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A bottle of hydrogen peroxide has been a medicine cabinet staple for decades — right up there with petroleum jelly, baby powder, and rubbing alcohol. But as we enter the 2020s, it’s probably time to relocate your stash to the supply closet with all the other cleaning ingredients.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) — which you can find at any drugstore, usually in a plain brown plastic bottle at 3 percent concentration — is a powerful disinfectant and bleaching agent that’s historically been used to clean wounds.
Nowadays, we know it’s actually much better for cleaning your home than sterilizing a scrape (more on that below). Curious about all the ways hydrogen peroxide can make your home sparkle? Check out these 21 nifty uses, plus a few that you’re better off avoiding.
H2O2 is known for its ability to kill viruses, bacteria, mold, fungi, and yeasts. In other words, it can get rid of all the nasties lurking around your loo. Try adding some hydrogen peroxide to the following chores for a deep clean.
All-purpose surface cleaner
Hydrogen peroxide’s germ-fighting properties make it a primo option for wiping down every grimy surface in your bathroom — from countertops to tubs to doorknobs. For the biggest benefit, spray H2O2 directly on surfaces and let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping clean.
Deep clean toilets
Hydrogen peroxide can zap germs in your toilet bowl too. Try pouring 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide in the toilet followed by 1 cup baking soda. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, give it a good scrub, and flush.
You can also spray down the seat and lid to be extra thorough. Wait 10 minutes before wiping down for a toilet so clean you could eat off it. (But please don’t.)
Make mirrors and shower doors sparkle
Combine 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide with 2 cups water in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Spritz it on glass surfaces and wipe clean with a cloth or paper towel.
Scrub away soap scum
Nothing makes a bathroom look dingier than gross soap scum buildup all around the tub or shower. But you can scour it away with a mixture of 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide.
Give new life to old porcelain
White porcelain toilets and sinks can start to turn yellow over time. To brighten them back up, try using a sponge to scrub stained areas first with baking soda, followed by a few drops of hydrogen peroxide.
Since H2O2 can do wonders keeping your bathroom clean, it’s no surprise that it can do the same in your kitchen.
Disinfect kitchen counters
Just like in the bathroom, you can spray hydrogen peroxide on kitchen counters and let it sit for 10 minutes to kill off germs. Easy peasy.
De-gunk pots and pans
Stuck on bits of hard, burnt, or dried food can be pretty stubborn. But with a little elbow grease, you can likely scrub it off using a mixture of baking soda and H2O2.
Sprinkle the soda on the surface of the pot or pan and spray on some hydrogen peroxide. Let the whole thing sit for a couple of hours, then hit it hard with a scrub brush.
Clean your cutting boards
Whether used for meat, poultry, or seafood or just fruits and veg, cutting boards can be havens for bacterial growth. Give them a deep clean and stop germs from spreading by soaking cutting surfaces in hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes, then rinsing.
Wash fruits and vegetables
If it feels like a simple rinse under the tap isn’t cutting it these days, use H2O2 to clean your market haul instead.
Mix one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water in a spray bottle, give your produce a spritz followed by a rinse under running water, then dry off.
Help fruits and vegetables last longer
Not only can H2O2 get your produce clean — it might help you eke a little extra life out of them so you can stretch out the space in between food shopping trips. Try soaking hard-skinned fruits and veg like apples, carrots, and potatoes in hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes, then rinse and dry.
Un-gross your trash can
Soap and water alone never feels like enough to clean a grimy garbage bin. But adding a rinse of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water afterward gives you extra germ-fighting power.
Plus it’ll brighten up those gross stains. Leave the H2O2-coated can to sit out in the sun for several hours to dry on its own — no need to bother rinsing.
Considering how good it can be at keeping clothes clean, you might wanna keep an extra bottle of H2O2 tucked right next to the laundry detergent.
Get rid of stains
Hydrogen peroxide’s natural bleaching properties make it great at stamping out stubborn stains from things like grass, juice, wine, and even blood. (If you’re dealing with a delicate item or aren’t sure how the fabric might react, test the hydrogen peroxide on a small area before dousing the whole stain.)
Squirt 1 teaspoon dish soap into 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and gently blot the stained area.
Brighten your whites
Bleaching action to the rescue again! Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and washing soda (a water-softening compound that’s different from baking soda) and toss it in the washing machine once the water has filled up.
Can hydrogen peroxide have a role in your self-care routine? Some proponents say yes. But these uses are more home remedy-type tips than expert-backed recommendations — so proceed with caution.
Clean makeup brushes
Fact: Makeup and makeup brushes are some of the germiest items in your home. Cleaning them on the reg can keep up all that gunk from ending up on your face, and hydrogen peroxide works as a top-notch disinfectant.
Soak your brushes in a cup of soapy water plus a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes, rinse, and let dry.
Whiten your teeth
Hydrogen peroxide is used in commercial tooth whiteners that you’ll find at the dentist.
It’s bleaching properties can be effective — and when mixed in the right concentrations and used by an experienced professional, it can be safe. But experts suggest steering clear of using hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth at home.
Bleach your hair
H2O2 is a common ingredient in commercial hair dyes, since it’s bleaching properties can lift pigment off of your strands. But it’s not necessarily a good idea to try applying the stuff to your hair at home, since it runs the risk of causing a chemical burn on your scalp.
But wait — there’s more! Yup there are loads of other ways to use H2O2. But there’s also one common use that you should always steer clear of.
Clean a litter box
H2O2 won’t just get rid of germs in your cat’s poop box — it’ll help clear out some of that gross stench. After emptying the box and giving it a good cleaning with soap and water, spray it thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before rinsing.
Help a sick pup
Doggo gotten into something he shouldn’t have? Your vet might recommend using hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. But since large amounts of H2O2 can be poisonous, make sure to get specific instructions from your pup’s doc before trying this at home!
That handle gets a lot of potential germ action, since you might touch it before you have a chance to wash your hands after walking in the door. Get rid of nasty bugs by thoroughly wiping or spraying door handles with hydrogen peroxide and letting it sit for 10 minutes before wiping clean.
Clean remote controls
Same song, different dance. Pour hydrogen peroxide onto a cloth and thoroughly wipe the surface of your remote, taking care to get into those nooks and crannies. Let it sit for 10 minutes and wipe clean.
Disinfect needles, tweezers, or nail clippers
H2O2 is a proven disinfectant for needles and syringes, but you can also use it to clean tweezers, clippers, or other personal care tools.
Soak the item in room temp H2O2 for 10 full minutes before rinsing and drying, or let it sit in H2O2 that’s been heated to 150°F (65.5°C) for 1 minute. (Hot hydrogen peroxide will stink, but the odor isn’t dangerous.)
Hydrogen peroxide’s germ-fighting action means it can definitely help keep cuts and scrapes from getting infected. But it’s also acidic, which means it can irritate your skin (and sting like hell).
So despite what your momma might’ve done when you’d come home with a banged up knee, do not pour this stuff on an open wound.
Both hydrogen peroxide and bleach are effective disinfectants, but they’re not exactly the same thing.
Bleach works quicker, taking just 1 minute to kill of germs on most surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide, when used at room temperature, needs to sit on a surface for 10 minutes for the same effect. But you can cut the disinfecting time down to a minute if you heat the hydrogen peroxide to 150°F (65.5°C).
Both can be highly irritating. Working with hydrogen peroxide or bleach can make your eyes sting and irritate your airways. Both can also cause chemical burns if applied to your skin.
And while accidentally swallowing small amounts isn’t lethal, both hydrogen peroxide and bleach can burn your throat and mess with your stomach. And swallowing large amounts of either could potentially be fatal.
Hydrogen peroxide is generally considered safe when used correctly and in its diluted form (3 percent concentration, which is what you’ll usually find in drug stores).
But highly concentrated forms can irritate your eyes and nose, burn your skin, and make it hard to breathe. It can also give you a headache or cause dizziness and even lead to vomiting or diarrhea. In extreme cases, it can cause shock, fluid buildup in the lungs, and even loss of consciousness.
All is which to say: Be smart with this stuff, people. Only stick with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, wear gloves when you use it, only use it in well-ventilated spaces, and don’t put it in your mouth or on your skin.
Finally, don’t mix it with other chemicals unless you’ve done legit homework on how the ingredients will react. And keep out of reach of children and pets.
Hydrogen peroxide can be a top-notch cleaner and disinfectant, and you can use it for all kinds of jobs all over your house, provided you stick with some basic safety precautions.
But you shouldn’t use it for wounds, on your skin or teeth, or in your hair, since it can be irritating and potentially cause burns.