We’ve been using it to strip the colour from our hair for decades, but did you know hydrogen peroxide also has a number of surprising health uses?
Hydrogen peroxide is a highly reactive clear, odourless liquid described as having a very light blue colour. Although probably best known as a hair-dying agent, around 60 per cent of the hydrogen peroxide produced in the world is used for bleaching paper.
It’s also used as an ingredient in laundry detergents and even as rocket fuel. With uses such as these, you might not think there would be any health reason for using this chemical compound, but the same highly reactive properties that can burn away hair pigment and the toughest stains can also be put to work killing germs and bacteria.
Here are some of the more surprising health uses for hydrogen peroxide.
Antiseptic wash for cuts and abrasions
Dabbing a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on a fresh cut will cause the chemical to bubble as it breaks down on contact with blood. The hydrogen peroxide will kill any bacteria in the wound quickly but be careful as it will also destroy healthy cells.
Although effective, you can achieve a similar result using soap and water. It can still be useful to have a vial of hydrogen peroxide in your first aid kit for situations where you don’t have access to clean water.
Ear wax remover
Ears blocked by wax can be irritating and can lower your quality of life more than you think. There are plenty of ear drops on the market but have you ever taken a closer look at the ingredients? Most, if not all, will contain hydrogen peroxide.
Over-the-counter ear wax solutions usually contain around 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide but it is possible to make ear drop solutions at home using a 1:1 ratio of water and hydrogen peroxide. Always remember to consult your GP before using any home-made solutions.
Swollen gum treatment
If you get swollen, red and bleeding gums after brushing you’re not alone. This can happen if you don’t brush and floss often enough. If this happens, you can rinse your mouth for 30 seconds with a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts water.
Dentists have been using hydrogen peroxide since the early 1900s to treat periodontitis (gum disease) because of its bacteria-killing qualities and ability to break up plaque.
The other reason dentists use hydrogen peroxide is for whitening teeth. Hydrogen peroxide makes a great teeth-whitening agent because of its ability to aggressively break down plaque.
It is possible to make a teeth-whitening solution from hydrogen peroxide at home but, as with the other uses, only a small amount of the chemical is needed. Too much and you can strip the enamel from your teeth.
Less is definitely more here. A 2004 study found that a 5 percent hydrogen peroxide solution was just as effective as a 25 percent solution for whitening teeth.
Hydrogen peroxide is a common ingredient in many acne treatments. It’s effective at clearing out the dirt and bacteria that cause pimples – but its harshness means it also wipes away good bacteria and its ability to heal if used incorrectly.
It’s also not clear if hydrogen peroxide on its own is effective against all types of acne, with some dermatologists recommending it only be used to treat inflammatory whitehead pimples, and not blackheads or deeper cysts.
What other health uses for hydrogen peroxide do you know? Have you used it to treat something? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.