22 February 2011

10 ways that hydrogen peroxide is a natural eco-underdog

That old familiar brown plastic bottle tucked inside every medicine cabinet has become the hallmark of a tried-and-true first aid kit, cleansing skin wounds like it’s nobody’s business and even tapping into the punk rock roots of formerly-pigmented locks. It’s common knowledge that hydrogen peroxide also does a bang-up job of inducing vomiting when Fido or Fluffy have gobbled up potentially toxic substances, but that’s normally where the buck stops. The rest of the year, our container of H2O2 ends up collecting dust while we continue our ever-elusive search for the greatest green household aid in the history of the planet.

It may seem a little odd to sing the praises of a naturally occurring clear liquid such as peroxide, but it has quite an impressive eco-pedigree that most are unaware of. Quite like its fellow green-team super stars baking soda and white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide – which is nothing more than molecules of water and oxygen – is incredibly easy on our environment, generating no toxic byproducts whatsoever. Furthermore, within 20 seconds of application, the bubbly stuff torches fungi, bacteria, pathogens and other nasties, making it mighty handy in a vast range of applications.

While the majority of all living creatures naturally generate H2O2 to fight infections (when their peroxidase enzymes decompose), the stuff that we pour on skin blemishes and abrasions is commonly produced via a chemical reaction that results when compressed air is blown through an aqueous solution. The final product – which only maintains its active properties when it’s kept away from light (that’s why you’ll never find it in a clear glass or plastic bottle) – is so powerful that it’s frequently diluted down to 3% for consumer use.

Exactly what does this humble eco-substance do to make one’s personal household (and the world at large) leaner, meaner and infinitely greener?


With produce recalls more common than ever before, take food safety matters into your own hands by whipping up your own pathogen-incinerating rinse. Just pour a 50-50 blend of water and hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle, douse your crunchy munchies and then wash your Salmonella and E. Coli contamination cares away!


In terms of personal hygiene, there are so many fantastic applications for hydrogen peroxide. From a mildly bleaching tooth paste base (along with baking soda) or an ear disinfectant to a highly deodorizing foot bath or full-on bathtub soak (using no more than 1 cup of 35% hydrogen peroxide per bath), this natural body care staple has it goin’ on!


Feline caregivers know that there’s a point when the mere scent of their dearly beloved's kitty box(es) is enough to burn the cilia right out nostrils within a 1 mile range. That’s when it’s wise to rely on the naturally sanitizing and cleansing powers found within the humble brown bottle. Just saturate the bottom and sides of your odor-offending source with at least a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, allow it to work its magic for at least 1 hour and then finally scrub and rinse thoroughly. This is a brilliant alternative to chemical cleaners, especially since felines have such a keen sense of smell that traditional chlorine-based versions tend to put them off.


In its concentrated state of 35%, hydrogen peroxide is regarded as the eco-friendly version of chlorine bleach, offering a planet-friendly way to transform wood pulp into the gleaming white slurry that the paper industry favors. It’s hardly surprising that it does the same thing to human hair, however you might just want to stick to more predictable applications such as brightening white laundry (using one cup of 3% H2O2) or removing yellow stains from linens or lace curtains (pour two cups of 3% H2O2 into a large basin of cold water, soak for a minimum of one hour and then wash as usual).


Rather than using chemicals to ‘purify’ water, hydrogen peroxide can be added to public sources in an effort to ramp up the oxygen content, which in turn helps to zap detrimental contaminants.


All you really need to get your home sparkling clean is a solitary bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide rather than a ridiculous arsenal of toxic chemicals since the clear, bubbly liquid possesses anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-mold, anti-fungal AND anti-mildew properties. Incinerate bathroom tile mold/mildew by spraying H2O2 directly onto surfaces, allowing to sit for several hours before rinsing off. (This same concept applies to countertops, windows and walls.) Toilets won’t know what hit them once you wipe the exterior surfaces with a 3% solution or pour 1 cup of 35% solution directly into the bowl (being sure to let it sit overnight for maximum cleansing benefits). If stained carpets have become the bane of your existence, create an incredibly effective homemade carpet cleaning solution with just 3 ingredients – biodegradable liquid soap, hydrogen peroxide (preferably 35%) and hot hot water.


Hmmm, interesting. Hydrogen peroxide is also used to make Swiss cheese in lieu of pasteurization since it doesn’t kill beneficial milk enzymes.


Your veggie garden will burst forth with life when you treat the roots to regular applications of 3% hydrogen peroxide -- in fact, commercial tomato growers regularly rely on this trick to yield prolific crops.


Is doggy or kitty smelling more like Pepe Le Pew than a lovely spring day? Rather than subjecting yourself to their bath-induced wrath, avoid the full H20 insanity by dabbing their coat with 1% to 3% hydrogen peroxide, allowing the bubbly wonder to air dry before finally nuzzling your schnozola into their fur with reckless abandon!


If you have accident prone children who seem to have one sole mission – to search and destroy all of their decent clothing with bloodstains galore – gingerly blot the offending areas with a 3% solution, immediately rinse with cold water and everything should be as right as rain again.

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit: Amazon.com