It seems nearly everyone has a bottle of hydrogen peroxide lying around the house. For many people, this represents a missed opportunity, and they might not even know. They simply aren't aware of all the innovative ways they can use hydrogen peroxide to make their lives cleaner and healthier at a fraction of the cost of the alternatives.

So, what is hydrogen peroxide? When most of us of us think of it, we think about the store-bought bottles we keep under our sink. But hydrogen peroxide, also known as its chemical formula, H2O2, is also produced naturally by the human body in low levels. Our bodies use it to kill bacteria. When we're younger, catalase, a naturally occurring element, causes H2O2 to break down into water and oxygen. But as we age, our bodies stop producing catalase and the hydrogen peroxide builds up. This is what causes gray hair.

Commercial hydrogen peroxide, the kind you have at home, is a combination of water and oxygen. It's cheap, readily available, and the little brown bottles are becoming increasingly popular as more people realize hydrogen peroxide has uses they've never dreamed of. We've listed our personal favorites below.

A woman cleans her kitchen

1. Clean Your Wood Or Bamboo Cutting Board

Most chefs prefer wood and bamboo cutting boards over the plastic variety. They're natural, beautiful, and easier on their knives. But one of the disadvantages of a wood cutting board is that you can't run it through the dishwasher because it will ruin and warp.

This means you're left to find another way to sanitize that surface you just used to cut raw chicken. Enter H2O2, or hydrogen peroxide. Simply pour it over your wood or bamboo cutting board and watch it fizz and pop as it works its magic, eliminating germs and bacteria. Let your cutting board sit a few minutes when you're through. Wipe dry with a clean sponge.

A red pepper is being chopped on a bamboo cutting board.

2. Treat Acne

You can use hydrogen peroxide to treat acne at a fraction of the cost of the expensive treatments available at your local drug store. Simply dab your clean face with a cotton ball moistened with hydrogen peroxide and let your skin dry for about five minutes before rinsing.

3. Wash Fruit And Vegetables

Many of the fruits and vegetables you purchase at your local supermarket are coated with dirt, wax, and chemicals. Give them a quick scrub with hydrogen peroxide and rinse thoroughly to make sure the food you're feeding your family is healthy and safe.

Fresh apples.

4. Lighten Your Hair

Pour equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water into an empty spray bottle and apply some spritzes to damp hair. Add a few drops of lemon juice if need be. Use your blow dryer or sit in the sun to allow your hair to dry, as the heat will intensify the effects. But keep in mind: hydrogen peroxide will dry out your hair. Be sure to follow up with a good conditioning treatment.

5. Eliminate Skunk Odor

If your cat or dog comes into contact with a skunk, the stench can be overpowering. An old wives' tale suggests bathing them in tomato juice to neutralize the offending aroma, but this is messy, expensive, and actually ineffective. Instead, use hydrogen peroxide mixed with water, baking soda and dish soap to help eliminate the pungent odor.

6. Whiten And Brighten Your Laundry

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent. Add a cup to your next load of whites to help keep them be bright and fresh. This will also help remove body odors and dingy, yellow spots that might be lingering on your clothing.

A woman sorts her laundry

7. Clean Your Toilet

Why spend big bucks on toilet cleaner when you can keep your toilet sparkling clean for a fraction of the cost? Pour half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the bowl, let it sit 20 minutes, then scrub it clean with a stiff brush as you would with any other toilet cleaner.

8. Brush Your Teeth

Mix equal parts baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to make a homemade toothpaste. It will rid your mouth of harmful bacteria and remove coffee, cigarette, and other stains that have caused your teeth to yellow over time. This combo is an effective teeth cleaner, and Arm & Hammer toothpaste uses both baking soda and hydrogen peroxide in its products.

9. Clean And Disinfect Scrapes And Scratches

The next time you skin your knee, gently dab the injured area with hydrogen peroxide. It may sting a little bit, but it will also clean and disinfect the area. After the wound is clean, stick on a bandage to protect it.

10. Take Care Of Your Feet

Soak your feet in a tub filled with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and warm water to soften calluses and kill fungi. Along with keeping your feet healthy and smooth, this method will also eliminate unpleasant foot odors.

A pair of recently washed feet

11. Clean Grout

Brighten and clean dingy, discolored grout by applying hydrogen peroxide directly to the area. Similarly to its use as a toilet cleaner, the hydrogen peroxide will sanitize the surface and make it look sparklingly clean. Let the H202 sit for two to three hours before you begin scrubbing the area with a toothbrush for the best results.

12. Disinfect Children's Toys

Small children are always putting things in their mouths, especially their toys. The same toys they drag all over the house and yard and let the dog lick once in a while. Wipe them down with hydrogen peroxide to make sure they're clean, healthy, and safe for your little ones to play with (and chew on).

13. Cure Canker Sores

When canker sores develop, swish equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water around your mouth for approximately 30 seconds. Rinse your mouth with water when you're finished. Many people believe this simple treatment will help cure canker sores faster, because the hydrogen peroxide acts as a sterilizer that attacks the canker sore, which is vulnerable to becoming infected.

14. Clean Contact Lenses

Instead of purchasing an expensive bottle of contact solution from the store, soak your contact lenses in hydrogen peroxide to remove protein deposits. Many contact solutions have hydrogen peroxide bases, anyway.

15. Clean Your Kitchen Counters

You probably wipe down your kitchen counters on a regular basis, but when was the last time you disinfected them? Use a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect and remove stains from your countertops. Wipe thoroughly with a damp cloth when you're done. Dry with a circular motion to avoid leaving behind streaks.

A kitchen counter being cleaned.

16. Clean Mirrors

Many people don't like the streaks and smell left behind by some commercial window cleaners. Hydrogen peroxide is cheaper and doesn't have those unpleasant side effects. It also helps kill germs that may be floating around your bathroom.

17. Remove Soap Scum And Mildew

No matter how often you clean your tub or shower, soap scum can still build up and the dingy grit can be difficult to remove. But simply spray the area with hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for a half hour, and give it a good wipe -- the results should be much more effective with hydrogen peroxide. This will also rid your tub of mold and mildew.

18. Disinfect Your Tooth Brushes

Tooth brushes can easily collect bacteria that floats around your bathroom, especially if you store your toothbrush a few feet from the toilet. Pour hydrogen peroxide over your toothbrushes on a periodic basis to kill bacteria and protect your dental and overall physical health.

19. Clean Pots And Pans

Hydrogen peroxide can work wonders in the kitchen and clean hard-to-tackle messes. Make a paste using a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to remove burnt, caked-on food. You can also scrub your pots and pans with H2O2 to clean and brighten them.

20. Disinfect Dishes

Regardless as to whether you wash your dishes by hand or in the dishwasher, adding a tablespoon or two of hydrogen peroxide to your dish soap can give your detergent an extra dose of cleansing power and disinfect them at the same time.

Colorful dishes and stainless steel spoons.

The next time you're at the store, grab a couple of bottles of hydrogen peroxide. Your house and your wallet will thank you.

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