Borax is a naturally occurring mineral salt that's sold as a laundry booster. It promises to fight stains, brighten whites and help laundry detergent more effectively clean all kinds of fabrics, colored fabrics included. Unlike bleach, borax is safe to use on colored fabrics without fear of dye removal or other damage. This general rule applies whether borax is used as a laundry booster in the washing machine, as part of a pre-soak solution, as a spot treatment for stains or as an ingredient in homemade laundry detergent. For the best results in using borax for a colored wash, follow the recommendations on its packaging.
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A Brief Introduction to Borax
Borax, or sodium borate, is a natural mineral salt that's mined from dried lake beds. The white powder became popular as a cleaning and laundry product in the late 19th century, which gives the product a nostalgic vibe. Borax has seen a resurgence in contemporary times due to its all-natural credentials. Some users like to make DIY laundry detergent with borax as a key ingredient.
Borax has endured as a laundry booster for more than a century because it is effective. It is very alkaline, with a pH of 9.5, and it forms a basic solution when mixed with water. Borax thereby acts as a water softener, helping soaps and detergents work more effectively. A borax and water solution along with detergent will emulsify and disperse oils, repel soils and lift the color out of stains without harm to white or colored fabrics.
Borax and Hot Water Woes
Borax has one characteristic that can prove challenging when it comes to washing colored clothes: it doesn't dissolve well in cold water. Common advice is to wash colored clothes only in cold water to prevent fading and to keep colors bright. Some delicate fabrics, whether white or colored, are labeled as cold-wash only. However, borax readily dissolves only in warm or hot water.
To effectively use borax in a colored wash, there are a few workarounds. One is to simply wash the colored items in warm or hot water, adding borax along with the usual laundry detergent. If this is an infrequent practice, the stain-fighting power of borax might be worth the minimal risk of color fading that comes with a warm or hot wash. Another is to dissolve borax in a small amount of warm or hot water and then add the premade solution to a cold wash. Make a solution of approximately 1 tablespoon of borax dissolved in 2 cups of hot water and then add about 1/2 cup of the solution to a regular-size load of laundry.
Ways to Use Borax for a Colored Wash
Borax is a versatile product for laundry as well as other cleaning tasks. In addition to adding a dash of borax to the washing machine, use borax in the following ways:
- Pre-soak fabric to remove stains before washing.
Use 1/2 cup of borax per gallon of warm water, add pre-rinsed clothes to the
solution and soak them for 30 minutes to one hour before laundering as usual.
- Make a spot treatment for stains with one part
borax to two parts warm water. Spread the solution directly on a stain, let it
sit for 30 minutes and then rinse and wash the item as usual.
- Make your own DIY laundry detergent by blending borax, washing soda and Castile soap. Many recipes are available online.
Warnings for Using Borax
Keep borax out of the reach of children and never ingest or inhale it. Borax can irritate the skin. Users with sensitive skin should avoid touching borax with bare hands. Spandex clothing can be damaged by high-pH cleaning products. Avoid using borax on fabrics that contain spandex, also known as Lycra or elastane.
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