Difference Between Washing Soda and Borax (Explained)

Borax and washing soda are two common household staples that are often used for cleaning and laundry.

While they may seem similar at first glance, there are actually some key differences between the two.

In this article, we’ll look at what borax and washing soda have in common and what makes them different, as well as their uses and possible replacements.

Here’s a quick and upfront answer if you don’t like to read the entire article:

The main difference between washing soda and borax is their chemical composition. Washing soda with the chemical formula Na2CO3 also known as sodium carbonate is more alkaline than borax. On the other hand, borax, which is a hydrated borate of sodium with the chemical formula Na₂B₄O₇·10H₂O, has a lower pH level when compared to washing soda.

Key Takeaways

  • One of the main similarities between borax and washing soda is that they can both be used as laundry detergents.
  • Since washing soda is more alkaline than borax, it is better at getting rid of dirt and grease.
  • Washing soda has a pH level of 11 or above, whereas borax has a pH level of 9.5 to 9.13.
  • The main difference between borax and washing soda is their chemical composition.
  • While washing soda works well in any temperature of water, borax is most effective in hotter water.

Ingredients in washing soda and borax

Both washing soda and borax are chemical compounds, so they don’t have any ingredients.

Washing soda is made up of sodium carbonate, which is a naturally occurring mineral, and borax is made up of sodium tetraborate, which is a boron mineral that is mined from the earth.

Uses of Borax and Washing Soda

Laundry Detergent

Both borax and washing soda can be used as laundry detergent boosters.

When added to your regular laundry detergent, it can help boost its cleaning power and remove stains more effectively.

To use borax or washing soda as a laundry detergent, simply add 1/2 cup borax or washing soda along with your laundry detergent in the washing machine, and you should have a powerful cleaner ready.


Borax and washing soda can both be used to clean different things around the house.

When mixed with water, they can be used to clean and disinfect sinks, toilets, and countertops.

They can also be used as a mild abrasive to scrub away tough stains on surfaces like ovens, tile, and grout.

To use borax or washing soda as a cleaning agent, mix 1/2 cup of either solution with 1/4 cup of warm water to make a paste.

Next, apply the paste to the surface to be cleaned and scrub with a brush or sponge.

Homemade Cleaning Solutions

Both borax and washing soda can be used as ingredients in homemade cleaning solutions as well.

They can be used in combination with other natural ingredients like vinegar and lemon juice to make an all-purpose cleaner or a heavy-duty oven cleaner.

Other Uses

Both borax and washing soda have also been used for other purposes like insect control, as a fungicide, and in homemade personal care products like deodorant and toothpaste.

However, washing soda is more effective at removing grease and oil, while borax is more effective as a stain remover and brightener.

other uses of borax and washing soda

Key Differences

Washing SodaBorax
Alkaline with a pH of 11 and above.Alkaline with a pH of 9 to 9.13.
Stronger cleaning powerMilder cleaning power.
Can be used for heavy-duty cleaning tasks, such as removing grease and stains.Typically used as a laundry booster or mildew remover.
Chemical formula: Na2CO3.Chemical formula Na₂B₄O₇·10H₂O.
More effective in removing oil and grease.It works best on stains and is less effective in removing oil and grease.

Substitutes for Borax and Washing Soda

Borax Substitutes

If you are unable to find borax or prefer not to use it, there are a few substitutes that you can use instead.

Some of these substitutes include baking soda, boron powder, and Epsom salt.

Washing soda substitutes

Some of these substitutes that you can use instead of washing soda include baking soda, soda ash, and trisodium phosphate.

Can you substitute washing soda for borax?

Since the chemical compositions of borax and washing soda are not the same, it won’t be right to say that you can substitute one for the other. However, because their cleaning properties are similar, you can use either of them to get your laundry clean.

Remember, this is only a workaround to achieve the closest possible result.

Washing soda is more alkaline than borax, so it cleans better. However, it may not give the same results as borax.

Which is better borax or baking soda?

Both borax and washing soda have unique properties and uses, and which one is better depends on the specific task or problem you are trying to solve.

If you have hard water or need to remove oily or greasy stains, washing soda may be more effective.

If you want to boost the cleaning power of your laundry detergent or want a fabric softener, borax could be a better choice.

It’s important to remember that, washing soda is more alkaline than borax, meaning it has more cleaning power but can also be harsher on fabric.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, understanding the similarities and differences between borax and washing soda, as well as their various uses and potential substitutes, can help you make informed decisions about how to use these household staples effectively and safely.

It’s also important to note that there are potential health and environmental concerns associated with using borax and washing soda, so it’s always a good idea to use them in moderation and with proper ventilation.

If you prefer not to use them or are unable to find them, there are substitutes available, such as baking soda, boron powder, Epsom salt, soda ash, and trisodium phosphate.

The bottom line is that, even though they may seem similar at first glance, they are actually different in both chemical composition and the results they yield.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put borax straight on clothes?

While you can put borax directly on clothes, it is not recommended. Borax is a strong cleaning agent and can be quite alkaline, so it can be harsh on fabrics and may cause discoloration or damage to certain types of materials. It’s best to use borax as a laundry booster by adding it to the wash cycle along with your detergent. You can add 1/2 cup to a regular load of laundry to help boost the cleaning power of your detergent.

Can borax be used on colored clothes?

Borax can be used on colored clothes, but it’s important to use it with care as it can potentially cause discoloration or fading of some dyes due to its alkaline nature. It’s always a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first to ensure that it doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration.

Does borax remove yellow stains?

Pre-soaking the affected area of the fabric in a solution made of borax and water can certainly help to remove yellow stains from clothes.

Does borax damage the washing machine?

Borax is not known to damage washing machines and works with most HE washers. In fact, it is often added to laundry detergent as a booster to help it clean better. That being said, borax is a natural mineral, and it can leave traces if not rinsed properly. Therefore, it’s important to use it in the correct amounts and avoid overloading your machine with too much of it.

Does borax remove sweat stains?

Yes, borax can be effective at removing sweat stains from clothes. Its alkaline properties can help to break down and remove the proteins and salts that are present in sweat stains.

Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at) theportablelaundry.com.