One thing that has been difficult for me to keep in mind on my search for cleaning product recipies is that DIY is not the same as clean (at least in the natural sense-lots of toxic products do a great job cleaning).
One ingredient that kept showing up in my searches is 20 Mule Team Borax. Since the whole point of making my own products is to avoid using ingredients I don't know anything about (and it is usually cheaper), it defeats the purpose to make my own cleaning products with stuff I don't know anything about. SO, I wanted to figure out how I felt about Borax.
The first thing I learned is, it isn't a product concocted from several ingredients to be an efficient cleaning agent. (I thought it was like the Bisquick of the cleaning world) It is just itself: borax. More specifically, a naturally found substance made up of, sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. Basically, an evaporate from boron. Very natural, very simplistic; straight from the earths crust.
Buuuut, natural doesn't always mean safe. Lots of things found in nature should not be eaten or put on your body.
Borax has many many cleaning uses: from laundry detergent to automatic dishwasher detergent. It is thought of by many as quite a miracle ingredient, and can be found in many DIY and even "green" cleaning recipies. But I'm just not convinced.
For one, the environmental working group (EWG) actually recommends NOT putting borax in your green cleaning products.
Borax has a few aliases to be aware of - lots of ingredients are sneaky like that:
Sodium Borate, Sodium Tetraborate, or Disodium Tetraborate.
Normally these are the names I've seen listed on cleaning products, rather than it being called "Borax". Now, to be clear, borax and boric acid are NOT the same thing, but they are "close cousins" as a helpful article posted by the EWG states.
So, here is why I don't like the stuff.
It has short and long term negative effects. Always a valid cause for concern.
Short term, it can be an eye and skin irritant, (like almost everything, it seems) but, particularly in small children and toddlers, it can have much harsher effects as a skin and eye irritant, and if ingested, it can cause respiratory irritation as well.
Crearly none of that is good news, but the biggest kicker for me, and the reason I will be keeping it out of my DIY products and purchased products (if possible) is that it is a hormone disruptant. Men are much more susceptible to a reaction from Borax than women, as it can cause decreased sperm count and libedo,
but women are not in the clear.
Overtime, exposure to Borax has shown to decrease ovulation and fertility. In our house, Simon is a huge help with all things home: laundry, house work, cooking, etc, but I am still the one primarily using our cleaning products, especially when tackling the deep cleaning.
I enjoy cleaning and there is something very satisfying about the whole thing for me. And, while Simon often helps with cleaning, I'm the primary deep cleaner. So, despite which gender is more suceptible to the effects, avoiding hormone disruption is kind of a no-brainer for me to keep it out if possible. Especially when there are lots of equally effective, green alternatives to it!
Now, none of this is to say what I manage to keep all hazerdous, harmful, etc. cleaning ingredients out of our home. I don't even know what all of them are yet!! But I'm trying, and after taking some time to form my opinions and conclusions, this is where I am.
Happy cleaning :)
Here is a post I found giving a list of some of the borax alternatives I talked about.