Although it’s not around as often nowadays, hydrogen peroxide was commonplace in first aid kits for all of us growing up. The brown glass bottle and the stinging feeling of hydrogen peroxide on a fresh cut or scrape are pretty hard to forget!
While it fell out of favor for safer wound disinfecting chemicals that don’t cause skin irritation, hydrogen peroxide is still plenty useful. There are so many household uses for hydrogen peroxide that they need categorization, and some of them are quite a surprise!
So without further ado, let’s look at its chemical characteristics and what makes it work and learn how to use hydrogen peroxide around the house safely and effectively.
What Exactly is Hydrogen Peroxide?
Look at the chemical composition of hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, and you’ll quickly notice it’s similar to water, H2O. That’s because it’s simply a water molecule with added an extra oxygen atom.
It’s a chemical that blasts hydrogen atoms with oxygen to replace another element in a compound under particular conditions. In their active state, hydrogen atoms will bind to two oxygen atoms instead of one, creating a colorless liquid that resembles water.
However, when you open a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, you’ll be greeted by a sharp smell of an acidic solution. That’s because hydrogen peroxide is slightly acidic and becomes stable when it gains new hydrogen atoms to form plain old water. It is called neutralization.
How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Work?
The presence of an extra oxygen atom in any chemical compound makes it eager to bind with hydrogen atoms. That’s because oxygen is one of the most chemically active elements on earth, and it doesn’t like to be alone!
If you’ve ever noticed the bubbling and fizzing action of hydrogen peroxide, that’s mainly due to the extra oxygen ion that makes the molecule unstable. The oxygen reacts with the surface it falls on, leaving behind a negatively-charged oxygen ion that binds to any available positive charge.
This is a reaction known as oxidation-reduction, which means changing the chemical composition of any material by taking away some of its components to bind with the oxygen it has on hand. That’s also why hydrogen peroxide loses its efficacy after opening the bottle or with heat, air, or water contact.
This can translate to many practical applications, as we’ll discuss below.
How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide Around the House
Hydrogen peroxide is a useful chemical to have on hand thanks to its fantastic versatility and relative safety. So let’s go over how you can make the most of it!
The kitchen can harbor some nasty stains that need quite a bit of attention. Here’s what you can use hydrogen peroxide to clean and disinfect in the kitchen:
Pots, pans, and sheet trays can get greasy and discolored from regular use, but hydrogen peroxide can help.
If you have enameled cookware, make a paste of equal parts baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit on the discolored or stained area for at least 15 minutes. Scrub the pot or pan with a soft scouring pad before rinsing it.
2. The Kitchen Sink
The kitchen sink can harbor harmful bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella from washing produce and hands after handling raw meat.
Experts advise leaving hydrogen peroxide in the sink for about 10 minutes at room temperature to kill most of these microorganisms and leave the sink in pristine condition.
Unfinished marble and stone countertops can be challenging to clean and disinfect safely. This is mainly because chlorine-based cleaning solutions react with them, causing corrosion and pitting their surfaces.
Since hydrogen peroxide is only mildly acidic, you can easily use it as a disinfectant for your countertops. Just use a spray bottle of undiluted hydrogen peroxide, spritz it around and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then, spray or wipe the surface with a clean wet rag.
4. Cutting Boards
Cutting boards made of wood or plastic require regular cleaning because sharp knives leave their surface full of micro cuts and cracks. These depressions in the surface can trap food particles, which makes them an excellent breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and other nastiness.
After thoroughly cleaning your cutting boards, spray them with undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Leave that on for 10 minutes before rinsing the cutting board and drying it thoroughly.
Your dishwasher could be hiding some spots of mold and mildew growth. That’s because some of its components never fully dry out between cycles, causing this issue.
You can use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your dishwasher in one of two ways: either use the peroxide undiluted in a spray bottle and wipe the inside of your dishwasher with it, or you can make a cleaning “bomb” for your dishwasher!
Combine two cups of baking soda, three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, and optional but highly recommended: 10–20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Mix them and portion them out using an ice cream scoop or with gloved hands. Then put them on a baking sheet to dry.
When it’s time to use them, you can put one on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. On the top rack, place a bowl filled with equal parts vinegar and liquid dishwasher detergent, then run a hot cycle. And voila! You’ve got yourself a clean dishwasher that’s as good as new!
6. Fresh Produce
Fresh produce is great, but sometimes you must remember it comes from the soil, which can have all kinds of pathogens. To make sure your fresh produce is super clean and has the bonus of extended life in the fridge, you can do the following:
Add a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide for every gallon of water you use. Then, soak the vegetables in the solution in a super clean kitchen sink with a stopper or in the largest bowl you have.
Tender vegetables like leafy greens and tomatoes, as well as fruits, need to be soaked for 20 minutes only. Potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, and celery root can be soaked for up to 30 minutes to get the last of the bacteria and mold spores.
Your refrigerator needs regular cleaning to remove any food debris that might fall and go bad inside. After wiping the shelves and walls (and don’t forget the crisper!), use a spray bottle with undiluted hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the refrigerator before restocking it.
The bathroom can have difficult-to-clean spots, but hydrogen peroxide is potent when removing stains and disinfecting surfaces. Try it on the following:
1. Toothbrushes and Toiletries
Personal hygiene is essential to keep your body in good shape and prevent diseases. However, sometimes tools you use to put your appearance in order can cause concern if not cleaned properly.
That’s why it’s advisable to soak your toothbrush in undiluted hydrogen peroxide for at least five minutes weekly. Then, rinse the toothbrush thoroughly with water before you use it again. Also, remember to change your toothbrush every six months to keep it functional!
As for toiletries, reusable shaving razors, nail clippers and files, and metallic cuticle pushers, they all have dead skin debris that can get gross after a while. Soak them in hydrogen peroxide for 5–10 minutes to get that out, then wipe them entirely before use.
2. Tile Walls and Floors
Bathroom walls and floors can get soap scum stuck on them, which can be hell to remove. Thankfully, hydrogen peroxide can fizz away this debris in no time.
Combine one cup of baking soda, a quarter cup of distilled white vinegar, and two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide to create a foaming paste. When spread over grimy tiles and left for half an hour, it can lift off the soap scum and make the tiles shiny.
3. Discolored Grout
Another problem that can make bathrooms look less clean is darkened tile grout. It can pick up dirt or get discolored due to mildew growth from the moisture inside the bathroom.
Use the same paste mentioned above with a scouring pad to scrub away the discoloration between the tiles, disinfecting them.
4. The Toilet
Toilets are home to many microorganisms that can cause illness when splashed around as you flush. To reduce the bacterial load, you can soak the toilet bowl with ½ cup hydrogen peroxide for at least 20 minutes before scrubbing with a toilet brush to get a proper deep clean.
5. Porcelain Sinks and Bathtubs
Old porcelain sinks and bathtubs can be gorgeous art pieces, but unfortunately, they can get yellowed and discolored with age.
The incredible bleaching power of hydrogen peroxide can remedy that, though. You must scrub the surface first with baking soda, then with undiluted hydrogen peroxide, then leave the mixture to soak for about an hour before rinsing it off.
If you’ve seen a laundry detergent with the name or tagline “oxy” or “oxygen power,” then you’ve seen what amazing things hydrogen peroxide can do to laundry. Here’s how to use it!
7. Sweat and Deodorant Stains
These stains can be super annoying to remove, no matter how often you run the shirt through the washing machine.
Well, all you have to do is soak the area with hydrogen peroxide and leave it in a sunny spot for about 30 minutes. This will bleach out the yellowness and leave you with a brand-new shirt!
Just be careful when doing this on colorful clothes, as some of them might fade with this process.
8. Blood Stains
This is a pretty tried and proper use for hydrogen peroxide. But beware with this one, as it’s all about the technique.
Lay the garment flat on a towel or a cloth with only the stained layer touching the towel. Then dab, don’t rub, the hydrogen peroxide on the affected area. The stain should be transferred through the fabric to the towel. Repeat if necessary, then wash as usual.
Try to do this when the blood stain is as fresh as possible for the best results.
9. Brightening Dingy Whites
Whites can be a challenging load of laundry, especially after years of use that turn the whites into a drab shade of grey.
Make a bleach solution by mixing ½ cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate, the stronger cousin of baking soda) and ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide. To get the most out of this mixture, allow the whites to soak in it for a couple of hours before the cycle continues.
Believe it or not, hydrogen peroxide can be a fantastic tool to aid in keeping your garden in tip-top shape. Use it as follows:
1. Soil Fertility Booster
The oxygen ion activity in hydrogen peroxide can significantly help the soil as it can help it circulate nutrients better into your plant roots. Spritz the soil with a 1:4 hydrogen peroxide to water solution to make your garden lusher and more vibrant.
2. Fungal Treatment
If one of your plants is affected by a powdery mold, you can use the same solution to treat the plant and prevent further spread. It would help if you also disinfected the gardening shears that touch a diseased plant; hydrogen peroxide is perfect for that.
3. For Sprouting Seeds
To increase the chance of seeds sprouting, you can help them by soaking them in 3% hydrogen peroxide for at least 20 minutes before planting. This will help the seed coat soften and release the sprouts quickly.
Here are a few random uses for hydrogen peroxide that can make your life a little easier.
1. Retrobright Old Electronics
Do you know the yellowing that happens to electronics as they age? Well, it’s reversible!
This is a pretty new use for hydrogen peroxide, but it’s all the rage with people who make a hobby out of restoring old electronics. Just take out the plastic case of any electronic you want to “retrobright” and soak it in hydrogen peroxide for at least 12 hours.
The following day, you’ll be left with a plastic case that looks right out of the factory! You can also use an LED blue lamp to speed up the process.
2. Clean Pet Toys and Litter Boxes
Hydrogen peroxide is a pet-safe disinfectant for toys and litter boxes. Just wash the toy or litter box with soap and water, spray it with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit for 5–10 minutes, then wash it with water. This should kill most of the germs on the item.
3. Can I Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Disinfect Wounds?
Although most of us grew up with hydrogen peroxide as a wound disinfectant, it’s currently not recommended by the CDC as it irritates the skin, nose, and eyes.
Part of the reason it’s effective against wound infection is also the reason it hurts the skin and mucous membranes of the body. The oxygen ion will bind to cells of microorganisms and body cells alike, destroying them in the process.
It was also shown to disrupt the action of fibroblasts, the blood cells needed to fight off the infection and adequately heal the wound. This can lead to redness, pain, and general irritation, which can cause mild to severe discomfort, depending on how bad the injury is.
If we’re talking about a simple cut or scrape, you’re better off cleaning it with soap and water, dabbing it dry, and then covering it with an antimicrobial cream. If the injury is more severe or the bleeding wouldn’t stop, you should call medical authorities immediately to get the wound treated.
4. Can I Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Treat Acne?
While the stinging sensation and the fizziness might make you think you’re correctly cleaning a pimple after you pop it, it’s not recommended to use hydrogen peroxide to treat acne.
In the same way, hydrogen peroxide irritates wounded skin, an open wound from a pimple is just as vulnerable. It can even cause scarring due to the inhibition of fibroblasts in the area.
You’re better off using a product specifically designed for acne treatment with proven efficacy, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Both can gently disinfect the spot without harming the skin around it.
To Wrap Up
There are many household uses for hydrogen peroxide, as it acts as a bleaching agent, cleaner, and disinfectant for all surfaces and items. It’s also relatively safe and easy to use, which gives it a leg up compared to other chemical detergents.
Just be careful when you’re learning to use hydrogen peroxide around the house, as it can be pretty irritating to the skin, nose, and eyes in high concentrations. Make sure to wear PPE and always use it in a well-ventilated area.