3 Amazing Borax Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Knowing effective borax substitutes is important, since the original substance is somewhat controversial, and not always readily available.

Borax Substitutes

Many people seek out borax substitutes after learning a bit more about this unusual substance. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that is created in seasonal lakes when they evaporate and refill over time. It is sold in powdered form, which is soft and white, and dissolves easily in water. For over 100 years, it has been used as a laundry additive and pest repellent, and it also has other fun uses, like turning flames green or making homemade flubber!

There is some controversy over how safe borax is to use. Scientists agree that, overall, it is safer than many chemicals used in commercial cleaning agents or insecticides, but it should not be inhaled or ingested, especially by children, pets, or adults with respiratory issues. Borax has been shown to cause eye and skin irritation, and one study claims it may negatively affect the male reproductive system. You may still choose to use borax, but if you don’t have any at home, or you are seeking a safer alternative, there are many great substitutes out there such as baking soda, diatomaceous earth, and cornstarch among others.

Baking Soda

If you’re looking for a natural ant repellent, baking soda is a great substitute for borax. Mix it with sugar to attract the ants, and the baking soda will do the difficult job of eliminating the infestation.

Baking soda can also be used as a cleaning agent. Mix it with a little water and use a sponge to scrub appliances or countertops. The grit will help remove tough messes. For laundry, add a ½ cup along with your normal laundry detergent to brighten clothes.

Diatomaceous Earth

This is also a great pest repellent instead of borax. A sprinkle of this natural compound near entryways, at places where ants gather, or on their nests is an excellent natural insecticide. Look for food grade DE, and keep it away from children and pets because it can be toxic if ingested.


If you’re looking for a fun activity for kids, making flubber or slime with cornstarch makes for a great afternoon. Try mixing it with water to your desired consistency, with dish soap at a 2:1.5 cornstarch to soap ratio, or with school glue at a 2:1 cornstarch to glue ratio. For even more fun, add any food coloring or glitter that your kids like!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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