A recent letter from a reader who used borax to solve her dishwasher woes got me thinking about all the ways I use this handy product to clean and fix problems around the house.
What is borax? Borax is actually a salt that is found naturally in evaporation lakes. It is used as an ingredient in many detergents, cosmetics and enamel glazes. You can find it in supermarkets, in the laundry or cleaning aisles, and online under many different brand names.
Precautions to take. Be careful about dumping large amounts into a container and breathing in the dust. You should never do this with anything that is a fine powder, not just borax.
Keep borax in a sealed container away from children, just as you do with ANY cleaning agent, even natural ones.
Do not use borax for skin care or topical use. It is really for cleaning only. And remember this: More is not better. You only need a small amount of borax to get any number of jobs done.
No. 1: Clean carpet. Borax is a natural odor neutralizer, which makes it a perfect option for cleaning carpets by hand or boosting the cleaning power of your carpet machine. It will make those carpets smell even better.
No. 2: Garbage disposal. Once a week or so, and between deep garbage disposal cleanings, sprinkle 4 tablespoons of borax into the disposal. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to soak up grease, bad odors and other nasty things that build up inside that appliance. Next, pour a pot of boiling water into the disposal while it runs for a few seconds to dislodge everything. This will keep the disposal clean and prevent it from getting stinky.
No. 3: Unclog a drain. Got a slow-running drain? Unclog it with ½ cup of borax in the drain followed by 2 cups of boiling water. Let that sit for 30 minutes or so, and then follow with warm water to flush that clog away.
No. 4: Scouring cleanser. Use borax straight-up for a very effective scouring powder to scrub your sinks, tubs and stovetops.
No. 5: Car upholstery. Mix up a batch of this homemade upholstery cleaner:
3 tablespoons Dawn dishwashing liquid
3 tablespoon borax
3 cups boiling water
Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan over high heat, and bring it to a boil. Remove from stove and allow to cool slightly, but only until you can touch it. You want to use this when it’s as hot as is tolerable. With a good scrubber like a sponge or brush, scrub your car’s upholstery. Use it on the floor mats, too! Rinse with cool water and a clean rag.
Pro tip: This is a great cleaner for any upholstery, not only in a vehicle.
No. 6: Bathroom cleaner. There are tons of DIY bathroom cleaner recipes out there, but none can top this one, in my humble opinion!
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons borax
1 tablespoon blue Dawn dishwashing liquid
2 cups warm water
10 drops lemon essential oil (optional, but adds a lovely clean scent)
Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle, and shake to mix.
This works really well on ceramic tile, the outside surfaces of toilets, sinks, counters and floors.
Note: Do not use this cleaner on natural stone. Vinegar is an acid and can eat away at stone and marble surfaces overtime. Stone tiles, travertine, granite, marble or anything in that family should not have vinegar as a cleaner.
No. 7: All-purpose cleaner. Pour these ingredients into a spray bottle:
1 teaspoon borax
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
1 teaspoon Blue Dawn or castile soap
18 drops lemon essential oil
Fill the bottle to the top with hot water, and shake until everything is mixed well. This cleaner is perfect for greasy messes, fingerprints and smudges.
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.