re up to date with your cleaning methods, you would have come across borax.
But since 2010 it has been banned in the UK and European Union.
In it’s place has come another fantastic cleaning ingredient – the ingeniously named borax substitute.
Borax substitute is a multi-purpose cleaning ingredient that is non-toxic, plastic free and sustainable.
It’s also just as good as the original borax. The borax alternative is a powerful cleaning agent used to get rid of all kinds of stains, mildew and mould, as well as more general kitchen and bathroom cleaning. There are even more ways to use borax substitute too.
So, here’s all you need to know about borax substitute, it’s uses around the house, why the traditional borax is now banned, and where to buy the borax alternative.
What is a borax substitute?
You’re here to find out about borax substitute, so let’s get to it.
Borax substitute is made from sodium sesquicarbonate. This is derived from sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda.
Although it’s derived from baking soda, borax substitute is a stronger cleaning agent but a little gentler than soda crystals, also known as washing soda.
Borax substitute is multi-purpose, plastic free and sustainable cleaning ingredient.
It was created as a safer and completely non-toxic alternative to standard borax and boric acid (the troublesome ingredient).
The cleaning power of borax substitute vs borax is virtually the same too as it has a very similar pH.
If you are wondering, yes borax substitute is vegan friendly. It’s also palm oil free and can be manufactured locally, including in the UK.
As you can see from the image, borax substitute from Dri Pak comes in just a simple biodegradable cardboard box, with no plastic in sight. Happy days.
Why is borax substitute good for cleaning?
Now, the reason why traditional borax and borax substitute is so good for household cleaning comes down to its alkaline pH. Borax substitute has a pH of around 9.
Having a pH on the higher side is ideal for getting rid of tough stains, no matter if they’re on clothes or hard surfaces. It can also help the build up of limsescale in your washing machine and help soften hard water, thanks to the sodium content.
Using borax can prevent mildew stains, get rid of unpleasant odours down the drain, and even make your whites whiter when added to your usual laundry detergent. I’ve been using eco laundry detergent sheets recently, which have been very good!
So, what is borax and why is it banned?
Borax is the commercial name for sodium tetraborate or sodium borate.
This mineral is a natural derivative of boric acid and can be naturally found in dry lake beds.
Although slightly similar in name, borax substitute is made from sodium sesquicarbonate, which comes from bicarbonate of soda rather than boric acid.
Traditional borax comes as a white powder made that has been used for cleaning for many decades.
There are many uses for borax, from household cleaning to water softeners and stain removers. However, conventional borax has been linked to some serious health and safety concerns.
For this reason, borate chemicals have now been banned in the UK.
Why is traditional borax banned UK?
The reason why this cleaning agent is banned in the UK has to do with its potential health hazards.
In 2010, the borate group of chemicals, of which borax is part of, was reclassified by the EU as an SVHC – a Substance of Very High Concern. Subsequently, all products of the borate family without exception were banned in an EU regulation.
This came about after a slightly controversial study on mice, determining that large quantities of boric acid, rather than strictly borax, can have harmful effects when ingested.
The main concern with the borate family of chemicals is their impact on reproductive functions and fertility. Something of course you don’t want to take many chances with, hence the reason for the ban.
Is borax toxic to humans?
The mice study has been deemed controversial.
Firstly, there were no follow-up human studies done after the initial assessment.
Secondly, the quantity of boric acid fed to mice was dramatically high.
This makes it difficult to assert any definite facts on casual inhalation by humans.
Nevertheless, the laws have been made and borax is now banned in the UK and EU. While we’re still waiting for more conclusive research about the effects of borax as a cleaning product, we should consider all boric acid products as toxic, especially when it comes to ingestion.
6 Top Uses For Borax Substitute
Just like standard borax, borax alternative derived from baking soda can be used to tackle all sorts of stains and household cleaning chores.
There are tonnes of ways you can incorporate borax alternative into your cleaning routine to go greener at home.
Let’s take a look at 6 main uses for borax substitute.
1. Laundry detergent and washing machine cleaner
Borax substitute can effectively soften hard water, which will result in nice, soft clothes.
This makes it the perfect cleaning agent for preventing and getting rid of limescale in your washing machine, as well as for getting rid of stains, restoring whiteness, and getting rid of unpleasant odours in clothes.
You can use as an extra ingredient in washing clothes by adding two tablespoons to your detergent.
If you have tough stains on your clothes, pre-soak them in bucket of hot water and roughly 150g of borax substitute. Or you can make a paste with borax alternative and hot water and apply it directly.
It may be possible to use borax substitute alongside eco-friendly laundry sheets, including those from Earth Breeze.
2. All-purpose cleaner – kitchen cleaner and bathroom
The soda-based borax alternative is also perfect for cleaning all types of surfaces, from stainless steel bottles and food containers, to tiles, ceramics, and marble.
It’s as simple as sprinkling borax substitute onto the surface and wipes cleaning with a damp eco friendly cloth.
To make a bigger batch, add two tablespoons of borax substitute to a litre of hot water. Use this to then wipe down surfaces around the kitchen and bathroom with an eco friendly sponge.
3. Remove stubborn stains
You can also make your very own stubborn stain remover using borax substitute. To do this it’s best to make a paste by mixing mix two cups of water with half a cup borax substitute, stir everything together, and set it aside for wiping or scrubbing.
You can always add the eco friendly white vinegar or lemon juice to boost its cleaning power even more! These are also top ingredients for an eco friendly oven cleaner.
To make a scouring paste mix together equal parts of borax substitute, bicarbonate of soda and cooking salt. Then add some water to make a paste. When this is ready, apply to a surface or equipment and wipe clean.
4. Mildew and mould fixer
If you’re looking to get rid of mildew and mould, you can also use a simple solution with 10 parts water and one part borax substitute.
After applying it to the surface, then start scrubbing vigorously. Let the solution do it’s thing by drying naturally without rinsing any of it away.
5. Toilet cleaner
The abrasive properties of natural borax make for an effective eco toilet cleaner too, especially when paired with white vinegar.
We recommend pouring about ¼ cup of borax substitute into your toilet, leaving the mixture overnight, and lightly scrubbing and rinsing away the morning after!
On this point, don’t forget to get your hands on some eco-friendly toilet paper.
6. Bin deodoriser
Finally, you can also use this helpful all-purpose cleaner to get rid of stubborn bad odours coming from your kitchen bin and wheelie bins.
All you have to do is mix one part borax alternative with one part water, coat the bottom of the bins with it, and finally rinse everything out after a few hours.
You’ll keep your bins smelling fresh and even inhibit bacteria from growing!
Borax alternative can also be used to de-smell other appliances, such as fridges and dishwashers.
Where to buy Borax Substitute UK
While the safety of conventional borax is still a controversial topic, UK shoppers will have no problem getting their hands on the eco-friendly alternative borax.
From laundry booster to stain remover, this cleaner can do it all. If you’re looking to pick it up from your local supermarket, you should be able to find it under the name of ‘water softening powder’.
However, as supermarkets aren’t the most ethical places with high impacts on the environment, you can also buy borax substitute from some very good online eco shops – which you can find on my blog. And no, not an A****n in site.
Most of the borax alternative available in the UK is made by Dri Pak, who are one of the pioneers of natural sustainable cleaning.
If you’re looking to go straight there, I’d recommend these online places:
Wrap up on borax substitute UK
The low down is this: borax alternative is a fantastic addition as a green cleaning ingredient at home.
Borax substitute is a multi-purpose, eco friendly, vegan, plastic free and sustainable cleaning agent. It’s also a much safer alternative to traditional borax made from boric acid.
I’d highly recommend borax substitute to use in and around your home as an eco alternative. Let me know how you get on.
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I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home. Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.