Try These 17 Clever Borax Uses (It's Not Just for Cleaning)

What else works to kill bugs, explore science, make Christmas tree ornaments, deodorize your shoes, and more?

Published March 14, 2023

From crafting to cleaning, it's hard for something to be as useful as borax. This chemical salt (not to be confused with table salt in your shaker) is one of the most versatile substances out there. Put it to work with these inspiring borax uses that do everything from killing ants to making DIY geodes.

Use Borax to Kill Ants

First, let's be clear: no one should eat borax. But for ants, this powdery white chemical means certain death. You can make a borax ant killer by mixing ⅓ cup of sugar (to attract those little dudes), 1 tablespoon of borax, and a cup of water. Put it all in a jar and drop in a bunch of cotton balls. You can set the cotton balls in the path of the ants to do away with these pests.

Need to Know

Borax isn't just harmful to ants, so be careful when you're using it. Wear gloves when you're handling it, and keep your ant killer or any other borax mixture out of the reach of kids and pets.

Kill Boxelder Beetles and Other Pests

Ants aren't the only thing borax will kill. In fact, many companies make borax insecticides designed to get rid of household pests. Sprinkle borax powder along the edges of your sidewalk, foundation, and driveway to get rid of boxelder beetles and cockroaches. You can also use borax to kill bugs in rock beds, retaining walls, or anywhere else you notice a lot of creepy crawlies.

Avoid using borax anywhere animals or children may come in contact with it.

Remove Mildew Odors From That Load of Wash You Forgot

There are lots of ways to use borax in laundry, but this is one we think is especially handy. Borax can kill many types of fungus, and some of these are responsible for the mildew smell on clothing and fabrics. If you accidentally left your laundry in the washer (we've all been there), you can blast the mildew smell by rewashing it with a few teaspoons of borax. Just toss the borax in with the wash and run the cycle as usual.

Make a Laundry Stain Remover With Borax

Another way to use borax in laundry is targeting those stubborn stains. Set-in stains can be super annoying, but you can get rid of them with a little borax. Just mix about one tablespoon of borax powder with a cup of water. Use a brush to apply it to the stained spot (test any delicate fabrics first) and let it sit there for about 45 minutes. Wash as usual.

Get Rid of Musty Smells in the Air

Musty smelling basements, closets, bathrooms, and garages are pretty nasty, but a simple borax spray is an easy fix. Just mix one tablespoon of borax with one cup of warm water. Put it in a spray bottle and spritz the air in the problem area.

Dry Flowers and Preserve Them

Want those gorgeous roses to last forever? You can dry and preserve them with a combination of borax and clean sand. Mix one cup of borax with two cups of fine sand and stir to combine. Press the flowers and cover them with the sand mixture. It will remove the moisture and help preserve them. Just leave it on for about a week.

Clean Your Bathroom Tile and Grout

Grout is pretty much in anyone's top 10 of difficult things to clean around the house, but borax can help. Make a tile and grout scrub by mixing a cup of borax with two gallons of hot water. Use a brush (and gloves) to spread it over the dingy grout and tile and let it sit there for 15 minutes. Come back and give it a good scrub and rinse.

Refresh Your Comb and Brush

Great smelling hair starts with clean hair implements, and borax is a great way to get rid of hair styling gunk and other debris on your brush and comb. Just mix two tablespoons of Dawn dish soap with half a cup of borax and a gallon of warm water. Drop the brushes and combs in there and let them sit for a few minutes. Then swish them around and leave them to air dry.

Deodorize Your Sink and Stinky Garbage Disposal

Sprinkle some borax directly into your sink and garbage disposal and flush with hot water while running the disposal. The borax will help kill the germs responsible for odors and leave things nice and fresh again. Be sure to rinse the sink well before you use it for food preparation.

Need to Know

Use caution with borax in your sink if you have a septic system. These systems rely on bacteria to run properly, and borax can kill them.

Get Your Patio (and Outdoor Furniture) in Spring Shape

Borax has a ton of uses for cleaning your patio (just keep it away from things you actually want to keep growing). Sprinkle straight borax on your pavers to kill the weeds and grass growing between them. Then get rid of moss and mildew on your patio furniture by mixing about a tablespoon of borax with a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap and a bucket of warm water. Scrub your furniture and rinse with the hose.

Get Rid of That Sticker Residue

Nothing ruins the look of a glass or pretty dish like a nasty sticker residue. You can use a borax paste to scrub it off (don't forget those gloves). Just mix two tablespoons of borax with one tablespoon of water and use a sponge to scrub off the sticker.

Grow Borax Geodes

Want a fun use for borax powder? Make your own geodes and crystals. Grab some pipe cleaners and twist them into a little cup shape. Combine boiling water and borax until the borax won't dissolve anymore. Add a few drops of food coloring to make the geode any color you like.

Then put your pipe cleaner in a small container (one you won't use for food again) and cover it with the solution. Put a lid on the container and let it sit for about half a day. Then open it up and enjoy your geode.

Need to Know

Borax is a popular ingredient in homemade slime and other crafts for kids, but is it safe? Probably not. Doctors recommend steering clear of borax for hands-on activities, since it really is designed to kill bugs and other pests. If you do borax crafts with older kids, use gloves and wash your hands afterward.

Make Candles That Burn Longer

If you love making your own candles, you can use borax to help them burn longer and with less smoke. Before you make the candle, soak the wick in two tablespoons of borax, one tablespoon of salt, and ¾ cup of water. Let them soak overnight and then dry before you put them in your candles.

Create Christmas Ornaments That Sparkle With Borax

You can make glittery Christmas ornaments with borax by soaking a pipe cleaner in the same solution used to make geodes (boiling water, as much borax as you can stir in, and some food coloring). Form the pipe cleaners into the shape of stars, trees, and icicles and soak them in the solution in a covered container for a few hours. Then allow them to dry and hang them on your tree.

Get Rid of Pet Urine Odors

If Fido or Fluffy had a bit of an accident on your carpet, you can use borax to get rid of the smell. Start by grabbing a bucket and mixing ¼ cup of borax with a cup of water, three tablespoons of table salt, and three tablespoons of vinegar. Wearing gloves, scrub the carpet with the solution, allowing it to sit on the spot for up to an hour. Use paper towel or an old rag to blot out any excess liquid.

Deodorize Those Stinky Shoes

Nothing stinks quite like old shoes, but you can make them smell better with borax. Mix one tablespoon of borax with two cups of water in a spray bottle. Mist the shoes to get rid of smells. Put them out of the reach of kids and pets to dry.

Use Borax to Clean a Clogged Drain

Borax works to clean and unclog nasty drains too (we've all had those stubborn sink clogs). Just mix four tablespoons of borax, four tablespoons of salt, and half a cup of vinegar. Dump this down the drain and then follow it up with lots of boiling water. Let it sit, and then run the faucet for a few minutes to flush.

Use Borax All Over the House

There are so many borax uses that go beyond the standard laundry and bug-killing methods (though it's super useful for those things too). You can add it into your weekly house cleaning routine to keep things fresh smelling and stain-free all over your home.

Try These 17 Clever Borax Uses (It's Not Just for Cleaning)