Hydrogen peroxide has appeared in medicine cabinets around the world for decades. People claim that it has a variety of medicinal and industrial uses for everything from disinfecting wounds to cleaning surfaces. Studies and tests have debunked the vast majority of these claims, but hydrogen peroxide does have some legitimate uses.

Improve Acne

A person develops acne when oil and dead skin cells clog their hair follicles, or when bacteria like Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) damages the skin and causes inflammation. Hydrogen peroxide is an effective disinfectant that can kill this bacteria, improving acne symptoms. Because C. acnes can lead to conditions like chronic blepharitis and endophthalmitis, some medical professionals have begun using hydrogen peroxide solutions before surgeries. People at home should never use a solution with more than 3% hydrogen peroxide, and discontinue use if they have any adverse side effects.

acne woman mirror PeopleImages / Getty Images


Whiten Teeth

In addition to its notable cleaning properties, hydrogen peroxide is a natural lightener and bleach. Because of these qualities, people began using hydrogen peroxide and cornstarch to create homemade toothpaste. Hydrogen peroxide even appears in many professional-grade mouthwashes and teeth whitening solutions. Multiple studies show that after continued use, hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes increase teeth whiteness.

toothpaste brushing teeth PeopleImages / Getty Images


Disinfect Toothbrushes

Toothbrush contamination is a common issue against which few people think to defend. Brushing spreads microorganisms from mouth to toothbrush, which then usually sits in an unsterile environment. Additionally, most people brush their teeth in their bathrooms, which are laden with bacteria. Within just a few days of brushing, a new toothbrush becomes a breeding ground for disease-producing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. A study investigating various disinfectants and their effect on toothbrushes discovered that hydrogen peroxide is the least expensive and most effective choice.

toothbrush holder woman Artranq / Getty Images


Earwax Removal

Most people don't need to worry about manually removing earwax. As the outer layer of skin inside the ear sheds, the wax naturally falls out. However, some people produce more than the average amount of earwax, which can lead to hearing loss. While there are many popular methods of removing this excess, hydrogen peroxide solutions are among the most effective. A few drops of hydrogen peroxide and warm water can loosen earwax, enabling it to fall out easily.

eardrops earwax women JackF / Getty Images


Kill Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew thrive in moist environments like sinks, bathtubs, and showers. Many people have mold allergies that activate when they inhale mold spores. Hydrogen peroxide is an effective fungicide and sporicide, with some solutions killing fungi after just five minutes. The most popular method of application is pouring hydrogen peroxide into an opaque spray bottle and spraying it on the affected areas.

scrub tile shower mildew tacojim / Getty Images


Medical Imaging

While fighting different conditions, the human immune system sometimes creates hydrogen peroxide. It does this in an extremely controlled fashion, but the increased levels are observable. As a result, medical experts can use imaging techniques to monitor hydrogen peroxide changes and determine the effectiveness of different treatments. While research is still ongoing, experts believe that monitoring hydrogen peroxide in the body could improve drug development.

doctors medical imaging gorodenkoff / Getty Images


Whitening Laundry

Many of the most popular laundry products use hydrogen peroxide in some capacity, thanks to the ingredient's natural bleaching ability and low toxicity. These products rely on sodium percarbonate, which is a combination of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. These solutions are most effective as bleach at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but most washing machines only reach 130 degrees. However, hydrogen peroxide can still provide a subtle and safe bleaching effect for most fabrics and dyes.

woman washing clothes laundry Kerkez / Getty Images


Bleaching Hair

For many people, hydrogen peroxide is the most cost-effective method of bleaching hair. Professional products, particularly blonde hair dyes, often include some hydrogen peroxide. Some individuals find that creating a paste by adding baking soda makes hydrogen peroxide easier to apply accurately. Hair dyes and hydrogen peroxide can irritate the skin and damage hair. however. To prevent this, use petroleum jelly to protect the skin and rinse the dye as soon as possible.

hair bleaching blonde paste FotoDuets / Getty Images


Clean Dishes and Countertops

Hydrogen peroxide has many qualities that make it an ideal dish and countertop cleaner. Primarily, it kills many bacteria and viruses common in the kitchen. It also acts as a bacteriostatic agent, meaning it inhibits further bacteria reproduction. Because hydrogen peroxide decomposes in water and light, using it on dishes and countertops does not leave behind dangerous chemicals, unlike some other disinfectants.

cleaning dishes scrub monzenmachi / Getty Images


Improve Plant Growth

Numerous studies show that soaking seeds in a weak hydrogen peroxide solution can trigger germination. After 20 minutes of soaking, most seeds will grow faster and healthier. A mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide also works as a fungicide spray for many plants. Stronger solutions of hydrogen peroxide can damage leaves, so using a maximum 3% solution is ideal.

plant leaves spray bottle visualspace / Getty Images


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