The Margin: No, you can’t ‘undo’ a COVID vaccine with a borax bath — but you could hurt yourself

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Wash your clothes with borax — not your body.

The powdery chemical compound often used as a cleaning agent was trending on Twitter on Friday, after a news report claimed that some antivaxers have been using it in a potentially dangerous detox bath to “undo” their COVID-19 vaccines. 

The NBC News report highlighted a viral TikTok video featuring Dr. Carrie Madej, an osteopathic internal medicine doctor who has posted a number of debunked theories about COVID vaccines to Twitter. The original video was removed by TikTok last month, but clips and the recipe have continued to spread across social media. Madej claims that one can “detox the vaxx” by soaking in a bath of baking soda and Epsom salt — which are safe enough, but don’t act the way she claims they will. 

“Baking soda and Epsom salts, she falsely claims, will provide a ‘radiation detox’ to remove radiation Madej falsely believes is activated by the vaccine,” writes reporter Ben Collins. “Bentonite clay will add a ‘major pull of poison,’ she says, based on a mistaken idea in anti-vaccine communities that toxins can be removed from the body with certain therapies.” 

But then the recipe calls for adding a cup of borax into the mix — a cleaning agent that the Food and Drug Administration has banned as a food additive because it’s a potentially harmful skin and eye irritant, and can cause digestive problems. Madej claims that borax will “take nanotechnologies out of you,” although it’s unclear what she means by this. She has falsely claimed that there is a “liquified computing system” inside coronavirus vaccines, however, such as in a “Reawaken America” podcast.

U.S. Borax does not offer any product that we approve nor intend for use as a dietary ingredient, pharmaceutical and/or over-the-counter (OTC) active ingredient, nor food additive or direct additive to foods,” the FDA writes of U.S. Borax, the company that mines and refines compounds such as borax from the element boron. What’s more, borax has been linked with infertility, and exposure can cause rashes, vomiting and respiratory problems, per the National Library of Medicine.

Indeed, 20 Mule Team Borax, which is produced by Dial and used for household cleaning and crafting purposes (you can make crystals and slime with borax, too), cautions people against ingesting it on its site. It also warns against getting the product in your eyes. If someone does end up swallowing some, they should rinse their mouth with a large full glass of milk or water and call a physician ASAP.

Plenty of people identifying as doctors and health care professionals on Twitter also warned against soaking in borax.

But apart from the potential discomfort and dangerous side effects that a borax bath can cause, it’s important to note that there is no such thing as “detoxing” a vaccine. First of all, the COVID vaccines aren’t toxic. They have been proven in clinical trials to be safe and effective. 

Coronavirus Update: ‘Now is not the time for happy talk’: Experts warn the pandemic is far from over and urge people to combine vaccines with face masks and other measures

But also, the idea of doing a detox bath to “reverse” a vaccine shows that people don’t understand how vaccines work. Once you get the shot, your body goes to work to protect you against whichever virus you’re being vaccinated against, as Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and adjunct professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told NBC. 

“Once you’re injected, the lifesaving vaccination process has already begun. You can’t unring a bell. It’s just not physically possible,” she said. “The transaction process for the mRNA vaccine is fairly quick. Basically, by the time you get out to your car, sorry, the magic has already started.” 

The report drew plenty of shocked reactions on Twitter on Friday, leading “borax” to trend.

One silver lining of these bogus “undo your vaccine videos” is that their popularity suggests that the vaccine mandates are working, and people who were against getting vaccinated are getting the shots.

And soaking in a soothing bath after your shot can be a great way to destress. Just, please, hold the borax. 

“Take the bath and kick back and relax with a glass of wine, knowing that I’m safe from a potentially lethal viral infection,” Rasmussen said.