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Borax - Formula, Applications, Borax and Boric Acid Difference

Used several times for cleaning purposes, borax is observed to be widely used in many households. However, other than cleaning and laundry, this powdery white substance has a lot of other uses. In this article, we discuss in detail the several uses of borax and its various properties.

According to the IUPAC, Borax is the common name for the mineral sodium tetraborate decahydrate with the chemical formula Na2B4O7 • 10H2O. It is also often referred to as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate.

In nature, borax is a crystal white powdery substance. It appears to be a soft, colorless crystal. If exposed to water or air, it loses its hydration or dissolves easily in water. Due to this, the chemical formula changes. Borax, aka sodium tetraborate, now becomes sodium tetraborate pentahydrate.

Borax and Boric Acid

Now, we know that borax is a combination of boron, sodium, and oxygen. Thus, borax is one of the essential boron compounds. Boric acid, another boron compound, is produced from the same compound as borax. Their appearance and other properties are pretty similar.

Borax is defined as the boron compound popularly known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. On the other hand, boric acid is the boron compound referred to as hydrogen borate, boracic acid, and orthoboric acid. Boric acid is a weak boron acid, and borax is a mineral and a salt from boric acid. Both Boric acid and borax are similar. They are merely different formulations of one compound. Borax is a form of boron and is taken straight from the ground as a mineral. Boric acid is more refined and processed and is used in chemical products.

While borax may be natural, that does not mean it is entirely safe. Borax often comes in a box with a caution label warning users that the product is an eye irritant and may be harmful if swallowed. While people are mostly exposed to borax in their homes, they may also encounter it at work, such as in factories or borax mining and refining plants. Generally, borax has been found safe to use as a cleaning product if you take the appropriate precautions.
Here are safety tips to follow:

  • Avoid inhaling borax powder by always keeping it at a safe distance from your mouth.
  • Use gloves when using borax as a cleaning agent around the house.
  • Thoroughly rinse the area you are cleaning with water after washing with borax.
  • Wash your hands with soap after using borax if it gets on your skin.
  • Make sure clothes washed with borax are thoroughly rinsed before drying and wearing them.
  • Keep borax away from your eyes, nose, and mouth to minimize your risks of exposure when using it as a cleaning product.
  • Cover any open wounds on your hands when using borax. Borax is more easily absorbed through open wounds on the skin, so keeping them covered can reduce your risk of exposure.

Applications of Borax

The most common use of borax is for cleansing substances and laundry. It has been used as a homemade laundry detergent in several Indian households for years now. However, even though borax is found in laundry boosters, it has several other uses as well. Some of the common uses of borax are listed as follows:-

1. Borax helps get rid of stains, mold, and mildew around the house.
2. It can kill insects such as ants. Borax is an effective insect killer.
3. It is used in laundry detergents and household cleaners to help whiten and get rid of dirt.
4. It can also neutralize odors and soften hard water.
5. It is also used to flux for welding iron and steel.
6. It is used to produce glazes and enamel.
7. It is also used to fireproof textiles and wood.
8. Borax is a precursor for boric acid.
9. Borax in acute doses has also been used internally for decades by trusted medical practitioners as a natural treatment and remedy for arthritis pain and osteoporosis.

Borax is also used as an insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, Laundry booster: household cleanser, water softening agent, food additive as a preservative. In cosmetic substances and materials, borax is often commonly used as an emulsifier, buffering agent, or preservative for moisturizing products, creams, shampoos, gels, lotions, bath bombs, scrubs, and bath salts. When also mixed with glue and water, borax forms a substance referred to as “slime.” Borax is also used in toothpaste, hand soaps, buffer solutions, and flame retardants. It is also used extensively in the borax bead test; it is an essential part of qualitative chemical analysis to determine the presence of chemicals.

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