Borax vs. Oxalic Acid

What's the Difference?

Borax and Oxalic Acid are two different chemical compounds with distinct properties and uses. Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a white crystalline powder that is commonly used as a cleaning agent and laundry booster. It is effective in removing stains, deodorizing, and disinfecting surfaces. On the other hand, Oxalic Acid is a colorless crystalline solid that is primarily used as a rust remover and wood bleach. It is highly acidic and can dissolve mineral deposits and rust stains. While both substances have cleaning properties, Borax is more versatile and widely used in various household applications, while Oxalic Acid is more specialized and primarily used for specific cleaning purposes.


AttributeBoraxOxalic Acid
SynonymsSodium borate, sodium tetraborateEthylenediaminetetraacetic acid
Chemical FormulaNa2B4O7·10H2OC2H2O4
Molar Mass381.37 g/mol90.03 g/mol
AppearanceWhite crystalline powderColorless crystals
SolubilityHighly soluble in waterSoluble in water and alcohol
UsesLaundry detergent, cleaning agent, insecticideRust remover, bleaching agent, wood stain remover
ToxicityLow toxicity, but ingestion can cause gastrointestinal irritationHighly toxic if ingested or inhaled, can cause kidney damage

Further Detail


Borax and oxalic acid are two chemical compounds that have various applications in different industries. While they may share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, uses, and potential risks associated with both borax and oxalic acid.

Chemical Composition

Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water molecules. Its chemical formula is Na2B4O7·10H2O. On the other hand, oxalic acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula C2H2O4. It is a dicarboxylic acid, meaning it contains two carboxyl groups.

Physical Properties

Borax is typically found as a white crystalline powder or as colorless crystals. It has a relatively low melting point of around 743°C (1369°F) and is soluble in water. When heated, borax can undergo dehydration, losing its water molecules and forming anhydrous borax. Oxalic acid, on the other hand, is a colorless crystalline solid that can dissolve in water and alcohol. It has a higher melting point of approximately 189°C (372°F) and can sublime when heated, meaning it can transition directly from a solid to a gas without melting.


Borax finds applications in various industries. It is commonly used as a cleaning agent, particularly in laundry detergents, due to its ability to enhance the effectiveness of soaps and detergents. Borax is also utilized in the production of fiberglass, ceramics, and enamel glazes. In addition, it serves as a flux in metallurgy, helping to remove impurities during the soldering process. Furthermore, borax is a key ingredient in many household products, such as ant baits, weed killers, and fire retardants.

Oxalic acid has its own set of applications. It is widely used as a reducing agent in various chemical processes, including the production of pharmaceuticals, dyes, and bleaching agents. Oxalic acid is also utilized in cleaning products, particularly for rust removal and stain removal. Additionally, it serves as a chelating agent, helping to bind and remove metal ions. In some industries, oxalic acid is employed as a wood bleach or as a component in the preparation of certain foods, such as honey and vegetables.

Health and Safety Considerations

While both borax and oxalic acid have numerous applications, it is important to consider their potential risks and safety precautions. Borax is generally considered to have low toxicity, but it can still cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Prolonged exposure or ingestion of large amounts of borax may lead to more severe health effects. It is crucial to handle borax with care, wear appropriate protective equipment, and avoid inhalation or direct contact.

Oxalic acid, on the other hand, is more toxic than borax. It can cause severe irritation and burns to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Ingestion of oxalic acid can be highly toxic and may lead to kidney damage or failure. It is essential to handle oxalic acid with extreme caution, wearing protective clothing, gloves, and goggles. Proper ventilation is also crucial when working with oxalic acid to prevent inhalation of its fumes.

Environmental Impact

When considering the environmental impact, borax is generally considered to be a more environmentally friendly option compared to oxalic acid. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral and can be mined sustainably. It is biodegradable and does not persist in the environment. However, excessive use of borax can still have negative effects on aquatic life and ecosystems, particularly if it enters water bodies in high concentrations.

Oxalic acid, on the other hand, is not naturally occurring and is typically produced through chemical synthesis. Its production may involve the use of energy-intensive processes and potentially harmful chemicals. Additionally, oxalic acid is not readily biodegradable and can persist in the environment. Therefore, proper disposal and wastewater treatment are crucial to minimize its impact on ecosystems.


In conclusion, borax and oxalic acid are two chemical compounds with distinct attributes and applications. Borax, a naturally occurring mineral, finds uses in cleaning products, ceramics, metallurgy, and more. It has relatively low toxicity and is considered environmentally friendly when used responsibly. Oxalic acid, an organic compound, is widely used as a reducing agent, cleaning agent, and wood bleach. It is more toxic than borax and requires careful handling. Additionally, its production and persistence in the environment raise environmental concerns. Understanding the characteristics and potential risks associated with borax and oxalic acid is essential for their safe and responsible use in various industries.

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