One dilution of hydrogen peroxide is 35 percent H2O2 and 65 percent water. Food producers use 35 percent H2O2 for a variety of purposes, including processing cheese and bleaching wheat flour. It’s also used to kill microorganisms in food packaging materials.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a clear, colorless, odorless liquid. It’s a combination of hydrogen and oxygen and is available in many strengths (indicated by the percentage of dilution with water).
This 35 percent dilution is called “food grade” in part because it doesn’t contain certain stabilizers:
- sodium stanate
- tetrasodium pyrophosphate
These stabilizers are found in most other commercially available hydrogen peroxide and should not be ingested.
No matter the dilution — even if food grade 35 percent H2O2 — you should never drink any hydrogen peroxide.
Types of hydrogen peroxide
Beyond food grade, hydrogen peroxide is available in a number of dilutions:
- 3 percent H2O2 (“household” hydrogen peroxide): available in supermarkets and drugstores, typically in brown bottles
- 6 to 10 percent H2O2 (hair-bleaching hydrogen peroxide)
- 90 percent H2O2 (“industrial” hydrogen peroxide): available in various strengths and used for bleaching paper and textiles, producing foam rubber, and as an ingredient in rocket fuel
Diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide is often part of dental care products and processes:
- toothpaste (mixed with baking soda)
- tooth whitening
- toothbrush cleaning
People also use diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide in home food preparation and storage, including:
- vegetable antibacterial wash
- lettuce preservative
- meat or poultry marinade
Diluted with water, it’s also used in food-related home cleaning such as:
- cutting board disinfection
- countertop disinfection
- sponge and dish cloth cleaning
- refrigerator cleaning
- lunchbox disinfection
There are a variety of home medical remedies based on dilutions of food grade hydrogen peroxide that, although unsupported by research, are suggested by some supporters of alternative medical treatments.
These home remedies include:
- disinfecting small cuts and scrapes
- gargling to treat sore throat
- treating acne
- soaking boils
- treating foot fungus
- softening calluses and corns
- treating ear infections
- killing skin mites
- whitening nails
Some advocates of food grade hydrogen peroxide for alternative health practices justify their position with the theory that disease is fueled by low levels of oxygen in the body.
Although there is no basis for this on scientific evidence, these advocates recommend food grade hydrogen peroxide — in an assortment of dilutions — for maladies including cancer, allergies, emphysema, AIDS, warts, lupus, arthritis, diabetes, and others.
These remedies are not confirmed through medical studies and should not be attempted at home.
Food grade hydrogen peroxide is safe to be used on food products in minimal amounts. But it can be toxic if you inhale or ingest it or if it comes in contact with your skin or eyes.
Inhaling food grade hydrogen peroxide can cause:
If you have inhaled H2O2, contact your doctor.
Contact with skin
Food grade hydrogen peroxide can be corrosive to skin, possibly resulting in:
- skin burns
If your skin is exposed, immediately wash it with lukewarm water and soap for at least 10 minutes and contact your doctor.
Contact with eyes
Food grade hydrogen peroxide can be corrosive to the eyes, possibly resulting in:
- blurred vision
- severe, deep burns
- corneal ulceration
If your eyes are splashed with H2O2, immediately rinse with running water for at least 15 minutes and contact your doctor.
Drinking or ingesting
Swallowing food grade H2O2 could result in:
If you have ingested food grade hydrogen peroxide, drink as much water as possible and contact your doctor.
Although there are many uses for food grade hydrogen peroxide, medical professionals suggest that you do not ingest it and that you use extreme caution when handling it.
This liquid can damage your skin and your eyes.
If you’re considering using food grade H2O2 for any reason, including as a treatment for a medical condition, you should consult with your doctor beforehand.