The Wonders of Hydrogen Peroxide

Some time ago I got a message, which reminded me about the wonder of an ordinary product most people have somewhere in the house. Georgia wrote …

hydrogen peroxide poured onto cloth for cleaning

“I had a cut on my hand that opened up while I was putting my expensive duvet cover (recent wedding gift!) on my comforter, now I have blood stains where I touched it. Is there any hope of getting these stains out completely? I tried using a carpet cleaning solution and washing it but those stains remain. I’m worried they’ll be there permanently. Thanks so much for your help!” Georgia

I responded immediately, directing Georgia to soak the stains with fresh, full-strength hydrogen peroxide. I heard back quickly. The hydrogen peroxide lightened the stains almost immediately, and within hours they disappeared completely.

I’ll be honest that back then, removing blood stains was about all I ever used hydrogen peroxide for. And because it has such a short shelf life, I was forever throwing out old, useless hydrogen peroxide.

Since then, I’ve learned so much and done extensive research and wow. The stuff is downright wonderful—so awesome in fact, I never throw hydrogen peroxide away anymore. It doesn’t have time in my home to age out. That’s how much I use it.

Hydrogen peroxide, which is as harmless as it is powerful both as a household cleaner and all around remedy. It is non-toxic, safe, really cheap and available in any grocery or drug store in a 3% dilution. It’s a wonderful cleaning product and reliable sanitizer.

It has to be fresh

There’s one thing you need to keep in mind to avoid disappointment: Hydrogen peroxide has a limited shelf life of about one year when not opened, and only six months once opened, provided you store it in a dark place.

Light causes hydrogen peroxide to dissipate quickly turning it from H2O2 to plain water and oxygen. It needs to be fresh to be effective.

If it’s been opened and older than six months, throw it out. It’s useless! You will be terribly disappointed.

To make sure than you never have to throw out hydrogen peroxide again, check out all the ways you can use it around the house to make your life easier!

Vegetable wash

You can stop paying $7 or more for “veggie wash.” Make your own by adding 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide to a sink of cold water. Wash your fruit and vegetables in the solution then rinse thoroughly with cool water.

Dishwasher

To disinfect your dishwasher, add 1/4 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide before you close the door to run a load.

Cutting board sanitizer

Spray your cutting board with undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Allow to sit for a minute or two, then rinse clean.

Disinfect countertops

Mix hydrogen peroxide with water in equal parts in a spray bottle. Apply directly to the surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom—any place you want to keep sanitized. Wipe dry with clean towel or sponge

White teeth

Make a paste of table salt, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for the best whitening toothpaste. Because hydrogen peroxide dissipates so quickly, you’ll need to make this right before every use.

Disinfect toothbrushes

At least weekly, it’s a great idea to pour some hydrogen peroxide over your toothbrushes. This can help kill staph and other bacteria, lessening the chance of introducing it back into your mouth.

T-shirt armpit stains

Those yellow stains in white t-shirts are quite annoying. To get them out, follow the step-by-step instructions here: How to Remove Yellow Sweat Stains—It Really Works!

Sanitize toys and lunch boxes

Because hydrogen peroxide is a non-toxic sanitizer, it’s perfect for cleaning plastic toys and lunch boxes.

Humidifier cleanse

Add 2 cups 3% hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of water. Run this through your humidifier or steamer to clean and sanitize the appliance.

Stinky towels

Can’t get rid of that annoying odor? Try this: Add 1/2 cup fresh hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup white vinegar to the washing machine along with those stinky towels. Fill with hot water and your regular detergent and allow to soak for 15 minutes. Continue the cycle as normal. That should get rid of the smell. If you still detect that odor read Solution for Gross, Smelly Towels for a more aggressive treatment.

Aquarium maintenance

Use hydrogen peroxide sparingly to control fungi and other pests in fish aquariums. Provided you do use it sparingly, it will not harm the fish. For specific instructions, read more here.

First published: 9-27-16; Updated 3-25-19; Revised 3-26-19 to delete using hydrogen peroxide to clean contact lenses at the advice of medical professionals. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused our readers.


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22 replies
  1. Julie N
    Julie N says:

    Current medical research indicates that using hydrogen peroxide on a wound is more harmful to the tissue than healing, because it destroys your cells around the injury. Please check it out — you will find information on many reputable medical websites.
    I have personal experience with this older idea of using peroxide on wounds. I attribute the fact that my ripped-off fingernail did not grow back properly to following the advice of peroxide soaks from an older friend not familiar with the latest studies. When I eventually saw a doctor (it turned out I broke the bone, too), he explained exactly why using peroxide was not a good idea.

    Reply
  2. Judi
    Judi says:

    You are not suppose to use it on any part an open cut or sore. I was told this by a doctor a couple of years ago. Julie N, you are right.

    Reply
  3. Dianne
    Dianne says:

    I bought an older home, with w2w carpet that the previous owner put down to hide stains in a beautiful red oak floor, which in the 50’s was the actual underlayment flooring of choice. I read an article that said to soak a clean light-colored cloth with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit on the stain until dry, then repeat as needed. I was skeptical at first but to my surprise, it actually worked! Yes, it removed the multiple stains, however it did lighten the floor, which we did not mind since the person coming to sand said he would not have been able to sand down most of the stains due to age and how dark they were! It worked wonders!!

    Reply
  4. x_ray_tech
    x_ray_tech says:

    I have read that using an equal mixture of Peroxide and vinegar sprayed on mold and mildew will remove it. The article said not to mix the two together but put in separate spray bottles to spray one on the area immediately followed by the other spray. Let dry and wipe away. I don’t know if it works as I have never tried it myself. Anyone know?

    Reply
  5. CS
    CS says:

    Dear Mary,

    Thank you for all the wonderful advice and laughs through the years. Your H2O2 reminded me of a wonderful hint. I use H2O2 constantly, so what I do is leave it in the bottle & add a clean sprayer head (Shout sprayer heads work) & leave it under my sink and in my bathroom. The dark bottle protects it & the sprayer makes it easy to use and disinfect. BTW I do the same thing with alcohol.

    Many more thanks than I can write here,

    Cristina

    Reply
  6. george
    george says:

    To remove fresh blood from a cloth you use COLD water along with a weak solution of an enzyme type laundry cleaner. Never use hot water -0- that will ‘set’ the color in the fabric – the more ‘natural’ (cotton) the fabric the more important to use cold water and an enzyme cleaner – also oxygenating bleaches (Clorox II/example) will ‘whiten’ while chlorinating bleaches will ‘yellow.’ I once was (for 25 years) a certified color restoration technician in the carpet cleaning industry.

    Reply
  7. b
    b says:

    when I feel a cold sore starting to form, I dab a little hydrogen peroxide on it, problem solved.
    as for blood stains, bar soap and cold water and a little rubbing generally does the trick.

    Reply
  8. Emma Keys
    Emma Keys says:

    If I store my hydrogen peroxide in a blue glass spray bottle, does that affect it’s effectiveness? I know it needs to stay away from light (hense why it is sold in a dark brown plastic bottle). I’m just wondering if me transferring it to a dark blue glass spray bottle affects it?

    Reply
  9. Kat
    Kat says:

    I’m a contact lens tech and the recommendation that people use this to clean their contact lenses is slightly misguided. The cleaning system does use peroxide but it also has a catalytic disc that neutralizes the peroxide making it safe to insert the contact lens. If someone were to soak their lenses and then insert them in their eye, not only will it burn, it could cause corneal damage.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Please note that the reference to contaact lenses in the post has been deleted, with a note our regrets and gratitude to eyecare medical professionals who have advised that this use for hydrogen peroxide was misguided. Thanks for weighing in on that, Kat.

      Reply
  10. donnafreedman
    donnafreedman says:

    While we were caring for our mother during her cancer, my sister the dental hygienist clued me in to a good use of peroxide. An area of my gums had become inflamed and so sore that the glands in my neck were swollen on that side.

    Linda told me to mix a a capful of peroxide and three capfuls of water in a cup and swish it in my mouth on the swollen side, several times per day. She warned me it would taste pretty gnarly — and it did! — but if I could swish it for 60 seconds it would do me good.

    The swelling and pain were gone within a day or so. Linda told me that when patients come in with that condition it’s often a piece of food (popcorn hulls are a big culprit) that you missed when flossing or using the WaterPik. Never found out what caused mine. These days if I get a tender area in my gums, I floss and use the WaterPik and then do the peroxide thing for good measure.

    Reply
    • Me
      Me says:

      I found that my frequent bouts of gum irritation became pretty much nonexistent after I started flossing every night without fail. I was never taught to floss as a child and didn’t start until I was probably in my 40s.

      Reply
      • donnafreedman
        donnafreedman says:

        Oh, I floss regularly (my sister is a dental hygienist) but during that time we were caring for my mother during her last days. I barely found time to shower and admit that some other personal-care habits went by the wayside.

        While I have tried since then to take care of myself no matter what, occasionally a crisis keeps me from being as assiduous as I should be. Working on it.

      • Me
        Me says:

        Yeah, flossing can be the first thing one considers tossing aside while trying to get into bed after a long hard day.

        Caregiving is a hard job. 🙁

  11. Babs George
    Babs George says:

    We live in the country and use a septic system. Do you know if hydrogen peroxide will harm it?? My spouse is very particular what type of chemicals we put down our drains. Any help will be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      H2O2, hydrogen peroxide, is liquid oxygen. It dissipates quickly breaking down to water and oxygen. Perfectly safe in a septic system.

      Reply
    • Sue in MN
      Sue in MN says:

      If dye is stable, 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is GENERALLY safe. If in doubt, test on a seam or hem. Use for the shortest time necessary to remove the stain, launder with mild soap & rinse well. If you avoid warm water & the dryer, you can re-treat if the first try doesn’t completely work. I just used this on a bright orange cotton knit last week & it worked great. I am a quilter and use it all the time on blood from finger pricks, on all kinds of colors. CAUTION! Lab grade HP can be more than 3% concentration and should be used on fabrics with extreme caution.

      Reply

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