How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Non-Toxic Cleaning, Disinfecting, Laundry, & More
By Marilee Nelson |
Hydrogen peroxide, also known as non-chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach (in the case of powdered peroxide), may not seem like a natural, non-toxic substance for cleaning.
Yet, if you’ve been following our content, you’ve probably noticed we regularly recommend hydrogen peroxide for cleaning, disinfecting, laundry, mold and mildew removal, and as a bleach alternative.
So, is hydrogen peroxide natural and non-toxic?
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about why we recommend hydrogen peroxide as a safe and non-toxic cleaner, what it's made of, and how to use it to create a healthier home.
Is Hydrogen Peroxide Natural or Chemical (the answer may surprise you)
Much of the confusion surrounding the safety of hydrogen peroxide stems from the fact it is both a chemical and a natural substance.
How does that work?
Hydrogen peroxide is made from two elements: two hydrogens and two oxygen (H2O2) molecules, and breaks down as such in our bodies and the environment.
Our bodies also make hydrogen peroxide, which is typically broken down by specific enzymes that decrease as we age.
Did you know gray hair, for example, is partially the result of hydrogen peroxide build-up in hair follicles due to decreased enzymatic activity due to age?
Thus, it is considered natural and non-toxic.
However, hydrogen and oxygen are also considered chemical substances, so it is also a chemical.
Water is similar. It’s made up of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule (H2O) and is also a natural substance.
For this reason, hydrogen peroxide is approved for oral use in toothpaste for teeth whitening systems and topically as a disinfectant.
Insofar as environmental safety is concerned, hydrogen peroxide is considered a non-toxic and environmentally-friendly substance because it breaks into hydrogen and water.
How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Cleaning, Disinfecting, Laundry, and More
There are two types of hydrogen peroxide available to consumers for cleaning, disinfecting, and laundry:
1: 3% Hydrogen peroxide: This is what you find in the brown bottle at your local pharmacy, grocery store, or big box store.
It is liquid and works excellent for cleaning surfaces, as a bleach alternative, and disinfecting. Dentists may also recommend it for at-home teeth whitening or as an oral rinse.
2: Powdered peroxide, also known as Sodium Percarbonate, Washing Soda, or Oxygen Bleach
It’s an incredible laundry booster, bleach alternative, and stain remover.
Sodium percarbonate has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-algae, anti-mold, and deodorizing properties and is rated 1-2 for “low toxicity” on the Environmental Working Group database.
It can also be used as a disinfectant. It’s actually the only disinfectant allowed in organic aquaculture production due to its non-toxic and eco-friendly nature.<note>
However, since it requires warm or hot water to activate its disinfectant properties, we recommend 3% hydrogen peroxide for surface disinfecting.
Higher concentrations of peroxide and food-grade peroxide are available, but these aren’t typically recommended or necessary for at-home cleaning and laundry purposes.
10 Ways To Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Laundry At Home
There are so many ways to use hydrogen peroxide for cleaning, disinfecting, laundry, and more.
We like to affix a trigger sprayer directly to our hydrogen peroxide bottles for ease of use.
We also like buying it in bulk at price clubs (although any type of 3% hydrogen peroxide is inexpensive).
Note: 3% hydrogen peroxide is already diluted—it’s 97% water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Therefore there’s no need to dilute when cleaning.
Here are ten ways to use hydrogen peroxide for cleaning, disinfecting, laundry, and more.
1: Use Peroxide For Non-Toxic Disinfecting
The extra oxygen molecule in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) allows it to oxidize and kill germs, making it an excellent non-toxic disinfectant for surfaces, sinks, tubs, and more.
Yes! You absolutely can disinfect without the use of harmful chemicals or chlorine bleach.
In fact, a 2018 study revealed 3% hydrogen peroxide was more effective at killing certain germs and viruses than Quat-containing disinfectants like Lysol (Quats are a highly toxic chemical used in disinfectants).(source 2)
As discussed in previous articles, we always recommend removing germs with soap and water. However, there is a time and a place for non-toxic sanitizing and disinfecting with a safe option like hydrogen peroxide, if there is a desire to use a disinfectant after the germs have been removed. For example::
- For cleaning toilets
- If someone is ill
- You have a new baby or a severely immune-compromised person in the house
- You’re working with raw meat
- Your pet has an accident
- You suspect harmful bacteria or pathogens have contaminated a surface
- For toothbrushes, tongue scrapers, tweezers, etc.
In this case, we recommend the following non-toxic disinfecting procedure:
- Clean the surface or object to remove germs with Branch Basics or another non-toxic cleaner.
- Spray a few sprays of hydrogen peroxide on the surface, and let the one product dwell for 5-10 minutes. Do not use them simultaneously, as this could create harmful fumes.
- Wipe thoroughly.
You can use hydrogen peroxide alone or combined with vinegar (used and stored in separate bottles) for ultra-disinfecting power.
Here’s how to use hydrogen peroxide and vinegar safely to sanitize and disinfect.
- Clean the surface or object with Branch Basics or another non-toxic cleaner.
- Spray a few sprays of vinegar or peroxide on the surface, and let the one product dwell for 5-10 minutes. Do not use them simultaneously, as this could create harmful fumes.
- Wipe thoroughly.
- Spray the other product on the same surface. Let dwell and wipe thoroughly.
Again, these products are only to be used separately (spray one first, wipe, then spray the other) and stored in separate bottles.
Vinegar contains natural acetic acid, which will react with peroxide to form toxic fumes.
You will avoid this by using them separately and storing them in separate bottles.
Learn more in: 7 Effective and Natural Alternatives to Lysol.
2: Use Peroxide For Stain Removal
If you wear clothes, you need to know about peroxide as a non-toxic stain remover.
3% hydrogen peroxide can be used directly on light-colored clothing to remove a variety of stains (always do a patch test in an inconspicuous place first), including:
Peroxide also works on many types of hard surface stains (such as countertops, but check to ensure compatibility with the manufacturer first), some types of flooring, such as tile or LVP, and carpets.
The powdered peroxide/sodium percarbonate found in Oxygen Boost is also an incredible soaking aid for stains.
- Fill a basin or bowl with warm to hot water.
- Add a scoop of Oxygen Boost and let it dissolve.
- Soak the garment for 30 minutes to several hours to loosen the stain.
- Launder as usual using Branch Basics Laundry or your favorite non-toxic Laundry Soap or Detergent.
This is a secret weapon among busy parents for blow-outs, baby food stains, etc.
Note: Sodium percarbonate, aka oxygen bleach, has a bleaching action on clothes and fabrics.
Although it is typically safe to use on colored clothing, we recommend doing a patch test first to avoid fading.
Sodium percarbonate is not recommended for use on wool or silks.
3: Try Peroxide for Cleaning Grout and Tile
3% peroxide combined with baking soda or powdered peroxide/Oxygen Boost mixed with warm water or Branch Basics All-Purpose to form a paste, can be used to whiten grout and clean tile.
Learn how in:
4: Use Powdered Peroxide/Oxygen Boost as a Laundry Booster
Powdered peroxide/sodium percarbonate built its reputation as a laundry booster and oxygen bleach.
Instead, reach for non-toxic oxygen bleach/sodium percarbonate products, like Branch Basics Oxygen Boost.
5: Try 3% Hydrogen Peroxide or Oxygen Boost /Powdered Peroxide for Cleaning and Disinfecting Cutting Boards
Cutting boards are one of those things that may require disinfecting. Especially if you’re working with raw meat, fish, seafood, or any food that may harbor harmful bacteria.
Since peroxide is non-toxic, it makes the perfect disinfectant for use around food.
Here are 3 ways to use peroxide to disinfect cutting boards:
Always clean the cutting board using warm soapy water or Branch Basics All-Purpose first to remove germs.
For more tips, see: How To Clean and Disinfect A Wood Cutting Board.
6: Use 3% and Powdered Peroxide On Ovens, Stovetops, Countertops, & More
As we just mentioned, peroxide is an ideal cleaner, sanitizer, and disinfectant to use in the kitchen. After all, who wants harmful cleaning chemicals sprayed around their food?!
Here are a few ways to use peroxide in the kitchen:
Oven cleaning: Step aside fume-free and fume-full chemical oven cleaners and make room for Branch Basics All-Purpose + Oxygen Boost. Get the full tutorial in: How To Clean Ovens & Stovetops Naturally. Note: Self-cleaning ovens may have special instructions. Therefore, check with the manufacturer to ensure the oven surface is compatible with Oxygen Boost, which contains sodium percarbonate and baking soda.
Disinfecting sinks and countertops: Most countertops and sinks can be disinfected using 3% hydrogen peroxide. Always check with the manufacturer to ensure compatibility.
For more non-toxic kitchen cleaning tips, check out: Best Non-Toxic Kitchen Cleaning Tips for 2023.
7: How to Use Peroxide for Mold and Mildew Removal
Did you know that the EPA and OSHA do not recommend chlorine bleach for mold and mildew removal?
leach only kills surface mold, introduces water to the area which feeds subsurface mold, and researchers are reporting that bleach creates mutant super molds just as resistant superbugs are created when germs are treated with disinfectants
So, what do they recommend? You guessed it, cleaning and removal of molds with soap and water! Then, if desired hydrogen peroxide!
3% hydrogen peroxide can be used “neat” to kill small mold patches or mildew on surfaces, walls, etc.
Just apply, let sit until it's dried, wipe, and repeat (while wearing a mask and using gloves). It may take more than one application to work.
We highly recommend leaving larger mold remediation jobs to the experts to prevent serious illness.
Powdered peroxide, aka sodium percarbonate, also has natural antifungal and anti-mold properties.
This makes it ideal for removing mold and mildew on hard non-porous materials like tile and grout.
Learn how in: How To Remove Mold From Shower Grout Naturally.
8: Use 3% Hydrogen Peroxide as a Laundry Bleach Alternative
If you can find unscented non-chlorine bleach in the store, it’s likely made of hydrogen peroxide!
If not, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide in place of bleach in your washer.
Add half to 1 cup to your load and launder as usual.
9: Destain Dingy Blenders With Oxygen Boost
We were so excited when we discovered the power of powdered peroxide in Oxygen Boost to destain and revitalize our high-powered blenders.
And it’s so easy! Here’s how:
- Fill your blender with warm or hot water.
- Add a scoop of Oxygen Boost.
- Let sit overnight or all day.
- Dump out the liquid, scrub lightly, and you’ll have a like-new blender for all your green-smoothie needs.
10: Try Peroxide as a Glass Cleaner
3% hydrogen peroxide can be sprayed directly on glass to remove dirt, grime, and smudges.
How To Store & Dispose Of Peroxide
3% hydrogen peroxide should be stored in a dark-colored bottle out of direct heat and sunlight to prevent degradation.
Sodium percarbonate should be stored in a sealed container, at room temperature, and out of the reach of children and pets. Since it is in powder form, always be careful not to inhale or aspirate the particulates.
Since both types of peroxide are non-toxic and biodegradable, they can generally be disposed of in the trash, but check with local regulations to be sure.
Hydrogen Peroxide FAQs
Now that you have the basics of cleaning with peroxide and powdered peroxide/sodium percarbonate, we’ll answer some FAQs.
Can I Use Peroxide On Colored Fabrics Without Causing Discoloration?
Yes and no.
Since peroxide is a natural bleaching agent, it may discolor your clothes if left too long or used undiluted or in high concentrations.
However, powdered peroxide/sodium percarbonate/Oxygen Boost can safely be used on colored clothing with minor (if any) discoloration, even overnight when diluted and soaked, such as in a pre-treatment bath or when used as a laundry booster.
3% peroxide may be appropriate for light-colored clothes when used instead of bleach.
We recommend doing a small patch test to see how your clothing reacts.
Also, never use sodium percarbonate on silks or wools.
Are Hydrogen Peroxide and Sodium Percarbonate Safe To Use Around Children And Pets?
Generally, it is okay to clean with hydrogen peroxide and sodium percarbonate if your pets or children are nearby.
However, since both can cause skin, eye, or lung irritation and must not be ingested, any peroxide-containing product should be kept out of reach of children.
We also recommend using gloves if the cleaning application involves touching sodium percarbonate.
Most people can touch 3% hydrogen peroxide while cleaning without an issue. However, if you have sensitive skin or any doubts, wear gloves.
Can I Use Peroxide To Clean Produce?
This is a great question. Three percentfood-grade peroxide can be used as a non-toxic fruit and vegetable treatment to remove viruses and parasites from store bought produce to be used raw, as in salads. Fill a sink with cold water and ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide. Soak produce for 5 - 20 minutes. There is no reason to do a hydrogen peroxide soak on fruits and vegetables that will be cooked.
Another option for cleaning store-bought produce is with a natural soap, like Branch Basics All-Purpose, which will remove the harmful bacteria and germs without over-sanitizing the fruit or vegetable. .
If you have your own garden, then just quickly rinse produce as
fresh foods, especially those grown in healthy soils, are teeming with many beneficial microbes that promote microbiome health. A pure water rinse is usually sufficient for homegrown foods grown without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc..
Are There Surfaces Or Materials That Should Not Be Cleaned With Hydrogen Peroxide or Sodium Percarbonate?
All peroxide is non-corrosive; therefore, it can generally be used on nearly any type of indoor or outdoor surface except finished and unfinished wood surfaces.
Do not use on hardwood floors, and always check with the manufacturer before using it on countertops, carpets, etc.
Does Peroxide Expire?
3% hydrogen peroxide and sodium percarbonate will begin decomposing after one year.
This doesn’t mean it won’t work or is dangerous to use; rather, it may lose some effectiveness.
You can extend its life by keeping it at room temperature and away from direct heat and sunlight.
Experience The Cleaning Power of Peroxide With Branch Basics
We’ve included many links in this article containing more information on how to use peroxide and powdered peroxide to clean and disinfect your home and laundry.
If you’re interested in trying powdered peroxide/sodium percarbonate, you can find it combined with baking soda in our best-selling Oxygen Boost.
Once you test it out, you will not want to be without it for laundry, stain removal, house cleaning, and more.
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.