The Many Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide-Truth! Fiction! & Unproven!

The Many Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide-Truth!  Fiction! & Unproven!

Summary of eRumor:
This eRumor lists a number of different uses for hydrogen peroxide from using it as mouthwash to its alleged value for cleaning sinks. (The full text of the eRumor is at the bottom of this page.)

The Truth:
Hydrogen peroxide’s chemical representation is H2O2.  It has uses in industry in it’s purest form but the product available to most of us over-the-counter is usually only 3% hydrogen peroxide and 97% water.  It breaks down quickly when exposed to light so it generally comes in brown bottles that filter out the sun’s rays. It is known for its antibacterial qualities. The pure stuff is dangerous if not used correctly. There are also 30%-35% high strength solutions on the commercial market, typically found in health food stores but also sold as a disinfectant.
There has been continuing controversy over using hydrogen peroxide either orally or through injection to treat a variety of internal ailments including arthritis and cancer.  Proponents say that the oxygen released by the breakdown of the hydrogen peroxide is medicinal.  Opponents say there isn’t good evidence of the health benefits and that there are circumstances in which hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved those high strength hydrogen peroxide products for use internally and considers them dangerous.  In July, 2006, the FDA issued a warning about the high strength hydrogen peroxides, saying they could lead to serious health risks and even death.  A warning from the BC Cancer Agency in Canada said that over a three year period 6 children were seriously poisoned and one died from drinking the high strength hydrogen peroxide. They report one near-fatal case of an adult ingesting high strength hydrogen peroxide.
Let’s go through the claims of the eRumor one at a time:
1. Take one capful (the little white cap that comes with the bottle) and hold in your mouth for 10 minutes daily, then spit it out. (I do it when I bathe or shower.) No more canker sores and your teeth will be whiter without expensive pastes. Use it instead of mouthwash-Truth! But Limited Use!
The Merck Manuals recommended diluting the 3% hydrogen peroxide 50 percent with water, but suggest it as a rinse and part of a treatment for trench mouth, for example.  The FDA has approved 3% solutions of hydrogen peroxide for use as a mouthwash.  Most sources said to use it only for a short time, however, such as part of a treatment of a mouth infection.  A report from Well-Connected (written or edited by physicians at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital) recommended against extended use, saying that overuse may actually damage cells and soften tooth surfaces. We were not able to find any authoritative information about hydrogen peroxide and canker sores.
2. Let your toothbrushes soak [in] a cup peroxide to keep them free of germs-Unproven!
We didn’t find anything authoritative about soaking toothbrushes in hydrogen peroxide.  Because hydrogen peroxide degrades quickly when exposed to light, if you do soak a toothbrush, do it in freshly poured hydrogen peroxide.  Just keeping an open cup of the stuff around won’t do much good.
3. Clean your counters, table tops with peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters-Truth!
4. After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour peroxide on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria-Truth!
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer.
5. I had fungus on my feet for years – until I sprayed a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water on them (especially the toes) every night and let dry-Unproven!
We were not able to find any authoritative source about foot fungus and treatment with hydrogen peroxide.  Again, we are assuming she means a 50/50 mixture of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide.  An actual 50/50 mixture of pure hydrogen peroxide and water would be too high a concentration to be safe.

For many of us, hydrogen peroxide was one of the first things we put on a cut or a wound, but that is less recommended nowadays.  The reason, according to numerous medical sites, is that there is a downside to the hydrogen peroxide as well.  It also damages healthy cells that are needed for the wounds to heal and hinders them from getting to the area where the healing needs to take place. The HealthFinder publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says don’t use hydrogen peroxide on a wound because it interferes with healing. The U.S. Gymnastics team has followed the recommendations of researchers and uses soap and water for cleansing wounds and not hydrogen peroxide. The National Safety Council’s First Aid Pocket Guide (1996) says “DO NOT use hydrogen peroxide  It does not kill bacteria, and it adversely affects capillary blood flow and wound healing.”   The Mayo Clinic gives the same advice.
7. Put two capfuls into a douche to prevent yeast infections. I had chronic yeast infections until I tried this once or twice a week-Disputed!
Interestingly enough, hydrogen peroxide is naturally produced in the vagina to deal with bacteria.  There is conflicting opinion among the experts, however, about whether douching with hydrogen peroxide is helpful or harmful and even some voices that doubt whether douching is necessary at all under normal circumstances.
8. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water and keep it in every bathroom to disinfect without harming your septic system like bleach or most other disinfectants will-But be sure you put the mixture into a bottle that filters out sunlight.  Also, it appears that hydrogen peroxide does not harm septic systems.  Again, this is probably a mixture of 50% water with the other half being 3% or 30% strengths of hydrogen peroxide.
9. Tilt your head back and spray into nostrils with your 50/50 mixture whenever you have a cold, plugged sinus. It will bubble and help to kill the bacteria. Hold for a few minutes then blow your nose into a tissue-Undetermined!
We couldn’t find much about this in terms of research.  Again, if you choose to do it, this is probably referring to a mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide with water.
10. If you have a terrible toothache and can not get to a dentist right away, put a capful of 3% peroxide into your mouth and hold it for ten minutes several times a day. The pain will lessen greatly.
11. And of course, if you like a natural look to your hair, spray the 50/50 solution on your wet hair after a shower and comb it through. You will not have the peroxide burnt blonde hair like the hair dye packages, but more natural highlights if your hair is a light brown, faddish, or dirty blonde. It also lightens gradually so it’s not a drastic change-Truth!
One of the classic uses of hydrogen peroxide is to bleach hair. The concentrations are between 3% and 6%.  This suggestion to dilute with water probably applies to those solutions.
12. Put half a bottle of peroxide in your bath to help rid boils, fungus, or other skin infections-Undetermined!
The half a bottle probably refers to a 3% solution.
13. You can also add a cup of peroxide instead of bleach to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them. If there is blood on clothing, pour directly on the soiled spot. Let it sit for a minute, then rub it and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary-Truth! But Careful!
The effectiveness of this method is a matter of experimentation, but the principle is sound.  Some of the so called “oxygen” bleaches contain hydrogen peroxide.
Be careful about the suggestion to use it on spots.  Hydrogen peroxide is a bleach!
14 This list didn’t have it, but I use peroxide to clean my mirrors; there is no smearing, which is why I love it so much for this-Unproven!
The original hydrogen peroxide eRumor did not include this.  Some of these were added by people along the way.
15. Gargle with hydrogen peroxide, put drops in the ear and nose to end colds, flu, chronic sinustis (including polyps], and infections.
A repeat of some previous information.
16. Use as a vegetable wash or soak to kill bacteria and neutralize chemicals-Truth!
We don’t know about the chemicals, but there are several credible references about the use of hydrogen peroxide on fruits or vegetables.  Research published by the Journal of Food and Science in 2003 showed effective results of using hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate apples and melons that were infected with strains of E.coli.
17. Disinfect your dishwasher or refrigerator-Undetermined!
18. Use it on trees and plants as a natural fungicide, insecticide, and as a weed killer-Undetermined!
We found no research on the use of hydrogen peroxide as an insecticide, fungicide, or weed killer.
19. Clean with hydrogen peroxide when your house becomes a biohazard after its invaded by toxic mold, such as those with water damage-Truth!
In a publication about “Healthy Homes,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) listed hydrogen peroxide as among the substances that can be used against mold, but also said there had not been enough research to recommend its use.  It is not known what molds hydrogen peroxide is most effective against or what the human health hazards may be from using it so extensively. Also, since hydrogen peroxide is a bleach, be careful where you use it in terms of preserving the colors in your home.
Updated 8/5/06