Hydrogen peroxide—known to most of us from the familiar dark brown bottles in our medicine cabinets—is a naturally occurring substance made up of two parts hydrogen and two parts oxygen. (H2 O2).
Found in rainwater and snow, hydrogen peroxide is a natural disinfectant that helps to keep lakes and streams healthy and clean.
Why is the Bottle Brown?
The brown bottles keep the light from breaking it down into pure water. Because it is an unstable compound, hydrogen peroxide eventually casts off one of its oxygen molecules, breaking down into plain water, or H2O. In nature, hydrogen peroxide is usually found diluted in water and is both harmless and beneficial. In its purest form, created in labs, though, it becomes a volatile substance that is even used by NASA as a component in rocket fuel! The peroxide we buy in stores is only about 3% H2 O2, diluted in water. Even though this level of concentration is considered safe for household use, please use with caution. Per the CDC, “Hydrogen peroxide is corrosive to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes at high concentrations (>10%); lower concentrations may cause irritation.”
While many of us grew up cleaning out our cuts and scrapes with hydrogen peroxide, for the last several years, medical professionals, including those at the Mayo Clinic, have cautioned against its use. Though hydrogen peroxide is effective at killing off harmful bacteria, it can also kill the healthy new cells our bodies produce during healing, so use caution in how you use it.
8 Wise and Practical Uses For Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has many handy uses around the house. Take a look at this list:
Revive your plants: As hydrogen peroxide breaks down, it releases oxygen that can help a plant’s root development, reverse root rot, and even deter pests. Mix 1 oz. hydrogen peroxide into 1 quart of water for regular watering and misting.
Starting seeds: Soak seeds overnight in a solution of 1 oz. hydrogen peroxide and 1 pint of water.
Deodorizer: As hydrogen peroxide oxidizes (breaks down) it can also help to break down natural odors, such as fish or rotten food, more quickly. Mix it with baking soda and place it in areas, such as refrigerators or dishwashing machines, where odors have accumulated.
De-Skunk: To remove skunk spray odor from skin, fur, or fabric, mix 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and a few drops of grease-cutting liquid dish soap, like Dawn. Work into the affected area, rinse, and reapply as needed.
Emetic: If your dog swallows something harmful, like chocolate, you can induce vomiting by having them drink a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the peroxide must be a 3% solution or less; 1 teaspoon per every 5 lbs., not mixed with food or drink.
Kitchen cleaner: Keep a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the kitchen to clean and disinfect countertops, cutting boards, utensils, and appliances.
Fruit and vegetable cleaner: Wash fruits and vegetables with hydrogen peroxide to remove dirt, pesticide residue, and harmful surface bacteria. Add 1/4 cup of peroxide to a sink or washtub full of cold water to further dilute the concentration. Let them sit for a minute, then rinse thoroughly with cool water.
Laundry and stain removal: Add one cup of peroxide to your laundry instead of bleach. For tough organic stains, such as blood, wine or grass, pour peroxide directly onto the stain before it sets in, then wash as normal. Be careful, though, Peroxide can bleach out colors.