Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O) is a common household product used in many ways including cleaning, fire fighting, medicine, and more. The chemical formula for H2O is H20 + 2 oxygen atoms. When mixed with water it forms a gas called water vapor which can be breathed or exhaled from the nose. There are two main types of hydrogen peroxide: hydroperoxy and hydroxyl peroxide. Hydroperoxy peroxide is a liquid at room temperature and can be stored safely in a refrigerator. Hydroxyl peroxide is not usually found in nature but may be produced synthetically.
The most common use of hydrogen peroxide is to remove stains from clothing, carpets, and other surfaces. It’s also commonly used to disinfect medical equipment such as intravenous lines, blood bags, surgical instruments, etc. Hydrogen peroxide is also used to whiten teeth and treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, burns, cuts and scrapes.
How does hydrogen peroxide work?
Hydrogen peroxide works by reacting with certain substances in your body. These substances include free radicals (charged particles), proteins and fats. Free radicals cause damage when they come into contact with each other. A good example is the process of oxidation, which is when oxygen reacts with certain substances. This is what causes metal to rust and the famous pink stains on your bathroom sink. The reaction that occurs between the hydrogen peroxide and free radicals are known as oxidation reactions and are effective at killing harmful bacteria.
Does it really work?
When it comes to teeth whitening, the process usually involves a peroxide gel or foam that is formed by mixing a concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide with a substance that reacts with it to form foam. The foaming action helps the mixture get in between your teeth and breaks down stubborn stains. Some people experience mild stomach discomfort when they use a high concentration of this product but this tends to only happen when too much is used. It can also cause problems with the enamel on your teeth so it’s best to get a product that has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Is it safe?
When used in small amounts, such as what you would get from a standard toothpaste, the amount of peroxide that you would ingest is small enough that it shouldn’t cause any problems. It’s important to take a break from using it if you experience any stomach pain or irritation after using it. Most importantly, make sure you’re getting the right concentration for your needs and check if it has been approved by the ADA before using.
Does it work for other things?
It can be used to disinfect wounds, skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, as well as other uses such as cleaning surfaces and clothing. If you are using it for anything other than teeth whitening you should make sure you get a product that is 3% or less in strength.
How do I use it?
For most uses, a 10% solution of peroxide is recommended. It can be applied with a cotton ball or swab to the affected area. You can also use it as an eye rinse, simply soak the cotton ball or swab with the peroxide and dab it around your eyes.
Does it harm the environment?
Although the peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water, care should be taken when using it to clean pools as the oxygen released can cause breathing problems if there is a build up. The process of manufacturing it does produce some toxic waste but not enough to cause any major issues.
How long will it last?
Sources & references used in this article:
Hydrogen peroxide tooth-whitening (bleaching) products: review of adverse effects and safety issues by CJ Tredwin, S Naik, NJ Lewis, C Scully – British dental journal, 2006 – nature.com
Pulp chamber penetration by hydrogen peroxide following vital bleaching procedures by WH Bowles, Z Ugwuneri – Journal of Endodontics, 1987 – Elsevier
Effects of the hydroxyl radical and hydrogen peroxide on tooth bleaching by K Kawamoto, Y Tsujimoto – Journal of Endodontics, 2004 – Elsevier