It feels good to just take a deep breath when the house is spotless. The freshest, most fragrant air, the sparkle of just-washed windows, and a kitchen so clean even Mother Nature would be proud.
But what’s even better than a clean home is using safe products for us and our environment. Borax and baking soda are valuable products used as cleaning agents, and here’s a quick breakdown of their differences.
What is the Difference Between Borax and Baking Soda?
Borax and baking soda are naturally occurring compounds often used in cleaning and other household uses. They’re both salts and in a pinch, some people mistakenly use them interchangeably. They’re both popular as “green” cleaning agents, but borax has a pH level of around 9.5, and baking soda has a pH of 8, making it more alkaline than baking soda. That said, here is a rundown of critical differences between the two that you should consider when deciding which one to use.
Composition: Borax, or sodium tetraborate, is a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a chemical compound of sodium, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. As mentioned above, the PH level of borax is also significantly higher than that of baking soda.
Uses: Borax is commonly used as a laundry booster to enhance laundry detergent’s cleaning power and remove stubborn stains. It can also be used as a multi-purpose cleaner for floors, bathrooms, and kitchens. On the other hand, baking soda is commonly used as a leavening agent to help the dough rise. It is also a popular cleaning agent and deodorizer, used for everything from cleaning bathrooms and kitchens to removing musty odors from carpets and clothing.
Environmental impact: Borax and baking soda are considered environmentally friendly alternatives to many commercial cleaning products. However, borax is more likely to harm the environment due to its mining process and potential toxicity. It is also not biodegradable. Baking soda is considered to be more eco-friendly since it is naturally occurring, non-toxic, and biodegradable.
Safety: Although borax has long been a popular cleaning agent, it is no longer widely used due to its potential toxicity. Borax can be harmful if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. It can also be irritating to the eyes and respiratory system. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned borax as an ingredient in foods and cosmetics due to its potential toxicity. They termed it a food additive, unsafe ingest, and can cause respiratory and skin irritation. It can also be toxic to aquatic life when released into the environment.
Additionally, some countries have banned or restricted the sale of borax due to its potential health risks. For these reasons, many people prefer baking soda as a safer alternative. Baking soda is generally considered harmless, although consuming large amounts can lead to digestive issues.
Can I use baking soda instead of borax?
Baking soda can be used as a substitute for borax in some household cleaning applications. Baking soda can lower the pH of hard water and brighten and soften clothing just as borax does, but it’s non-toxic and risk-free. Typically, these products have similar cleaning properties and are natural alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners. Baking soda is particularly useful as a mild abrasive and deodorizer for household surfaces and can be used in place of borax for cleaning carpets, sinks, and toilets. Additionally, baking soda can be used to enhance the cleaning power of laundry detergent, in place of borax, as a laundry booster. However, some applications where borax is used, such as removing stubborn stains or killing mold and mildew, may not be as effective with baking soda alone. It’s important to note that both borax and baking soda have unique properties, and it’s always best to consult with a professional or a reliable source before attempting to substitute one for the other in any cleaning application.
What is the difference between borax and baking soda boils down to their compositions, uses, safety profiles, and environmental impacts. While borax has superior cleaning powers, it should be used cautiously due to potential safety concerns. Baking soda, on the other hand, is considered safe and eco-friendly, making it an excellent choice for various household uses.