Borax is a mineral compound, also called sodium tetraborate or trisodium tetraborate, derived from the element boron. Borax has many uses, including cleaning, a laundry brightener, insecticide and pesticide. Although borax is not violently toxic, it is effective in eliminating many pests, including a home's worst enemy, the termite.

Why Borax?

Borax is a very effective pesticide, fungicide and insecticide. It does not evaporate or volatize into the air, making it effective over a long period of time. Although it can pose a health hazard, especially if ingested, it is considered to have low toxicity and is therefore much safer to use than other insecticides such as chlorpyrifos, diazinon or pyrethrins. All of these traits make it a useful treatment for termites.

Mode of Action

As an insecticide, borax can be used in a bait formulation or as a dry powder. The powder is usually used to treat cracks and crevices where it becomes a fine layer of dust. As the termites walk through it, the powder sticks to their legs and they ingest it when grooming themselves. Once ingested, it acts as a poison in the stomach causing death within three to 10 days. The powder is also abrasive to their exoskeleton, causing dehydration, which aids in the death. The dry powder can continue to treat the area ensuring that hatching insects will also die.

Long Term Solution

Termites cause millions of dollars in property damage each year. To combat this, companies are searching for solutions to protect property from termites before they infest. The SmartGUARD/Advance Guard products are a line of building materials including plywood, studs, joists, rafters and OSB panels that provide protection against fungus and termites. This solution was created and produced through a strategic alliance between three companies, U.S. Borax Inc., Osmose and LP. These building supplies are pressure-treated with borates to prevent termites from infesting the property. There are also companies who specialize in treating homes and buildings under construction with a spray of protection containing borates. The spray will penetrate the wood, thereby providing years and years of protection from termites.

Toxicity

Although an effective treatment for termites, borax is considered an environmentally friendly insecticide. It is safe for plants, as borates are an essential nutrient for plants. Boron is also an essential element for humans, although the compound borax should not be ingested and it may cause skin and eye irritation. If using the powder, just be sure to keep out of reach of children and treat in cracks and crevices where the family pet will not get to it. The building materials treated with borates are also safe and do not require any special treatment or disposal.

Advantages

Borax is safe and effective in treating termites. It can be used to treat an infestation or to prevent an infestation. It is cost effective, and even the SmartGUARD/Advance Guard products in 2009 cost only about $1.50 more than the comparable untreated material. Best of all, the termites will be gone without undue harm to the surrounding environment.