Kids are watching YouTube videos and hearing from friends about making slime out of Elmer’s glue and Borax. Because of the use of Borax, some parents are wondering whether this slime-making recipe is unsafe.
Through word-of-mouth and viral slime-making videos, there are now reports that stores are now running out of Elmer’s. As in glue. Which is one of the ingredients—along with Borax and food coloring—in the many home recipes for the weirdly popular gooey stuff currently circulating online.
How did this become so popular? Just do a quick search for slime over on Instagram and YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of kids making their own variations of this stuff, many with additional elements such as beads and glitter. The “Slimers” then video themselves poking, pulling, and popping their colorful concoctions, and even selling slime for cash at school. As a parent, it’s hard to imagine anyone willing to fork over good money for a gob of homemade slime. But people definitely are.
Some stores are apparently running low on the items needed to make slime. Which means it’s getting harder to procure a container of white Elmer’s glue. Elmer’s spokesperson Caitlin Watkins did recently tell NBC News that the company saw an increase in liquid glue sales in the second half of 2016 “due in large part to slime mania,” and then added that they now plan to increase production. Pretty crazy! Especially considering all the controversy surrounding reports that the Borax used to make the slime may cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, and may even damage fertility.
Borax in Slime
Connecticut pediatrician Richard Uluski, M.D., told NBC4 that slime making simply isn’t safe for kids. “Something that’s a chemical should not be used as a toy,” he said. “From a medical standpoint, too much of Borax can lead to medical problems including things like seizures.”
Kinda scary. But experts like Vanessa Stoloff, M.D., a family practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania, say the whole Borax business is actually pretty benign. In fact, the DIY thing is currently going down in her own home courtesy of her 11-year-old twin daughters, who recently made a batch of cookie dough slime that smelled like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. “As long as your kids’ slime recipes don’t include tasting it,” she told Parents.com, “topical Borax shouldn’t affect skin—especially at the amount being used.”
Dr. Jason Hack, a toxicologist from Rhode Island Hospital, also has a daughter who’s into making slime. “It’s a great activity,” he told WPRI 12 Eyewitness News. And he echoed Dr. Stoloff’s argument that the small amount of Borax the kids are using is not absorbed through the skin. “It would take eating a lot of it to actually become toxic,” he explained.
Which brings up a pretty good point: If your child does accidentally ingest any slime that contains Borax, you should contact the American Association of Poison Control at 800-222-1222 immediately.
Of course, the decision whether or not to let your kids use Borax for slime-making purposes in the first place is a judgment call every parent must make for themselves (here’s a great blog post that breaks down the pros and cons). But if you do decide to go ahead and allow it, it’s probably a good idea to stick around and supervise—especially if your kids are in the lets-put-this-in-our-mouth-and-see-what-happens stage.
If you’re more in the market for something to keep your kids busy, there are plenty of Borax-free DIY slime recipes floating around the internet that will allow you to kick back and watch in peace. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Elmer’s glue, that is.
Please note that contact solution contains borax (as well as boric acid), it is just prediluted for you. Recipes that contain things like contact solution or liquid starch are not borax free, they are just getting it from another source, often labeled under less recognizable names like sodium borate or sodium tetraborate. None of these items are particularly dangerous, but they do contain borax, which is what is responsible for the formation of the slime by forming borate ester linkages between the polyvinyl acetate polymers in the glue.
You need to know, borax is not Boric Acid. If you use it right, it’s okay. But we suggest if your child is trying to make Borax Slime, tell him or her to replace it with contact solution, which is non-toxic, and safe as you don’t touch it as you make it.