Hydrogen Peroxide IIT JEE

Applications and Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an important chemical compound that has the formula of H2O2. When it is in the pure state, it has a light blue color. It is a clear liquid that is a little more viscous in nature when compared to water. Hydrogen peroxide is considered to be the simplest form of peroxide.

It is also used as a form of an oxidizer, an antiseptic and bleaching agent. Concentrated hydrogen peroxideis a type of a reactive oxygen species that makes it a good propellant in rocketry.

Earlier, hydrogen peroxide was made using industrial process by performing hydrolysis process of ammonium persulfate. Hydrogen peroxide is an unstable compound that slowly and gradually decays when it comes in contact with the sunlight.
Because of the instability, this compound is stored with a stabilizing agent in a weakly acid-based solution. Hydrogen peroxide is present in biological structures that includes human body. All those enzymes that are used to decompose the organic compounds are categorized as peroxidases.

Hydrogen peroxide has a boiling point of 150.2 °C. It is approx. 50 °C greater than water. Hydrogen peroxide undergoes explosive thermal decomposition when it gets heated to its boiling point. Hydrogen peroxide may be securely distilled at low temperatures when kept below reduced pressure.

In case of aqueous solutions, hydrogen peroxide varies from the unadulterated substance because of its impact between hydrogen peroxide and water molecules. When water comes in contact with hydrogen peroxide, it forms a eutectic mixture that shows freezing-point depression. Pure water shows a freezing point of around 0 °C whereas pure hydrogen peroxide shows a freezing point of around −0.43 °C.

What is the availability of hydrogen peroxide?

You will find hydrogen peroxide in any medical store. This commonly available compound can be found in the form of a solution. For consumers, you may get it in the concentration of 3 and 6 wt. 

Hydrogen peroxide occurs in groundwater, surfacewater, as well as in the atmosphere. This compound is formed on natural catalytic action of elements that are present in water or by illumination process. Sea water has around 0.5 - 14 μg/liter of hydrogen peroxide in it. 

Hydrogen peroxide acts as reducing as well as an oxidizing agent. The oxidation process of hydrogen peroxide with the help of sodium hypochlorite produces singlet oxygen. The total reaction of “ferric” ion when reacts with hydrogen peroxide forms oxygen and a ferrous ion. This procedure happens with the help of a hydroxyl radicals and single electron oxidation. 

Hydrogen Peroxide is mostly used in a few forms of oxidations in organic chemistry. One of the commonest examples is the Fenton's reagent. In performing the oxidation, only catalytic amounts of an iron ion are required as peroxide oxidizes “ferrous” ion to “ferric” ion. The complete reaction of manganese dioxide and “hydrogen peroxide” is manganous ion. 

This happens till the peroxide spent on a few manganous ions gets reoxidized. This helps in making the overall reaction catalytic. Hydrogen peroxide forms the fundamental for commonly used monopropellant rockets.

Let us understand the biological nature of hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is made inside human body as well as animals in the form of a short-lived product. It is very important in biochemical procedures and is also toxic to cells. 

The toxicity of this compound is because of the oxidation of membrane lipids, proteins, and DNA when it reacts with the peroxide ions.

Biological enzymes like superoxide dismutase gets formed in almost all kinds of living cells. It is a significant antioxidant agent too. Hydrogen peroxide promotes the disproportionate behavior of superoxide enzyme into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. This then quickly gets decomposed by an enzyme catalase into water and oxygen.

Is hydrogen peroxide an acid or a base?

Hydrogen peroxide, (H2O2) is a liquid that has a slight blue color. When it is in the dilute form, it appears as a colorless solution. It is little more viscous as compared to water. Hydrogen Peroxide is a weak acid that forms peroxide salts or hydroperoxide by reacting with several metals. Hydrogen peroxide is also sold for use in household tasks. It is typically available at pharmacy stores in the form of a diluted solution that contains 3 percent solution of this compound. 

H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide is very powerful in terms of its action with other metals. It is regarded as the one of the very powerful oxidizers as well as reducing agents. Hydrogen Peroxide is regarded stronger than chlorine, potassium permanganate and chlorine dioxide. By way of through catalysis, this compound can get transformed into hydroxyl radicals or (OH) ions. It is second highest reactive substance, after fluorine that occupies the first place. 

What is the calculated pH of hydrogen peroxide?

The difference between the "real pH" and "apparent pH" vary from around 1.3 pH units calculated for 35% of hydrogen peroxide to around 2.7 pH units calculated for 70% of hydrogen peroxide. Correcting for imaginary pH deviations, pure hydrogen peroxide solutions and water shows a pH value that varies with concentration of hydrogen peroxide. 

What are the areas of applications of hydrogen peroxide?

There are several areas where you would find hydrogen peroxide very beneficial. Be it laboratory or household chores, hydrogen peroxide has a significant contribution in several areas. Let us see some of its uses. 

Antiseptic agent

Hydrogen peroxide is considered to be a mild form of antiseptic that when used on the skin gives relief from infection caused due to minor cuts, burns and scrapes. Hydrogen peroxide is also useful when used int the form of a mouth rinse.
It assists in removing the layer of mucus in the mouth or to get relief from small irritations in the mouth. Some common causes for the irritations being cold sores, canker, or gingivitis. Hydrogen peroxide acts as an effective antiseptic that can be used for the treatment of minor wounds and scrapes.

Bleaching agent

Around 60% of the entire population of the world uses hydrogen peroxide for bleaching of paper and pulp. 


The second important application of hydrogen peroxide is in the preparation of sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate that are commonly used in the form of a mild bleaching agent in laundry cleaners. 

Sodium percarbonate is formed as an adduct of hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. It is observed as an active ingredient in cleaning products like soaps, dishwashing bar, laundry detergents etc. When sodium percarbonate gets properly mixed in water, it gives rise to sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide.


Among the various applications of hydrogen peroxide, it is popularly used in the form of a disinfectant. Hydrogen peroxide is highly efficient in the treatment of inflammation of gums and purify drinking water. It is beneficial to combat uncontrolled growth of microbes in cooling towers and water systems. Hydrogen peroxide reacts at a fast pace.

Its “bubbling” action assists in the elimination of debris that can get stuck inside the wound. Hydrogen peroxide should not be applied on deep cuts or large open wounds or for longer duration. This compound works by destroying healing bacteria or infection causing bacteria.

What are the tasks that are performed by hydrogen peroxide to the body?

Hydrogen peroxide is an acid that has a mild action on the body. This acid is used by several people as a disinfectant agent in their kitchen. It is also very useful in the treatment of abrasions and cuts. Use of hydrogen peroxide keeps the cell in your body healthy. 

What types of bacteria are killed by hydrogen peroxide?

One of the commonest applications of hydrogen peroxide is to keep the body free from micro-organisms, and harmful bacteria. This is because your blood as well as living cells in the body have got the enzyme catalase, that attacks hydrogen peroxide. 

This results in the conversion of oxygen (O2) and water (H2O). Hydrogen peroxide is widely used in the form of an antiseptic agent as it has got special qualities to destroy bacteria cells and their cell walls.

Hydrogen peroxide has the nature to react with freely available “chlorine” in solutions. It has a pH of more than 7. Nearly 0.48 hydrogen peroxide pounds is needed for the destruction of 1 pound of freely available chlorine. 

What type of ailments can hydrogen peroxide cure?

There are a lot of benefits of hydrogen peroxide for skin, hair, teeth etc. People often apply this compound to cure minor scrapes and cuts on the skin. Other uses of it includes whitening of the skin or dying hair. A few people also claim that this compound is effective in curing cancer, too. This is due to the fact that (H2O2) is a kind of an oxidizing liquid that gives off oxygen.

Is hydrogen peroxide unsafe for drinking?

Complications can arise if you drink hydrogen peroxide. There are possibilities that higher concentrations of it can cause burns and irritation in the stomach. That can be very risky and can require admission in hospital too. 

How does hydrogen peroxide work in the body?

Inside the cells, blood and the tissues of the body, there is a tiny enzyme called “catalase” that when in contact with H2O2, gets broken down into water and pure oxygen. Due to the production of oxygen gas, it results in the formation of foam.