Step aside, fidget spinners. The kids of the internet have found a new mania.
Is there a parent’s YouTube feed that hasn’t been inundated with slime tutorials? Is there a home cupboard not stocked with slime ingredients?
We didn’t think so. Even our staff members haven’t been able to escape this growing obsession.
But there’s a problem here. Most parents are entirely unaware of the dangers of slime. The traditional (or at least, the original and most common) slime recipes called for some questionable ingredients that can harm our kids. Toxicity build up is the best of possible side effects, and cold symptoms, headaches, respiratory problems, and burned skin are the among the worst.
The Dangers of Slime
The list of slime ingredients is short. Most recipes call for the following five basic ingredients:
- Glue (usually Elmer’s glue)
- Shaving Cream
- Food Coloring (optional)
At first glance, this list seems pretty harmless. But medical professionals are raising their voices with some concern over one particular ingredient — borax.
Borax is sodium tetraborate or sodium borate, which usually found in dried salt lake beds. This naturally occurring mineral consists of water, sodium, boron, and oxygen. In fact, boron, one of the components of borax, is actually a necessary nutrient for a healthy body.
However, this doesn’t make borax safe. (After all, lead and arsenic are naturally occurring as well.) And, while borax is safer than boric acid (which is refined borax), it still comes with a list of hazards and health concerns.
Toxic Borax in Slime
Seeing the words ‘toxic’ and ‘borax’ linked together may come as a surprise — after all, it’s one of the most common ingredients in homemade laundry detergents, pesticides, and other ‘crunchy mom’ recipes.
Borax absolutely has some great uses, but when it comes to slime it becomes a hazard.
A risk assessment performed by Health Canada found that overexposure to boric acid (refined borax) has the potential to cause developmental and reproductive health problems. Therefore, they’re strongly recommending that people turn to borax alternatives when it comes to home arts and crafts projects.
And it’s not only the Canadians that advise caution when it comes to borax. Even 20 Mule Team Borax, a popular brand of borax, warns of potential dangers. Their safety information states that “repeated or prolonged excessive exposure with skin can result in irritation”.
Any parent with kids on the slime bandwagon know that the amount of time playing with slime is considerable and definitely qualifies as “repeated and prolonged excessive exposure”!
The same safety information from 20 Mule Team also states, “Direct contact with eyes may cause severe irritation with redness, pain, blurred vision, and possibly corneal injury.” Arguably, there are many, many common household products with the same warning. Even food can cause damage when it comes into contact with your eyes (looking at you, chili peppers).
This specific concern arises from unsupervised play during which kids put slime on their faces. However, even rubbing or touching their eyes after playing with slime can cause irritation.
Slime Skin Reaction
Borax can cause burning and swelling of the skin, especially when not diluted correctly.
“Borax can cause burns, especially when you touch it multiple times,” states Dr. Robin Jacobson, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Medical Center. Open wounds, such as cuts, scrapes, eczema, dermatitis, and even sunburn can worsen a reaction.
Anecdotal reports of slime side effects from parents include stories of children experiencing a burning sensation when playing with the popular DIY goo. Swelling of the face, redness, and pain occurred as well. While some pediatricians have dubiously suggested that wearing vinyl or plastic gloves could reduce the risk, kids everywhere would heartily protest that this would also drastically reduce the fun of playing with slime.
Slime Cold Symptoms and Respiratory Issues
When borax powder gets into the air and is inhaled, it can cause respiratory discomfort and other cold-like symptoms. People who have breathed in borax will likely experience a dry mouth, nose, and throat. Persistent coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, and nosebleeds have also been reported.
Do a little digging online, and you’ll find dozens of stories from moms who couldn’t explain lingering cold symptoms in their children — until borax-filled slime was removed from their homes.
Ingestion of Borax
Chances are, you’re supervising your kids while slime is made (especially the littles), but in the event of accidental ingestion, you should immediately take action. Those who have ingested borax may experience nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, and diarrhea. Diarrhea and vomit may have a blue-green color. Should your kids somehow manage to ingest a large amount of borax, they may experience a red skin rash, sometimes followed by skin loss.
Be careful to keep any borax in your home out of arm’s reach of young children and in a tightly sealed container.
Should any of your children begin experiencing the above symptoms following exposure to slime or should you think they may have ingested borax, call a medical professional immediately.
Alternative Slime Recipes that are Toxin Free
Thankfully, there are alternative and completely non-toxic recipes out there, so your kids won’t have to wail too loudly when you storm into their rooms with plastic bags to toss out all their slime. Here are some wonderful, safe slime alternatives for you to try. (And, while we wouldn’t recommend eating these or putting them on your face either, you rest easy knowing that if the kiddos DID, they’d be just fine.)
Non-Toxic Fiber Slime
- 1 Tb Metamucil or any other fiber supplement containing psyllium fiber
- 1 cup of water
- Food coloring (optional)
Mix the psyllium fiber and water in a big bowl. Place this in the microwave for approximately 5 minutes, stirring at each 1-minute increment. Let the slime rest until cool to the touch, and then you’re ready to play!
Experiment with the amount of water to add, as the type of fiber used may affect the texture. Altering the cooking times may also result in different slime textures.
Solid State Slime Recipe
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ⅓ cup water
- A large bowl
- Food coloring (optional)
Add the cornstarch to a large bowl. Gradually add water to the cornstarch. Stir, using your hands. It will be difficult to stir, as it will feel like a solid but look like a liquid. It’ll even drip off your fingers! Add food coloring and more water, if there is still bits of cornstarch powder remaining.
Be sure to check out our DIY page for natural alternatives to many household cleaners – we update it often! You can also join us in the fold by subscribing to our newsletter to get notified when new DIY’s are published, new products are released, sales on Molly’s Suds products, and more!