Bad news for Borax users (myself included): The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports this week that breathing or touching the mineral—a much-used ingredient in green cleaners—can cause skin and eye irritation and may disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. The EWG recommends staying away from the naturally occurring salt, a frequent ingredient in cleaners and beauty products. “Borax is not a green cleaning ingredient, as many have been led to believe,” EWG senior scientist Rebecca Sutton reports. EWG offers alternative tips on green cleaning.
At Natural Home magazine, we’ve been recommending borax as a safer alternative to the harsh chemicals found in traditional cleaning products for more than a decade. Borax removes mildew and stains and gives homemade laundry detergent a little extra boost. We included it in our recommended arsenal of good green cleaning products in the current issue. Well, darn.
If you make your own cleaning products—as a way to avoid potentially harmful industrial chemicals—EWG recommends simply omitting borax. Natural Home has several borax-free cleaning recipes in its arsenal and recommends baking soda as a safe, nontoxic alternative to borax for cleaning and deodorizing. A few simple tips:
--For an all-purpose homemade cleaner, dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water. Sprinkle baking soda directly on a damp cloth or sponge, and scrub.
--Add some dry salt for an extra burst of power. This can replace most abrasive cleaners.
--Scrub mildewed or stained surfaces with baking soda.
--Use vinegar and lemon juice to remove mineral deposits and wax or grease buildup. Dilute them in water (use equal parts white vinegar or lemon juice and warm water) to clean glass or stainless steel.
--To clear clogged drains, pour some baking soda and vinegar down the drain, followed by 3 cups boiling water. Mixing baking soda and vinegar creates a bubbling, fizzing chemical reaction. (Do not use this mixture in conjunction with a toxic drain cleaner!)
Baking soda is a safer alternative to borax. Photo courtesy Flickr/Smysnbrg