How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Work?


I set out this week to write a short post on how Hydrogen Peroxide works in keeping float tank water clean.  The information online was so complicated that I reached out to a scientist at the Oregon Health and Science University for assistance. While much of the science is still beyond me, hopefully this post will shed some light on the chemical reaction for your own personal understanding, so you can talk with customers about how this works, as well as have a better understanding when trying to decide whether you should use H2O2, Chlorine, Bromine and or O-zone in your float tanks.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide (or H2O2) in our water is the primary way the Float Shoppe keeps our float tank water clean. Hydrogen Peroxide has historically been used to sterilize medical instruments, used for water treatment and even to bleach paper products.

First, lets look at the structure of an H202 molecule. In it we have 2 Hydrogen atoms and 2 Oxygen Atoms.

Hydrogen_peroxideHydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)

When H202 breaks down  it splits creating H2O (water) and O (oxygen).


Hydrogen Peroxide decomposing into Water and Oxygen

Because water and oxygen are the elements left over from the chemical reaction, we much prefer this over Bromine or Chlorine because of the natural products left over.

The main thing I wanted to understand when researching Hydrogen Peroxide was why my skin isn’t burned by laying in float tank water, but bacteria is destroyed. While the complete answer is still beyond my understanding, I did gain clarity during my conversation with my OHSU friend. The basics of it are that almost every living organism (including humans) have something called Catalase. Catalase is an enzyme (a large group of molecules that help sustain life in organisms) that facilitates the breakdown of H2O2 into water and oxygen. The decomposition of Hydrogen Peroxide creates energy that can be very harmful to organics. Catalase not only promote this reaction, but also protect an organism from damage when Hydrogen Peroxide breaks apart.. This means the reaction of H2O2 turning into H2O and O is not harmful to anything with Catalase. Most bacteria do not have this catalase. Because of this, the reaction is in fact harmful and destroys the organism.

The part of the equation that still remains a mystery to me is if harmful bacteria require harmless bacteria to be in the water to catalyze the reaction. Something we have found in our float tanks is that if the ppm (parts per million) of H2O2 reaches zero overnight, we will need to shock the tank with a large dose. During this time there is a lot of bubbling before our levels reach a normal ppm. My question is: Is the reaction occurring because of harmful bacteria or the non-harmful bacteria that have Catalase (and promote the effect of Hydrogen Peroxide breaking apart). Based on what I know, the harmless organics that have Catalase are necessary to incite the reaction that destroys the harmful bacteria.

Other Notes on H2O2

When dealing with Hydrogen Peroxide, safety should be a top priority. Most likely you will be dealing with high concentrations (we use 35%) that can burn your skin. For that reason we require our staff to use goggles and wear gloves when adding H2O2 to our water. Graham with Float Tank Solutions just published an great article on what type of gloves to use when dealing with H2O2 as well as general use in float tanks.

H2O2 has a half life, and will break down in storage. You will notice this reaction has occurred if your container is swelling. Keeping your containers in a cool or refrigerated environment will slow this process and increase the life of your H2O2.

H2O2 also has a pH of 6.7 which means it is slightly acidic, and will help balance the pH of your float tank water.

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6 responses to “How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Work?”

  1. Wavey Davey Avatar
    Wavey Davey

    Why don’t water companies use H202 to get water safety to your home? think about it.

    H2O2 has very slow reaction time, Chlorine will kill all new introduced bacteria and microorganisms within seconds, whereas H202 will take many hours.

    Chlorine stays in solution as a residual for days at a time, where H202 needs to be topped up throughout the day.

    Also, H202 at 35% will damage the eye permanently, even from the slightest splash

    You’ll also find that H202 does not break down Ammonia and Urea, which will get in to your tank from sweat, body oils and urine. Ammonia and Urea cause smells and when allowed to build up irritations to the skin.

    Chlorine water tests will always show zero for all bacteria – H2O2 will usually show residuals.

    H202 is only an oxidizer whereas Chlorine is a oxidizer and a disinfectant.

  2. Luke Avatar

    You say you use H2O2 primarily, what else do you use?

    I have started adding chlorine about once a week into the filter, to bind with anything the peroxide doesn’t take care of. From what I’ve heard elsewhere, it is necessary to use something in conjunction with it. I have also heard, however, that if using DE or a carbon filter, the combination of the solution and the super small filtration is all one needs. I guess the only way to be sure is to have the water tested, which at this point I’m just running one tank from home so am not too concerned about it. Just curious what other people are using.

  3. Joey La Penna Avatar

    There are two types of H2O2 for sale on Pure Health, the “Pool & Spa” and the regular Food grade, which one do you use? Is there a difference?
    Thank you

    1. Dylan Schmidt Avatar

      While I’m unsure if there truly is a difference. I and many other float centers use Food Grade 35% H202. I purchase mine through Pure Health Discounts on

      1. Joey La Penna Avatar

        Thanks for the reply Dylan. Pure Health Discounts states that there is no difference at all, only difference is the price, “Pool & Spa” being less expensive.

  4. Lisa Jones Avatar

    Dylan, can you explain why my hydrogen peroxide levels remain high after several days without adding any to the tank. We have only had a5 floats over the week but there is no drop at all when I measure using my test strips. In the beginning of setting up our tank I would 1-2 oz after each float to get my levels up to 80ppm. Now they don’t drop below 100ppm. What’s happening?

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