Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Hydrogen Peroxide?!

Cleaning is a dangerous activity. This was brought home to me once again last Thursday when I attempted to vacuum the stairs and got whacked in the head by the vacuum cleaner. I parked the vacuum at the top of the stairs and used the hose attachment to vacuum all the nooks and crannies, completely forgetting that the hose was attached to the vacuum and had a limited range. You can imagine the rest. One side of my head is still swollen. More proof that I really shouldn’t be cleaning – much too dangerous.

But if you feel the need to clean, let me tell you about the other bottle you should have in your cleaning closet right next to your spray bottle of vinegar (see post from March 16, 2009 The Virtues of Vinegar). Hydrogen Peroxide is cheap (I think it’s just a buck a bottle these days), safe for the environment, and as effective as bleach in killing germs, making it a superhero in the battle against bacteria. The form of Hydrogen Peroxide we’re talking about here is 3%. There are some higher percentage formulas out there on the market, but don’t mess with those – the 35% solution sold to some commercial operations can be highly corrosive and fatal if ingested, so stick with 3%. That’s enough power for what we want to do.

A friend forwarded an e-mail with information about some great ways to use hydrogen peroxide and it had a few uses that were new to me. That piqued my curiosity, so I did a little more research and came up with this expansive list below. I checked www.snopes.com to make sure all the information on the forwarded e-mail was on the up and up. A few uses were questionable – mostly in regards to using it on your body to treat cuts or foot fungus. The danger here is that hp might kill off the good cells too and slow the healing process. Doctor’s also warn that hp can irritate skin, so use caution. I do have to add that until my dear EMT friend told me (only a year ago) it wasn’t a good idea, I used hp on my children’s cuts and scrapes to kill germs. It doesn’t sting and it has this cool bubbling action. I’ve also used it on horses to clean puncture wounds to no ill effect. Luckily, both the children and the horses seem to have survived my ignorance. But as a cleaning agent – the rumors were true – peroxide is a superhero.

So what’s in it? How well did you remember high school chemistry? Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is water with an extra oxygen molecule. So when it breaks down it breaks down in to water and oxygen – that’s what makes it much safer for your home and the environment than bleach. H2O2 is created naturally in plant and animal cells and forms in the environment by sunlight acting on the water.

Which brings me to a very important point - be sure to keep your hydrogen peroxide in the brown bottle it comes in. Light will destroy its power (I told you it was a superhero!?). I just remove the spray nozzle from a generic plastic spray bottle and swap caps with the hydrogen peroxide bottle. I use the other one to store smaller amounts of vinegar for cleaning.

Here are some great uses for Hydrogen Peroxide in the home:

1. Use as a vegetable/fruit wash – kills bacteria and leaves no taste. A 2003 study showed it is effective against E Coli.

2. Soak your toothbrushes in a cup of hp to kill germs (it’s a good idea to do this anytime you’ve been sick or had a cold). It doesn’t need to soak long, the hp won’t be very effective after it’s been exposed to the light and air anyway, but a good swish or two should do the trick.

3. Clean your counters, table tops, cutting boards, and other surfaces with hp to kill germs, including salmonella and other bacteria.

4. Spray the 50/50 on wet hair after you get out of the shower to bring out highlights and gradually lighten hair.

5. Use hp to clean bathroom sinks, toilets, showers, floors. It’s safe for septic systems (unlike bleach and many of the cleansers on the market today).

6. Use as a mouthwash. Take one capful and swirl it around your mouth and spit it out. Also heals/prevents canker sores. If you’ve got a toothache, the hp will ease your pain too. Be careful here, though, because you should not swallow hp, the FDA has warned against ingesting it. I don’t think it’s fatal, at least in the small amount in a capful, but it’s not good for you either. I wouldn’t try this with kids.

7. I hope you never need this one: Put half a bottle of peroxide in your bath to help rid boils, fungus, or other skin infections.

8. I’m planning to try this one: Add a cup of peroxide instead of bleach
to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them.

9. Use hp to clean mirrors and windows.

10. Use hp to kill mold.

11. Remove yellowing from lace curtains or tablecloths - fill a sink with cold water and a 2 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Soak for at least an hour, rinse in cold water and air dry.

12. Make whitening toothpaste by mixing baking soda and enough hp to form a paste. This will taste nasty, so you have to be seriously motivated to use it. I think you’re better off springing $3.95 for a store-bought version – but you do what works for you.

One word of caution - the thing to remember is that hydrogen peroxide works like bleach, so be careful when using it the first time on fabric or painted surfaces, it might remove the color. I came across some pretty spooky stuff about hydrogen peroxide curing cancer and other serious ailments, but none of that information is founded on anything real, so just like I tell my kids – don’t believe everything you read. Except this – hydrogen peroxide is a super hero when it comes to killing germs.


  1. These are fantastic! It’s time to do makeover of your bathroom with the help of modern Bathroom Sinks from Spacify.com.

  2. YES! I've been waiting for this post - I never use bleach anymore - just hp - it does everything you said - add nail brushes to the toothbrush disinfecting. And wiping down counters, etc after the vinegar or baking soda cleaning is a good idea. Thanks

  3. Hey Cara-you didn't mention my favorite use for hp...blood stains. A certain nose-picking daughter of mine had stains all over her pillows and the hp removed the dried stains without bleaching the material at all!

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