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Is Borax safe?

Posted on January 26 2016

There are a lot of people on many different sites and forums that yell, kick and scream that Borax, which is a name brand, or sodium borate (or tetraborate) is horrible and toxic. 

Then there are people on the other side of the coin that use it cleaning and in skincare products. 

Maybe you are here because you have found that the Environmental Working Group has rated our laundry soap as a D and you are wondering why? 

Here is the reason. EWG is basing their "grade" based on a study that was done by a three-generation feeding study (similar to OECD 416 Two-Generation Study) on rat species. The study can be found here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8921321/   

Price CJ, Strong PL, Marr MC, Myers CB, Murray FJ (1996a). Developmental toxicity NOAEL and postnatal recovery in rats fed boric acid during gestation. Fund Appl Toxicol 32:179-193.

If reading research is not your thing (personally I love it!), I'll sum it up for you. Reproductive toxicity was found in rats when it was administered ORALLY. 

Personally, I fall somewhere in between the two polarized sides. I think it's a great green cleaner for anything that does not go directly on your skin. I'm not an advocate for ingesting it, inhaling it, or putting it on topically. Using it in our laundry soap works with this frame of mind because it rinses completely out of the laundry and so none is left on your clothes or sheets after it's washed. Also, the sodium borate is dissolved in water when added to our already liquid product so you don’t have to worry about inhalation. We wear proper gear here at the MamaSuds Soap Shop to protect ourselves. The only MamaSuds product that we use it in is Laundry Soap. It's the last ingredient on the ingredient list, which means there is not much in your bottle of Laundry Soap. Only enough to tackle the minerals that would otherwise prevent your clothes from getting clean. 

Does it clean well without? Honestly, it depends on your water. Since most of America has hard water (full of minerals that block the soap from the fibers of your laundry), it’s necessary. If you are one of the few who have soft water, you can use MamaSuds Castile Soap to clean your laundry.

Why is sodium borate necessary in laundry soap?  

In order for the soap to penetrate fibers the water has to be an ideal pH and water that is hard (full of minerals) makes it difficult for the soap to penetrate the fibers to clean them. Borate increases the effectiveness of the soap by making the water stable for the soap to work at its best.

Also- this is a little nerdy, but borate also does a really cool thing when it's mixed with water, it releases hydrogen peroxide which acts as a bleach and also makes the water more alkaline which kills bacteria and fungus (something cloth diaper-ers know a lot about). Because my soap is all natural and made of olive oil soap, it rinses free (no residue) so even though you washed with it, it's completely rinsed out and therefore isn't being absorbed by your skin.

So- do I think it's safe? Yes, as a cleaner. Not as an ingredient in body wash, shampoo or skincare.

 

1 comment

  • carol: February 25, 2016

    Michelle,
    Thank you for clearing up this issue. I was confused about whether borate was safe. It’s good to know that it’s a great cleaner for laundry but shouldn’t be used in skincare or shampoo.

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