How to Use 20 Mule Team Borax

Most people associate, if your old enough, 20 mule team borax with the television show Death Valley Days, a weekly fictional program featuring old west stories. Few realized the iconic 20 mule team wasn’t a stage prop or imaginary happening created to open the program, but an actual historic event, and was in reality the show’s sponsor. The 20 mule team was actually 18 mules and 2 horses that ferried borax out of Death Valley from 1883 to 1898 when they were replaced by the Borate and Dagget railroad. The wagons were among the largest ever pulled by draft animals, carrying 10 short tons, 9 metric tons, of borax at one time. But… to the original question, how to use 20 mule team borax?

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What is Borax?

Borax is a natural combination of sodium, boron and oxygen and is mined directly from the soil. Boric acid is a crystalline material made from the 20 Mule Team Borax and is a unique substance with many wide and varied uses similar to baking soda’s multiple usages. Boric acid is slightly different than the basic Borax, as the oric acid and its sodium salts, each combined with different elements, creates different toxicity levels, which creates the many different applications it can be used for.

Fireproofing paper, cloth and wood

In 1821, a French scientist named Guy-Lussac, discovered if he saturated materials, specifically clothing for the experiment, with boron salts the compound could prevent the clothing from burning. Further experiments found paper and other cellulose-based products to be equally fire resistant. The success of finding a fireproofing chemical that wouldn’t ruin the color of the cloth, or turn it poisonous, was a huge breakthrough.

How does it work?

To totally understand the entire process you must know the different scientific stages of the flammable and combustion process, which there is no need to go into. There are two keys to the flame retardant process, sodium borates, combined with additional elements, release water when exposed to heat which prevents a fire from erupting, boric acid, when combined with additional elements, and exposed to heat, will create a primitive form of glass, which covers and smothers the flame.

How to make clothes fire-retardant

Although we use the term fire-proof, there actually is no such thing, but is rather fire-retardant, making it difficult and slow to catch fire. This allows us the opportunity to put the fire out before it expands or to escape. It must be noted this process only works for natural materials such as cotton, jute, wood or paper and will not work on synthetic materials like polyester or nylon.



Materials Required:

Borax (sodium borate) laundry booster

A measuring cup

A Tablespoon measuring spoon

An old pan

A storage container

An applicator (paint brush, spray bottle, sponge.)

Step 1: You’ll want to make a solution which will saturate the item thoroughly.

Boil 1 cup of water

Add 2.5 Tablespoons of Borax to the boiling water

Stir the solution until the Borax completely dissolves

Remove the pan from the heat source and allow it to cool to room temperature. Some of the Borax will evaporate as the solution cools, which is normal. The remaining clear liquid is a flame-retardant mixture ready to apply.

Step 2. There are various methods of application depending on what you are trying to saturate, the size and your personal preference.

For this example we’ll be making a pair of blue jeans fire-retardant:

  1. Emerge the pair of jeans completely into the solution and let set for an adequate time period, I’d suggest at least 10 minutes.

  2. Fill a spray bottle full of the solution. Hang the blue jeans on a clothes line or similar method which allows easy access to every portion of the jeans, and completely saturate the fiber. The solution should literally drip from the jeans indicating it cannot absorb further liquid.

  3. If using a paint/foam brush, use the exact method as #2.

The goal is to completely saturate every fiber of the jeans with the fire-retardant solution. Allow the jeans to dry. Remember, this is a one time procedure. Should the jeans become wet or is rewashed, the fire-retardant solution will be washed out of the fabric, and a repeat process will be required.


Let’s explore many other methods of How to Use 20 Mule Team Borax:

  1. Clean tubs & showers by sprinkling borax on a damp sponge, exactly like using the more expense Ajax, scrub and thoroughly rinse for a clean bathroom.

  2. Clean hair brushes and combs by filling the sink with warm water, add ¼ cup of borax and a squirt of dish soap, stir and let the items sit in the solution for 30 minutes, then rinse.

  3. Rehabbing an old house or a vacation home toilet filthy and stained. Pour 1 cup of borax into the water, thoroughly stir, then let it set overnight. The next day use a scrub brush to remove stains, resulting in a white sparkling clean toilet.

  4. Unclog a sink drain by pouring ½ cup of borax, using a funnel, down the drain. Add 2 cups of boiling water, let set for 10 minutes, then flush with boiling water. Repeat if necessary.

  5. Clean sinks and counter by using a solution of 1 tablespoon borax and 2 tablespoons of vinegar poured into a plastic squirt bottle. Fill with hot water and a few drops of dish soap, for a great all purpose cleaner.

  6. Clean the outside of the refrigerator with this same solution, but for food stains on frig shelves, use 1 tablespoon borax in a quart of hot water.

  7. In order to clean and sanitize mold and mildew, mix 1 cup of borax with a quart of hot water, poured into a plastic spray bottle. Spray the mold and mildew until it is completely saturated. Let set for several hours, then rinse thoroughly with clean water. It’ll kill the mold & mildew.

  8. You cannot clean cast iron cookware with dish soap, as the porous cast iron will absorb the soap resulting in making your food taste soapy. Mix 1 teaspoon of borax with 1 teaspoon of salt, spread it around the entire interior and scrub with a brush. It’ll clean the surface and not risk any bad tastes lingering.

  9. In order to remove rust from cast iron surfaces, use 1 part borax with 1 part lemon juice, spread the mixture onto the rust and let set for 30 minutes. Wipe the mixture off and thoroughly rinse.

  10. To get rid of that aggravating sticky goo that gets left behind by gum, tar, grease and other adhesives, mix ½ cup of borax with a ½ cup warm water, pour on goo and scrub with brush.

  11. Remove stubborn laundry stains by mixing 1 tablespoon borax with 2 tablespoons of water, spread on stain, let set for 30 minutes, scrub stain away and wash like usual.

  12. In order to remove carpet stains, mix ½ cup of borax with 2 cups of warm water. Using a sponge, dipping it into the solution, saturate the stained area, then scrub vigorously. Let set for 30 minutes, then vacuum.

  13. Deodorize the home. Mix 1 part borax with 1 part baking soda, sprinkle over the entire carpet, let set for 30 minutes and vacuum. This will neutralize any odors trapped in the carpet fibers. Deodorize curtains, couches, stuffed chairs, by making a solution of ½ cup borax and water, spray lightly onto the fabric, not wanting to saturate them, removing odors.

  14. In order to clean and deodorize your mattress, use the same method as for carpets except add a few drops of lavender essential oil for a fragrant smell.


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Insect Killer

Boric acid is an effective weapon to use on your war with unwanted insects. How? When the insects eat the boric acid it disrupts their stomach and nervous system. Borax is also an abrasive and by merely rubbing against it an insect’s exterior protective armor is destroyed. It can also be used as a weed control. The borate salt dries the plant out, and additionally prevents the plant from producing energy from the sunlight, thus killing it.

15. In order to kill ants, mix equal parts of borax with sugar, and sprinkle it anywhere you see unwanted ant trails. The ants which eat it will not only die, but when they transport it back to their nests, those ants will also die. Thus eliminating the entire problem.

16. Borax will repulse insects such as cockroaches, fleas and bedbugs. Sprinkle it in known areas of infestation.

17. Sprinkle it along any known pathways or where signs of mice are spotted, as it will repulse them. Sprinkle it on bait and it won’t only kill the mouse that ate it, but hopefully it will transport it back to the nest.

18. Use it as a weed killer. Sprinkle it on weeds between cracks in sidewalks or along the foundation. You must be careful because the borax will kill anything it comes in contact with, so never spread it on a windy day or if rain is in the forecast.

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Last but not least: Borax can be used to:

Deodorize the trashcan, the litter box, mop the floor, wash patio furniture, wash windows and … put out fires. Baking soda is the normal recommendation for putting out fires, but borax is just as effective.

You can see how to Use 20 Mule Team Borax, an all purpose product would appeal to pioneers. The product has the same uses, probably more today, but we have become spoiled to prep-packaged cleaners and honestly are ignorant of how to use the product. The old adage “Use it or Lose it” comes to mind. We have such a varied choice anymore we don’t stop and think what else could I use that is just as effective and much cheaper to use than what’s available on the grocery shelf. You know of one now.



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