Borax vs. Boric Acid for Pest Control: Safe and Effective?

Original photo by Walkerma

Borax and boric acid are essentially the same thing and normally associated with making homemade laundry soap. Both materials contain the element boron. Usually, Borax is mined and refined from tourmaline, kernite, and colemanite. Boric acid is mined from the mineral sassolite. In general, the two materials act the same and, in theory, can control pests equally well (although that wasn’t my personal experience).

The way that these materials work is by eroding the waxy coating on an insect’s skin, which causes it to dehydrate and die. Usually, to get insects interested in the powder, you may have to add a bait to the powder, by mixing it with sugar, honey, jelly, peanut butter, or another tasty material. Wasps are attracted to boric acid-laced meats. Within a few days, the insects that touch or eat the powder will die.

Toxic Risks of Borax and Boric Acid

Although Borax and boric acid is a more natural pest control than the sprays available through your local pest control source, or at the grocery store, it is not non-toxic by any means. If you (or your children, or your pets) eat borax or boric acid, the powder can cause nausea, vomiting, throat swelling, and other health problems. If you (or they) eat too much, a hospital visit may be necessary. That’s never a good thing.

To use the material safely, apply the powder in cracks and behind appliances, and do not use within a child or pet’s reach. Some people also report success with using the powder as a barrier around the foundation of their home and in any openings leading into the house.

My Borax Pest-Control Experience

A few years ago, some of the small roaches, often known as German roaches, invaded our kitchen. They not only invaded the kitchen, but they also decided that our electronic items were the perfect nesting grounds. Needless to say, we wanted the pests gone as soon as possible.

Since we have a young child in the home, we wanted to avoid strong pesticides, if possible, so we tried using the Borax mixture to control the pests. We mixed the powder with sugar, just like most instructions say. We sprinkled the powder along the cracks and crevices of the walls in the kitchen. After a few days, nothing happened. I don’t think the powder killed a single roach. Perhaps we had the ratio of powder wrong, or maybe the roaches were too smart to eat the bait – but we saw exactly zero dead roaches after trying to use this pest control method.

More Pest Control Resources:

Have you used Borax or boric acid to control pests in your home? Do you have any tips?

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  1. Jerry Eckardt says

    I have used boric acid on several occiasion as pest contro ans each time ith success. Keep in mind that it is not an immediate process – the insects must pass it to others and It take time, yet is is effective. Effectiveness is increased if one is thorough in placing boric qcid in as many of their pathways as possible.

    • Elaine says

      Years ago while living in Houston, we were prone to roaches.. The roaches would come in through the sewers. I bought boric acid in a squeeze bottle which is still available today. I would squeeze the powder around the back of my pantry shelves and under my appliances. Whenever the roaches walk through it, they will clean their feet by licking them and ingest the powder. It takes awhile, but eventually the roaches disappear for good. I think this is the main ingredient in most roach traps.

  2. Candace says

    I can not take it a single second longer! I want them OUT of my house! i HAVE SO MUCH boric acid applied to my kitchen that it looks as if i have chalked my entire kitchen! It has been two weeks and i only see a few bugs dead every morning, The powder seems to draw them out of their hiding places,where i have to actually see them! How did this happen to me? We have lived here 20 years and NEVER had so much as water bug indoors. Even with three of the piggiest teen aged boys with pizza under the bed did we have a bug, The only thing I can think of is that 6 months ago we bought a like new side by side refridge from an home owner,maybe they hitched a ride.

  3. george milton says

    Sounds like you always had perfect conditions for roaches but never had them introduced to the environment until you brought them home in that new appliance. Getting rid of them if they are now dug in through all your furniture and appliances would likely mean not only killing the live bugs but also their hatching eggs.

    This involves cleaning and dusting every place they might hide with boric acid (never ever use sugar which can make it worse – yeah if you want a billion roaches in your home sprinkle sugar everywhere and sit back) if you want to mix it with anything mix it with baking soda which neutralizes their ability to eat and causes them to become very agitated and mobile as they slowly starve.

    Next step after a few weeks of the initial steps to purge them with common boric acid and baking soda and motel traps would be to use a aerosol bomb to bomb the home twice. Once to kill the bugs and second time a couple of weeks later to kill the hatching eggs and any possible survivors. After the first stage you should have an idea where they may be hiding, so place the foggers near those problem appliances and areas. Finally clean all surfaces off again and dust with boric acid again. If you keep the place clean moving forward they should then be gone and if somehow one survivor turns up you should have him on his way out with little challenge.

  4. george milton says

    Oh one thing I forgot to mention is soap water. Your number one first line of defense and primary weapon against pretty much ALL insects should always be simple SOAP WATER.

    Soapy water can be made by melting a bar of soap in a jar of water and load it into a spray bottle and it will work as a mostly non-toxic (to humans) completely toxic (to insects) bug spray. Some people use “dish soap” and it usually works in a pinch but I prefer real bar soap like KIRKS brand (or home made bar soap) for the higher oil content and better quicker kills and I don’t mind it on my skin as much as the fake Polmolive type liquid dish soaps (but most of those I have tried work to kill bugs too)

  5. BRS says

    Just moved to the beach..These things are nut sub tropical humid climate….I’m and OCD cleaner so it’s annoying.

    Bombed the house. Those things walk around like nothing happened. brought chem-spray and a garden bottle and awaiting the results. Boric acid with maple syrup will be a nice surprise Were going gang busters!

  6. says

    I had success with the Terra ant killer, which consists of little pieces you tear off of the cardboard box as platforms, and a liquid borax (borax dissolved in some kind of liquid bait) ant poison. They warn you that it is toxic. I got my box from eBay and perhaps it is discontinued. Most ant traps are enclosures in plastic that none of my ants wanted to get near. But I could rub the top of the little cardboard pieces with peanut butter, and then apply to poison, and that worked dandy, I had ants almost immediately streaming over them and I had to replace the poison every day because the ants gobbled it up (which is what you want–you want to poison the queen and thence the entire colony). And the ants were killed. Then a different kind of ant came from elsewhere, and it worked on them too. I’d been ant free for about a month and now I’m seeing a few again. I liked the cardboard pieces because the location was in the back of the kitchen countertop.

    Anyway, Raid also makes a liquid poison, not containing boron in any form, and it also worked pretty well. Raid did not say to tear off pieces of the cardboard.

    Thanks for the explanations. I was thinking there might be some connection between Boric Acid which I’ve heard about for years as an ant poison, and Borax. And I was wondering about the toxicity of borax. Some people seeking “natural” products seem to think it’s “safe.” If you want a safe cleaner, use baking soda…which may have some effect on ants too, if you can get ’em to eat it.

  7. Jane says

    Just letting you know my recent experience. But it’s a bit revolting, so don’t read if you’re squeamish and please, don’t take offence. It’s probably not what’s happening in your house! Well, I hope not, for your sake.

    Anyway, I noticed some of those little light-coloured cockroaches, always one or two per day. I keep everything very clean and don’t get cockroaches normally. I thought they just came with the apartment building, although it’s only five years old and a very good quality building.

    It’s on ground floor and the landscaping is very bushy, so I thought the droppings that appeared regularly on my balcony were from possums, but didn’t know what the dead insects were. But eventually I saw the culprit: a rat. The building management had professional traps put in the landscaping and no more rat. Well, one or two of his cousins have appeared but they don’t come a second time. I googled the insects, which seem to be rat fleas, so I’m completely horrified and since cleaning the balcony down, the most revolting job I’ve ever done, I can’t bring myself to go out there again.

    The rat fleas stopped when the baits were laid, and came back when new rats appeared. Strangely, the cockroaches also vanished when the baits were laid and I have seen only one since. Sorry, this is so revolting, but better to know than not to know! Rats can travel through the walls or other hidden spaces in a building and you won’t know they are there, so rat traps might be an option for your. Good luck with your pests.

  8. bryan says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE and can not express how great of a HOME MADE PRODUCT I found (
    2 parts boric acid, 1 part flour, then enough karo syrup to make a peanut butter like paste. take all your electric outlet & switch covers off, grab a popsicle stick, cover about 1/2 inch of the stick with the mix, and wipe it in the front corner of the box (careful not to touch any wires!), put your covers back on. pull out your kitchen drawers, put a little dab on the back of the drawers, put a little dab on the back of your stove and refrigerator, up in a top corner of all your cabinets (with lower cabinets, make sure it’s in a corner that a baby or a pet isn’t going to get to), under the back corner of pantry/closet shelves, do the same basic stuff throughout the house in dark, hard to access, usually undisturbed places. It’ll take about 2 weeks, but your roaches will be gone. FOREVER. even if you bring a big tub of roaches in your house and dump them out, they’ll all die too in a few weeks. you’ll be protected forever! This paste will harden, and stay there till it’s all eaten (pretty much forever unless you have hoards of roaches enter your house daily). The roaches will each it, go back to their hiding places and die, the other roaches will each the poisoned roach, and die. and so on and so forth.

    • Tracie says

      hey thanks so much for the karo sryup recipe….. Me and my family just started renting a townhouse and we are seeing roaches, german roaches. He has done 6 bombs, and bought roach powder with boric acid in it. I was wondering if it best to use usp boric acid rather than roach powder with boric acid….also where did you purchase your boric acid?

  9. Arletta says

    I used a mixture of Boraxo (20 Mule Team) and powdered sugar, to great effect, in one place I lived. It worked so well that I suggested it to two other people and it was great for them. This was a straight 1/2/1/2 powder mixture.

    Later, my home was re-invaded by cockroaches that were accidentally brought in from a home where they never cleaned, but, bombed for insects regularly. The mixture did not work on these cockroaches. I tried it in different combinations, but, they wouldn’t go near it. Then, I mixed the diatomaceous earth with powered sugar, and, they did get a little interested The thing is, I am not sure if the Boraxo had lost potency, or, if these bugs were just too savvy.

    I know the only thing that has really worked on them, so far, is straight ammonia, or a giant fly swatter, shoe, etc.

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