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What is Peroxide Bleach?

By A.E. Jaquith
Updated May 17, 2024
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Peroxide bleach, or hydrogen peroxide bleach, is a liquid with weak caustic properties that has found many uses throughout modern history, from the home to industry. A very simple solution, its chemical compound contains only one more atom of oxygen per molecule than normal water (H2O2). Perhaps its most common global application is to bleach paper.

For many, a weak solution of peroxide bleach (around 3% bleach) has been used as an antiseptic. Poured over an open wound or sore, the weak acid kills, or otherwise incapacitates, many strains of harmful bacteria that can cause infection. It is, however, no substitute for injuries requiring medical attention. Hydrogen peroxide bleach can also be used as a mouthwash, though it might be a good idea to dilute the solution further than the typical household variety, as it is possible for the bleach to wear down tooth enamel.

Though it is possible to directly ingest peroxide bleach, there are several possible adverse reactions in the human body. If it is consumed without the proper precautions, it can result in an upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. Fortunately, there are other less harmful methods to use it in food preparation. A 1/4 cup (about 60 ml) of hydrogen peroxide bleach diluted into a full sink of water is believed to be an effective e-coli cleaner for vegetables. Also, by using equal parts of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water it is possible to make a meat marinade. Last, but certainly not least, when mixed with water, it can be used as a colonic, douche, or enema method.

Hydrogen peroxide bleach therapy is believed by many to reduce the risk of developing cancer. In fact, studies have shown that individuals with a lower oxygen level in their bloodstream are more likely to develop cancer. By drinking the peroxide, some believe that it will increase the amount of oxygen in the body. However, the American Cancer Society has stated that there are is no evidence that this treatment will reduce the chance of developing cancer.

A stronger mixture of peroxide bleach can be used for many varying purposes. A mixture of around 15% peroxide is used to bleach human hair. Also, it can be used to whiten localized areas of skin. Aside from skin whitening, a mixture of it can be used to whiten bones that are to be put on display. An extremely high concentrate mixture can be used as a type of rocket fuel, either as a stand alone propellant or mixed with other fuels.

Hydrogen peroxide bleach decomposes very slowly while kept in the proper conditions. If stored in a cool, dry, dark place,it will lose about 10% of its potency per year. To extend its usefulness, it can be stored in a freezer.

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