Today: Hydrogen Peroxide and Rubbing Alcohol Dos & Don’ts

Don't mix hydrogen peroxide with alcohol

Don't mix hydrogen peroxide with alcohol

So today I learned a very practical bit of advice I can give anyone. For my stay-at-home job (the way I survive by the way with my severe allergies and chemical sensitivities), I buy disc-based media and recondition them for sale online. This job is very lucrative, because you can buy stuff that’s in not-so-great condition and make it pretty, then sell it for a “pretty penny.” Here are some very simple and specific tidbits I’ve learned from handling and cleaning valuable items from many different households.

Tip #1: You can use alcohol to clean permanent marker.

sharpie

I didn’t really know this before I started doing what I do, but I learned this from a clerk at a thrift store. I was complaining that there was a price written on a framed poster, which made the item less desirable/valuable. They instantly told me to just use alcohol to rub it off. Sure enough, when I got home, I applied this knowledge, and it worked like a charm. I have never looked back.

With my sensitivity to chemicals, the ethanol does get a bit smelly, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me as much as it does for other chemically sensitive people. Note that this only works well on glossy surfaces like plastic or glossy paper. This will not work with cloth or matte paper.

Tip #2: Hydrogen peroxide neutralizes a lot of chemical smells.

clothes

Even just today, I heard from someone on my favorite EI (environmental illness) forum that peroxide will break down pesticides. I’m not entirely sure if it’s true, but in my experience, it does a whole lot to mitigate some nasty chemical smells I’ve come across.

My main application for hydrogen peroxide has been to wash new fabrics. In fact, it’s a standing rule in my household to immediately run any new clothes in the wash at least twice with generous amounts of peroxide (like 1/8 to 1/2 cup per load). I haven’t quite figured out how much is really needed, but I can usually detect when the sweet smell of acetaldehyde and other disinfectants/detergents/pesticides/dyes has dissipated in the clothes I buy.

In my business, I get a lot of DVDs and video games (in plastic cases) from thrift stores where there is a ton of cheap detergent emanating from the clothing aisles all day long. Though I usually just replace the cases with new ones (which can be equally smelly, and therefore are sequestered to the garage when I’m not packaging up boxes of items to sell), sometimes I need to clean off opened toys or sealed DVDs that smell of strong detergents. For this purpose, hydrogen peroxide does the trick. This also goes for plastic toys I give my baby, and even tupperware from the dollar store. Really, you should wash/remediate anything you buy from the store, in any way you can, because there is an unsettling amount of chemicals that go into production and making new products “ready” for the retail shelf.

I believe the mechanism for hydrogen peroxide’s excellent effect on smelly chemicals is the same as the way ozone purifies indoor/outdoor air (though you should be very careful when using ozone purifiers indoors). That added oxygen molecule (peroxide is H2O2) will bind and “oxidize” any contaminants it comes across. I don’t understand it extremely well, but I do know that peroxide seems to take away the stinky when I need it to.

I also use hydrogen peroxide as my go-to for pretty much any kind of regular cleaning I do on floors, counters, and sinks. I do go ahead and use Seventh Generation or equivalently “safe” products for heavier cleaning (like in the toilet and the tub). But for regular surfaces and day-to-day dirt/stains, I’m always using a spray bottle of H2O2. It has virtually no residual smell, and it’s almost completely inert. Sometimes I even wash my hands with it. I know you’re not supposed to do this, because it supposedly bleaches the skin (which I’ll get into shortly).

Tips #3–15: There’s not much hydrogen peroxide can’t do…

mop

There are crazy amounts of uses for hydrogen peroxide that I can’t even scratch the surface of, but here are some of its uses that I’ve mostly verified:

  • Clean and disinfect wounds
  • Clear acne
  • Canker sores
  • Bad breath
  • Get rid of an ear infection
  • Clear ear wax
  • Clean/whiten your teeth
  • Clean contact lenses
  • Lighten your hair
  • Disinfect things (like toothbrushes)
  • Clean your floors and other surfaces
  • Kill various yeasts/mold (in a not-so-harsh way)
  • Use it in your dishwasher or in handwashing dishes
  • Wash clothes (get chemical smells out)
  • Boost plant growth by soaking seeds in it

There are some other uses that I’m not going to get into and many that I wouldn’t recommend, like ingesting it. If you decide to use it orally or on your body, please remember that your microbiome can be affected with any kind of antibacterial agent, and it should be used in moderation. All of its uses generally involve the same function, based on adding that extra oxygen molecule into the mix. Its three main effects are bleaching, disinfecting, and otherwise oxidizing.

Tip #16: Don’t mix rubbing alcohol with hydrogen peroxide

alcohol

We finally come to the point. Oftentimes in our business described above, my wife and I combine tips numbers 1 and 2 and use rubbing alcohol to clean permanent marker off of DVD cases, then we end up using Hydrogen Peroxide somewhere else just for normal cleaning (or to get the scent off of the same case). I hadn’t looked it up until just now, but we both experienced a severe bleaching and my wife even a burning effect when we used both of these chemicals with our bare hands. The skin on my forefingers literally turned white, but I didn’t feel the burn like she did. (Maybe a woman thing? 😉

So after some research, I found that there is some discrepancy on whether rubbing alcohol and peroxide react to form anything particularly dangerous. Here is a thread with some chemistry geeks discussing the potential reactions. Feel free to peruse. One rather ominous reply in a Yahoo Answers thread said this:

“What you guys don’t know, mixing Rubbing Alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide forms an Unknown Chemical. It is Inactive for a few days, and when you leave it out, it forms an Acid, that can give you really Bad Chemical Burns.”

I have no idea of this guy’s source, but that sounds about exactly like what happened to my wife and I. So, err on the side of caution and don’t mix them. You should have this rule of precaution when mixing any household chemicals. There are just too many things that can go wrong.

Before I go, let me just relate a little experiment I did. I was awoken this morning by my Mom, asking me to help out with throwing the last few things in the dumpster. We threw away some wet stuff, because it had just rained. Some of the moisture dampened the leg on shorts I’d just put on (proper clothing is hard to come by for me these days). Concerned about mold/mildew, I immediately used a cloth dampened with well water and hydrogen peroxide. After about a half hour of it sitting there soaking against my leg, I started to feel a slight burn. So it turns out hydrogen peroxide on its own can start to irritate your skin, I guess mainly if it maintains contact with your skin on some medium. So there ya go!

About Rob 69 Articles
Rob was the valedictorian of his high school (his last claim to fame), but now believes that academics are overrated. He is a musician and former copy editor, and is now studying independently as an amateur nutritionist, businessman, and writer/rocker against world government and for liberty. He is also attempting to obtain a PhD in squats, deadlifts, shoulder raises, rows, bench press, dips, and pull-ups.

12 Comments

  1. Hydrogen will give a “bleach” effect. What happens is that oxygen bubbles get trapped under the top layer of skin and it makes it look white, the burning sensation is probably from the alcohol.

    • Thanks yeah, that makes sense. I do believe there was more of a burning sensation from the combo, because my wife and I never had burning from rubbing alcohol.

  2. I had used hydrogen peroxide on the yard with a hose sprayer to help the lawn, but also with the intent of targeting a major snail & slug problem. I mixed some rubbing alcohol to help the H202 permeate any critter’s membranes. It certainly worked. (I did also later apply orange oil, neem oil, molasses, organic fertilizer, etc.) After reflecting, I stumbled across your website.

    I use alcohol often around the house, but shy away from rubbing alcohol because of its toxicity. Typically, I use Everclear or vodka or gin for cleaning or disinfecting. Any type of alcohol easily permeates the skin or tissues. Plus, the fumes are readily inhaled which goes directly into the blood stream.

    Rubbing alcohol usually is derived from the petroleum industry. In itself, it has some toxicity (half an ounce can be toxic to a man). Its chemical structure is completely different than the whisky form of alcohol. In addition, rubbing alcohol is “denatured” to ensure that winos don’t drink it which makes it even more poisonous. Wikipedia has a quick overview of these aspects.
    If I was spraying the food-herb garden, I would had used Everclear or vodka instead of rubbing alcohol mixed with hydrogen peroxide.

    I do want to mention that a person can overdo hydrogen peroxide on sensitive tissues causing bad chemical burns. For oral applications, I try to use a food grade H202 if the budget allows. Food grade is manufactured differently than the drug store peroxide.
    Sidenote: I have close relatives who have been getting IV solutions of food grade hydrogen peroxide. My personal favorite is an ozone IV with having the blood go through a UV light. I have seen some miracles as a result of that combo.

    I admire your take on alternative views! I often follow the Corbett Report.
    Keep up the good fight.

    • Tom! Thanks for your contribution, man. Sounds like a lot of good info about ethanol. I will keep all of that in mind, and definitely never drink it. For one reason or another, using alcohol in my DVD-selling business, I tolerate it quite well.

      You keep up the fight as well! I like Corbett, too. But I’m not an anarchist like him. I just want a nicely drained swamp so we can all MAGA together and live in harmony. Did you read my article about Trump and Monsanto? He hasn’t done it yet, but I’m hoping something will happen on the same line as Putin has taken in Russia, against GMOs and EMFs, among a million other toxic things they’ve been throwing at us. Here’s praying!

      Sincerely,
      Rob

  3. My daughter, shes six, had some type of infection on a spot on her head.. It was blistery, pussy and bumpy.. Well first thing i thought was i didnt want it to get worse and go to her brain and infect that.. Lol.. So i go and buy alcohol and peroxide.. Well i ended up cleaning the area with both after the shower.. Next day it looks better…clean the area again.. And gets better.. Well i do my daughters hair all the time and i guess its been 3 weeks later or more and i just notice that she has a little bald spot.. Im thinking where i mixed the 2 solutions.. But why did i barely notice this bald spot now? Is it going to be bald for good? Its very small but i cant stop thinking if i caused it.. And i just happen to look the mixing of these 2 alcohol and peroxide up.. And it can cause a bad reaction.. Can it leave you with no hair? I feel horrible now. And i guess stupid. 🙁

    • I don’t think it will be bald forever (as you probably know by now since I’m responding several months later). I just know that it can have a bit of a reaction, which might explain what fried her hair a bit. But that could also be explained by the infection, which can cause some inflammation that might lead to hair loss. How is it doing now?

  4. Liked the article – will use some of your tips. Quick question — if I am using 91% rubbing alcohol on my arms (for heat rash) is there any danger regarding that level of rubbing alcohol and skin absorption?

    • Thank you, Kim! Rubbing alcohol, in my experience, can be used anywhere. You’re attacking your skin bacteria by doing it, so I wouldn’t do it myself. I prefer to use less antibacterial things on my skin to clean, like castille soap. Really, cold, filtered water is the best thing for heat. Hot water is probably the worst. In fact, every time you wash your hands with warm or hot water, always follow up with cold water, and you will not experience a lot of the discomfort of dry skin and itching (especially in the winter) and you will never have to use lotion or even coconut oil. Try it!

  5. Alcohol nor peroxide should never be used on skin or used with your bare hands. That is the problem not the combination.

  6. Hey rob, whats this environmental/chemical sensitivity you have? I haven’t heard of it before, is it just that you prefer to avoid chemicals because younstrongly dislike the smell, or is it a real medical condition.
    Side note: I remember in my chemistry class we worked with hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol throughout he year. The instructor never explained what the combination created, but she advised never to combine the two chemicals.

  7. Hey Rob, over the counter hydrogen peroxide is more than hydrogen peroxide and distilled water. It contains a stabilizer chemical to provide a long shelf life and slower reaction.
    Adding isopropyl will effectively disable this chemical. It’s just better at carrying the peroxide, and once the isopropyl evaporates, the peroxide reacts rapidly with anything it can. Your flesh included.

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