Is Hydrogen Peroxide Flammable?

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Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound that can be found in a multitude of products from hair dyes, bleach, toothpaste and even in bathroom and kitchen cleaning products.  

It is mainly used on the skin as a mild antiseptic, but can also be used in mouthwashes to rinse out and remove any bacteria. However it is most commonly used to sanitize and disinfect things. 

You can use hydrogen peroxide to keep kitchen utensils or beauty tools bacteria free, you can use it in a foot bath to get rid of fungus and soften the feet, you name it!

But is hydrogen peroxide safe, is it flammable and can it explode? Let’s find out. But, first we should take a look at what hydrogen peroxide actually is.

What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen Peroxide is a chemical compound made up of hydrogen and oxygen and is called H2O2.

Hydrogen peroxide, or H2O2 is a type of peroxide and an oxidizing agent. It has lots of antiviral and antibacterial properties, which is why it is often used as a disinfectant.

As a result, you can find hydrogen peroxide in antiseptic products or mouthwashes, and is often used for bathroom cleaners or stain removers. 

In addition, hydrogen peroxide is commonly found in personal care products such as hair dyes and bleaches or even teeth whitening products.

As it is an ingredient in many day to day products, you may be wondering how safe it is, and if it is flammable.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide flammable?

In general, hydrogen peroxide is not classified as flammable or combustible as it will not fuel a fire by itself.

That being said, whilst it will not act as a fuel, it can make a fire much stronger and more intense because it is an oxidizing agent.

For a fire to be able to burn, it needs heat, fuel and oxygen. If any of these elements are removed, then the fire will go out.

This is how you extinguish a fire. You add water to cool it and remove the heat element, or you throw sand on flames to smother them and remove the oxygen.

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer, which means that it will add oxygen to other substances and elements.

Therefore, a fire can burn for longer if there is an oxidizer, which will in turn intensify the flames and it could cause an explosion. 

Whilst hydrogen peroxide by itself is not flammable, it can increase the severity and intensity of a fire that is already burning, or it can make a fire more likely to happen if there are already fuel and heat elements, as the hydrogen peroxide acts as the oxygen. 

What happens if you heat Hydrogen Peroxide?

If you try to heat hydrogen peroxide, it will begin to lose its stability, and it will break down into oxygen and water.

The oxygen that is released is exothermic decomposition, which will combust if it reacts with fire. 

Therefore, by heating up hydrogen peroxide with open flames, you can cause an explosion.

Whilst hydrogen peroxide is not flammable, the oxygen will fuel a fire, which can be a hazard when combined with other elements and substances.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide safe to use?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified hydrogen peroxide as ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS for humans as long as it is in low doses and concentrations.

Whilst it is safe to use, it is not suitable for the skin as it can cause irritation, burning and blistering. 

Hydrogen peroxide in over the counter products or store bought products, such as cleaners and mouthwashes are completely safe, but you should exercise caution with industrial strength hydrogen peroxide, or products containing high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. 

Is Hydrogen Peroxide an explosive?

Whether hydrogen peroxide is explosive or not depends on the concentration. If you are worried that household products that you have lying around are a fire hazard, then check the concentration of hydrogen peroxide to put your mind at ease. 

For instance, contact lens solution or sterilizer has about 2% hydrogen peroxide, whereas hair bleaching products are about 7% hydrogen peroxide. Anything below 8% is generally considered not hazardous. 

Other items such as swimming pools or hot tub shocking treatments can have about 27% hydrogen peroxide, which has an elevated burning rate.

On the other hand, industrial strength hydrogen peroxide will have a concentration of about 28% to 52% which has a further increased burning rate.

Chemicals can be slightly more dangerous, as anything with a concentration of about 53% to 91% hydrogen peroxide can have a severe increase in burning rate, and is capable of exploding or detonating.

Things like rocket propellant have a concentration of more than 91% which can ignite spontaneously and without a source and is highly explosive.

Therefore, hydrogen peroxide can be explosive in high concentrations, and can spontaneously ignite, however household items with low percentages of hydrogen peroxide are not considered explosive or very flammable, and are safe to use. 

Summary

To summarize, hydrogen peroxide generally is not flammable, or combustible, although it can act as an oxidizer if it reacts with flames.

It can also be a fire hazard in higher concentrations, but these levels of hydrogen peroxide are unlikely in your typical household items.

The hydrogen peroxide in your hair dye, contact lens solution or other over the counter items is safe to use as long as you follow the instructions. 

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About David

With over 12 years experience in the fire protection industry, David is our resident Fire Safety expert. He's also a plumber with years of experience in HVAC systems; welding extraordinaire and spends his weekends thinking up gardening projects.

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