Does hydrogen peroxide ruin birthdays?
December 13, 2010 12:56 PM   Subscribe

A bottle of Duane Reade pharmacy hydrogen peroxide spilled and soaked a stuffed animal and t-shirt. What do I do?

The stuffed animal and t-shirt were brand new and intended to be gifts to an adult. Both were pretty soaked. Hours later, no evidence remains except perhaps a chemically smell (I smell it, another does not). What are the repercussions of this? Is pharmacy OTC hydrogen peroxide potentially dangerous? Should I still give it to the intended recipient or consider it a loss? Should I wash it out somehow before giving it to them or does it just evaporate? Does it really leave a smell?

A totally unethical solution would also be to return the items back to the store, which I am not considering.
posted by pinksoftsoap to Science & Nature (9 answers total)
Hydrogen peroxide degrades fairly quickly when exposed to the air. If the clothing and stuffed animal weren't effected immediately, you're fine to give them to the giftee.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:57 PM on December 13, 2010

Antiseptic-grade hydrogen peroxide* is 97% water. The other 3% will become water pretty quickly. If it's dry, I'd say it's safe.

* As opposed to rocket fuel-grade hydrogen peroxide, which they disappointingly enough do not sell at Duane Reade.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Anecdotally, we used a great volume of hydrogen peroxide to clean some yucks out of the carpet from when my son was born and you can neither tell that the yucky stuff nor the hydrogen peroxide was ever there. There was no smell, no damage to the carpet, no nothing. It worked surprisingly well. The dogs never mess with the spot either.
posted by LyndsayMW at 1:10 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Keep drying them out as long as possible (don't wrap them yet). Then give them as gifts like normal.
posted by jeather at 1:13 PM on December 13, 2010

One of the awesome things about hydrogen peroxide is that it's environmentally safe and completely non-toxic. You can pour it on your skin with no problems, and as discussed above, the 3% concentration pretty much turns into regular water within a few hours. The only real risk here is that the peroxide will have bleached the items, but if it hasn't done that, you're golden.

This is because hydrogen peroxide is just H2O2, i.e. a water molecule with an extra oxygen atom. This isn't a terrible stable molecule, and the extra oxygen molecule tends to want to find something else to do pretty quickly. This is why it acts as an oxidizing agent and can actually be used as rocket fuel in high enough concentrations. But it's also why if you leave a spill alone for even a few hours, low concentrations of H2O2 will basically leave you with a puddle of regular water.

My uncle actually sells this stuff by the train-car load for industrial uses, e.g. bleaching paper. One of the more inventive uses of the stuff is for water treatment plants worried about EPA regulations that their outflow have at least a certain concentration of dissolved oxygen. To make sure that they do, a lot of municipalities actually set up a little bleed from a H2O2 tank, the only net effect of which is to boost the oxygen content of the water a little bit. Clever, completely environmentally safe, and ridiculously cheap.
posted by valkyryn at 1:13 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

We used to use it to lighten our hair in junior high in the early 90s... you know, because apparently orange hair was desirable, as was destroying the fuck out of your hair. Hello to you Sun-In.

It would bleach sheets/clothes, but generally once it was dry on your head (and providing it wasn't re-moistened), you were in the clear.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:16 PM on December 13, 2010

Hydrogen peroxide can bleach things when exposed to heat. It's possible that your giftee's shirt will bleach or discolor when he or she washes it. I think it's unlikely that the stuffed animal will go through the wash, but if it's left out in the sun, then it can bleach too.
posted by juniperesque at 1:16 PM on December 13, 2010

Hydrogen peroxide is one of those absolute must-haves to keep around the house. It breaks down into water and oxygen gas, and is, in many applications, an effective cleaning and bleaching agent.

For example, spill a little red wine on a lovely white carpet? No problem: blot up the wine; saturate with cold water and blot like crazy; then go at it with hydrogen peroxide (you could skip the water part, but why waste the H2O2 on the saturate-and-absorb phase even though it's cheap). Saturate; blot; saturate; blot: works like a charm. (A commercial product like Resolve works in many situations for stain removal also, but the gods only know what's in it.)

Another useful application: make a paste with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda for tooth brushing purposes. The baking soda can be a little abrasive on the gums, but if you've got plaque and stained teeth (from whatever), occasional use can help.

Put another way, your stuffed animal and T-shirt should be fine (if they didn't bleach out).

[Other must-haves for domestic problem-solving: petroleum jelly, alcohol (ethanol, drug store isopropyl), WD-40, duct tape, .... another discussion for another day.]
posted by cool breeze at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2010

I use hydrogen peroxide all the time to clean things up. Pharmacy level stuff is not scary at all. The only (IMO minor) concern is the potential to bleach something. But I've used it plenty of times that will later go through the dryer (eg bedsheets) without any problems. I can't imagine your items are ruined.
posted by asciident at 1:53 AM on December 14, 2010

« Older What should replace red meat in my new fish-only...   |   Lawyer: LLC or no for my solo practice? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.