When I was a girl, I was often plagued by painful canker sores. I remember my mother taking a mysterious brown bottle out of the medicine cabinet and pouring some of strange-tasting foaming liquid into a cup for me to use as a mouth rinse. Through my own research as a teenager, I discovered my canker sores were caused by food allergies, and I never gave much more thought to that little brown bottle.
That is, not until recent years when, as a mother myself, I discovered that little brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide can do much more than just serve as a mouth rinse. In fact, today I keep several bottles handy in my home for all kinds of purposes. Priced at under a dollar for 16 ounces at most retailers, 3 percent hydrogen peroxide is one of the most useful household products you can find, and despite its severe-sounding name – which actually scares many people off – it is all-natural and safe for your family.
French chemist Louis-Jacques Thenard first discovered what he called “oxygenated water” in 1818. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) consists of a combination of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms.
An effective sanitizer, the colorless solution kills microorganisms in sort of a controlled burning process that separates them into oxygen and water.
Hydrogen peroxide breaks down rapidly when exposed to light – hence the familiar brown bottle – and its powerful pure form usually is diluted with 97 percent water for the over-the-counter market. Here are a half-dozen ways you can use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in your home.
1. Bleach alternative.
Got dingy white T-shirts, socks, sheets or towels? We all do. Hydrogen peroxide works well in place of bleach. Try adding a cup to your load of white laundry. You also can use hydrogen peroxide directly on troublesome blood stains on your clothes or rugs. Blot it on, let it sit on the stain for a minute or so, rub it in and then rinse well with cold water. For extra stubborn stains, you may need to repeat this process.
2. Mouthwash and toothpaste.
My mother was right. Hydrogen peroxide is good for mouth ulcers and toothaches. Swish a capful of the solution in your mouth for a minute or two and then spit it out. Hydrogen peroxide’s anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties help with mouth discomfort and aid the healing process.
For an effective, natural and inexpensive toothpaste, mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda until you have a paste consistency. The paste will help kill unhealthy bacteria, help keep your breath fresh and even contribute to a whiter smile.
You also can keep your family’s toothbrushes clean and help prevent the spread of germs– especially during cold and flu season – by soaking them in hydrogen peroxide.
3. Contact lens disinfectant.
Many commercial contact lens cleaning solutions contain hydrogen peroxide. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, hydrogen peroxide is used for contact lens disinfection due to its broad antimicrobial activity. Check with your eye doctor about how you can safely clean your contacts with hydrogen peroxide.
4. Household cleaner.
When you pour your 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution into a dark-colored spray bottle along with the same amount of water, you have an effective cleaner for your kitchen and bathroom counters. Use it also to clean the inside of your refrigerator, your glass and mirrors and your cutting boards. Try adding hydrogen peroxide to your dishwasher’s cleaning cycle.
Here are other cleaning ideas:
- spray shower curtains or shower doors to kill mold and mildew
- soak sponges overnight to get rid of stinky smell and kill bacteria
- disinfect lunch boxes and coolers
- clean tile grout
5. Fruit and vegetable sanitizer.
According to a study published in the Journal of Food and Science, rinsing produce, especially organic produce that may have been fertilized with manure, is not enough to kill dangerous bacteria. Hydrogen peroxide can be an easy and effective way to clean your fruits and vegetables. Add a quarter cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to a sink full of cold water. Then drain the water, rinse produce well with fresh water and let produce air dry.
You can also keep your leftover salad from wilting by spraying a solution of a half cup of water and a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide on the salad. Drain, cover and then refrigerate.
6. Ear pain remedy.
Do you have someone in your family who tends to get painful earwax build-up? A few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ear can soften the wax enough so that you can remove it. Here’s what you do:
- Sit near a sink and place a towel on your shoulder under the affected ear.
- Tilt your head so your ear is pointing upward.
- Add two or three drops of olive oil to the ear with a medicine dropper.
- Wait a few moments and then add two or three drops of hydrogen peroxide.
- Wait until the bubbling stops.
- Turn your head so the ear is now pointing down toward the sink.
- Gently squirt warm water from a bulb aspirator into your ear to flush out the wax.
- Dry your ear.
- If the blockage is not relieved or if your pain is severe, consult your doctor.
Since it kills bacteria, hydrogen peroxide is also helpful in treating ear infections. In addition, many people have found relief from pain following an ear piercing by cleansing the pierced area of the skin regularly with hydrogen peroxide. Simply moisten a cotton ball with the solution and apply to the painful area.
You are sure to find more uses in your home for this important and inexpensive solution. With its versatility you may want to keep a bottle in your medicine cabinet, under your kitchen sink and on your laundry room shelf.
Do you know of other uses for hydrogen peroxide? Let us know in the comments below.