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 three-percent solution sold in drug stores as a first-aid disinfectant is the best choice for laundry as well. 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).

Hydrogen peroxide is extremely light-sensitive, which is why it is sold in dark containers. Since it will lose its cleaning ability if transferred to a clear container, just add a spray nozzle to the bottle to simplify its use for spot cleaning stains. It is most effective when freshly opened and 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 at least one year. 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 efforts, first test hydrogen peroxide before using. Simply pour a bit into a glass cup and 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, because 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 will not double the whiteness of dingy laundry. The sodium hypochlorite of the chlorine bleach is a much stronger oxidant and immediately breaks down the hydrogen peroxide into just plain water. 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.

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

    Simply add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding water or 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.

    Hydrogen peroxide is also quite effective in removing ugly 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 works well in treating mildew, blood, berry or fruit stains, vegetable stains, 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 (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 and allow it to soak into the fabric for about ten 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 two cups of hydrogen peroxide to the empty washer drum and then run a hot water wash cycle. Your washer will 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.

    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 one cup into the bleach dispenser. It will be added during the wash cycle when there is plenty of water. If you don't have a dispenser, dilute one cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with two cups of water and add to the empty washer drum then load in 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 one-half cup of hydrogen peroxide with enough water to completely submerge the smelly items and allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes, 30 minutes is better. Wash as usual.

    For an entire washer load of musty towels or foul-smelling athletic gear, add one cup of hydrogen peroxide. Give the fabric time to soak (up to an hour) and 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