Boric acid is a boron-containing compound that can be found in nature as well as in many common household products. Boric acid is mined from the ground in several parts of the world, including Italy, Japan, Mozambique, Nicaragua and California, and has natural properties that make it a regular ingredient in many pesticides like ant killers, laundry detergent and household cleaners – and even some medicines.
Boric Acid Basics
Boric acid is a weak acid that has many inherent characteristics that help it find its way into several different types of products. It's cytotoxic (toxic to cells) and is used as an algaecide, fungicide, herbicide and insecticide. This means it works by disrupting the growth of or causing damage to many different types of living nuisances, including bugs, weeds, fungi, mold and algae. Boric acid is also known as hydrogen borate, orthoboric acid and boracic acid.
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Boric Acid as a Pesticide
One of boric acid's most common uses is as a pesticide. While there are widespread agricultural uses, it can be found in products on your neighborhood store shelves to help you control pests in your home, including roach killer and ant killer. Boric acid pesticides come in a variety of forms, including liquid, granule, pellet, dusts and baits with products designed for indoor and outdoor use.
As an ingredient in pest control products, boric acid works by damaging the stomachs and nervous systems of insects when they eat it. It can also irritate and damage their exoskeletons. For example, boric acid kills spiders when it's ingested, and it's abrasive to the spider's exterior.
Boric Acid in Laundry Detergent
Another place in your home where you might find boric acid is in your laundry room – your detergent, that is. From stain-removing pretreating products to detergents you use for your regular laundry, boric acid naturally has some cleaning properties and is gentle enough that it even appears in some baby laundry detergent. It can also appear in other cleaning products, such as some glass cleaning products.
Boric Acid in Medications
Due to its natural antiseptic, antiviral and antifungal properties, boric acid is present in different types of medications. For example, boric acid may be present in certain types of eyewash to help clean or irrigate the eyes and other eye-care products, including sterile saline solution, lubricating drops for contact lenses and eye drops. It's often soothing to the eyes when used in these products and it can help support fungal and bacterial infection treatment and stable pH in the eye.
It can also be used for vaginal yeast infections, vaginitis and may also lead to a shorter duration of cold sores. However, please consult your physician before going on a DIY boric acid medication spree – it may not always be the best choice for your specific situation.
Boric Acid in Fertilizer
Although boric acid is known as a killer on a cellular level, plants actually require boron for proper growth and development. Boric acid is a common additive in liquid plant fertilizers, where the 10 percent boric acid content acts as a boon to the crop growth instead of as a plant destroyer.