Borax #atozchallenge

Here’s Rosemary DeCamp for 20 Mule Team Borax.

This commercial is from the old syndicated TV series Death Valley Days, which ran from 1952 to 1975 (the last five years were “encore presentations” of the earlier shows). It was an anthology series which told true stories from the American West, and it was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, which later became U. S. Borax after merging with U. S. Potash Company. Their primary product was “20 Mule Team Borax,” a laundry product that promised to make your clothes cleaner and smell nicer when added to your regular laundry products, kind of like what Rosemary was talking about.

(So, why “20 Mule Team”? Evidently, before there was a railroad to transport the mined borax from Death Valley, the borax was loaded into big wagons that were then pulled to civilization by 20 mules. The clip shows the end of the program and features an actual mule team pulling one of those wagons.)

The show itself started on radio in 1930 and ran there until 1945. The first host of the TV show (who you see at the end) was Stanley Andrews, “The Old Ranger,” who hosted it until 1964. The next host of the show, in his last acting role, was Ronald Reagan, who advertises Boraxo, a hand soap, in this clip. Also making an appearance is his daughter Patti.

Reagan was succeeded by Robert Taylor, who was then succeeded by Dale Robertson before five years of “encore,” and then it went to TV heaven after 450 episodes.

So, what is borax, anyway? Wikipedia (i.e. The Blogger’s Best Friend™) says that it’s an important source of the element boron and a salt of boric acid. Like boric acid, it’s used as a flame retardant, antiseptic, and insecticide. In small amounts, it’s no more toxic than table salt, and evidently has many health benefits, if Dierdre in this clip is to be believed…

And, of course, it’s an important ingredient in slime (or Flubber, if you prefer), although there’s some debate that either corn starch or contact lens solution might work better. This young lady compares slime made with borax with that made with contact lens solution.

I didn’t realize you could by Elmer’s Glue-All by the gallon…

75 thoughts on “Borax #atozchallenge

  1. Oh! I loved seeing Ronald Reagan and his daughter doing the advert together. We have Borax in the UK but we have not tried it….yet.
    Promise me they won’t be showing us Donald Trump and


    1. As far as I know, Ronald Reagan will be the only current or former president that has or will be doing ads for 20 Mule Team Borax. Reagan’s tenure as host of “Death Valley Days” preceded his political career, and in those days actors (and politicians, for that matter) didn’t make the money they do now, so they had to do commercials and find other ways to make money.


  2. Borax can really help in many ways but the gal saying it’s delicious cracked me up because she looked like she was going to spit up..hahahaaa. My great grandmother, my mom’s grandmother, knew all the herbs and other things to cure my mom from scarlet fever, my aunt and u clue from diphtheria plus so much more. She is known as the Grosse Oma(tall grandmom) who used borax often to heal wounds. When my mom was 4 or 5 she was too close to the stove and she tipped boiling water on her arm. Oma brought her to the hospital where my mom was treated and bandages placed on. When her Grosse Oma saw this, she took it apart and my mom remembered she used borax, the “milk” from the dandelion and other things that she wished she could remember. She placed it on my mom’s burn and added cheesecloth so there was protection but it could air and she repeatedly placed this on her wound over the cheesecloth with a feather! When the cheesecloth fell off, the burn was gone and there was no scarring. She knows that the Grosse Oma used borax often but she couldn’t recall many of her healing ways…bummer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mary’s grandmother was from Lithuania and I understand she did a lot of home remedies. Mary regrets she never learned much about that from her.

      She did kind of make a face like Lucy did when she tasted Vitameatavegamin, didn’t she?


  3. Thanks! I only knew borax as a cockroach repellent. Quite effective, by the way.
    I’m preparing my kids for school, but I’ll drop by again to see the ads and more uses!
    Besides, I want to see how good were Ronald Reagan’s acting skills. 🙂


      1. Thank you for the info! As a mexican gal, the most known actors are usually quite different and it´s a bit dificult to catch the references at first sight, luckily google today helps a bit.


  4. There was always a box of borax at my grandmothers’ respective houses. Always used for laundry as insects were not a big worry to farmers. I loved Death Valley Days — my mother was all about westerns and war movies therefore we all learned to love them. Fast forward to my home-schooled granddaughter who loves to make slime! I do think she prefers contact lens solution, though. Great post!


    1. Westerns were big on TV well into the ’70’s. I doubt they’d be as popular today as they were then. MeTV plays them on weekday afternoons, and I think the other vintage TV channels run some as well. I like “The Rifleman” with Chuck Connors; I think it was way ahead of its time showing a widowed father raising a son by himself. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “The Rifleman” was another family favorite. My sister had a major crush on Chuck Connors. I’m not up on all current programming, but I’m not sure many now try to exemplify morals like those old black and white shows.


        1. Chuck Connors was quite an athlete: he played first base for the Cubs and Dodgers and played basketball for the Celtics. He’s believed to be the first player to shatter a backboard during a basketball game.

          We don’t watch much current TV, so I couldn’t say, but what I have seen is that Dad tends to be treated as a moron.


  5. I’ve never even heard of Borax. I wonder if maybe it’s not available in the UK. Sounds like a good, useful thing to have around though


    1. I’ve gotten in the habit of putting the video of an old ad in some of my posts. It is really interesting to watch them; you get a feel for what people’s lives were like back then.


  6. I’ve actually used both Borax in my laundry (for years, when the kids were little, and Jim had often-greasy chef’s uniforms to be washed) and gallon-sized containers of Elmer’s Glue-All (I used to work as a toddler and preschool teacher at a day care).

    When we made slime or oobleck at home when the kids were young, we used corn starch.

    What struck me in the Reagan ad was how uncomfortable Patti looked. I wonder if she was being coerced into doing it. At the end, where they both appear, she doesn’t really seem to be wanting to look at her father….interesting.

    I’ve never seen Death Valley Days, but my sister and her ex-husband did work there at one point.

    Happy to be able to visit you again!



    The Hygge of Hometending


    1. Before I start, I’m really sorry to hear about your husband. How are you and your kids doing?

      I think Patti was Nancy’s daughter from her earlier marriage, so that would make Reagan her stepfather. I noticed she was a little nervous, though that might have been the camera. I’m pretty sure she got paid for doing the commercial…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We’re doing well. It was something of a shock -we had just under 8 weeks from his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer to his death at home on hospice care. Time to consider what we needed to plan – but no time to actually do it.

        Jeremiah will be 18 in September. He and his dad had a guy relationship. Good and solid, but more in the lines of watching things on TV together and talking in short bursts. He was already well on his way to independence when Jim died, so he’s simply stepped over that threshold a year or two sooner than he might have (though I’ve done what I can to be sure he knows he doesn’t have to “be the man of the family” because a family really doesn’t need a man to be a family.

        Lise was 13 when Jim died, and she had been close with her dad since birth – Jim held her before I did, and the two of them shared a daredevil gene Miah and I don’t have. Her biggest regret is that Jim never told me how to find their special fishing place, so I can take her.

        This isn’t the future I was planning for or wanted, but it’s the one I have, so I’ve decided to see it as something of a rebirth – the first of two thresholds I’ll cross, with the second being the kids’ transitions to adulthood, and my role with them shifting to Mom-as-backup-plan. I’ve started doing some freelance reporting for a small local paper, and have plans to branch out from there.

        This is a time in life when my natural tendency to see silver linings has proven to be very handy indeed!


        1. Dad died when I was almost 11 (my brothers were 9 and 8), and I remember Mom seemed a bit overwhelmed. Gradually we got used to Dad not being around, but it never changes that fact that he was there and now he isn’t. It helped that the pastor of our parish and Mom had become close when Dad was in the hospital; ultimately, he left the priesthood and married her.

          Somehow, I think Lise will find that special fishing spot, or another one…

          I’m very happy that you seem to be finding your way through things and that you’ve got the freelance reporting with thoughts of bigger and better things. Mom was never one to see the silver lining…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply; it’s been a busy couple of days.

            I would be a lot more overwhelmed if my kids were as young as you and your brothers.

            Jeremiah had turned 16 about two and a half months before Jim was diagnosed. He has his permit and was already forward-thinking to independence (he’s that kind of guy; he may live here for a few more years, but he will take charge of his own life, I have no doubt). And, at 13, Lise was already starting to leave childhood behind, too.

            So, in that, I was fortunate. It also helps a lot that we’ve always homeschooled. As a chef, Jim worked weekends, so the kids and I got used to the three of us traveling to events. We formed a team a long time back, so we were able to start talking through what life would be like before Jim died (which was awkward and surreal with him right there, but also gave him solace to know we weren’t planning to give up on living).

            I’m glad your mom had someone. I’m blessed with a wide network of friends, including someone who might someday be more than a friend (but I’m not interested in focusing on romantic relationships until after both of the kids are adults; I want my focus with them till then).

            My mother isn’t one to see silver linings, either, but I just seem to have been born looking on the bright side.


  7. Boraxo was the go-to-soap when LAva wasn’t enough to get the dirt off. I remember that show, and I loved watching the 20-mule team. When I had my cabinet shop, I used to buy Elmer’s Woodworking (yellow) glue by the gallon.


    1. Lava would take the dirty layer of skin off; I can’t imagine it not being enough to get the dirt off, but I guess there’s dirt and then there’s dirt.

      We liked seeing the mule team because we were city kids that never saw mules…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great name – Twenty Mule Team Borax! Betcha’ tough guys like John Wayne and Dick Butkus and Rocky Marciano used it.


    1. WGN would run it during rain delays, I think, along with (I’m not making this up) Dow Finsterwald’s “Golf Tip Of The Day.” In the offseason it ran at times when people weren’t generally watching (2 PM on Saturday, etc.).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice to see the ad for 20 Mule Borax, my hubby told me about that brand. I bought some borax 2 years ago to use in laundry and he said not to because it get coated inside the pipes. I gave it away and then last year he decided he needed some for the garden- I think it goes around beets or radishes for some reason.


  10. Hi! Haven’t been here in a while, but always enjoyed your blog. I’ve been super slack in the blog reading department, but life and all and something had to give. Your theme is challenging and so clever. Good luck with the A to Z this year!


  11. Interesting about Borax. I always thought it was very poisonous! We’ve never used any, but they do have it at our stores in the laundry section. Still, I wouldn’t drink it!
    I used to watch Death Valley Days. It was pretty good.
    I do buy Elmer’s Glue by the gallon. I use it in scrap booking, sticking things on the pages. I got it at a craft store.
    Thanks for the videos! 🙂


    1. I think I told the story about the art class in grammar school where the nun pitched a fit because some guy used Elmer’s Glue-All instead of rubber cement to glue things to construction paper, because it would make the paper wrinkle, so it’s interesting to hear about you using it in scrapbooking.

      From what I gather from the video, you don’t use much borax when you’re going to drink it, something like half a teaspoon to a quart of water (I’ll leave the metric conversions for you to do). Of course, the stuff is toxic to bugs, but the Wikipedia article says it’s no more toxic than table salt. Still, I wouldn’t be sprinkling it on my French fries…


  12. I use it in my linen laundry.
    I use it to keep away ants.
    I recently read it can be used on cold sores or other wounds.
    Now I must read what other people use it for.


      1. I never tried it on my hands. I’m sure it would work great for the floor, but I don’t think it sudses up. Maybe add a bit to your usual floor cleaner?


  13. So many interesting tidbits! I was born in 1980’s and on the “wrong” side of the Iron Curtain, so I missed a lot of things like that. Thank you for sharing :).


  14. I hear people all the time now talking about how one can buy Borax and use it instead of laundry detergent and fabric softener to save money. I’ve never seen it. (To be fair, I’ve also never done an Amazon search.) You’re gonna be big with the Millenials with this post. Nice work.


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