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How to Clean and Disinfect with Hydrogen Peroxide

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Are you sensitive to the strong, harsh smell of most cleaning products? Me, too. That’s why I’m a fan of using hydrogen peroxide to disinfect and clean—it’s natural, odorless, and cheap. For those who can’t stand the smell of vinegar, either, this may be your new best cleaning friend and what a powerful friend it is.

Hydrogen peroxide works by producing destructive free radicals that attack potential sources of infection. Those foaming bubbles you see when hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with something? That’s the result of free radicals doing their thing.

Can I Disinfect My House with Hydrogen Peroxide?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hydrogen peroxide is a safe way to kill bacteria, spores, and fungus. It can kill germs and is virucidal, too. But, as with all household disinfectants, its effectiveness depends on proper use. When it comes to disinfecting a surface, you need to clean it first.

Doesn’t a Disinfectant Also Clean Stuff?

Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. Cleaning involves the physical removal of dirt and grime but may leave behind potential sources of infection like certain germs or bacteria. Disinfection, on the other hand, reduces the level of germs or bacteria to safe levels but may not actually remove dirt and grime.

In very germy areas like kitchens and bathrooms, you need to clean before disinfecting if you want to keep your home healthy. Without cleaning, the organic load of grime and dirt may be too high for the disinfectant to work properly.

What Should I Clean with Before Disinfecting?

When it comes to cleaning a surface, the entire point is physically removing dirt and grime. You can use soap and water or your favorite store-bought cleaner. You can even apply hydrogen peroxide to clean, wipe it away then reapply it to disinfect.

Pro Tip

If you do use something other than soap and water to clean, be sure you thoroughly wipe it away before applying a disinfectant, or you may create a toxic compound.

What Strength of Hydrogen Peroxide Should I Use?

Hydrogen peroxide comes in several strengths. For home disinfection, use the 3% hydrogen peroxide sold at the grocery store or pharmacy. It’s inexpensive and easy to find. Just look for that brown bottle.

Do not use 20% and 30% hydrogen peroxide sold at beauty supply stores, which are so strong they can damages surfaces. And don’t bother with 35% “food grade” hydrogen peroxide. It is expensive and also too strong for household disinfection.

What Surfaces Can Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfect?

Hydrogen peroxide is safe to use full-strength on these household surfaces:

  • Kitchen countertops and backsplashes (see exception list below)
  • Grout in the kitchen or bathroom
  • Refrigerator and freezer shelves and drawers
  • Sink basins
  • Doorknobs and light switch plates
  • Showers and tubs
  • Toilets
  • Trashcans and wastebaskets
  • Diaper pails
  • Cat litter boxes and animal cages
  • Toothbrushes, retainers, and mouth guards
  • Kitchen sponges and dish wands
  • Cutting boards
  • Toys and pacifiers
  • Dingy white fabrics

Do NOT Use Hydrogen Peroxide on These Surfaces

Hydrogen peroxide is a weak acid with bleaching abilities, so it’s not safe for use on everything. Do not use hydrogen peroxide on surfaces that are prone to etching or bleaching.

  • Marble, granite, or other natural stone. (Can be used occasionally but must be diluted with an equal amount of water.)
  • Certain metals (lead, brass, copper, and zinc)
  • Wood furniture
  • Colored fabrics

How to Disinfect with Hydrogen Peroxide

Disinfecting with hydrogen peroxide is really easy to do once you’ve properly cleaned the surface. J

1. Attach a Spray Nozzle

You can buy a new nozzle or reuse one from an empty spray bottle and cut the tube to fit. Be sure to thoroughly wash and dry a nozzle before you reuse it, though, so you don’t run the risk of combining products dangerously.

2. Leave It On for the Right Time

After you’ve cleaned a surface with soap and water, spray it with hydrogen peroxide, wait 5 minutes, then wipe it away with a clean, damp cloth. Don’t allow peroxide to sit without rinsing—it can leave a gritty feel to a surface if you don’t wipe it away.

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2 Comments

  1. Hannah Ryan says:

    Hi Katie!!

    I cannot tell you how pleased I am with your website and how much you’ve helped me!!! I got all of the makeup stains out of my white washcloths, thanks to you!! WOW!! AMAZING!! You are a genius!! Thanks for all of your tips and how-to’s!!!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Hannah,
      I’m so glad to have helped!

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