When I was in high school, some of the girls frosted their hair. That is, they put hydrogen peroxide on their combs, and it lighted whichever hairs it touched. It seemed they were playing with a dangerous chemical!
I have since learned it’s a staple of first aid kits for disinfecting. It’s also useful for cleaning. But my research for this post confirms it can be dangerous.
Chemically, hydrogen peroxide is like water with an extra oxygen atom (H2O2). You can find it in grocery stores and drugstores as a 3% solution. It is stable as long as you keep it in its opaque bottle.
When you use it, it often bubbles. In any case, it releases the extra oxygen atom, which becomes a free radical. What’s left of it is just water. Health literature tells us free radicals do some desirable things, such as destroying pathogens, and some undesirable things, such as contributing to various ailments by causing inflammation.
Among other things, it’s oxygen bleach. My classmates used it because they wanted to lighten their hair. But if you don’t use it carefully, it will lighten what you don’t want it to.
Disinfecting with hydrogen peroxide
Doctors used to recommend hydrogen peroxide to disinfect wounds. They don’t anymore. It kills germs and viruses, but it can also damage the cells necessary for the wound to heal. It seems safe to use it once on minor cuts and scrapes, but no more than that.
Use it from time to time to disinfect your toothbrush, especially when you’re sick. Finish brushing your teeth, then pour a little hydrogen peroxide on it. It will kill the germs, and your toothbrush will be sanitary the next time you use it.
Some people use it as a mouthwash. Just be careful not to swallow it. Even small amounts of it can release a lot of oxygen into your stomach and upset it. It is also somewhat caustic. In fact, if anyone swallows a large amount, it will not only irritate the stomach, it can cause burns that require immediate medical attention. Maybe even hospitalization.
Disinfect sponges by soaking them in hydrogen peroxide for about ten minutes, then rinse. They’ll last longer that way.
It also disinfects countertops and other surfaces. But never use it on marble or other stone surfaces. It is acidic and can ruin them. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle. Spray it on the counter, then wipe with a sponge.
Germs love to hide in the cuts your knife makes on cutting boards. So spray the cutting board with the same formula after you’ve washed it and before you put it away.
Children, especially toddlers, and pets put toys in their mouths. Then, when they’re good and slobbery, put them down on the floor. Hydrogen peroxide makes an ideal disinfectant for both the toys and surfaces in the play area. Wash the toys, then spray. It is non-toxic to anything larger than a microbe and not a lung irritant like products that contain bleach.
The same combination of water and hydrogen peroxide disinfects lunch boxes, coolers, and those reusable shopping bags that I hope you’re using instead of the disposable plastic bags from the store. I have cloth bags, so I can just launder them from time to time. Many reusable bags are made of a heavier grade of plastic. Turn them inside out and spray them from time to time.
Cleaning with hydrogen peroxide
In the kitchen
Use hydrogen peroxide to clean baked-on food from pots and pans. It needs a little help. Mix it with some baking soda to make a paste. Then apply the paste to the stain. The hydrogen peroxide breaks up the particulates in the stain. The baking soda acts as a mild abrasive. After a few minutes, scrub it with warm water to remove the stain.
It also cleans stains in your refrigerator and microwave. And disinfects them at the same time. The soda may not be necessary.
Apply hydrogen peroxide and scrub any surface where mold or mildew grows. It will clean and detoxify it.
In the bathroom
Clean and disinfect your toilet with hydrogen peroxide. Add about half a cup to the toilet and let it sit for about twenty minutes. Then scrub with your toilet brush, pour some more hydrogen peroxide on the brush to disinfect it, and flush.
Tiles in the bathroom can get especially ugly, not only from mold but soap scum. Make a paste with flour and hydrogen peroxide and apply it to the tiles. Then cover it with plastic wrap to keep it moist and let it sit for several hours or overnight. Then rinse it off.
The grout requires somewhat different treatment. Make sure it’s dry, then spray hydrogen peroxide on it. After a few hours, prepare some soapy warm water and scrub the grout with an old toothbrush.
Clean mirrors with hydrogen peroxide. It won’t streak like commercial cleaners can.
Since hydrogen peroxide is oxygen bleach, you can use it in the laundry the same way you would use chlorine bleach.
If your white tablecloths, curtains, fabric shower curtain liners, towels etc. get dingy, some hydrogen peroxide in the laundry will brighten them. You can also treat yellowed spots separately. Be careful with colored fabric, however.
In the same way, it can clean up certain stains on clothing or carpets, such as blood, wine, or grass. Be quick about it, though, for two reasons. First, you won’t be able to clean the stain after it sets. Second, you want to be careful not to replace a wine stain with a bleach stain.
If you need a humidifier in the winter, use a pint of hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water from time to time to eliminate mold buildup.
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