What is Borax

What is Borax and ways to use it in cleaning

Borax is a multipurpose refined boron compound. It is also known as a mineral that has white or colorless crystals. These crystals can also have brownish, yellowish, or greenish tinges. Borax, when it hits another material, leaves a white streak similar to that of a chalk.

Sometimes, Borax is called by is scientific names that do depend on the mixture. These names are sodium tetraborate, disodium tetraborate, and sodium borate. This substance has been around for about a thousand years. So, to call it a new discovery is truly inaccurate.

Where it is from

The word “borax” may sound either exotic or vaguely scientific. The name is actually Persian, originating from the Persian word “burak.” “Burak” simply refers to the same compound in the Middle East. Though its name comes from the Middle East, borax has been used in ancient times in other places such as China and Medieval Europe. In China, borax served as pottery glaze while it served as a flux in soldering in Medieval Europe.

Where it can be found

Borax can be found in different places in the world. However, those that are worthy of being used for commercial purposes can be found in the following places: Turkey, Romania, Chile’s Atacama Desert, Tibet, Boron in California, and several other spots in the Southwestern United States. Borax is a natural compound that results from the repeated evaporation of lakes. These lakes produce evaporite deposits, which produce borax. If there is a need for more borax other than the naturally occurring ones, the substance or mineral can be produced synthetically through boron compounds.

Resulting mixtures

Because borax is a boron compound, this compound can be converted to other borates, such as boric acid. If borax is exposed into dry air, it can transform into something else – tintalconite, which is a white, chalky mineral.

Understanding some chemistry

Borax turns yellowish green when heated by flames. It turns orange-y in color when exposed to methanol or any other flammable chemicals.

Health hazards

When handling borax, you should be very careful. The boron compound may present some hazards, just like any other substance used in manufacturing many cleaning products. Of course, you should not ingest borax because of the possibility of some reactions. Ingesting a good amount of borax can still cause severe respiratory problems and even death. Milder side effects of ingestion are diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, which are signs of gastrointestinal distress. And so, you should not take borax lightly. The compound can also cause some skin reactions. Try not to get it into contact with your skin. As for borax converted into a form used in many products such as boric acid solutions to wash the eyes or abraded skin, this should not come in contact with infants. For accidental ingestion of borax, get medical help immediately.

Role in cleaning

Today, several people think of borax as an ingredient of cleaning products. This is because it is used as an important component of detergents. It is used to clean and brighten laundry. Borax is also used to clean and deodorize rooms in a house, such as the kitchen and the bathroom. It is, after all, a multi-purpose cleaner. Borax cleans by transforming water molecules into hydrogen peroxide. This solution makes bleaches and other cleaners much more effective. This is not the only thing that Borax does that contributes to cleanliness. When boron and salt are mixed together, with or without oxygen, the mixture holds off the growth of some organisms. This means that such a mixture can control the growth of germs. This is also why borax can act as an insecticide and pesticide. As a matter of fact, borax-based insecticides such as boric acid are considered better alternatives to some commercial insecticides because of its milder nature.

Other uses

Borax does not only clean but also performs a lot of other tasks. These tasks are so varied that they have to be divided into several categories:

1. Aesthetic and artistic use

    - used for enamel glazes mix
  • adds a greenish tint to fires for use in artistic displays such as fireworks
  • for producing indelible ink
  • important component in pottery and ceramic making
  • used for cleaning mounts, such as skulls

As you can see, borax has a strong artistic usage, from creating pottery glaze mixes to adding an attractive hue to fireworks displays. Indelible ink could be considered a tool for creating designs, with borax as one of its ingredients.

2. Medical use

  • cures thrush in horses’ hooves
  • ingredient for Merck’s Gardasil vaccine

Borax can be undoubtedly dangerous to your health, but if mixed just right, it can be used for medical cures, both for animals and humans. Take note that it has a major contribution to medicine, being an ingredient for a vaccine.

3. Industrial use

    - acts as antifungal compound for insulation materials such as cellulose and fiberglass
  • controls Ph levels of swimming pools
  • serves as tackifier ingredient to adhesives
  • used to create buffers (for chemical reactions)
  • Used as flux for welding
  • used for small-scale mining
  • acts as food preservative
  • used in manufacturing fire retardants

Borax has contributed to several kinds of industries, some creating adhesives, buffers, and food preservatives. There is more to the list, of course.

4. Curing agent

  • Cures snake skins
  • Cures salmon eggs

Multipurpose compound

Borax is a very exotic-sounding boron compound, but it is actually used in a multitude of industries, in varying types of functions. It is not only a multi-purpose cleaner but it's also a multi-purpose ingredient that can be used to manufacture a variety of products.

If you cannot believe all the things that have been discussed about borax’s contributions to your daily life, you could start by checking out the ingredients of your laundry detergent. You could also try to find the ingredient in other types of products as well. You may be surprised that you could find several products in your home that contain borax.

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