17 Surprising Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

Solve your worst cleaning conundrums, from grubby grout to rusty tools to skunky-smelling clothing, with an inexpensive bottle of hydrogen peroxide and these how-to hacks.

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Best Hydrogen Peroxide Uses

As you may remember from chemistry class, hydrogen peroxide is water with an extra oxygen atom—hence the chemical distinction H₂O₂. Though there’s debate about using hydrogen peroxide as wound disinfectant because it slows healing time, it has potent antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and bleaching properties. A 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide, which is available at Amazon or in drugstores, is strong enough to cut through most organic stains and mild rust. It is less expensive than many commercial cleaners and, better yet, poses no known hazards to your health or the environment. Read on to discover a dozen dynamite uses for nature’s best all-purpose cleaner.

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1. De-gunk tile and grout.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Tile Grout

Hydrogen peroxide mixed with sodium carbonate is known as oxygen bleach. Add water, and the compound releases an oxygen molecule to help it lift mold and stains from the surface of natural materials. For a potent homemade grout and tile cleaner, mix ½ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide in a sealable container. Add a teaspoon of liquid dish soap, close the lid, and shake until fully combined. Wearing protective gloves, apply the mixture to tile and grout, let it sit for at least 5 minutes, then rinse clean with water.

RELATED: 7 Tips for How to Clean Grout Stains

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2. Freshen up your bed.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Mattresses

To really rest easy, deep clean your mattresses about every 6 months. Strip the linens and padding, and vacuum the mattress itself. For any stained spots caused by organic materials, such as food, drinks, bodily fluids, and even crayons, create a mild solution of one part water to one part hydrogen peroxide. Using a clean, soft toothbrush, work this solution into the stain, let it sit for 5 minutes, and repeat if needed. Once stains have faded, use a hairdryer to dry excess moisture before making the bed.

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3. Brighten up the bathtub.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Tubs

Mold and grime in the shower are gross! The problem with getting rid of this gunk is that many commercial tub and tile cleaners contain bleach, ammonia, and artificial fragrances that can be harmful to respiratory health, caustic to skin, and generally bad for the environment. For a safer solution, make a paste of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part hydrogen peroxide. Apply to the tub and shower area, wait for 30 minutes, then rinse. Follow with a spritz of a half-vinegar and half-water solution to dissolve any residue and soap scum.

RELATED: 13 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Bathroom Ever

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4. Refinish metal items.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Antiquing Metal

Want an instant antique? Bring a vintage-looking patina to any metal that contains iron or an iron alloy (like steel), which will rust naturally when exposed to water and oxygen. To achieve an aged-looking finish on metal hinges and fixtures, first remove any paint and sand the surface. Spray white vinegar onto the metal surface and wait 5 minutes for the corrosion process to begin. Next, mix 2 cups of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 4 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1½ teaspoons of table salt in a large spray bottle. Shake thoroughly, then soak the metal surface. Rust should start forming immediately. Fumes will result from mixing this solution, so always work in a well-ventilated area. (Get full step-by-step instructions here for the best results.)

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5. Get rid of rust.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Removing Rust

While hydrogen peroxide can speed the rusting process, it can also remove rust if you follow these easy steps. In a bowl, mix equal parts cream of tartar (a mild powdery acid used in baking and available at grocery stores) and baking soda. Add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, just enough to form a paste. Rub the paste onto the rusty objects, wait an hour, then wash them with water. This method works best for light to moderately rusted items like tools and toys. It’s also effective on the orange stains in your sink or tub that are caused by rust in your tap water.

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6. Sanitize your cutting boards.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Sanitizing Cutting Boards

Wood cutting boards can develop small cuts in the surface that trap unhealthy bacteria. Unlike plastic, wood is porous and will warp and possibly crack if it is placed in the dishwasher. 

To clean and disinfect a wood cutting board without damaging it, spray it with white vinegar, wait 5 minutes, then wipe it down. Next, pour 3 percent hydrogen peroxide over the whole cutting board, distributing it evenly with a clean sponge or paper towel. Let it sit for another 5 to 10 minutes, then sprinkle salt over the surface and rub it into the wood grain gently with half a lemon, which will soak up any remaining odors. Allow the lemony salt to soak into the wood surface for at least 10 minutes or overnight, then wipe the surface with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry. For the best results, buff the wood using food-grade almond or walnut oil, and wait 6 hours before use. (Consult our site for further instructions on how to clean a wooden cutting board.)

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7. Banish germs from the toilet bowl.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Toilets

Keep your toilet free of bacteria and looking its best with a weekly dose of hydrogen peroxide: Pour ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide into the bowl, let it sit for 30 minutes, then scrub with a toilet brush. Though potent, this treatment will do no harm to water systems. To freshen the toilet brush, pour a little extra hydrogen peroxide onto the bristles and allow it to air dry before placing it back in the holder.

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8. Give your plants a treat.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Plant Care

A mild hydrogen peroxide spray can be your plants’ best friend. The extra oxygen atom in H₂O₂ benefits the growth process and can also treat a number of conditions, including pests, root rot, and fungus. Using too much hydrogen peroxide, however, can damage plants and beneficial organisms, which is why it’s a good idea to test a small amount of the solutions prescribed below on leaves or soil first before spraying larger areas. Discontinue use if you see effects like wilting or excess dryness.

For houseplants, mix 1 tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle and soak the soil with the solution once or twice a week. Making sure soil dries completely before applying a second treatment. You should see improvement of root rot after one or two treatments, and fewer pests within a week.

• To reduce mites, aphids, and fungus in your garden, mix ½ cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and 1 gallon of water in a large pump sprayer. When spraying foliage, be sure to soak not just the tops but also the undersides of leaves where pests can hide. A milder solution of 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide to 1 gallon of water can reduce toxins and acidity in soil.

RELATED: 11 Signs of an Unhappy Houseplant (and How You Can Help)

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9. Wipe away water marks on granite.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Granite

Pesky water marks appear all too easily on granite countertops, but a little hydrogen peroxide will banish them in a flash. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of baking soda with a few drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Spread over the stained area, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and wipe clean with a damp cloth. For tougher water stains, cover the mixture with plastic wrap and tape down the edges. Let sit overnight, then wash clean and dry with a soft towel.

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10. Erase stains on marble.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Marble

Knowing how to clean stains from marble countertops is key to maintaining these surfaces. If the stain is organic in nature (food stains are typically pinkish-brown when dry), mix 1 cup of 12 percent hydrogen peroxide with a few drops of ammonia in a spray bottle. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated space (you may want to turn on the exhaust fan over your stove or open the windows), and wear gloves and eye protection. Spray this mixture onto the stain, let sit for a minute or two, then wipe it clean with a towel or chamois. Repeat until the stain disappears, then rinse well with water and dry with a clean towel.

RELATED: 10 Ways You're Accidentally Ruining Your Countertops

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11. Get rid of skunk stink.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Deskunking

Have a run-in with a stinky skunk? Hydrogen peroxide to the rescue! To deodorize clothing that has been sprayed, mix one part 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with six parts water (don’t make the solution any stronger, as hydrogen peroxide can damage textile fibers). Soak the stained clothing in this solution for an hour or two, rinse it thoroughly with cold water, then launder it on a cold setting. 

If you or your pet has been sprayed by a skunk, combine a quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, ½ cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. Using a rag, rub yourself or your pet down (avoiding eyes and sensitive areas). When the odor subsides, rinse with clean water (outside, ideally) to remove as much of the mixture and odor as possible before coming back inside.

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12. Freshen up lawn furniture.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Include Cleaning Patio Furniture

Clean gunk and grime from outdoor furniture without using harsh chemicals or busting out the power washer. Pour 1 gallon of warm water into a large sprayer. Add ¼ cup 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, a few drops of dish soap, and a scoop of borax (a sodium-based mineral powder). Spray metal chairs and tables with the solution and let it work for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrub with a soft nylon brush or sponge, then rinse with a garden hose.

RELATED: 10 Outdoor Spots in Need of Spring Cleaning

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13. Polish your mirrors.

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cleaning uses for hydrogen peroxide

Cleaning mirrors can be tricky because so many products leave streaks behind. If you don’t want to use a commercially made mirror cleaner, hydrogen peroxide is an eco-friendly alternative. Fill a spray bottle with undiluted hydrogen peroxide and spray it onto your mirrors. Wipe it away with a paper towel or lint-free microfiber cloth, and enjoy your sparkling clean, streak-free reflection. 

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14. Rid a humidifier of bacteria.

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cleaning uses for hydrogen peroxide

Using a humidifier can be beneficial for your respiratory system, but many users fail to clean their humidifiers regularly, leading to the buildup of mold and potentially harmful bacteria. Humidifiers are easy to clean using hydrogen peroxide. Fill the humidifier with one part hydrogen peroxide and four parts water. Let it sit for half an hour, then rinse out the interior with cold water. 

RELATED: The Best Cool-Mist Humidifiers for Your Home

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15. Brighten dingy whites.

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cleaning uses for hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide comes in handy while doing laundry, especially when it’s time to wash white linens and clothing. To brighten up dingy whites, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide directly to your washing machine as you would bleach. While hydrogen peroxide has a similar lightening effect, it’s more eco-friendly than using chlorine bleach. It also works well as a stain remover when dealing with protein-based or plant-based stains. Apply hydrogen peroxide to the affected area and let it sit for 10 minutes before throwing the piece in the wash.

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16. Clean kids’ germy toys.

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cleaning uses for hydrogen peroxide

Like any other surface in your home, children’s playthings can become riddled with germs. It’s especially important to clean and sanitize them regularly because kids are always in close contact with them. There are two ways to sanitize toys with hydrogen peroxide: spray individual toys with undiluted hydrogen peroxide, or fill a container with a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water and soak multiple toys at once.

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17. Disinfect stinky sponges.

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cleaning uses for hydrogen peroxide

Sponges come in handy for cleaning every room in the house, but they can harbor germs and bacteria if they’re not sanitized regularly. It’s easy to sanitize sponges after each use by soaking them in a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide. For best results, mix one part water and one part hydrogen peroxide, and allow the sponge to sit for at least 10 minutes. 

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