What Does Food-Grade Hydrogen Peroxide Do?

Editor’s Note: The suggested uses for food-grade hydrogen peroxide in the following article are for 3% ONLY.

Do a search of “food-grade hydrogen peroxide” and you’re bound to see videos and blog posts claiming this potent mix of hydrogen and oxygen can treat everything from acne to cancer. But before you buy into any hype, you need to understand what food-grade hydrogen peroxide is and how to use it safely.

What Does Food-Grade Hydrogen Peroxide Do?

Just because it’s called “food-grade” does not necessarily imply that hydrogen peroxide is edible. What “food-grade” means is that the hydrogen peroxide is pure, says Jay Pope, a product specialist at Sunfood Superfoods. It’s just straight H2O2. Nothing else was added.

Some of those brown bottles of hydrogen peroxide you see on drugstore shelves have been pumped up with stabilizers like acetanilide and other chemicals, says Pope. These help keep the hydrogen peroxide from degrading into water and generally don’t have to be disclosed on the label.

Pope recommends keeping your food-grade hydrogen peroxide refrigerated to extend its shelf life and potency.

“Food-grade” also means it is safe for contact with foods during preparation, he says. Although there are some natural regimens that use food-grade peroxide internally, Pope says Sunfood cannot and does not recommend ingesting it. “It can be extremely dangerous,” he says. (We’ll go more into that in a minute.)

3% Food-Grade Hydrogen Peroxide Uses

When perusing the varieties of food-grade hydrogen peroxide for sale, you’ll see numbers like 12%, 35% and 3% in the name; for example “35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide.” The number refers to the amount of hydrogen peroxide, compared to water, in the mix. In general, the higher the number, the higher the concentration.

For the sake of this article, we’ll talk about 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide. This is one of the lowest concentrations available and, in general, poses the least risk of personal harm, says Pope.

There are several ways 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide can be safely used around the house and even in your beauty routine.

One of the most common uses is cleaning fruits and vegetables, says Pope. A food-grade hydrogen peroxide shower or soak can help remove pesticides from conventional produce and get any residue off of organic fruits and veggies.

He recommends using a spray bottle to mist down the exterior of the fruit and letting it sit for at least 30 seconds. You don’t need to dilute the 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide beforehand, but it’s still a good idea to rinse the produce off thoroughly after its shower.

Food-grade hydrogen peroxide can also be used to sanitize cutting boards, zoodlers and any other hard-to-clean kitchen items, says Pope. Simply spray them down with straight 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide and let them air dry.

Want to brighten your smile? Add a little 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide to your toothpaste or swirl it around with some baking soda to make your own DIY teeth whitener. You can also use it as a mouthwash, says Pope. Just swish around a few teaspoons of undiluted 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds, spit, and then wash your mouth out with water.

Food-Grade Hydrogen Peroxide Risks

All of the tips above are for the 3% hydrogen peroxide available as a household item in your local grocery store or pharmacy.

Wendie Howland, a board-certified registered nurse and principal of Howland Health Consulting, advises against keeping anything stronger in the house. “Highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide is corrosive and toxic,” she warns.

Just read the warning labels on the side if you need validation, says Howland. The labels will advise that the stronger stuff should only be used outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. You’re warned to wear safety glasses and thick gloves when working with higher concentrations of food-grade hydrogen peroxide. And if you ingest any or it gets in contact with your skin or eyes, you should call poison control right away.

There have been multiple reports of people suffering from seizures, strokes and heart attacks after ingesting food-grade hydrogen peroxide. In some cases, it’s even led to permanent brain damage or death.

Ingesting even a small amount of industrial-strength hydrogen peroxide can cause an excessive buildup of gas in the stomach, says Howland. The stomach can only stretch so much. The excess gas has to go somewhere and can often end up in the arteries and veins via damaged blood vessels. This can cause irreparable damage.

“Look, don’t buy into any woo-woo claims that drinking food-grade hydrogen peroxide is some sort of miracle cure,” says Howland. “When not properly diluted, hydrogen peroxide can cause serious damage and even death. The 3% stuff is fine, but anything stronger is just not worth the risk.”


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