borax or sodium tetraborate decahydrate (sōˈdēəm tĕˌtrəbôrˈāt dĕkˌəhĪˈdrāt) [key], chemical compound, Na2B4O7·10H2O; sp. gr. 1.73; slightly soluble in cold water; very soluble in hot water; insoluble in acids. Borax is a colorless, monoclinic crystalline salt; it also occurs as a white powder. It readily effloresces, especially on heating. It loses all water of hydration when heated above 320°C and fuses when heated above 740°C; a "borax bead" so formed is used in chemical analysis (see bead test). Borax is widely and diversely used, e.g., as a mild antiseptic, a cleansing agent, a water softener, a corrosion inhibitor for antifreeze, a flux for silver soldering, and in the manufacture of enamels, shellacs, heat-resistant glass (e.g., Pyrex), fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals. It is sometimes used as a preservative but is toxic if consumed in large doses. Naturally occurring borax (sometimes called tincal) is found in large deposits in the W United States (Borax Lake in Death Valley, Calif.; Nevada; and Oregon) and in the Tibet region of China. Borax can also be obtained from borate minerals such as kernite, colemanite, or ulexite. California is the chief source of borate minerals in the United States.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.