When the going gets tough, many aspects of daily life fall by the wayside, such as putting on makeup, shaving, and flossing. Some things you can neglect and still get by. But when it comes to sanitation, cleanliness, and disinfection, you can’t slack off. That’s why it’s essential to have effective disinfecting solutions on hand for everything from dental hygiene to treating wounds.
Your first thought might be chlorine bleach, which historically has been used to clean clothes, disinfect water, and keep toilets bacteria-free. But there’s a much better solution than bleach--one that everyone should have on hand in case disaster strikes: hydrogen peroxide.
Read on to learn more about hydrogen peroxide, from why it trumps bleach to six specific and effective uses for it...
What Is Hydrogen Peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule--its chemical symbol is H2O2. It’s produced by both plant and animal cells, and forms naturally when sunlight acts on water. The solution has been used commercially and federally in various ways as well. In fact, according to The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, “Highly concentrated solutions were first used in World War II by the military, e.g., in fuels for rockets and torpedoes.”
When buying hydrogen peroxide for at-home purposes, make sure it’s “food grade” for extra purity and safety. Some food grade peroxide is 35% pure and dangerous to ingest. The peroxide that you purchase should be a 3% solution, or at least diluted down to that percentage if your only option is the higher percentage. It has a shelf life of about one year, and should be stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool place; otherwise, it will break down into oxygen and water. Always store it in a dark bottle and keep it out of reach of children.
Hydrogen Peroxide vs. Bleach
You may be thinking, “Wait a moment, doesn’t bleach do essentially the same thing?” In short, yes, but with consequences. Chlorine bleach has traditionally been used as a way to clean and disinfect the home, but isn’t very healthy. Consider the following…
- Chlorine bleach forms more toxic byproducts such as dioxin, furans and other organochlorines when reacting with other elements.
- Bleach can leave undesirable chlorine tastes and odors.
- You won’t smell bleach at a doctor’s office due to the fact that it has a strong, undesirable odor, and doctors and nurses know it isn’t all that healthy.
There are a number of ways you can use hydrogen peroxide to clean and disinfect your home in day-to-day life or during an emergency. Here are six of them...
#1: Peroxide maintains dental health
Toothaches and cavities are not something you want to deal with when dental offices are closed indefinitely during a disaster. Therefore, maintaining proper dental health is important. Hydrogen peroxide can help you out in this regard in several ways…
- If you don’t have mouthwash on hand, take one capful of no more than 3% peroxide, hold in your mouth for up to 10 minutes daily, and then spit it out. This helps with whitening your teeth, warding off canker sores, and soothing toothaches.
- Even though your toothbrush is a tool to keep your teeth clean, it may need some extra assistance in staying bacteria-free when you’re not using it. Soak your brush in a cup of hydrogen peroxide.
#2: Peroxide keeps your kitchen sanitary
One of the most common ways bacteria and viruses enter our bodies is through our mouths, in what we eat and drink. Use peroxide as a cleaning agent to disinfect various surfaces. Here’s how…
- After using a cutting board, pour peroxide on it to ensure you and your family won’t get salmonella and other dangerous bacteria.
- Wipe down your tabletops and countertops with vinegar followed by peroxide. Either spray it on your counters (don’t forget to keep it in a dark bottle versus a translucent spray bottle) or put a little on a dishrag when wiping down.
Certain extreme-weather incidences create conditions in which mildew, mold, and other bacteria grow at a faster rate than normal. That’s why consistent cleaning in your home, and specifically your kitchen, will be important.
#3: Peroxide cleans clothes
Just because you’re sheltering in place for days or weeks at a time doesn’t mean you need to let things like clean clothes fall by the wayside. Bacteria can easily enter our bodies via our skin, and the clothes we wear should stay relatively clean over time.
You can use peroxide to clean and disinfect your clothes washer. Simply add two cups of hydrogen peroxide to the empty washer drum, and then run a hot water wash cycle. If your electricity is out for an extended period of time, add peroxide to your washing bucket.
Aside from disinfection, peroxide helps to remove stains, whiten white clothing, brighten colored clothing, and remove odors.
#4: Peroxide wards off infection and disinfects wounds
This is a big one, especially when it comes to survival during an emergency. Hydrogen peroxide wards off infections in your body, from disinfecting wounds to ridding your feet of fungal infections. Keep the following in mind in case you or your family find yourselves in precarious situations…
- To heal and disinfect a cut or wound, soak it in a 3% diluted peroxide solution for 5-10 minutes several times a day.
- To rid your feet of fungal infections, spray them every night with a mixture of half water, half peroxide. Let dry before sleeping.
- Battling a cold or sinus infection? A half water, half peroxide solution can help. While tilting your head back, spray the solution into your nostrils and hold for a few minutes before blowing into a tissue.
- When taking a bath, add in a half bottle of up to 3% peroxide solution to treat skin infections such as boils and fungus.
#5: Peroxide keeps your bathroom and septic systems clean
A dirty bathroom is a major invitation for infection. Peroxide should be used on a regular basis to clean and disinfect your toilet, sink, tub, shower, and more. It’s also helpful in removing undesirable odors such as urine.
If disaster strikes and your septic system goes down, it will be essential to keep the bathroom clean as your ability to flush the toilet or wash your hands in a sink is stalled. Additionally, cleaning agents like bleach can do harm to your septic system over time, whereas hydrogen peroxide won’t. Fill a spray bottle with half water and half peroxide and keep it in your bathroom to clean when needed.
#6: Peroxide treats water
If you don’t have an effective emergency water purifier on hand when emergency strikes, hydrogen peroxide is a good backup solution. When using hydrogen peroxide to treat contaminated water, odors are eliminated, microorganisms are destroyed, and tannins can be oxidized. Although bleach has generally been used as a backup method, hydrogen peroxide works better for three reasons…
- It works faster than chlorine bleach.
- Unlike chlorine, it won’t leave a chemical residue in the water.
- Peroxide works over a wider pH range, whereas bleach won’t work as efficiently with pH over 7.5.
There are plenty of other uses for hydrogen peroxide when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting. If you haven’t already, stock up on the solution now (don’t forget to purchase 3% food grade), and you’ll have better peace of mind when and if disaster strikes.
If you have other uses for hydrogen peroxide, please let us know and add them below.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply