Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Borax

Twenty mule team borax wagon
U.S. Borax open pit mine, Boron California

Borax (Sodium borate) is a white crystalline compound found in volcanic regions, and in arid regions on the bed of evaporated salt lakes.  The small town of Boron, in California, is home to the U. S. Borax Boron Mine, an enormous open-pit mine that is the largest borax mine in the world.

Vintage ad for 20 Mule Team Borax

Borax has a very wide range of industrial uses. Among others, it’s used in glass and enamels manufacturing, in metallurgy as a flux in a variety of welding and soldering applications, and in gold mining as a replacement for mercury. It’s a well-known ingredient in water softeners, laundry and other cleaning products. It’s also used in fertilizers, as an anti-fungal compound and fire retardant.

An abandoned borax mine, California
An abandoned borax mine, California. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Featured Photo: The original twenty-mule-team borax wagon. Harmony Borax Works, Death Valley, California. (Photo courtesy Shutterstock)

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