8 uses for hydrogen peroxide

Photo by Sam Schipani

If you were prone to injury as a child, you may know hydrogen peroxide best as the burning, bubbling antiseptic your parents liberally poured on scrapes and cuts. For years, medical professionals recommended using hydrogen peroxide to treat minor wounds, but that’s changed. Doctors no longer recommend it for first aid because the chemical kills healthy cells along with infected ones.  

Don’t throw away those trusty brown bottles just yet, though. The clear liquid compound has many uses beyond in-home wound care. 

Three-percent hydrogen peroxide (the concentration most commonly available at drug stores — there are higher potencies for bleaching and industrial use though) is inexpensive, very versatile and, when used correctly, safer than many other chemicals you use around the house. Here are eight of our favorites uses for hydrogen peroxide.


Hydrogen peroxide is a versatile cleaning agent that can be used on almost everything in your house, whether it is your laundry, toilet or marble countertops. There are some considerations when using hydrogen peroxide — for example, hydrogen peroxide can bleach colored clothes or stain dark marble countertops — but there are benefits to opting to cleaning with hydrogen peroxide, too. Besides being antifungal and antibacterial, hydrogen peroxide is non-toxic and does not irritate lungs. Here is what you need to know about cleaning with hydrogen peroxide.

Swishing as mouthwash

According to the American Dental Association, hydrogen peroxide is a common active ingredient in many commercial mouthwashes. If you are trying to improve your dental hygiene on a budget and can stomach the strong flavor sans-mint, you can use a mixture of half water, half 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Swish the DIY mouthwash around your mouth for one minute and spit out (do not swallow it). Hydrogen peroxide will also whiten your teeth, and, apparently, it can help to manage halitosis (also known as chronic stinky breath). You can also use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect dental appliances like toothbrushes, retainers and mouth guards.

Keeping food fresh

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In addition to storing food properly, hydrogen peroxide will give leafy greens an extra boost of freshness and longevity. Add one tablespoon of three percent hydrogen peroxide to a spray bottle filled with water and spritz your salad greens before returning them to the fridge. The chemical will help evade wilting for a little bit longer. Once again, make sure you rinse your greens thoroughly before eating to avoid unpleasant tastes.

Soaking smelly feet

Have you ever removed your boots after a long day of working outside and almost fainted from the smell? Odor-causing bacteria clinging to your tootsies are often the culprit for stinky feet. Luckily, they are no match for hydrogen peroxide. Prepare a foot soak with one part hydrogen peroxide to three parts warm water and let your aching feet relax. The same treatment will help protect against spreading athlete’s foot fungus and even soften calluses and corns.

Growing mushrooms

If you are trying to grow mushrooms but can’t seem to avoid unwanted molds and fungi, apply a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to your fruiting chambers. Hydrogen peroxide will kill mold and bacteria that threaten mushrooms without compromising the growing spores. As the mushroom tissue grows, it will also converts the peroxide to water and oxygen, leaving a healthy, fast-growing mushroom culture. 

Whitening nails

Whether you work with your hands or love wearing dark nail polish, yellow nails are a common — but unsightly — issue. To bring some brightness back to your nail beds, mix one-part hydrogen peroxide to two parts baking soda in a bowl to form a paste. Once the mixture stops foaming, spread it on your nails. Let sit for three minutes, and then rinse with plain water.

Helping your garden thrive

Hydrogen peroxide is a magic elixir for your ailing garden. It can help with pest control, prevent infections on damaged trees, kill foliage fungus and combat root rot. Hydrogen peroxide can also improve plant growth, as the extra oxygen encourages the roots to absorb more nutrients. For pest control, add one teaspoon to one cup of water in a spray bottle and mist the plants you wish to protect. To combat root rot, use one tablespoon per cup of water in your regular watering routing.

De-skunking your pet

Adventurous pets have a tendency to stick their noses where they don’t belong — and can come home stinky because of it. If your pet has been sprayed by a skunk, combine one quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda, one teaspoon of dish detergent and two quarts of warm water. Work the mixture onto the affected animal before you bathe them thoroughly to remove the lingering smell. Be warned, though: if you let the mixture sit for too long, your precious pet may end up with slightly bleached fur.

Do you have a handy use for hydrogen peroxide? Add it to the comments below.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that hydrogen peroxide and water solution would work for washing produce in a pinch. This was based on data from 2006. More recent information indicates that peroxyacetic acid (PAA) is a commercial sanitizer consisting of a specific ratio of acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide for use in the food industry. According to Robson Machado, Assistant Extension Professor and Food Scientist and Jason Bolton, Associate Extension Professor, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, this chemical is commercially manufactured, and you should never attempt to make it yourself.

  1. Allen says

    There is also the 35% food grade peroxide that is even better than the over the counter. You have to find a health food store or feed store. It is a higher quality than the over the counter and does wonders. You just have to dilute 11 ounces of water for 1 ounce of peroxide.

  2. Steve says

    Hydrogen peroxide is so undervalued. These nine uses are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other wonderful uses that will benefit you if learn more about it.

  3. FRED says

    I have tiny worms on my Hibiscus. There are many of them. The leaf looks like a skeleton when they move on. Is there a mixture that gets rid of these tiny pest that won’t hurt my plant?

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