20 Mule Team Borax Multi-Purpose Cleaner in the 76-Oz. Box


Pros: Performs a number of household cleaning tasks.  Neutralizes odors.  A natural mineral.  Septic-safe.  Made in USA.  Can be used to safely control the Eastern Black Ant.

Cons: Potential eye irritant.  Sodium Tetraborate is hygroscopic – store product in plastic to prevent caking.

Reading the back of a 21st century box of 20 Mule Team Borax, one has to assume they’ve witnessed a mineralist miracle.  Listed are no fewer than 21 uses – from laundry to bathroom to kitchen and beyond.  As a wee lad, I remember my mom mopping the kitchen floor with a solution of odor-neutralizing Borax mixed with Spic-n-Span.  Despite being perpetually besieged by four kids, a dog, two cats, a turtle and a hamster, our humble little home always smelled clean.

Borax patting itself on its back.

Flubber Enabler

While the majority of household uses involve cleaning, sodium tetraborate is not all work and no play.  According to Wikipedia, cross-linking polyvinyl alcohol with borax produces the rubbery polymer known as “Silly PuttySlimeFlubber, gluep or glurch”.  Less comic and more conventional uses involve mining, agriculture, automotive, glass and ceramic production and welding.

Borax shows its silly side. [Getty Images]
Borax showing its silly side. [Getty Images]

Though toxic in larger quantities, some countries allow its use as a preservative in food products.  Due to its ban for such use in the USA, the importation of caviar and other affected foods treated in this fashion has been curtailed.

Ant Be

My specific interest in 20 Mule Team Borax resulted from the recommendation of a syndicated radio gardening show that airs on Sunday mornings.  Listeners concerned with the infestation of black ants were advised toward a safer alternative to conventional pesticides.  The host, a recognized horticultural authority, suggested mixing one-part granulated sugar with two-parts borax – an element which is toxic to ants.

Ant or termite? Termites are usually larger and can have reddish characteristics. [Getty Images]
Ant or termite? Termites are usually larger and can display reddish characteristics. [Getty Images]

When I first moved in, my new house had been previously occupied by the Eastern Black Ant.  Shortly after sprinkling this mixture along the edge of the house’s foundation, as recommended, I noticed the ant’s attraction to the sugar.  Taking said sweets to the queen distributes the accompanying borax to the colony.  Within 36-hours, my interior ants had totally disappeared.  Once the local colonies are eliminated, spot-treatments have been necessary only to discourage rogue stragglers in subsequent seasons.

By eating the bud's sticky-sweet covering, ants enable the opening of Peony blooms. [Getty Images]
By eating the bud’s sticky-sweet covering, ants enable the opening of Peony blooms. [Getty Images]

Fortunately, neither dogs nor cats in my orbit have shown any interest in the powder, once distributed.  Any remaining mixture will disappear with the first rain.  Thanks to 20 Mule Team Borax, this simple, natural solution eliminated the problem at its source and rendered all toxic sprays and foggers obsolete.

Good News Continues

On the home-front, borate-treated lumber is replacing its arsenic equivalent – making for a safer residential environment.  In areas where wood-eating organisms thrive, this natural, non-toxic (to humans) bug and mold inhibitor will minimize property damage, while eliminating exposure to arsenic.

When was the last time you boiled your clothes? [Getty Images]
When was the last time you boiled your clothes? [Getty Images]

Borax vs. Baking Soda

While the product’s recommended bath and laundry use coincides with that of baking soda, borax does appear to possess more cleaning ability – it also rinses easier, without the granular residue of sodium bicarbonate.  I purchased the 4-lb., 12-oz. box of 20 Mule Team Borax for $3.59 (US) at my local general store – a bargain, considering its overall versatility.

Cleaning Wars: Will baking soda drop the hammer on the Mule Team?
Grudge Match: Will The Arm drop the hammer on the Mule Team?

Its suggested use in automatic dishwashers as a rinse aid involves hard-water issues.  Since my well-water is filtered and relatively soft, the Finish Powerball tabs I use work well, unassisted.  20 Mule Team Borax is septic-safe and suitable for use in high-efficiency washers.


Store in a dry environment inaccessible to children.  Do not eat.  Avoid contact with eyes.

Dial Corporation
Scottsdale, AZ  85255

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