Whether you are trying to get your whites whiter, or your colors brighter, you are likely looking for the right detergent to bring out the best in your clothes. You may decide to use bleach, or a mixture of household items of some sort passed down within your family. These home remedies are always popular, but there is an easier way.
At Cleaning King we make it our mission to provide you with the answers you need when it comes to cleaning–it’s in our name. So, we wanted to do a deep dive into two of the most popular washing machine additives to see how they work, compare to each other, and which one is best for you. That is, Borax versus OxiClean.
Borax and OxiClean are both pretty well known household names by now. But, what exactly are they, and how do they make your washing easier? That’s what we aim to find out here today. So, our team at Cleaning King have put them to the test. Let’s take a look.
Borax is a curious cleaning additive as it isn’t really soap at all. It is purely a mineral (sodium tetraborate). It is naturally mined, mostly from the California Death Valley, and is known to enhance the cleaning power of other detergents including bleach (although this is only recommended in well ventilated areas).
Borax burst onto the scene in modern cleaning culture when the first team of miners pulled it out of the quarry using a team of 20 mules–hence the name 20 Mule Team Borax for the most popular brand. This happened in the year 1883, and since then Borax has been a staple for frugal homeowners who want to get the most out of their cleaning.
Borax works because it is an extremely alkaline mineral, with a pH level of 9.5. This creates what is known as a ‘basic solution’ when mixed with hot water. It essentially converts into hydrogen peroxide while the molecules are excited in water. This helps to lift acidic stains out of fabrics such as tomato stains or wine stains, for example.
Borax is a 100% natural substance that is mined and ground to be used by us. This is one advantage that Borax has over other cleaning enhancers on the market. It’s not a harsh chemical, it’s a natural mineral. However, it is still important to note that boron can act as a pesticide or herbicide when used in concentrated amounts–so you should still handle it with care!
Borax is convenient as it can be mixed with virtually any cleaner or detergent on the market. It can work alongside vinegar mixtures, it can work with your basic laundry detergent, you name it! In fact Borax and it’s highly alkaline pH level allows it to help balance out compounds in the water and enhance their cleaning power. This makes Borax a great complimentary cleaning agent.
So, Borax is an excellent detergent complement as it can soften the water and convert into hydrogen peroxide through the chemical process. It lifts stains, but it doesn’t do a lot of cleaning. That’s why it’s important to know that Borax on it’s own doesn’t really replace your detergent. However, it’s still a great additive.
If you have ever found yourself staying up a bit too late at night, you have likely seen those infomercials that spam the television when regular programming has ended. This format of advertising is how OxiClean became a household name–and a bit of a meme with the younger generations. Despite this ‘meme’ status, OxiClean is actually an incredible cleaning additive.
OxiClean has been around since the early 1990’s, but the way that OxiClean works has been known to scientists for quite some time. OxiClean, much like Borax, is activated by water. However, it is made from a different compound. In the case of OxiClean, that compound is sodium percarbonate.
Sodium Percarbonate is the product of a marriage between hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. This mixture allows OxiClean to break up when introduced to water, and separate into these two distinct chemical compounds. The potent mixture helps to separate the positively charged bonds that stains have with fabric, and force them to crumble like an atomic hot knife against butter.
The main draw for OxiClean is that it is not an additive, it is a detergent in and of itself. It does not need to be combined with anything, as the compound mixture sanitizes and cleans your laundry without an issue. OxiClean can also be used to remove stains on carpets, countertops, upholstery, and more.
One thing to note about OxiClean is that it does not mix well with bleach. Although it is technically safe, the gasses released when mixed together can still be dangerous especially to sensitive individuals.
The bottom line is that OxiClean works in a very similar way to Borax. It oxygenates the liquid and attacks the bindings of the stains on a molecular level. It essentially forces stains to separate from the fabric or material. It acts alone as a detergent, and doesn’t need to be mixed with anything to help it work.
When buying a stain removing detergent for your washing machine, you need to know how the products are going to react when introduced to the fabrics. You don’t want a detergent removing the color from your favorite hoodie, or stripping the logo off your favorite shirt. You also want to make sure that compound is safe to interact with other detergents or fabric softeners.
With both Borax and OxClean, the chemical process converts these compounds into hydrogen peroxide. Or more accurately they convert the water molecules into hydrogen peroxide. But the process is a bit different for both.
Without diving into a deep chemistry lesson, it’s important to note that the active compounds in Borax and OxiClean are both slightly different. Borax and borates in general do convert to hydrogen peroxide, but the process is a bit slower and less reactionary. It works well for softening the water and preventing hard minerals from ‘protecting’ the stain. This allows the detergent of your choosing to work uninhibited.
OxiClean does this as well. But, it also works to remove the stain itself. This is because OxiClean also has the addition of sodium carbonate, which is another agent that helps remove stains and soften water. It’s a 1-2 punch that makes it just that slight bit more effective.
Both compounds are perfectly safe to use with other detergents, but with OxiClean it is not necessary or advised unless you feel that you have to. This is the main separating factor with OxiClean and Borax. On the other hand, Borax allows you to use far less detergent in your washing machine as it greatly enhances the effectiveness of that detergent. You can actually cut your detergent use down by nearly 2/3rds when using just a bit of Borax in the washing machine.
So, when it comes to safety and cleaning power, both are excellent options. But to summarize, you are getting two very different products:
So, now that we have exhausted all the information you need to know about Borax and OxiClean, which one of them is better? Well, in the end both of them can accomplish similar results but in very different ways–as we have mentioned above.
Our team here at Cleaning King see the value in both products. Borax can be an amazingly useful compound to keep around the house to enhance your favorite detergent. However, it is our belief that OxiClean is far better in most general purposes. It works better on protein based stains, it doesn’t need a detergent to help it work, and it can simply be used as a replacement to all of your other cleaning agents in almost any case.
So, the verdict for us is that OxiClean is going to perform better in almost any situation. This is simply due to the fact that Borax doesn’t do much of anything on its own. However, it is important to note that Borax does have its uses, and can fill niches that OxiClean cannot.
So, in the end it all comes down to what you want to do with it. If you already have a detergent that you love–due to scent or any other reason–Borax is your friend. It will enhance that detergent and help you use less of it to make it last longer. For almost any other use, OxiClean is the winner.
See how OxiClean fared in our tests for the Overall Best Washing Machine Cleaner.
Borax can be found in the detergent aisle of almost any major grocery store. It is generally sold right beside other cleaning agents. It can also be found at any local hardware store, lawn and garden store, and online through companies such as Amazon or Walmart.
OxiClean shouldn’t be mixed with any other chemicals. That’s not to say it is immediately dangerous, but it’s just better to be safe than sorry. As a general rule of thumb, OxiClean does most of the work you need it to do alone, so you don’t need to mix it with other chemicals like bleach or ammonia. However, you can mix OxiClean with vinegar for more whitening power.
Borax has tons of uses in and around the home as well as in industrial settings. It is used to clean surfaces, disinfect fabrics, and even gets used with soldering components for electronics. Borax is a pretty versatile mineral that has found its way into filling many different niches and needs.
OxiClean contains washing soda in it. This is the sodium carbonate that exists within the OxiClean formula. All washing soda is powdered sodium carbonate. However, OxiClean also contains a powdered version of hydrogen peroxide. This essentially makes OxiClean oxygenated bleach (as opposed to chlorinated bleach). That is the slight difference between washing soda and OxiClean.
Ultimately both products are very safe. They are made from natural minerals that can be found in the Earth quite easily. You don’t have to worry about causing any real issues in general. However, it is important to remember that Borax is a borate, and as such can cause damage to plants or wildlife in very concentrated amounts. Both can cause irritation in the body or on the skin for sensitive individuals.
Borax is made from sodium tetraborate. OxiClean is made from sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. These are all natural compounds but are slightly different in the way they work and operate.
Despite the fact that borax and washing soda are chemically similar, they each have their own unique specialties. They have slightly diverse properties due to the shape of their molecules, which makes them helpful in a variety of ways.
Borax has been used to help wash clothing and clean surfaces for thousands of years because it softens water in the same way that super washing soda does. However, because the molecules in borax are less “sharp,” they dissolve in water more easily, changing the composition of the molecule itself.
While Super Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) has a very high pH, making it an extremely alkaline substance that works well as a cleaning agent, the pH levels of borax (sodium tetraborate) aren’t as high as super washing soda, and it doesn’t have the same cleaning power.
The unique chemical composition of super washing soda makes it extremely effective at degreasing and deep cleaning clothing. It is, however, highly caustic due to the high pH level and should never be touched with bare skin.
Borax, on the other hand, has a slightly different chemical composition of sodium tetraborate. Although, Borax is also quite alkaline, however, the alkaline composition in borax is not as high as washing soda.
Borax improves the cleaning power of soaps and detergents, but as a precipitating water softener, it is less effective against scale build-up in your washing machine and clothes.
Calgon on the other hand, will not increase the effectiveness of your soaps or detergents, however, its water softener approach is more effective in preventing scale build-up in your washing machine, extending its lifespan, and on garments, minimizing skin irritation, and accelerating wear and tear.
Calgon, unlike Borax, uses a mechanism called chelation to bind the chemicals that cause hard water in a soluble form.
Calgon keeps calcium and magnesium from building up in your washing machine and pipework or ending up in your clothes by keeping them dissolved in water.
Additionally, persons with sensitive skin will benefit from this because their clothes will be soft and free of irritative calcium crystals, unlike borax which may cause irritation to sensitive skin.
We at Cleaning King typically recommended that those with water hardness below 250ppm should use Borax, while those with water hardness over 250ppm use Calgon water softener. This is simply because Calgon tends to be more effective than Borax when the water tests over 250ppm, but Borax is by no means ineffective over 250ppm.
For more than a century, Boraxo has been known for its ability to gently scrub away even the toughest filth. It’s easy on the skin, thanks to a special blend of premium soap and borax, and it’s free of phosphates. Borax on the other hand is used as a laundry detergent booster.
Borax has a low toxicity rate for human beings and other animals. It is fatal for ants when they come in contact with it. When ants consume the borax bait, it disrupts their digestive system and eventually kills them. Boraxo is unlikely to kill roaches, ants, and other insects effectively like borax.
Borax (sodium tetraborate) is a naturally occurring mineral while Boraxo is a brand name for the powdered hand cleaner which is the combination of borax and powdered soap. When washing with water, Boraxo combines the scrubbing power of borax with the cleansing power of soap to easily dissolve grease and debris.
Unlike Borax, Boraxo is dual-action soap and it’s very safe in septic systems and also friendly on your skin.
Arm & Hammer laundry booster gives extra cleaning and refreshing power to a variety of difficult household tasks than Borax. It boosts the cleaning power of your detergent, removing ground-in dirt and stains and cutting through oily soils. It’s not only an excellent cleaner, but it’s also a natural product that’s fragrance and phosphate-free.
While Borax is a key ingredient in making slime, which is a very popular activity among kids, and can also be used to destroy weeds and get rid of pesky bugs such as cockroaches more easily, Arm & Hammer laundry booster does not serve these purposes.
Arm & hammer contains sodium bicarbonate, which absorbs even the harshest odors like those found in shoes and the refrigerator. It’s also a great cleaner for pots and pans, countertops, and stainless steel appliances because it’s scratch-free. Although Borax also eliminates odors, softens hard water, used in laundry detergents to aid whitening and get rid of dirt, notwithstanding, it’s not as effective as Arm & Hammer laundry booster.
Arm & Hammer laundry booster is safe and can be used for baking and personal care because it does not contain harsh chemicals. Borax on the other hand is not safe for consumption.
While Borax may irritate sensitive skin, Arm & Hammer on the other hand can be used to relieve minor skin irritation, brush your teeth and exfoliate.
The most significant distinction between boron and borax is that boron is a chemical element, whereas borax is a chemical compound. Furthermore, borax is a mineral and a boron-containing chemical. Despite the fact that the names boron and borax sound similar, their chemical natures are vastly different.
Boron is a non-phosphate, environmentally safe, borate-based, a household cleaning agent that poses no health risk while borax may cause irritation to sensitive skin.
Borax is a type of boron that is extracted as a mineral from the ground and used in cleaning products. Boron on the other hand is a refined and processed form of boric acid that is utilized in chemical processes.
Boron, in the form of sodium perborates or perborate tetrahydrate, is added to detergents because it possesses peroxygen linkages that can supply an oxidative bleaching agent to solutions.