What is Borax?
Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a significant boron compound and a salt of boric acid. It resembles white table salt in appearance, but its consistency is that of powder. Borax crystals are odourless, white (although can have various colour impurities) and alkaline. Borax is not flammable and is not reactive, but is known for its toxicity.
Why is it so special?
The popularity of this compound in numerous industries can be explained by the remarkable variety of uses it has shown. It is a constituent of many household products including detergents, natural laundry boosters, multipurpose cleaners, fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, disinfectants, particular soaps, tooth- bleaching formulas and is even used as a food additive to assist preservation.
Apart from household use it is used: to make buffer solutions in Biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound, as a ‘flux’ in welding metals, a PH controller in swimming pools, and is used for a great many more specific procedures, like as a micronutrient fertiliser in boron-deficient soils and as a neutron absorber in nuclear reactors to stop a nuclear chain reaction!
Borax is in fact a poisonous compound and was added to the EU regulations’ ‘Substance of Very High Concern’ (SVHC) list in 2010. Even so, it is not acutely toxic and only a significant dose of the chemical can cause severe symptoms or death.
Sufficient exposure to borax powder is normally reported to cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation. It is known to be particularly toxic to infants as well causing fertility problems in males, which led to it being classified as a substance toxic for reproduction under CLP Regulations.
In what form is Borax available?
Naturally occurring Borax is an ‘evaporite’ (mineral sediment that remains after crystallization by evaporation from an aqueous solution) and is produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. This is s refined by a process called ‘re-crystallization’. Borax can also be produced synthetically in factories.
Borax is available as a constituent of the different products that make use of it (e.g. “Boraxo” powered hand soap) and by itself- most commonly under the brand name “20 Mule Team: Borax”.
So where exactly do I go to buy Borax?
Borax is available in the ‘Laundry’ sections of almost every grocery store/supermarket in the world. Multinational and national stores that sell the product include Walmart, SPAR, Woolworths and Target, Coles, Aldi, Farm-foods, Wegman etc.
Pure Borax is also available in Chemists and Pharmacies worldwide.