Hydrogen Peroxide or H2O2 has been a common additive used in the hydroponics industry for several decades and is simply water with an extra oxygen atom attached. While this may sound innocuous H2O2 is very powerful and unfortunately, with that power, it comes with risks as well.
On its own water (H2O) is a very stable molecule, but sticking the extra oxygen onto it makes for instability. This means that it is very reactive and will readily give up oxygen when other chemicals are encountered or it can spontaneously decompose into water and oxygen.
H2O2 as a Disinfectant
In higher forms of life such as plants and animals, Hydrogen Peroxide is produced under normal metabolic functions. Since it is potentially highly toxic being so reactive, plants and animals are well protected against it having enzymes known as peroxidases which can break it down quickly. On the other hand, many types of microbes do not have this ability and this gives us the advantage to exploit. Low concentrations of H2O2 can be harmful to microbes, but since plants can break it down they are immune. At a 29% concentration plants can be fed at 1-2 ml per liter of nutrient solution.
Algae also thrive in hydroponics systems. On its own, it is pretty much harmless, and at the worst, it will steal some of the nutrients. It is unsightly however and could potentially act as a vector for more serious pathogens. Hydrogen Peroxide works extremely well in controlling it.
Warning: Never use Hydrogen Peroxide in conjunction with beneficial microbes. H2O2 does not discriminate and will kill beneficials along with pathogens.
H2O2 can also be used as a general disinfectant around the grow room for things like pots, floors, and other equipment. Since it breaks down into water and oxygen it will not leave any residues. To use it in this way, dilute with 20 parts water to 1 part H2O2 along with a drop of detergent to help it penetrate. Also keep in mind that disinfectants work best once a surface is already clean, this way it is not losing potency by reacting with dirt and grime. Always use protective gloves when handling concentrated H2O2, but especially when using it in this way.
In higher concentrations H2O2 can be quite hazardous and can burn skin, being especially dangerous to the eyes. Since it degrades forming oxygen it means that inside a sealed container it will build up pressure which can cause the container to explode. The hotter the temperature the more rapidly oxygen is liberated and the more the cause for concern. Light can also cause issues, and so it is best to store it in a cool dark place. As with any chemical product, it is recommended to consult the safety data sheet (SDS) for detailed information on safe handling.
There are many claims of Hydrogen Peroxide being a miracle cure, but the scientific evidence to back this up is questionable. Under no circumstances should Hydrogen Peroxide be ingested orally. It will break down inside of the stomach forming oxygen which can increase pressures to such a point that ruptures may occur.