What is Sodium Borate: Chemical Free Living

What is Sodium Borate

What is sodium borate?

Sodium borate is a toxic white, powdery mineral used in cleaning, laundry, personal care products and even children’s toys as a buffering pH adjuster [1][3][5].

What products is sodium borate in?

Borax is found as an ingredient in all-purpose cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergent (including some labeled as “natural”), laundry stain removers, air fresheners, dish detergents, glass cleaners, diaper creams, pesticides (to kill ants) and herbicides as well as and some “slimy”, pliable toys like playdough, gak, or silly putty[3][5].

How to tell if a product has sodium borate

Sodium borate goes by many names on ingredient labels including: sodium borate, borax; boric acid, disodium salt; borax granular; disodium salt boric acid; sodium tetraborate; antipyonin; puffed borax; borascu; borates, tetra, sodium salt, decahydrate (acgih); borates, tetra, sodium salts (decahydrate) [1], sodium borate decahydrate; sodium tetraborate decahydrate; disodium tetraborate decahydrate [5].

Risks associated with sodium borate

Though sodium borate (aka borax) is often positioned as a “green” ingredient, in fact, it is toxic and can cause numerous health issues including:

  • Organ system toxicity [1]
  • Fertility damage [2]
  • Damage to an unborn child [2]
  • Endocrine and hormone disruption [5]
  • Skin allergy [5]
  • Eye irritation [5]
  • Damage to male reproductive system [3]
  • Respiratory irritation [2] [5]

Canada has restricted the use of sodium borate in cosmetics [1].

How to avoid sodium borate

Avoid sodium borate by reading ingredient labels and shopping around for products that do NOT contain any of the synonyms noted above.  In cleaning products, where manufacturers aren’t required to list all their ingredients on product labels, choose toxic chemical free alternatives with safe non toxic ingredients. In personal care products, do your own research on a product’s ingredients by using a resource such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep product database.  Steer clear of “slimy” toys for your kids and instead make these products at home using safe, natural ingredients [5][4].


[1] EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (2007-2016). Sodium Borate. Available online: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/705996/SODIUM_BORATE/ December 22, 2016.

[2] EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (2007-2016). Sodium Borate. Available online: http://www.ewg.org/guides/substances/5495-SODIUMBORATE December 22, 2016.

[3] EWG (2011). Borax: Not the green alternative its cracked up to be. Available online: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/02/borax-not-green-alternative-its-cracked-be December 22, 2016.

[4] About, Inc. (2016). Homemade and Natural Cleaning Products. Available online: http://housekeeping.about.com/od/environment/a/Homemade-And-Natural-Cleaning-Products.htm December 22, 2016.

[5] Healthy Child Healthy World (2015). Watch out for borax. Available online: http://www.healthychild.org/watch-out-for-borax/ December 22, 2016.

[6] US Department of Health & Human Services Household Products Databases. Available online: https://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=10&query=sodium+borate&searchas=TblChemicals January 23, 2107.



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