Friday, July 10, 2009

Hydrogen Peroxide Instead of Bleach

Awhile back I gave up chlorine bleach. Yes, it cleans and disinfects ... and makes our whites whiter. But, there is some evidence that it is harmful to our health and the health of the environment. The evidence is mixed, however ... some reports say that it is totally safe and will break down into natural components when it reaches the ground or waterways. Other reports say that it is lethal to fish and pollutes our natural resources ... and is a health hazard to humans.

What I know, for sure, about using chlorine bleach is that it smells bad and gives me a headache. So, I tend to lean towards the people who say bleach is toxic. If there is even a hint of something being harmful, especially when there are alternatives, then ... I'm all for "erring on the safe side" and choosing the healthier version.

One of the healthier alternatives is hydrogen peroxide ... the cheap stuff that comes in a brown bottle and is available almost everywhere. It doesn't smell ... it doesn't hurt the environment and ... it works.

Here are some ways to clean with it:

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer. So, use it to kill germs on all surfaces (counter tops, tables, showers, etc.). It can be applied to a sponge or cleaning rag for wiping down an area ... or sprayed directly onto the surface.
  • Do you use a wooden cutting board or wooden utensils? A little peroxide will kill salmonella and other harmful bacteria.
  • Add one cup of peroxide to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them. The trick with making this tip work is time. Peroxide takes time to work so ... add it into the wash and let it sit for awhile (I let mine soak for at least an hour). Then, add in your regular detergent and wash as usual.
  • Use it to wash store-bought fruits and veggies. According to the Journal of Food and Science, peroxide is affective in killing E.coli.
  • Fight mold and mildew throughout your home ... just spray peroxide onto the affected area and let it sit ... then wipe down as usual.
  • Apply it to a clean rag to shine up mirrors and windows.
  • Use it to mop your floors ... either add it to your bucket of water or ... pour it directly onto the floor.

A few notes about Hydrogen Peroxide:

  • It is rendered useless when exposed to light (that's why it comes in those brown bottles). So, if you want to keep a spray bottle handy, be sure it is a dark spray bottle.
  • It takes time to work, so spray or pour it on and then let it sit.
  • Peroxide is a bleach and will whiten ... so be careful when applying it. If you're trying to get a stain out of, for example, your blue jeans and you pour peroxide directly onto the material ... you'll probably end up with a white spot. So, use caution.
  • Some reports have suggested using peroxide as a mouthwash to clean and whiten teeth. It should be noted that there is some evidence suggesting that peroxide can be used in the treatment of mouth infections but that long-term use can damage tissues in the mouth. So, ask your doctor before using peroxide in this way.

So, there you have it! A cleaner that works ... and is kind to both humans and the environment. How good is that!!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!


  1. interesting sf... is it the same thing the hairdressers use when we get our hair lighten or bleached?

  2. Hi Luthien,

    As I understand it, it is the same stuff used to lighten hair in salons and some hair coloring products ... just a different concentration. The bottles we buy in the store are relatively low ... about 3%.

    Thanks for asking!


  3. I use peroxide also. I also use peroxide mixed with water in the reservoir of my waterpik twice daily, and I have cleaner teeth and healthier gums as a result.

    I avoid bleach. Have you ever looked up the MSDS sheet on bleach? here is a pdf link:

    Here is a web link:

    The words "acute health hazard" are used on the warning label. I used to believe that was just there 'because it had to be', but, it has to be there BECAUSE IT'S TRUE.

    Or read about the chlorine creation process?

    I don't have my hair colored by any means now (not for about 10 years), but am thinking of trying henna. I never did lighten anyway, but there are plenty of chemicals to avoid in any hair dye solution!

  4. That is good information, I have never considered using peroxide for that purpose. I also get a headache from bleach and I hate the smell of it.


  5. The system I use to clean my contacts is hydrogen peroxide-based . . . my optometrist recommended it over other saline-based systems because it does not have any preservatives in it (I am apparently sensitive to the preservatives).

  6. This will be very helpful! Thanks for posting--I forwarded the link to my Mom in hopes that she'll test some of this out for herself. I don't know how often she uses bleach, but perhaps this will be of use to her :)

  7. thank you for the suggestion. Funny, I am out of peroxide and so I raided my aunt's house to clean a wound on my ankle.
    This is a friendly reinforcement as to why I need the peroxide in my own house.

  8. Love the idea! I hadn't thought of it. I use it as a mouth wash, and there is a benzyl peroxide in acne treatments you can by to wash your face with, so I should have guessed it killed bacteria. With the face wash it too will leave a
    bleach stain" so I'd believe it on the colored fabrics. I also found the comment on the contact solution Amie made above interesting. I'll have to look for that.

  9. In terms of cleaning thinsg like counters and floors, how does peroxide compare to vinegar? That's what I have been using and I like it but maybe peroxide kills more bacteria/germs?

  10. I was skimming the blogs and this caught my interest. I have several bottles of peroxide sitting around and never knew what else it is good for! WOW! Now I plan to see if I can clean with it. Thank you--this was your most helpful post to date for me!

  11. Hi Sotorrific,

    I know that vinegar also kills germs ... I'm not sure if it covers the same germs and bacteria as peroxide but I would be comfortable with using either one. I think they are comparable.

    When it comes to laundry use, however, I think peroxide is the winner ... vinegar, in my opinion, doesn't whiten at all. :)

    Thanks for asking!


  12. Hello,

    Please stop by and pick up your blog award!


  13. Yay! I stopped using bleach a while back and even taught my mother-in-law to use hydrogen peroxide recently. We used it to wash the mold off the walls in the baby's room after we ran the vaporizer too much. There was NO way we were using bleach in there!

    Excellent post, I hope more people stop using chemicals all together when there are far safer alternatives that work just as well if not better.

  14. Hi Kate,

    Your post actually got me started using peroxide ... so thank you for your wonderful article and help.

    To Everyone ... if you have a minute, stop by Kate's place ... her article on natural cleaners includes other things like vinegar and baking soda. I'm going to repeat her article's address here:

    It worth the time!


  15. Hydrogen peroxide is also a great way to treat chronic bad breath. Most people think that bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene.

    Although this may be true some of the time, those who suffer from Fetor Oris, commonly known as chronic halitosis, have bad breath that is caused by a bacterial imbalance in the mouth that conventional oral hygiene will not help at all.

    Among the products that will help reduce the population of bad breath causing bacteria is hydrogen peroxide.

    Simply mix 3% HP with an equal amount of water and use as mouthwash. It's important to spend as much time rinsing and gargling because bacteria tend to concentrate at the back of the tongue and throat.

  16. Hydrogen peroxide is also very useful when it comes to dogs. If your dog gets skunked: 1/2 cup backing soda + 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide + dish soap will take out the smell.
    Also use a small amount of the first two mixed to clean tartar of your dogs teeth. And if they eat something they shouldn't you can give them some hydrogen peroxide to make them throw up just be sure to check the amount based on the size of the dog.

  17. How does hydrogen peroxide work as a bleach on a chemical level?
    For example, you said that it can leave a white spot on your jeans if you drop hydrogen peroxide on it. How does that work? What does hydrogen peroxide do to the dye on the jeans?

  18. Hi Anonymous! Great question!

    Hydrogen Peroxide is an oxidizing acid. As I understand it, the oxidizing affect basically dissolves stains ... typically organic stains like blood, grass, etc. Occasionally, it can dissolve the ink used in clothing. However, the percent of Hydrogen Peroxide in the little brown bottles available at the store is very low and "probably" won't hurt clothing ... but one should be aware that it could.

    I'm not really "up" on the science of the product. Here's a link, though, that may give you a bit more information:

    I hope that helps! :-)

  19. Thanks for the advice on using peroxide for whites, I would love to find a viable alternative to chlorine bleach.

    My other laundry 'issue' is with odor - and it's ONLY in the darks... they are fine going in, but come out smelling mildewy. I sort Whites, Lights, and Darks. It happens constantly, and strangely does not affect my light-colored loads, and of course the chlorine must kill it in the whites). It's a Maytag Neptune frontloader which I have heard from several sources is notorious for growing odorous bacteria. I've tried vinegar, baking soda, and a whole range of different conventional and 'natural' liquid laundry detergents, but always the same problem. If I get them into the drier immediately following the wash cycle, it Seems to not be there, but as soon as we get a clean hand towel or bath towel wet, or sweat in a shirt, the hidden mildewy odor comes forth and is Quite Offensive. Very embarrassing with the guest towels especially!

    I may try the hydrogen peroxide on a load of towels since it is a know bactericide, but you say to be careful regarding colorfastness. Any additional suggestions?

  20. Hi Prairie Girl - I think that if you use the Hydrogen Peroxide from the store (the ones in the little brown bottles) you should be okay ... the solution is quite diluted. I've used it for a long time and it has never "bleached" out any color items. But I would hate to tell you to try it and then have it leave a spot. You might want to try dabbing some on a "not seen" spot and see what happens.

    The smell might be coming from the washer itself. If you regularly use cold water to wash, it's a common problem. I've followed the advice here:
    It works but I hate having to use hot water and also using two loads of water just to clean the washer. But it is sometimes necessary. I add vinegar to the rinse of all my laundry and that seems to help maintain an odor free washer.

    I've found a trick for getting rid of odors in kitchen towels. Like you, I would launder them well but the first time we used them, they would start to smell. I now soak them for 24 hours in vinegar ... not diluted or anything added ... just vinegar. It's working real well! For large towels, it would probably take a lot of vinegar but I am finding that it works. Vinegar isn't too expensive so ... might be a solution. Another idea, if you're able, would be to line dry them in the sun ... that will also help kill bacteria.

    I hope that helps ... and if you try any of these ideas or find any others, please let us know how it goes. :-)

  21. Hi (again) Prairie Girl ... I found another article that you might find helpful:

    Take Care!