Drinking Borax Can be Deadly. People Are Doing It on TikTok Anyway

Boxes of Borax detergent.
A dangerous new trend is gaining popularity on TikTok. People are drinking borax cleaning powder, claiming it has benefits. But experts warn this can have serious effects on your health and even cause death. mokjc/Shutterstock
  • There’s a new TikTok trend that has people drinking the cleaning agent borax.
  • Promoters say it can help health conditions like joint pain and inflammation.
  • Medical professionals, however, say this practice can be dangerous.
  • While boron is a normal part of our diet, borax provides toxic amounts of this substance.
  • Experts say to stop drinking borax and seek help right away if you show signs of toxicity.

There’s a new health trend on TikTok that medical professionals want people to stop following right away: drinking borax.

Borax is a white powder that also goes by the names of sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, and disodium tetraborate. It is used as a household cleaner and as a booster for laundry detergent.

People on the social media platform are adding a pinch of borax powder to water and drinking it daily then reporting back to TikTok with their results.

Why are people drinking borax?

Why would someone think it’s a good idea to drink a chemical that’s commonly reserved for getting stains out of your laundry?

Proponents of drinking borax believe that it’s actually good for health, providing benefits such as relieving arthritis pain, reducing inflammation, and balancing hormones.

Some even believe that there is a conspiracy to keep this knowledge away from the public so that people will buy prescription drugs instead.

Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicology physician and Executive Director at National Capital Poison Center, said that people believe the perceived benefits are due to its boron content.

However, Johnson-Arbor said, “There is no defined recommended boron intake for humans and most of us get boron from eating fruits and vegetables in our normal diet.”

There are also boron supplements marketed for bone and joint health, she said, but there are few human studies backing their use.

In other words: There’s no evidence that we need more boron. In fact, it could be harmful if we get more boron than what is generally obtained through food.

Why drinking borax is dangerous

Johnson-Arbor further explained that boron binds with other elements to form compounds like boric acid (commonly used as a pesticide) or borax.

“Household formulations of borax are not intended for human consumption, and toxicity can occur after consumption of borax or boric acid due to the boron contained in these formulations,” she said.

Its toxicity really comes down to the amount of boron that’s present and the form it’s in. Too much boron, like what people are consuming when they drink borax, is harmful and can even lead to death.

Dr. Zeeshan Afzal, Medical Officer at Welzo, said that drinking borax can lead to symptoms such as:

If breathed in, it can also irritate the respiratory tract, he said, causing problems with breathing.

If you consume too much borax, it can further cause damage to organs like your kidneys and liver.

Additionally, it could cause symptoms like confusion, seizures, and coma, he noted.

There are also long-term health issues that people can experience when consuming large amounts of borax, Afzal added.

“It is essential to understand that ingesting borax, even in small amounts, is not safe and should never be attempted,” concluded Afzal. “This challenge poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of those involved.”

What to do if someone drinks borax

Johnson-Arbor said, “If someone eats or drinks borax or suspects that a loved one is doing this, contact Poison Control immediately for expert advice.”

She explained that there are two ways to contact Poison Control: They can be reached online at www.poison.org or by phone at 1-800-222-1222.

Johnson-Arbor further noted that both options are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day.

Afzel additionally advises sharing educational information with the person and encouraging them to stop.

However, if they are showing any signs of borax poisoning — like nausea, vomiting, or breathing difficulties — Afzel said it is urgent that you call 911 or go to the nearest hospital right away.

Additional steps that Afzel suggests for dealing with misinformation about borax include:

  • Sharing information about the dangers to raise awareness about the risks.
  • Reporting harmful content like the borax challenge to the social media platforms where they are found.
  • Promoting educational content on these platforms that emphasizes health and safety.

In response to the TikTok trend of drinking borax, borax manufacturer 20 Mule Team Borax has issued a statement on its Facebook account cautioning that people should refrain from drinking its product.

They also advise against using borax on your skin as a detox bath, which is another popular TikTok trend. According to Johnson-Arbor, even when borax is diluted in water, it still has the power to cause rashes, skin irritation, and peeling.

The bottom line

Although drinking borax is a popular TikTok trend with people on the platform claiming that it can provide health benefits like relief from pain and inflammation, the experts say there is no proof that it can help and the practice is actually dangerous.

If you are drinking borax, you should immediately stop.

You should also obtain professional help immediately if you are experiencing any signs of toxicity like nausea, vomiting, or breathing problems.

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