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The Use of Hydrogen Peroxide for Disinfection and Sterilization Applications

Peroxides (2014)

  1. Gerald McDonnell

Published Online: 28 APR 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9780470682531.pat0885

Patai's Chemistry of Functional Groups

Patai's Chemistry of Functional Groups

How to Cite

McDonnell, G. 2014. The Use of Hydrogen Peroxide for Disinfection and Sterilization Applications. Patai's Chemistry of Functional Groups. 1–34.

Author Information

  1. STERIS Corporation, Mentor, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 APR 2014

Chemistry Terms

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Hydrogen peroxide is a widely used antimicrobial chemical. It is used in both liquid and gas form for preservative, disinfection and sterilization applications. Its advantages include its potent and broad spectrum antimicrobial activity, flexibility in use, and safety profile in comparison to other microbiocides. Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to be effective against all forms of microorganisms, including dormant forms with known high resistance such as bacterial spores and protozoal cysts, and also infectious proteins such as prions depending on the specific use of the chemical. It also has advantages with regard to its toxicity and environmental profile. However, overall, the effective and safe use of hydrogen peroxide depends on the way it is used, in particular the concentration. In aqueous form it is used in solution with water directly as a preservative, in products as a preservative or on the skin, including in wounds, and on inanimate surfaces. Recent technology advances have been made in the formulation of peroxide with other chemicals to enhance the antimicrobial activity at lower target concentrations of the active agent. Hydrogen peroxide gas is also widely used for disinfection and sterilization. The gas form is particularly effective in comparison liquid forms and at lower concentrations. Hydrogen peroxide gas processes have become popular alternatives to other chemical and physical based antimicrobial methods due to its rapid efficacy, low temperature, compatibility with surface materials and limited toxicity concerns. The mechanism of action of hydrogen peroxide is not fully understood and is associated with its oxidation activity. The oxidation of the various molecules that constitute microorganisms will lead to significant disruptions in structure/function and the loss of viability or infectivity. Despite this generalization, liquid preparations, formulations and the gas form of hydrogen peroxide can show remarkable differences in their antimicrobial effects, such as their attack on proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids. The general mechanisms of action of hydrogen peroxide significantly reduce any risk of the development of resistance to the biocide over time, unlike many other types of anti-infective drugs or biocides. Microbial resistance to peroxide is primarily due to the various natural differences observed in the growth and survival of microorganisms but can be overcome by the right process and application with hydrogen peroxide-containing products. The many benefits in the use of liquid and gas hydrogen peroxide for antimicrobial applications make it attractive for future and optimal developments with this microbiocide.


  • hydrogen peroxide;
  • biocide;
  • antisepsis;
  • disinfection;
  • sterilization;
  • mode of action;
  • liquid;
  • gas;
  • resistance