By Pramod Narula, MD, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital
My three kids are obsessed with making slime out of glue and sodium borate (borax), but I’m concerned with how safe it is. I know that borax is a harsh cleaning agent, and I’ve read some horror stories online about children getting severe burns. How can I make sure that my kids are protected while they’re creating this popular gooey concoction?
It’s true that many Do-It-Yourself recipes for trendy homemade slime call for three simple ingredients: water, glue, and sodium borate, also known as borax. Borax, a natural mineral, is used mostly as a cleaning agent, but it is used in slime making because of its binding qualities.
Reports have found that borax may have the potential to cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.
“Borax is a mild irritant, but generally considered safe,” said David H. Frankel, M.D., a dermatologist at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. “If your kids are using it to make slime, be smart about it; ensure that the borax is used under supervision. Diluting full-strength sodium borate with water is the key to preventing skin irritation.
Also, make sure that children wear gloves or wash their hands after using it because borax has the potential to cause burns, especially after prolonged contact with the skin. If children put their hands in their mouths or eyes after contact — that could be toxic.”
“If you or your children have cuts or scrapes, eczema, dermatitis or another skin inflammation, then be sure to have them wear gloves,” Dr. Frankel advised. “When the skin is intact, the borax ingredients are not readily absorbed, but if the skin is irritated, they can get in and cause additional damage and discomfort.”
It’s also possible that when the slime is being mixed up, the borax powder could get into the air and irritate airways. This risk is lowered by adequately diluting the borax with water, but a painter’s mask can be worn as a preventative measure to avoid damaging airways. Goggles can also be worn to protect the eyes from being splashed with borax.
According to Dr. Frankel, every parent must make the judgment call about whether or not to let their children use borax to make slime. There are many different slime recipes; some don’t require the potentially dangerous ingredient.
To avoid injury, the most important preventative measure is to supervise young children while they’re concocting slime. If your child should accidentally ingest any slime that contains borax, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800) 222–1222 immediately.