Remember when your best friend growing up scraped her knee and her mom poured a little bit of hydrogen peroxide over the cut to “clean it out?” While this used to be the go-to hydrogen peroxide use for moms everywhere, we now know that peroxide can damage skin tissue and that soap and water is actually the best way to wash minor scrapes and cuts.
But don’t let this finding take away from the common household product’s cleaning and disinfecting superpowers. Hydrogen peroxide is less toxic than many other chemicals you have under your kitchen sink right now, since it decomposes into water and oxygen. Plus, it’s sold at such a low concentration that it doesn’t even have to be mixed with water to be made safe for cleaning.
Can you tell that we’re huge fans of the little brown bottle that could? Below, find our seven go-to hydrogen peroxide uses.
1. Cleaning the kitchen sink
There’s a joke here, somewhere, about hydrogen peroxide being used everywhere in your home, including the kitchen sink, but we’ll spare you. First, run the tap and get your sink nice and wet. If you happen to have baking soda on hand, pour some onto a clean sponge and give the sink a quick scrub—but don’t rinse after scrubbing. Instead, pour your hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and spritz the whole sink (or, just splash it around a bit, it’s totally OK if it gets on your hands). Let the peroxide and the baking soda work together for 10 minutes to create a fizzing foam—again, this is safe, it’s just a reaction similar to that homemade volcano your kids are dying to make—before rinsing the sink clean. Peroxide and some elbow grease can be used here, too, if you’re all out of baking soda.
2. Cleaning counter tops, butcher blocks and cutting boards
Cooking on a weeknight should be an Olympic sport. Even before the actual baking or sautéing commences, you have to have all the ingredients and the energy to spend 40 minutes chopping. Add to that, the raw chicken that usually ends up sitting on your counter, cutting board or butcher block, spreading all kinds of bacteria and who knows what else on your surfaces. Ugh. Unless you know how to clean your kitchen in a flash with peroxide. Researchers at Ohio State University found that when undiluted hydrogen peroxide sat on any of these surfaces (yes, even granite and untreated wood), and then was rinsed off thoroughly, it was able to kill both E. coli and salmonella.
3. Making pots and pans look like new
After approximately one million uses, our favorite pots, pans and baking sheets have developed oxidized, flame-worn or foodborne stains that not even steel wool can buff out. That’s where our little baking soda and hydrogen peroxide pairing from tip one comes in handy again. Sprinkle a layer of baking soda onto the bottom of the browned pan and then pour on enough peroxide to work up a lather. Let it soak for at least an hour before rinsing clean.
4. Removing stains from the toilet bowl
Those unsightly stains on the inside of your toilet bowl can be removed with hydrogen peroxide, while it works to kill germs and bacteria, too. Pour half a cup into the bowl and scrub with a toilet brush. Let it sit for 20 minutes before flushing the stains away.
5. Washing away shower mildew
Yup, even the mold and mildew that builds up on the tiles and the shower curtain liner in your bathroom can be treated with hydrogen peroxide. Spray or splash the cleaner wherever you see a buildup of grime and let it sit for 30 minutes. Run the shower and direct the water wherever the peroxide was and use a scrub brush or cleaning cloth to get at the tougher spots.
6. Taking the odor out of garbage cans
Garbage pails tend to smell like, well, trash after a while. Instead of spending needlessly on a new pail, give the whole thing a once over with dish soap and water on a sponge. Then wipe down the inside with paper towels and a splash of peroxide. Let it air dry and breathe free again.
7. Sanitizing the dishwasher
The CDC says that hydrogen peroxide is great at destroying yeasts, fungi, bacteria, viruses and mold spores—some of the very same things that thrive in the damp, dark corners of your dishwasher. Pour peroxide into a spray bottle and spritz every inside surface—all the walls, the utensil holder, under and between any crevices. Or, pour peroxide into a bucket and use a cleaning cloth to wipe it all down. After the peroxide bath, run the dishwasher empty for a cycle, to flush away the cleaning solution.