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What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hydrogen peroxide is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Its chemical description is H2O2. In high concentrations, it can be unstable and even poisonous. In lower concentrations, such as the types found in many homes, it works well as a disinfectant and antiseptic.

In homes, clinics and schools, it has frequently used to cleanse cuts, abrasions and other minor injuries. Formulas for these purposes generally only contain about 5% hydrogen peroxide or less. For minor injuries, the affected area may be dabbed with cotton dipped in the solution, or the solution can be poured directly over the injury. The solution will "boil" or bubble for a few seconds, and this process should continue until bubbling stops naturally, indicating that the area is clean.

There is some research to suggest that using hydrogen peroxide on wounds is not a good idea, as it can damage live skin. In many cases, soap and water may be as effective at cleaning a cut or abrasion. There are also many over-the-counter anti-bacterial sprays and gels available.

Hydrogen peroxide has many other uses as well. When diluted, it can be used to clean and whiten teeth, and it can be used as a gargle or mouthwash to kill germs in the mouth. It should never be swallowed. The residue from it should be rinsed from the mouth after use.

A different use for hydrogen peroxide is in the creation of beauty products. Some of these include hair dyes and bleaching treatments, and it may also be added to antibacterial creams and lotions, anti-aging treatments and other facial products. It also makes a good soak for nails before a manicure or pedicure, and it works well for disinfecting manicure and pedicure tools.

Another use for hydrogen peroxide is to purify water. It is highly soluble in water, and adding it to water can increase oxygen and help eliminate dangerous contaminants. It is also used in some swimming pools in place of other water purifiers.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used for certain industrial or environmental purposes as well, because it can provide the effects of bleaching without the potential damage of chlorine-based agents. Because this substance can be unstable in high concentrations, it must be used with care. In higher concentrations, it can create strong chemical reactions when it interacts with other agents, and it can damage the skin or eyes of persons working with it.

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Discussion Comments
By anon301192 — On Nov 02, 2012

Is it good for drinking water for race horses?

By anon271293 — On May 25, 2012

A 3 percent concentration of H2O2 applied to your ears will help dissolve stubborn, hardened ear wax. I have been using this for years and have also used it for many of my patients (no, I'm not a doctor). If used too often it can tend to dry the skin out somewhat. Conversely, a tiny amount of oil in the ears also softens up ear wax, thus making it easier to wash away during general cleaning, showering etc.

By anon232055 — On Nov 28, 2011

Who created or discovered hydrogen peroxide and can you give more information on the topic? There is barely anything here I can use. I need this information as if it was an acid, not just as something to help wounds, cuts, or more.

By anon194183 — On Jul 07, 2011

Is it wise to put undiluted hydrogen peroxide on verrucas?

By anon190004 — On Jun 25, 2011

is it safe to be used as a feminine wash? i researched about feminine wash and one of those is H2O2. Are there any studies that proves its safe to use?

By anon161582 — On Mar 20, 2011

You can use hydrogen peroxide to detect if something contains biological traces; it is very efficient for blood and skin. The peroxide then reacts by producing some foam. It stays liquid otherwise. Of course it does not replace advanced tools for criminal investigation.

By anon156025 — On Feb 25, 2011

Just another thing to go wrong to prevent my rest. About 1:30 AM I had to let the dogs out for a quick pee. One minute later I discovered my big dog decided to stick her nose up a skunk's butt Well, the story in comedic form is not going to work well in print.

FYI: wisegeek saved my life, but the vinegar is not necessary. It was just fine to rinse her well. She is just a cleaner shade of the same colors, but I would not have cared if she became blond.

Wash and sniff. Wash and sniff.

FYI: Don't walk through skunk spray on the way to the office to look up remedies for the matter on the internet, because the skunk oil will transfer into the carpet.

By anon155278 — On Feb 23, 2011

If the dosage is potent enough to affect him, then he will probably bring it up. If not you need not worry. If you really feel worried, you can stick your fingers down the dog's throat.

By anon154577 — On Feb 21, 2011

It is safe to put a 3 percent solution into your ear canal to fight infection. Wait for it to stop bubbling before draining. 2-3 times a day has been shown to giver relief to ear pain and possibly associated throat pain.

By anon143763 — On Jan 17, 2011

I used peroxide on my horse's leg wounds and found that the skin began to separate and the wound was actually getting worse, but I myself use it every time I get a cut, but follow up with a wound care lotion. Be careful on using it for horses or dogs.

By anon141355 — On Jan 10, 2011

well, it may work for some people and others not. we are all made differently.

By anon125972 — On Nov 11, 2010

I work in a pharmacy and someone i know asked me to get them 30 percent Hydrogen peroxide. I am wondering what for, at such high concentrations. Anything dangerous that can be done at such high concentrations?

By anon75629 — On Apr 07, 2010

My dog ate something really bad, and the vet told us to use one ounce of hydrogen peroxide for every 20 pounds the dog weighs to induce vomiting. Sure enough, 15 minutes later, right on the clock, my dog vomited everything back up.

By anon74510 — On Apr 02, 2010

does this helps in curing psoriasis which in a skin disease?

By anon64510 — On Feb 07, 2010

what's the main use of this chemical?

By anon59537 — On Jan 09, 2010

Hydrogen peroxide should never be used as a mouthwash at even 3 percent concentration because it damages tissue and causes dry mouth.

By anon57259 — On Dec 21, 2009

Excess use will kill skin cells. But the amount typically used to clean a cut or injury, will do nothing other than clean the cut. Yes, soap and water is almost as effective, but I personally find after using hydrogen peroxide on a cut is, it does not hurt or feel sore or have a red outline (indicating infection) as it did prior.

By anon47824 — On Oct 07, 2009

Anon10245: You, or your pets, can drink hydrogen peroxide. Standard home use of 3-5% isn't going to do anything. Stronger solutions may cause excess gas, and possibly damage if you have preexisting ulcers. Basically all hydrogen peroxide does is break down into pure oxygen and pure water. Oxygen can be corrosive in high concentrations of course, but 3 percent solution -or what you used which was even more dilute isn't going to do anything. Actually 1tbsp of 3-5 percent hydrogen peroxide in 2 cups of water literally isn't going to do anything to anything. All the hydrogen peroxide had probably already broken down because of contaminants in the tap water.

By anon39749 — On Aug 04, 2009

i have been told you can put this in animals' ears. is this true?

By anon37184 — On Jul 17, 2009

look around. don't trust one site. this is incorrect. peroxide is not good for cuts or mouth wash. the burn feel over cuts is because it kills living skin.

By anon29495 — On Apr 03, 2009

I would like to know, is it dangerous to use Hydrogen Peroxide in your ears to either clean them or to help fight off colds and soar throats?

By catapult43 — On Aug 02, 2008

Hydrogen peroxide is good to keep next to the laundry detergent. It is helpful in removing blood stains from clothing.

By llp — On May 01, 2008

Would Hydrogen peroxide work as a replacement for alcohol in an antibacterial hand sanitizer? If not, would using it as the base with a small amount of alcohol make it equivalent to all alcohol?


By anon10245 — On Mar 23, 2008

I heard that animal messes could be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide. Instructions were to put a little in water. I used about 2 cups of water and about 1 tbs of H.P. then cleaned the area -it worked nice but the dog drank the solution. Is there a remedy for drinking it I can't seem to get into a vet until monday.

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