Health benefits of hydrogen peroxide

Katy Severson

New research suggests that hydrogen peroxide should not be used to clean wounds, as it can destroy healthy cells and prevent healing.

How to use hydrogen peroxide for health

You probably remember the sting of hydrogen peroxide on a scraped knee as a kid, but did you know it has a great deal of household uses and health benefits, too? That brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your cabinet can do everything from killing germs in your kitchen and bathroom to treating a sore throat and whitening your teeth. But it is important to use this stuff carefully. Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound that can have powerful — sometimes harmful — effects on our skin cells and bodies if used improperly. We’ve dug deep on using hydrogen peroxide for health and around the home.

What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound made from hydrogen and oxygen that’s commonly used as a clear, odorless liquid that comes in various strengths. The typical brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide is considered medical grade and contains 97% water and 3% peroxide. You can also find more concentrated food-grade peroxide, which contains 35% peroxide and lacks some of the preservatives and stabilizers such as acetanilide, phenol, sodium stanate and tetrasodium pyrophosphate that are found in typical household peroxide. This is the peroxide that should be used for any oral applications.

Health benefits of hydrogen peroxide

Whitens teeth

Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent that can be used to whiten all sorts of things including your teeth. It’s a common ingredient in over-the-counter products like whitening gels, strips, mouthwashes or even professional treatments at your dentist, but you can also whiten your teeth using hydrogen peroxide at home. You can do this by combining equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water and swishing it around your mouth for 30 seconds or so.

You can also make a paste by combining 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a dash of peroxide and applying it to your teeth using a toothbrush. You’ll want to be careful, though, as too much can damage your teeth and gums, leading to sensitivity and other issues.

Treatment for canker sores and swollen gums

Using hydrogen peroxide as a mouth rinse might help ease swollen and sore gums and canker sores on your tongue and the inside of your lips or cheeks. Some products like Orajel or Colgate Peroxyl contain hydrogen peroxide to ease pain and speed healing. If you’re making a rinse at home, combine one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and swish it in your mouth, then spit. Remember to consult your dentist or doctor if symptoms persist.

Antibacterial and antifungal

Hydrogen peroxide is antimicrobial and can kill both fungal spores and certain bacteria. It can also inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus, meaning it can help treat and prevent infections. This makes hydrogen peroxide an excellent treatment for fungal ear and foot infections as well as an oral antiseptic in the form of a diluted mouthwash.

Hydrogen peroxides antibacterial qualities make it a popular treatment for acne and a common ingredient in some acne creams and ointments. But some studies show that hydrogen peroxide can be harsh or damaging on the skin, especially if you have scars or sores.

Treats sore throat

Due to its antibacterial properties, hydrogen peroxide can also be used to treat or soothe a sore throat. Combine one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water and gargle for about one minute.

Earwax removal

Hydrogen peroxide ear drops are an effective treatment for cleaning out excess earwax, which can cause hearing difficulty and pain in some people. The peroxide works by bubbling, softening and loosening earwax.

Keep in mind that most people’s ears remove wax on their own, so you shouldn’t need to do this procedure often unless you find that excess wax is causing you pain or other difficulties.

Softening calluses and corns

A foot soak of hydrogen peroxide and water can help treat and soften calluses and corns while also treating stinky feet by killing odor-causing bacteria.

Household uses for hydrogen peroxide

Cleaner and disinfectant

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective cleaning and disinfecting agent around the house, from cleaning the dishwasher to scrubbing the sink to sanitizing countertops. Spraying hydrogen peroxide into rubber seals and crevices can help kill off some of the fungi and yeasts that tend to collect there. Using hydrogen peroxide to clean countertops and cutting boards can likewise kill harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. This also makes it an excellent cleaner for toilets and other bathroom surfaces. Some cleaners, like The Honest Company Disinfecting Spray, contain hydrogen peroxide as a primary ingredient.

Washing vegetables

Washing vegetables in a diluted mix of hydrogen peroxide and water — we recommend 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide in 1 gallon of water — can help remove harmful bacteria from produce. Try soaking more delicate produce like lettuce in the solution for about 20 minutes, whereas thicker skinned produce like carrots and potatoes can soak for 30 minutes. Then rinse. This process can also make produce last longer in your fridge.

Cleaning cookware

When combined with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide is an effective way to scour built-up grease and grime from pots, pans and cookie sheets. Make a thick paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and let it soak into the pan for one to three hours, then clean.

Stain remover and whitener

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to effectively remove stains like grass, blood, wine and more from clothing and other fabrics. Dab the hydrogen peroxide onto the reverse side of the fabric before washing as normal. It can also be used as a bleach alternative to brighten dingy whites. Make sure to test a small swab of the clothing or fabric first to check if it affects the color.

Brush cleaner and sanitizer

Toothbrushes and makeup brushes both benefit from being regularly sanitized and hydrogen peroxide can reduce bacterial count by up to 85%. Add about 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a bowl of water and soak your toothbrush and/or makeup brushes for about 10 minutes, then rinse.

Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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