The term "boric acid" may sound more like a horrifying ingredient in a laboratory science experiment...
...but did you know you can actually use it to your advantage in the home?
Check out the wide range of pests it can take out, as well as how it affects humans and animals in our guide below.
What is Boric Acid?
Boric acid is a compound of the element boron, which can be found in many places on the planet like rocks, soil, and even water.
What’s The Difference Between Boric Acid and Borax?
Thought many people swap out the two names interchangeably and even believe that these two substances are one in the same, it's simply not true.
- Boric acid is more of an umbrella term for all extractions from the element boron. It's a fine powder with the consistency like that of powdered sugar.
- Borax is just one of the borate salts of boric acid. Much like table salt, it has a rough, almost gravel-like consistency.
Which is Better for Ants?
Here's the thing: both these elements will be effective against ants, because they both contain boron.
However, the toxicity levels between boric acid and borax differ from pest to pest. As far as ants go, boric acid will be more advantageous at providing a quicker turnaround at controlling your ant infestation.
This doesn't mean, though, that borax is ineffective. If you're in a pinch and borax is all you have, then by all means, use it! You'll most likely see great results. However, boric acid will deliver the best results possible.
Read Also: What is the best ant trap?
Which is Better for Cockroaches?
Just like with ants, boric acid will kill more cockroaches than borax. Due to its finely ground consistency, the cockroaches are much more likely to ingest the boric acid over the borax, leading to poisoning from the boron contained inside.
Again, if all you have on hand is borax, don't get discouraged. It's certainly effective against cockroaches, but boric acid is your best bet.
How Does Boric Acid Work?
Most pesticides work by interrupting the insect's central nervous system. Boric acid does this, in addition to destroying the insect's stomach—by causing abrasive damage.
Which Products Use Boric Acid?
What kinds of pest control products would normally list boric acid as an active ingredient?
This is a really easy jump to make, since boric acid is usually such a finely-ground powder to begin with.
Pesticidal dusts are normally used in small cracks and tough-to-reach areas, as well as low-traffic rooms like attics and basements where bugs can easily come into topical contact with the dust.
Again, due to its fine consistency, boric acid can be very simply folded into gel baits.
These are normally used to lure pests like ants and termites away from a certain area (for example, the home), and poison them in the process. The workers of the colony will usually eat a bit of the bait, then take it back to the colony where it will poison all the other members.
Granules are used to ward off a variety of different pests, and is perfect to use in turf and high grasses because of its pebble-like consistency. If you're trying to get rid of crawling pests or nuisance animals, this is normally the type of product you'll want to go for.
When Should You Consider Using A Boric Acid-Based Product?
Because boric acid is naturally-occurring, many people are much more inclined to use it for their pest control needs other than a chemical compound designed in a lab.
In addition to this fact, boric acid is widely available both on its own and as an active ingredient in several different types of pest control products. Its versatility speaks for itself, and it's able to hold its own in a changing pest control marketplace.
Will Boric Acid Kill Bed Bugs?
Boric acid is effective as a pest control agent when it's ingested by the pest. Bed bugs, in contrast, get their fill by drinking the blood of humans.
Unfortunately, this means that boric acid isn't going to be as effective at killing a bed bug as it would be at killing a pest like an ant, which nibbles on baits in the outside world. This is explained further in the video below.
Read Also: More information on boric acid and bed bugs.
Is Boric Acid Dangerous To Humans?
When used as directed, boric acid is safe for human use.
However, sometimes accidents happen. If you mistakenly ingest, touch, or inhale this stuff, you can fall victim to a few symptoms, as listed below.
General Side Effects
Those who have accidentally eaten or touched boric acid have suffered very little side effects, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. However, the symptoms of an accidental ingestion of borax are a bit different.
- skin irritation upon contact
- eye irritation upon contact
A 1994 study on the effects of boric acid in pregnant mice revealed that birth defects occurred after the the maternal mice were exposed to boric acid during their pregnancies.
There is no data from the NPIC, EPA or the CDC regarding this study, or how boric acid can affect a human pregnancy.
Our recommendation? Stay on the safe side and steer clear of boric acid while pregnant, unless you get the green light from your doctor.
It's not recommended to expose your babies and young children to boric acid. Smaller bodies are always at a higher risk for pesticide poisoning, so we recommend that you keep this product away from your children.
Furthermore, there were reports in the 1960s of boric acid being used as disinfectants, which were then mislabeled as ingredients in baby formula. As a result, many babies died.
Is Boric Acid Dangerous To Cats?
Boric acid is considered a "less harmful" pesticide to cats due to the slow speed at which it works to kill pests.
That doesn't mean, however, that it isn't harmful to your feline friend. If your cat becomes exposed to too much boric acid (or borax, for that matter), you may have to make an emergency trip to the vet.
Be on the lookout for these signs of toxicity:
Is Boric Acid Dangerous To Dogs?
Not unlike its low toxicity to cats, boric acid has a low toxicity level to dogs.
If your dog is overexposed, there can be harmful (and sometimes deadly) consequences.
In some circumstances (and depending on the level of exposure), your dog could suffer the following symptoms:
- skin irritation
- eye irritation
- bloody stools
- kidney damage resulting in decreased urination
What Does The Government Think About Boric Acid?
The National Pesticide Information Center has written a couple of different fact sheets on boric acid, but how do some of the other branches of government feel about this pesticide??
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA has recognized boric acid as a registered pesticide in the United States since the year 1948, and has conducted reregistration evaluations in years since to ensure that it meets all current standards in regard to public safety.
Currently, boric acid is recognized by EPA as a pesticide and all reregistration is up to date.
Center for Disease Control
The CDC has published a fact sheet bulletin on behalf of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) with side effects of a boric acid interaction, as well as general chemical information.
In addition to this, the element Boron is listed as part of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR)—a CDC subsidiary—but is not classified as a carcinogen due to a lack of evidence.
Boric Acid Vs Other Stuff
So, we've covered boric acid pretty much from A to Z...but why should you use it compared to other options? What makes it stand out?
Boric Acid vs Diatomaceous Earth
Both these substances can be powerful in the fight against pests in the home, but there's a big difference in how they can work.
We're mainly talking about diatomaceous earth. Here's the main thing to understand about DE (and what most people DON'T know): there are actually three different types of this stuff. There's food grade, pest grade, and filter grade...if you use food grade DE to solve your pest problems, you're probably not going to see the best results.
Boric acid, on the other hand, is pretty much just that: boric acid. It's got one form, it doesn't ever change, and people confuse it with borax, but that's mainly due to misinformation.
Boric Acid vs Orthoboric Acid
Orthoboric acid and boric acid are, actually, one in the same.
So, why is there an "ortho" added to the beginning?
Take a look at the video below for a quick lesson on the basic chemical structure of boric acid, as explained by Mr. Guarav Jhaa.
Boric Acid vs Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate
Earlier in the guide, we mentioned that borax (a substance normally confused with boric acid) is a sodium salt which comes from the element boron, the same parent element from which boric acid derives.
Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate is another sodium salt from the element boron, which makes it almost like a cousin to boric acid. These two are related, but not the same.
Boric Acid vs Sodium Borate
Sodium borate is another term for borax. As we mentioned earlier, borax is a sodium salt derivative of boron, which means that these two are related in nature, but not totally similar.
Final Thoughts on Boric Acid
Boric acid is widely distributed and sold as a general-use pesticide that can be used indoors and outdoors, in both residential and commercial environments, and even around pets with caution.
We recommend that you shield your young kids from boric acid and as always, only use this product as directed. However, when used properly, this is a valuable all-around pesticide to have at your disposal for a wide range of uses both inside and outside of the home.
Other Pest Control Chemical Guides
Curious about other chemicals? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.