In early Egyptian culture a mixture of preservative salts were collected from the deserts. This salt mixture, called “natron”, was highly valued for preserving the bodies of pharaohs on their journey into the afterlife. Unknown to these ancient Egyptians, they were the first to use a mineral called boron to preserve items of great value.
Boron is an essential ingredient for life and is present in all plants and animals.
The form of Boron most of us are familiar with is Borax. For those of us who can remember black & white television, “Death Valley Days” and “20 Mule Team Borax” were the height of evening entertainment. Borax is the principle salt in sea water and Borax deposits result when sea water evaporates.
Borax has come a long way from being just a detergent additive. Though we seldom hear about it, Boron is an essential ingredient of many common items we encounter. It is incorporated into Pyrex cookware, automobile windshields, Fiberglass insulation, computer circuits, coins, fertilizers and herbicides.
At high doses borates can be used to kill insects, plants and micro-organisms but when released into the environment they diffuse to beneficial levels quickly. Borate products have become a preferred method for protecting structures, not just for their effectiveness, but for their lack of negative environmental effects as well.
Today borates are a mainstay of the pest control industry. Applied to wood as a liquid they impart many beneficial characteristics. Treated wood resists mold & decay fungus and is lethal to termites, carpenter ants and wood boring beetles. It even acts as a fire retardant. All wood contains some water and as a result the dissolved salts can be carried deep into the wood with out pressure treatment. The mineral salt is stable, permanent and doesn’t degrade unless carried off by exposure to water for long periods of time.
Borax as a dust is used to control many crawling insects including insecticide resistant cockroaches and bed bugs.
Who would have thought that a treatment once used to preserve kings would come to be used to preserve the homes of king and commoner alike.