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Borax vs. OxiClean: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re removing stains from clothes or cleaning hard surfaces in your home, borax and OxiClean are go-to products.

But what’s the difference? When should you use each? Is one safer or more effective than the other?

In this comparison of borax vs. OxiClean, I break down their ingredients, uses, safety, and performance.

By the time we’re done, you’ll know the six key differences between borax and OxiClean and have all the facts necessary to decide which product is the best fit for your needs.

Use the links below to navigate the comparison:

Borax vs. OxiClean: Comparison Chart

If you’re in a hurry, below is a quick side-by-side comparison of borax vs. OxiClean. I’ll go into further detail on each of these categories later in the article.

Borax OxiClean
IngredientsBoron, sodium, and oxygenSodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymer
How It WorksAlkaline formula breaks down acidic stainsBreaks down stains and emulsifies oils to lift them off surfaces.
UsesLaundry, household cleaning, odor reduction, water softeningFights stains on laundry, linens, carpets, and hard surfaces
How to UseDissolve in water and use as an all-purpose spray, stain removers, or laundry boosterAdd to laundry or apply to stain following directions for specific products
SafetyDo not ingest, avoid eyes and mouth, avoid prolonged skin contactDo not ingest, avoid eyes and mouth
Other ProductsBorax is an ingredient in products like Lysol, Air Wick, Gain, Tide, OdoBan, and WindexCleaning spray, laundry detergent, detergent paks, disinfectant, laundry sanitizer

Difference 1: Ingredients

Borax is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of boron, sodium, and oxygen. It’s found all over the world but most commonly in dry lake beds.

Unlike OxiClean, borax is not a brand; it’s an ingredient used to formulate products. It’s used in various household cleaning products and stain removers, and it’s also found in specialty toothpaste, skincare products, and even ceramic glazes. Here’s a list of 19 popular products containing borax.

That said, you can buy pure borax, and the most popular brand is 20 Mule Team.

Box of 20 Mule Team Borax
Box of 20 Mule Team Borax

Alternatively, OxiClean is a brand with several products containing various ingredients.

OxiClean’s most popular product is the Versatile Stain Remover Powder.

OxiClean Stain Remover
OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover

The active ingredients in that product are sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymer. The proprietary blend of chemicals is designed to cut through stains safely without harsh bleaching agents.

Difference 2: How It Works

The PH scale measures the acidity and alkalinity of a solution. It ranges from 1-14, with 1 the most acidic and 14 the most alkaline; 7 is neutral.

Borax is alkaline, measuring approximately 9 on the PH scale. When it comes into contact with an acidic stain, like tomato sauce or coffee, borax neutralizes it, making the stain easier to pull out of the fabric.

Also, when borax mixes with water, it converts some of the water molecules into hydrogen peroxide. This bleaching agent brightens stains, making borax even more effective. 

Oxiclean contains sodium percarbonate. When it’s mixed with water, it breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate.

Hydrogen peroxide is the same bleaching agent that occurs when you mix borax with water, and it removes the stain the same way. Sodium carbonate alkalizes the water, breaking down acidic stains the same way borax does.

When you mix OxiClean and water, you’ll hear and see fizzing. Those oxygen bubbles help loosen and remove stains from fabrics, hence the name OxiClean.

Ultimately, borax and OxiClean work almost the same way chemically, which is why they are compared so often.

Difference 3: Uses

Borax has several uses, but it’s associated mostly with laundry. It can be used as a spot-stain remover or as a detergent aid.

But borax also has many other applications aside from laundry. You can use it as an all-around cleaner for kitchens and bathrooms, an odor reducer, or even a water softener. Borax is also great for eliminating bugs and weeds.

Be sure to research how to use borax in each application to keep yourself and others safe.

OxiClean’s Versatile Stain Remover Powder can be used to fight tough stains on laundry, carpet, upholstery, and other fabric.

You can also use it on hard surfaces like tile, vinyl, porcelain, granite, and more.

OxiClean uses displayed on the back of the container
OxiClean uses displayed on the back of the container

Overall, borax and OxiClean are incredibly versatile and have similar applications.

Difference 4: How to Use

If you’re using borax as a spray cleaner, dilute ½ of a cup into 12 ounces of warm water. Softly mix until no clumps remain. Pour the mixture into a 12oz spray bottle and use as required.

When using borax for laundry, add a tablespoon of borax per gallon to warm water and pre-soak your clothes for 30 minutes. Alternatively, add ½ cup of borax to your washing machine and run the pre-soak cycle.

To use OxiClean on hard surfaces, fill the scoop to line 4 and add it to a gallon of warm water. Apply using a cloth or sponge and let stand for 5-30 minutes. Scrub if necessary and rinse well with warm water.

If you are using OxiClean with laundry, fill the scoop between lines 2-4 per gallon of warm water. Submerge your clothing in the water and let it soak for up to 6 hours. Then wash as directed.

OxiClean offers a variety of products, each with different usage instructions. You can find the instructions for each product on the bottle label or product page on OxiClean.com.

Difference 5: Safety

Borax has some well-known safety concerns if inhaled, ingested, or with prolonged skin contact.

Borax can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested, and large amounts can cause shock or kidney failure.

Inhaling borax can cause severe respiratory problems, including inflammation of the lungs, nose, and throat. It can also lead to rashes due to skin contact and has been linked to problems with male reproductive organs.

Due to these risks, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) gave sodium borate (borax) an F rating.

EWG Safety Ratings
EWG Safety Ratings

OxiClean is relatively low risk, especially OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Free, which is fragrance- and dye-free and receives a B rating by EWG. That said, OxiClean is still harmful if swallowed or inhaled.

Always keep borax and OxiClean out of reach of pets and children.

Difference 6: Other Products

Since borax is a compound and not a brand, it doesn’t have any other products. However, borax is used as a key ingredient in various products, including AirWick, Windex, Cheer, Gain, and Tide.

If a product includes sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, it contains borax.

OxiClean has a full lineup of other products, including stain removing spray, liquid laundry detergent, laundry pods, and disinfectant spray.

OxiClean stain remover spray

The formula varies by product, but most OxiClean products contain sodium percarbonate as the active ingredient.

You can view all OxiClean products on Amazon or OxiClean.com.

FAQs About Borax and OxiClean

This section answers the most commonly asked questions about borax and OxiClean.

Does OxiClean stain remover contain bleach or detergents?

OxiClean does not contain bleach or detergent. Both break down into hydrogen peroxide when combined with water, and that’s a bleaching agent.

What is the pH of borax and OxiClean?

The pH of borax is about 9. The pH of OxiClean can be as high as 11, depending on how well it’s diluted.

Should you mix borax and OxiClean with warm or cold water?

Both will dissolve better in warm or hot water, but they’ll work in cold water if you mix them well. In general, cleaning with hot water is more effective than with cold water.

Are borax and OxiClean disinfectants?

Hydrogen peroxide is a highly effective disinfectant. Since borax and OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover break down into hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water, both successfully kill germs and viruses.

OxiClean also makes products specifically for disinfecting, such as its Daily Clean Multi-Purpose Disinfectant spray and the Laundry and Home Sanitizer powder.

Are borax and OxiClean safe to use with septic systems?

Yes, borax and OxiClean are both septic-safe.

Can you mix OxiClean and borax with other cleaners?

It’s unsafe to mix any cleaning chemicals unless the label explicitly states that it is okay. You can mix OxiClean and borax with most bleach-free laundry detergents, but always check the label first and call the brand if you’re not sure.

Mixing OxiClean or borax with cleaners that contain ammonia or bleach could produce toxic gas.

As a general safety rule, only mix borax and OxiClean with water.

What surfaces can you use OxiClean and borax on?

OxiClean is safe for most household surfaces, including wood, tiles, grout, upholstery, fabrics, flooring, painted surfaces, carpets, vinyl. Borax is also safe on most surfaces, like tile, ceramic, porcelain, slate, marble, granite, and stainless steel.

What surfaces should you NOT use OxiClean and borax on?

Borax and OxiClean should not be used on highly porous surfaces, like bare end-grain cutting boards or surfaces that are delicate, like silk fabric or lace.

What is the shelf-life of Borax and OxiClean?

Borax and OxiClean do not expire as long as they are kept in a dry environment. If they are exposed to humidity, they will crystalize and harden.

Bottom Line: Should You Use Borax or OxiClean?

Although borax and OxiClean are both used as stain removers, laundry aids, and all-purpose cleaners, they have several distinct differences.

  • Ingredients: Borax is a naturally occurring compound made up of boron, sodium, and oxygen. OxiClean’s active ingredient is sodium percarbonate, which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water.
  • Uses: Borax is most commonly used as a laundry aid, although it can be an all-purpose cleaner as well. OxiClean is used as a spot stain remover, as well as a laundry aid and all-purpose cleaner.
  • Safety: Borax has more of a reputation as a safety hazard than OxiClean. Both borax and OxiClean are harmful if inhaled, swallowed, or if they come in contact with your eyes.
  • Other Products: You can buy pure borax, but it’s used as an ingredient in various products, including glass cleaners and laundry detergents. OxiClean offers a versatile line of cleaning products, including powders, sprays, and detergents. 

Bottom line — borax and OxiClean are both highly effective and inexpensive. But if you’re on the fence, go with Oxiclean.

Borax, while safe if used properly, poses a greater health risk. The EWG rates sodium borate (the main component of 20 Mule Team’s borax) an F for high health and environmental concerns, while it rates OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Free a B.

The main ingredient in most OxiClean products, sodium percarbonate, gets an A rating from EWG.

Both products perform similarly and cost about the same. Go with the safer option.

Not only is OxiClean the safer option, but it comes in several forms, including powder, liquid spray, and laundry detergent; borax is only sold as a powder.

Learn more about the many ways you can use OxiClean on Amazon or OxiClean.com.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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2 thoughts on “Borax vs. OxiClean: What’s the Difference?”

  1. I have a small kitchen rug – half hemisphere shape – that cannot be put in the washer. What is the best product to clean it?


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