Uses of Borax

Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a chemical compound with the formula Na2B4O7.10H2O. This compound has several important applications spanning across a wide range of industries. For example, borax is used in several cosmetic products and detergents. It is also used in certain enamel glazes. In the field of biochemistry, borax is often employed for the preparation of buffer solutions. Some important uses of borax are listed in this article.

What are the Uses of Borax?

  • Borax is known to serve as a precursor to several commercially important compounds of boron, the most notable of which being boric acid (which is widely used as an insecticide).
  • It is not uncommon for borax to be used in photographic developers as an alkali.
  • Borax is also used as a flux in certain metallurgic processes.
  • This compound is known to serve as a cross-linking agent during the preparation of slime.
  • The field of biochemistry is known to make extensive use of borax for the production of buffer solutions.
  • In several cooking techniques, this compound is known to serve as a texturing agent.
  • Borax is also used in the neutron capturing shields for the safe storage, transportation, and use of radioactive substances.
  • This compound is also known to act as an anti-fungal agent and can, therefore, be employed to kill fungi or inhibit their growth.
  • It can also be noted that borax has the ability to serve as a flame retardant.
  • Several cosmetic products, enamel glazes, and detergents are known to contain borax.

Use of Borax for the Removal of Temporary and Permanent Hardness of Water

Aqueous solutions of borax can be introduced to hard water for water-softening purposes. The calcium (Ca2+) or magnesium (Mg2+) ions present in the hard water are replaced by sodium ions. Thus, the hardness of the water is removed. The chemical equations for these reactions are provided below.

Na2B4O7 (aq) + Mg2+ (aq) → 2Na+ (aq) + MgB4O7 (s)

Na2B4O7 (aq) + Ca2+ (aq) → 2Na+ (aq) + CaB4O7 (s)

Therefore, it can be understood that borax can be employed for the removal of both temporary and permanent hardness of water. It does so by replacing the calcium or the magnesium ions present in the hard water with sodium ions.

Medicinal Uses of Borax

  • For the treatment of fungal foot diseases, borax is widely used in anti-fungal foot soaks.
  • Borax is also a component of several commercially available vitamin supplements.
  • Thrush, a very common bacterial infection that occurs on the hoofs of horses, can be treated with the help of borax.

Other Niche Uses of Borax

  • Borax (in the form of a dilute solution) can be used to treat timber and wood products that are infested with woodworm.
  • Blacksmiths are known to make extensive use of borax for the solid-state welding process known as forge welding.
  • Borax is also believed to serve as a preservative in taxidermy. Furthermore, this compound can also serve as a curing agent for snake skins.
  • In order to control the pH of swimming pools, it is not uncommon for borax to be added as a buffering agent.
  • This compound can also be employed to correct soils that are deficient in boron. It does so by acting as a micronutrient fertilizer.

Properties of Borax

  • The molar mass of anhydrous borax is 201.22 grams per mole. The decahydrate form of borax has a molar mass of 381.38 grams per mole.
  • Under standard conditions for temperature and pressure (STP), borax exists as a white solid.
  • The anhydrous form of borax has a density of 2.4 grams per cubic centimetre. The density of the decahydrate is equal to 1.73 grams per cubic centimetre.
  • The melting and boiling points of the anhydrous form of borax correspond to 743 oC and 1575 oC respectively. The melting point of the decahydrate is roughly equal to 75 oC. It can be noted that the decahydrate begins to decompose at this temperature point.

Frequently Asked Questions on Use of Borax

What is borax used for?

Borax is used for the safe storage, transport, and use of radioactive substances in neutron-capture shields. This compound is also known to act as an anti-fungal agent, so it can be used to destroy fungi or inhibit their growth. Borax is used as a precursor to many commercially important boron compounds, of which boric acid (which is commonly used as an insecticide) is the most notable. The biochemistry field is known to make extensive use of borax to produce buffer solutions.

What is the chemical formula of borax?

The chemical formula of borax is Na2[B4O5(OH)4].8H2O. It can also be written as Na2B4O7.10H2O. The IUPAC name of borax is sodium tetraborate decahydrate. However, this compound is also known as simply sodium tetraborate or disodium tetraborate.

Is borax toxic?

While some studies suggest that borax is not acutely toxic, it can be noted that this compound is highly toxic to insects and is a potent insecticide. It can also be noted that borax is a potential carcinogen and may increase risk towards liver cancer. Furthermore, frequent exposure to large quantities of borax can cause irritation to the respiratory system.

To learn more about the uses of borax along with the uses of other important chemical compounds (such as the uses of glycerol), register with BYJU’S and download the mobile application on your smartphone.

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