WHAT TO USE AS A GOOD BORAX SUBSTITUTE
First off, it’s critical to mention that in the UK and EU you can no longer buy borax. We’ll get into it more later, but the compound is potentially hazardous to health and no longer available.
The quick answer to the question of where to buy borax in the UK is that you won’t be able to find it. It’s still sold in the US, but definitely is not as commonly used as it once was.
What you will be able to find, though, is borax substitutes. These substitutes will do just as good a job as borax, without the risks to health.
In this post, we’ll talk about what Borax is, why it’s banned in the UK, and what to use instead of it. We’ll also answer some common borax-related questions.
|Warning: we do not recommend using borax as it can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation.|
What Is Borax?
Borax is a popular household cleaning product in the US. The name originates from the ‘bor’ in the product’s chemical name ‘Sodium Tetraborate’.
Fun fact: Borax occurs naturally, being produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes.
It’s a salt derived from boric acid. And while there are some differences between borax and boric acid, either version of the chemical will work well for its common uses. These include laundry, cleaning, pest control or slime.
Can I Buy Borax in the UK?
Since 2010, borax has been unavailable to buy in the EU or UK. But why is that? Due to the ‘borate’ group of chemicals being reclassified in 2010 as potentially hazardous to health, it’s impossible to find the common American substance – whether you need it for food additives, laundry, or cleaning.
However, you can purchase a substitute for borax in the UK, which does an almost identical job.
Why Is Borax Banned in the UK?
Well in 2010, the Borate group of chemicals that Borax belongs to was reclassified in the EU as ‘potentially hazardous to health’. Since then, you can’t get hold of it at all, and can no longer be used as a cleaning and laundry product.
Surprisingly, borax is actually a common food additive in many countries. Even though it’s said to be a possible cause of liver cancer if consumed regularly over a decade. Yikes!
It goes without saying that borax is also banned as a food additive in the UK. You can learn more about that in this article about borax.
What you can find though, is ‘borax substitute’.
Borax substitute is a mixed crystal made from sodium carbonate (washing soda), and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Its chemical name is sodium sesquicarbonate.
The substance has a similar pH to borax, making it a great substitute without the potential risks. The advantage of using it over bicarbonate of soda alone is that it’s gentler than sodium carbonate but stronger than bicarb of soda.
There is water bound up in the crystal compound, which makes it cold-water-soluble. Sodium carbonate is not water-soluble, meaning it cakes up when exposed to water. Have you ever found that your laundry product hasn’t dissolved properly? That’s probably why!
Sodium bicarbonate is a great natural cleaning agent and can be used safely with other ingredients such as washing up liquid, lemon juice, or white vinegar.
If you want to keep things simple, baking soda can probably do most things that the borax substitute will do, but it might take a bit longer.
The addition of sodium carbonate in the borax substitute adds a more robust cleaning or deodorising ability. It makes it a great grease-remover or product for scrubbing down metal and tile.
What Does Borax Substitute Do?
If you haven’t heard of borax substitute before, it’s basically a multi-purpose cleaning product that can be used in most household chores.
And because of the water that’s held within the tiny crystals, borax substitute is water-soluble. This means that when it’s mixed with water, it forms a great thick paste.
The gritty paste is ideal for scouring grease, limescale, and tough stains. For a stronger kick, you can make your paste with lemon juice or white vinegar.
And like baking soda or borax, the substitute is also great for laundry. Borax substitute keeps water soft, which prevents limescale buildup and improves the cleaning ability of your washing machine.
If you’re looking for a new multi-purpose cleaning product with slightly more cleaning power than bicarbonate of soda, then sodium sesquicarbonate might be for you.
And for some inspiration on what it can be used on, take a look at this (non-exhaustive) list:
- Metal – such as sinks
- Deodorising fabrics – such as carpets
- Fabrics (in the laundry)
- Ceramics or porcelain
- Linoleum flooring
- Slate, granite and marble
- Stainless Steel
Where Can I Buy Borax Substitute?
In terms of brand names, Dri-Pak are one of the more well-known borax substitute producers.
Dri-Pak are a family-run business based in Derbyshire, established in the 1960s. They supply a range of household goods to homes all over the UK.
You can buy Dri-Paks borax substitute on Amazon, Dri Pak Clean & Natural Borax Substitute Cleaner.
Of course, you can also find this product or similar in most supermarkets and household supply stores.
What can I use instead of borax?
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something similar to borax but easier to get hold of, there are products that might work just as well.
For example, the natural ingredient baking soda can work just as well as borax and borax substitutes. It might require slightly more elbow grease, but the job will end up just as good.
Borax UK FAQs
Is Borax The Same as Baking Soda?
Borax is a stronger product than baking soda and is deemed harmful to health. The two main differences between the products are that borax is much more alkaline than bicarbonate of soda, with a pH of 9.5 (compared to baking soda’s pH of 8). Although this makes it stronger, it also makes it harsher. Baking soda can be safely consumed, whereas borax should never be eaten, breathed in, or touched.
Is Borax Good for Laundry?
Despite it being dangerous and banned in the EU, borax’s high alkalinity of 9.5 pH makes it good at fighting acidic stains that are notoriously hard to remove – think ketchup and mustard. As a pre-stain treatment or laundry detergent, borax will technically do a good job at getting whites whiter. However, we definitely are not recommending it due to the hazards associated with it.
Is it Safe to Mix Borax and Vinegar?
Borax by itself is dangerous and should be treated with extreme caution in the rare circumstances it needs to be used. However, as it’s alkaline, adding an acid like vinegar to borax will neutralise it, and cut its effectiveness.
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