5 Reasons to Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Laundry

hydrogen peroxide and white towels

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

The same bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your first-aid cabinet can be used throughout the house and in the laundry room to whiten whites, brighten colors, remove stains and odors, and clean and disinfect your washer.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is an oxidizing agent that can be used as laundry bleach. The 3% solution sold in drug stores as a first-aid disinfectant is the best choice for laundry. It is safe to use on all washable, dye-stable fabrics. Just like other oxygen-based bleaches, hydrogen peroxide breaks down safely into water and oxygen and is a more environmentally friendly bleach than chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite).

However, hydrogen peroxide is extremely light-sensitive, which is why it is sold in dark containers. Because it will lose its cleaning ability if transferred to a clear container, add a spray nozzle directly to the dark bottle to easily spot-clean stains. It is most effective when freshly opened but will still provide cleaning and disinfecting qualities for about six months. Eventually, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules will revert into a bottle of plain water. An unopened bottle of hydrogen peroxide has a shelf life of around one year. So shop for container sizes that will best serve your laundry routine.

If you're not sure how old your bottle is and/or whether you'll get the best results for your cleaning efforts, first test the hydrogen peroxide before using it. Simply pour a bit into a glass cup. If it fizzes, you're ready to go. No fizz? Buy a new bottle. 

Uses for hydrogen peroxide in laundry
The Spruce

Hydrogen Peroxide Precautions in the Laundry

Never mix hydrogen peroxide with household ammonia, chlorine bleach, or vinegar in a closed container. Dangerous gases can form. 

You're also wasting your money if you use both hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach in the same wash load. Combining the two won't double the whiteness of dingy laundry. The sodium hypochlorite of the chlorine bleach is a much stronger oxidant and will immediately break down the hydrogen peroxide into just plain water. So opt for one or the other in each load.

  • 01 of 05

    Whiten Dingy Whites

    hydrogen peroxide and white clothing

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    White clothes become dull and yellowed over time due to exposure to body soil, dye transfer from other fabrics, and residue from excess laundry detergent and fabric softener that gets trapped in the fabric fibers.

    Because most commercial oxygen-based bleaches are composed of ingredients that break down into hydrogen peroxide along with some brightening additives, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide instead.

    Simply add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding the water and clothes. The hydrogen peroxide can also be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer where it will be dispersed into the wash cycle.

    Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide is also quite effective in removing yellow underarm stains from white clothes when combined with baking soda and water.

  • 02 of 05

    Remove Stains From Clothes

    using a q-tip of hydrogen peroxide on blood stains

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    Hydrogen peroxide is a very effective stain remover for protein- and plant-based stains. And it works well in treating mildew, blood, fruit and vegetable, and dye-transfer stains.

    Even though it is a very mild form of bleach, it is best to test hydrogen peroxide on colored clothes in an inconspicuous spot (e.g., the hem or inside seam) to make sure the colors don't fade. Just dip a cotton swab in the hydrogen peroxide, and rub it on the fabric. If color transfers to the swab, don't proceed. 

    To treat stains, pour or spray a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on the stain. Allow it to soak into the fabric for about 10 minutes before washing the garment as usual.

  • 03 of 05

    Clean and Disinfect a Clothes Washer

    cleaning a washer with hydrogen peroxide

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

    High-efficiency front-load washers are notorious for developing smelly odors, especially in high-humidity areas. The odor comes from mold and mildew growth on detergent and fabric softener residue left inside the washer drum and on rubber door seals due to overdosing. 

    When your washer needs a cleaning, add 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide to the empty washer drum. Then, run a hot water wash cycle to make your washer smell fresh and clean. A monthly cleaning will usually prevent a stinky repeat.

  • 04 of 05

    Brighten Colored Clothes

    hydrogen peroxide and bright clothing

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    Colored clothes can become dull from body soil and detergent residue trapped in the fibers. You can brighten them with the mild bleaching action of hydrogen peroxide. But remember, never pour full-strength hydrogen peroxide directly onto colored fabrics unless you have tested them first for colorfastness.

    The easiest way to use hydrogen peroxide to brighten colored fabrics is to pour 1 cup into the bleach dispenser. It will be added during the wash cycle when there is plenty of water to dilute it. If you don't have a dispenser, dilute 1 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 2 cups of water, and add that to the empty washer drum. Then, load your colored clothes, and wash as usual.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Remove Odors From Clothes and Towels

    hydrogen peroxide with towels and clothing

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

    Smelly towels? Stinky tennis shoes? Grab the hydrogen peroxide.

    Simply mix 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide with enough water to completely submerge the smelly items. Allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes, though 30 minutes is better. Then, wash as usual.

    For an entire washer load of musty towels or foul-smelling athletic gear, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Give the fabric time to soak (up to an hour). Then add detergent and wash with hot water.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Green Techniques for Organic Synthesis and Medicinal Chemistry. Wiley-Blackwell, 2018.