Borax is sometimes confused with boric acid. Both borax and boric acid are known as borates, which are compounds that come from the element boron. In all actuality, there wouldn’t be any boric acid without borox.
Borax and boric acid are both naturally occurring compounds that are found in arid regions like the salt plains in Utah or Nevada. Borax, or Sodium Tetraborate (Na2B4O7 • 10H2O), is made up of sodium, oxygen and boron. Boric acid is created from the mixture of borax with other naturally occurring minerals such as boracite and colemanite. Basically, the addition of hydrogen or another acid to borax creates the compound boric acid or hydrogen borate (H3BO3).
Boric acid and borax have been used by humans for centuries to achieve cleanliness.
Boric acid was even used by the Ancient Greeks to clean their homes. The compound was officially discovered in 1702 by German scientist, Wilhelm Homberg, and was originally intended for medical uses. After the industrial revolution, boric acid has been used in a wider variety of products, cleaners and preservatives.
Borax on the other hand was discovered in large quantities in Death Valley in 1881. Though it had been used in a variety of applications for centuries, the discovery in California allowed it to be manufactured on a large scale. Soon after, our namesake 20 mule team was excavating the mineral from Death Valley. It was at this time that borax started to be used as a laundry and cleaning additive. 20 Mule Team Borax™ became widely available over the following decades and has remained a staple of many American homes as a laundry booster and stain fighter.
Borax should not come into contact with your eyes or mouth. It is considered an eye irritant and may be harmful if swallowed. As with all household products, borax should be kept out of reach of children.