Borates (in many forms) are used to produce laundry detergents, household or industrial cleaners, and hand soaps. Borates or perborates are used in many household and industrial products for cleaning metals, glass, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, floors, and machinery. The choice of borate depends on the type, composition, and quality of the final product. Borates’ unique properties provide numerous benefits:
For more than 100 years, borates have been used in a variety of household and industrial laundry detergent formulations. The vast majority of clothes throughout the world are still washed by hand. New trials on laundry soap bars demonstrate that borates significantly improve cleaning action and reduce dirt redeposition—leading to brighter, cleaner clothes. In powdered detergent, borates can be directly incorporated to boost cleaning power, or they can be added as sodium perborate for bleaching action. Borates are also used in liquid detergents: Enzymes for stain removal need to be stabilized in liquids, and borates have proven exceptionally effective for this purpose.
Their value depends on the formulation in which they are involved, but pH control, emulsification of oils, soft abrasive qualities, and viscosity control (when combined with polyhydroxy materials) are all central qualities.
Soil removal and prevention of redeposition
The alkaline detergent liquors that borates produce help to remove and emulsify fatty soils. But borates and perborates also inhibit particulate soil deposition, thanks to their specific influence on surface charge beyond that created by pH alone.
As an alkaline buffer and pH control
High alkalinity in wash water improves detergency and helps the cleaning process. Borates are excellent pH buffers (pH 9.1 to 9.3, their natural pH). Perborates are more alkaline (pH 10.4 for 1.0% solution) and also have excellent buffering capacity (pH 9 to 10).
In detergency, bleaching can be understood as the process of whitening, lightening, and brightening fabrics by chemical means. Unlike hydrogen peroxide and chlorine, which are effective bleaches but cannot be incorporated directly into washing powders, perborates have excellent bleaching capabilities and are very stable in detergent powders. As an oxidizing bleach, they are effective yet gentle to clothes—and aid in overall detergency. A rapidly dissolving version, perborate monohydrate, is especially useful in cool or short wash cycles.
Water softening and improved surfactant performance
Reducing calcium and other metals helps to improve water hardness and enables detergents to function well. Borates and perborates accomplish this task by acting as builders—components that form soluble complexes with calcium ions, removing calcium’s unwanted effect without leaving harsh-feeling deposits on fabrics
After various metal-working operations, metal surfaces must be cleaned. For example, parts from machining operations are cleaned to remove metal fines, residual cutting oil, dirt, and so on. Similarly, the surface of sheet metal (obtained from rolling operations) is cleaned after the final reduction and before the application of slushing oils or coating oils.
Borates offer pH control and contribute to enhanced removal of oils and soils. Their mild or moderate abrasive properties, water-softening capabilities, and anti-corrosive qualities make them excellent choices for cleaning metal surfaces. Ferritic particles, oxides, and corrosion products are likely to form on stainless steel that has had previous contact with organic materials, dilute salt solutions, or food products. This can be effectively treated with Optibor, which helps to remove corrosion and restore passivation.
Borate or perborate cleaning solutions have been found effective in removing lubricant deposits, inhibiting tarnish and corrosion, and on a variety of metal surfaces and items:
Read more about borates in metallurgy.
Containers used in the foodstuff industry, which can be made of tin-plated ferrous metals
Steel sheets and aluminum workpieces and alloys
Silver and silver plating
Aqueous-based alkaline cleaners containing sodium borates (among other components) are used to remove oil, grease, rust, scale, and other particulate from hard surfaces in the industrial and institutional market: primarily hospitals, schools, and restaurants. An all-purpose liquid detergent for this market is made from borax decahydrate (or Neobor borax pentahydrate), surfactant, alkyl aryl sulfonic acid, tetrapotassium pyrophosphate, sodium hydroxide, and water.
In 2016, the global household cleaners market was valued around $25.5 billion (USD). Household hard-surface cleaners makes up slightly less than 40% of total household cleaners. The manufacturers of household hard-surface cleaners are constantly reformulating products to meet the special needs of customers. For example, a slow-dissolving cleaning block, based on a gelled or solidified borate suspension, can soften water (preventing limescale), deodorize, and remove or inhibit the buildup of stains in toilets.
Glass-cleaning compositions containing boric acid and other ingredients are particularly adapted for use in cleaning windshields and other glass surfaces that are exposed to the external environmental during the operation of motor vehicles, especially in low temperatures. Another glass-cleaning compound containing Neobor has been developed especially for use in cold water. Other glass cleaning formulations contain borax decahydrate, Neobor, and non-borate ingredients.
Several drain cleaners are also based on perborates, combined with other ingredients.
Traditional dishwashing detergents are largely based on sodium metasilicate and sodium tripolyphosphate and contain chlorine-releasing chemicals, such as sodium dichloroisocyanurate, to remove stains and kill bacteria, saponify fat and grease, suspend detached soil and prevent its reposition, prevent corrosion of the internal parts of the washing machine, and soften water.
However, the corrosive nature of sodium silicates and chlorine-release agents, as well as a desire to reduce phosphates due to environmental concerns, have prompted the development of new formulations for powder and liquid automatic dishwashing detergents. These newer products are more efficient in stain removal at lower temperatures than previous versions. Borates and perborates, aside from having an extended shelf life, are increasingly used in such automatic dishwashing detergent compositions for the following reasons:
In the past, the main functions of borates in automatic dishwashing detergents were peroxy bleaching, glaze protection, and to a lesser extent anti-caking. Whereas the use of perborates has flourished under the new system of enzymatic automatic dishwashing detergents, the use of boric acid and 20 Mule Team Borax boric oxide as glaze protectors and anti-caking agents has not.
Borates or perborates work in many personal care products:
Read more about borates’ use in personal care items. (PDF)
From detergents to dyes to adhesives, this mild alkaline salt does it all, particularly excelling as a buffering and fluxing agent.
This hard, glassy, granular product is excellent when forming flux or glass, where it helps to increase yield and reduce energy consumption.
With lower transportation, handling, and storage costs, this concentrated sodium borate is used in glass and fiberglass, cleaning products, flame retardants, and more.
From reducing melting temperatures in fiberglass production to inhibiting corrosion in fuel additives, Optibor has a multitude of uses in numerous industries.
Used in the preparation of starch and dextrin adhesives, this product provides increased viscosity, quicker tack, and better fluidity. In textile processing, sodium metaborate helps to stabilize hydrogen peroxide solutions and neutralizes acidic oxidation by-products.