Unclogging Your Drain With Borax: Does It Work & Is It Safe?

Borax (also called sodium tetraborate) is a naturally occurring mineral that became a cleaning staple in the late 1800s. There is a long list of genius tips for using borax at home, from banishing odors to cleaning your garbage disposal, and it can even kill unwanted weeds for good with just a sprinkle. This wide array of uses, paired with its seemingly eco-friendly nature, helped borax's popularity flourish until the 21st century. To this day, it's still mined in California and appears on the ingredients list of many common laundry detergents. However, some folks have begun to wonder if this popular white powder is actually safe to use around the house. After all, it's strong enough to kill off insects and eliminate mold.

Overexposure to borax can be harmful, but it may be used as a DIY household cleaner if you take the right precautions. For one, wear gloves when handling borax so it doesn't get on your skin. Also, use it in well-ventilated areas and keep it away from your face so as not to breathe it in. You may even want to wear a face mask, which is a good idea when using any cleaning agent. One great use for borax, which comes with minimal exposure, is pouring it down drains to eliminate any debris causing water to back up. Indeed, it's an effective DIY Drano alternative, but not by itself. Here's how to use borax properly to unclog a drain.

The correct method for using borax to unclog a drain

While borax can be an effective cleaning agent for your drains, you'll need to use it alongside two other household items – salt and vinegar – for optimal results. To get the most out of borax in unclogging troublesome pipes, you'll want to use ¼ cup of the powder mixed with ¼ cup of salt and ½ a cup of vinegar. However, rather than pre-mixing these ingredients, pour the salt down the drain first, followed by the borax and then the vinegar, so you avoid any unwanted chemical reactions. Follow that up with a pot of boiling water (a full tea kettle is just the right amount) and leave it be for about an hour. 

Afterward, run hot tap water to flush out any remaining residue and check that your drain is actually unclogged. If the issue persists, you may need to repeat the process or call in professional help. Doing a DIY clean on your drains once a year is ideal, but every three months is even better. That way, you'll avoid any serious debris buildup and keep water flowing smoothly through all the drains in your home.

More handy uses for borax around your drains

Borax isn't just good at unclogging drains; it's also effective at keeping your kitchen's garbage disposal clean and safe. From food scraps to grease, all kinds of nasty stuff can build up inside, giving off a foul odor and harboring bacteria. One of the easiest ways to clean your garbage disposal is to mix ½ cup of borax with 1 gallon of hot water, pour it down the drain, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, run your hot water tap to flush out the mixture.

If you've noticed rust stains forming around various drains — whether it be your tub, toilet, or sink — borax can help with that, too. Mix 1 cup of borax with ½ cup of lemon juice and apply the paste to the stains. Allow it to sit until it's almost fully dry but still soft enough to scrub into the problem areas. Rinse with water, and voila! It's also the secret weapon you need for an immaculately clean shower. Banish hard water stains in a snap by creating a paste from ¼ cup of borax and 1 cup of vinegar. Slather it onto the water spots and let it sit for half an hour before scrubbing it clean. You can also use this same solution on your toilet. Apply the paste inside the bowl, let it sit for half an hour, and then easily wipe any stains away.