Can You Use Borax On Colored Clothes? (Explained)

Borax is an effective alkaline cleaner that can help remove stains and bring vibrancy to clothing. It can be used to improve the efficiency of the laundry detergent, removing mineral deposits and eliminating odors.

If diluted, borax is a great option for brightening white and colored clothes. There is a small chance that borax can alter the color if it is concentrated and allowed to sit on fabrics. Most often, fading is a result of the dyes and types of fabric the clothing is made of rather than the use of borax.

Things To Know About Borax

Borax, also known as sodium tetraborate, disodium tetraborate, or sodium borate, is a salt mixture of boron, oxygen, and a sodium component. 

On the pH scale, borax is an alkaline of 9.5, which makes it an effective cleaner for brightening and cleaning fabrics and other surfaces. It also neutralizes acids, and odors, and breaks down grime and grease. 

When borax mixes with water, it chemically creates hydrogen peroxide, which is an alternative to bleach.

Fabric Logistics

Borax is a great option for brightening colored clothes. 

This substance may effectively clean your clothing, but it could result in loss of dye. However, this is more a factor of the dyeing process and what your clothing is made out of. Natural fabrics, such as cotton or wool will fade faster than man-made, such as polyester and nylon.

Keep in mind that fabric used to make clothing will also fade over time due to wear and tear and exposure to sunlight, sweat, friction against your skin, and repeated washings. 

Borax is not recommended for use on materials made with spandex, lycra, or elastane, which can be damaged by substances with a higher pH.

Water Temperature

Refer to your clothing’s care instructions on the tag or label. Many items can be washed in warm water without fading or shrinking. 

However, dark and bright colors and fabrics that may bleed color, bleed less in cold water, at approximately 80°F. Cold water also uses less energy, which is better for your utility bills. 

It can be difficult to dissolve borax in cold water, so you can make a mixture ahead of time if you wish to run your washing machine on cold. Keep in mind that if the mixture is allowed to sit for extended periods, the borax particles may separate from the water. 

Dissolving Borax For Laundering

Make any mixtures right before you intend to treat stains or wash clothing. 

Complete the following to dissolve borax for a regular-sized load:

  1. Mix a ratio of 1-tablespoon (3-teaspoons) of borax per 1-cup of hot water.
  2. Add 1-teaspoon at a time, stirring vigorously until the borax is dissolved and not visible.
  3. Let the solution cool (up to 2 hours), and then it is ready for use.

This method is intended for using borax in a large amount of water for washing a whole load. It is not necessary for spot treatments.

Safety

While borax is a naturally occurring substance, it is considered toxic. You should take precautions when handling it. 

Borax should not be ingested, handled with bare skin, inhaled, or come into contact with your eyes. 

Refer to the package’s handling and storage instructions, and consider wearing gloves, a mask, and eye protection.


Using Borax For Laundering Colored Clothes

Borax is gentler than bleach, yet effective in brightening clothing. Generally, it is used as a booster in conjunction with laundry detergent, bleach, or a targeted stain remover. 

If you are concerned about increased fading, test borax on an inconspicuous seam using the pre-treatment method below. 

For ALL of the following methods, please keep this in mind in regards to stains:

If the stain remains after washing, do not dry the items in the dryer. If you do, this will make the stain more permanent. Repeat the method of stain removal or try one of the alternatives listed below.

Pre-Treatment Solution: Stained Spot

To soften and remove stains, borax can be used as a pre-treatment paste before washing clothes. 

The higher concentration could potentially alter the color of clothing. Test in an inconspicuous spot first.

What To Do

  1. Make a paste of borax and water in a small bowl. Use about 1-tablespoon of borax per 2-tablespoons of water.
  2. Apply the paste to the stained area using a spoon.
  3. Let it sit for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Wash with laundry detergent. 
  5. Check for stains before drying, and repeat if necessary.

Pre-Treatment Solution: Whole Items

You can soak an entire item or all of your laundry before washing. 

If you have the option of a utility sink or a soak cycle on your washing machine you can use these. If not, a clean bucket will do for a small load or a clean bathtub for a larger load.

What To Do

  1. Rinse your clothes in warm water to open up the pores in the fabric. 
  2. Fill the bucket, washing machine, or tub with clean and fresh warm water. 
  3. Add ½-cup of borax per 1-gallon of warm water. Mix together.
  4. Submerge the clothing in the mixture and let it soak for 30 to 60 minutes.
  5. Wash in the washing machine.
  6. Check for stains before drying, repeating as needed.

Laundry Detergent And Borax

You can add borax to your washing machine in conjunction with your laundry detergent. Keep in mind that if you use a cold water cycle, the borax may not fully dissolve, which could leave some residue.

What To Do

  1. Sprinkle ½-cup of borax into the bottom of your empty washing machine. You can do this for front- or top-loading washing machines.
  2. Add in the dirty laundry and your laundry detergent.
  3. Wash on your preferred cycle.

Wash Without Detergent

If your clothes are dingy in color or feel like they have soap residue on them, you can do a wash cycle without any detergent. This method should be used on clothing that is not dirty since it does not function like detergent.

Add a ½ cup of borax to the bottom of your washing machine. 

Wash without laundry detergent on a regular cycle.

Borax And Vinegar

White vinegar can soften and whiten clothing and can be used in the place of a fabric softener. Use vinegar in a wash cycle in conjunction with borax and laundry detergent.

  1. Add ½-cup of borax and ½-cup of vinegar to the bottom of your washing machine. 
  2. Add in your clothing. 
  3. Wash per usual.

DIY Laundry Detergent With Borax

Make a mixture to create a laundry detergent using borax. This mixture works best with warm water for all of the components to dissolve in water.

What You Need

  • Container with lid
  • Box grater
  • Solid bar Castile bar soap
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • Tablespoon

What To Do

  1. Grate the bar soap into flakes.
  2. Put the ingredients in the following ratio into the container: 2-parts borax, 2-parts washing soda, and 1-part soap flakes.
  3. Put on the lid and shake the container to mix.
  4. Use one to three tablespoons of mixture for laundering. 
    • In general, one tablespoon is sufficient for high-efficiency washing machines.
  5. Label the container. 
    • Store out of reach from children and pets with the lid securely on.

Advantages Of Using Borax To Clean Clothes

There are several benefits of using borax for laundering, making it a popular choice for cleaning.

  • White clothing: Borax brightens white clothing if you choose not to use bleach, which can yellow white fabrics and plastics with overuse.
  • Dark clothing: Borax brightens the vibrancy of colors in clothing.
  • Water softener: If the water has a high mineral content, borax can soften it, keeping the deposits off of your clothing for more effective cleaning.
  • Eliminates soap residue: The chemical composition of borax will help to disperse the soap molecules and prevent them from leaving residue on clothing.
  • Sanitization: Alkaline substances, such as borax, remove odors and disinfects. It will inhibit fungi or mold growth and bacteria from moist clothing such as swim gear, sweaty workout clothing, towels, baby diapers, and more.
  • Stain lifter: Borax will aid in lifting acidic stains, such as tomato sauce and urine, from clothing.

4 Alternatives To Borax

If you decide not to use borax, the following options can help boost your wash cycle.

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda has a lower pH of 8 than borax at 9.5. Therefore, it is not as alkaline or toxic for handling. 

Substitute baking soda in the above methods to soften hard water, brighten colors, neutralize odors, and remove stains. 

2. Vinegar

Vinegar will soften and deodorize clothes.

Apply a 50:50 ratio of vinegar and water to a stain. Or, pour vinegar to fill the rinse cup or dispenser of your washing machine. 

Wash as usual.

3. OxiClean

This is a commercial product that contains sodium components and surfactants. OxiClean works as a laundry booster on colored and white clothing to remove stubborn stains such as soils from Gatorade.

Use as directed on the package.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

If you use hydrogen peroxide as a laundry booster, it is generally safe on colored clothes if it is diluted. As a reminder, borax converts into hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water.

  1. Dilute 1-cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide in 2 cups of water. 
  2. Pour into the bottom of the washing machine. 
  3. Add clothes and laundry detergent. 
  4. Run the washing cycle.

Key Takeaways

Borax can be used on colored clothes without much risk of fading or bleaching. 

Generally, fading in clothing is due to the composition of the fabric and dyes, with wear and tear and repeated exposure to warm or hot water.

By diluting borax in a washing cycle, you can effectively boost the cleaning properties of laundry detergent. This will result in clean, bright, and vibrant clothing.