Alcohol vs Peroxide vs Iodine etc

What are the advantages/disadvantages of these antiseptics? Is one better than the others?

“Better” is subjective, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. See link.chart.

Peroxide isn’t qualified to to even make the chart, but has it’s uses on human contact to minimize burning sensation. Much safer for oral use and light, open wounds. Wouldn’t want alcohol on them! OUCH!

I think that list is somewhat incomplete. Hydrogen peroxide certainly does have it’s uses, but I think to have the most effect it requires a catalyst (3% of course). Your blood provides a catalyst, so it is very useful for disinfecting wounds. I used to clean my contact lenses with peroxide, but I needed the catalyst. 3% peroxide on its own will disinfect, but I suspect it is not as effective.

The other one that this list leaves out is sodium peroxybicarbonate. Granted, that is just a hydrogen peroxide complex, but it has distinct uses.

Peroxide works just fine as a disinfectant – no catalyst needed. The catalyst just makes it fizz, and really just uses up the peroxide so if anything a catalyst will make it less effective.

Actually, I just took my lab safety refresher, and happen to have a handout that compares different disinfectants, and peroxide is listed as more effective than either bleach or alcohol. In particular, peroxide will kill a few varieties of bacteria and spores that are resistant to other disinfectants, including bleach and alcohols.

Still, peroxide is less useful as a general disinfectant since it spontaneously decomposes at a pretty high rate. That bottle in your medicine cabinet that’s ten years old is probably just water by now. Unless you use it up on a regular basis, you might as well stick with other more stable disinfectants.

A catalyst will merely turn peroxide into water and oxygen, effectively deactivating it. The catalyst for your contact lens solution was to prevent any residual peroxide in the lenses from oxidizing your eyeballs.

Philster’s list is for disinfectants, i.e. killing microorganisms on solid surfaces, not antiseptics. You can afford to use harsh chemicals on non-living surfaces, so you wouldn’t bother with something less effective like 3% hydrogen peroxide. A stronger solution of hydrogen peroxide could be used as a disinfectant but there are handling issues that make it unattractive compared to something like bleach.

Ironically enough, oxygen is actually a pretty good oxidant on it’s own. Those bubbles, in fact will help disinfect. I’d be willing to bet, that bubbling pure oxygen through water, would also be a somewhat effective disinfectant.


Of course, the difficulty with oxygen as a disinfectant is getting enough contact with the microbes.

I’ve heard that hydrogen peroxide should not be used on the skin as it will also destroy healthy cells.