Reaction Between Hydrogen Peroxide and Potassium Permanganate – Is it Useful?Faizan Khan
Hydrogen peroxide is the first thing that comes to mind when you read the word oxidation. It is one of the most popular agents in the market with profound implications. The excellent disinfecting and bleaching properties of hydrogen peroxide are second to none.
However, potassium permanganate is another oxidizing agent that can give hydrogen peroxide a run for its money. It is the most used oxidizing agent in organic chemistry as well as in the industries. Moreover, some even go about and use permanganate to treat wounds and disinfect.
So what happens when you combine these two agents? Do they cancel out each other in a decisive battle, or do they work together in harmony to produce more profound results?
Let’s dive right into both compounds’ chemistry to better understand how they work and what their implications are.
Chemical Reaction Between Hydrogen Peroxide and Potassium Permanganate
Hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are two of the most widely used oxidizing agents. Both of them have excellent oxidizing properties that make them an essential tool in industries as well as households.
However, what happens when two of these oxidizing titans collide? Who oxidizes who, and is the chemical reaction any fruitful?
Potassium permanganate is one of the most potent oxidizing agents in inorganic chemistry. This property can be attributed to the highly electropositive manganate ion. The core manganese has an oxidizing state of +7 when it is present in the potassium permanganate compound, which is the highest possible oxidation state for a lone element to achieve.
Therefore, when hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are mixed, the former acts as a reducing agent while the latter as an oxidizing agent.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of chemical reactions!
Nature and Mechanism of the Chemical Reaction
We have established that when hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are mixed, a reaction occurs. But what is the nature of this chemical reaction? And are there any specific conditions that drive this reaction?
The hint for the nature of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate reaction lies in their properties. Like many other reactions, one substrate acts as an oxidizing agent while the other is a reducing agent. Such types of reactions are called Redox reactions.
Similarly, in this reaction, the potassium permanganate acts as an oxidizing agent, which means it loses oxygen and the oxidation state of the manganate ion reduces. On the other hand, the hydrogen peroxide ion receives the oxygen atom and acts as a reducing agent. The oxidizing state of oxygen, in this case, becomes more positive.
Hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate undergo a redox reaction in an acidic medium. Most commonly, the acidic medium is provided by sulphuric acid (from which the sulfate ion of manganese sulfate is obtained).
When an acidic medium is provided, potassium permanganate can gain five electrons to make a manganese oxide ion. Moreover, the peroxide ion loses two of its electrons to make oxygen.
The manganate ion reacts with the free sulfate ions in the solution (due to acidity) and forms manganese sulfate.
The final products obtained from this redox reaction are potassium hydroxide, manganese sulfate, oxygen, and water.
Here the oxidizing state of manganese decreases from +7 in permanganate to +2 in the sulfate form. Therefore, the ion is said to be reduced.
Similarly, the oxidizing state of oxygen increases from -1 in hydrogen peroxide to 0 (neutral) in the molecular oxygen form. Therefore, the ion is said to be oxidized.
When it comes to the uses of the products formed, oxygen and manganese are widely used in industries! Manganese sulfate is widely used in the fertilizers industry as a supplement for plants that lack manganese. This element is a major contributor to the photosynthesis process in the plants, as well as nitrogen fixation and respiration.
Manganese sulfate is further used as a raw material in manufacturing glazes, varnishes, ceramics, and even fungicides!
Most of the molecular oxygen produced in the redox reaction of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate is liberated in gaseous form. However, with proper management techniques, it can be used as an oxidizing agent.
How to Perform This Reaction With Proper Safety Precautions?
You can study the effects of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate under laboratory settings. To do that, take some purple potassium permanganate into a test tube and fill it a quarter of its length. Make sure that you are adequately gloved and goggled, as these chemicals can be corrosive and harmful to your skin in higher concentrations.
Before you add in hydrogen peroxide, make sure to pour some concentrated sulphuric acid into the test tube as well. Here is where extensive care is needed. Sulphuric acid is highly corrosive and damaging in high amounts. If you are not someone proficient in handling laboratory equipment, we recommend experimenting under the supervision of an expert.
Now here is where the fun part begins. Take some hydrogen peroxide in a pipette and start pouring it into the purple substance in the test tube. You will immediately start to notice the bubbling phenomenon. That is the oxygen liberated from the reaction of two chemicals. Next, start mixing the chemicals using a stirrer and notice how the purple color starts to dilute.
If an adequate concentration of hydrogen peroxide is poured into the test tube, the purple color will vanish. This indicates that potassium permanganate has completely reacted with the hydrogen peroxide and formed manganese sulfate, potassium hydroxide, and oxygen.
The phenomenon is also known as the titration method under systematic chemistry language. And it is a routine experiment in labs where the working of potassium manganate is to be observed.
Which One Is the Better Oxidizing Agent – Hydrogen Peroxide or Potassium Permanganate?
One may deduce from hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate reactions that as the latter act as an oxidizing agent against the former, it is the better of the two oxidizing agents. However, that is certainly not the case!
When it comes to oxidizing properties, there are many factors you should take into account. For once, you cannot use a highly potent oxidizing agent on the skin. And neither is a mild oxidizing agent effective in industrial settings. Therefore, when declaring an oxidizing agent as the “better one”, you should specify the situation first.
Nonetheless, potassium permanganate is indeed a more potent oxidizing agent than hydrogen peroxide. However, the oxidizing properties of potassium permanganate can be destructive, which makes it an advantageous raw material in industries. In some instances, a dilute solution of potassium permanganate can also be picked up, cleaning the wounds or disinfecting surfaces.
However, hydrogen peroxide is a far more popular option when it comes to human and household use. It has all the necessary properties that a good cleaning agent needs. Where potassium permanganate can clean and disinfect wounds, too, it releases unnecessary by-products. But, with hydrogen peroxide, that is not the case. After breaking down, hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen and water. Both of these chemicals are perfectly safe for human use, making hydrogen peroxide a better pick.
Thus, if you are looking for an industrial setting where extensive oxidation is required, potassium permanganate is your pick. However, for household and human use, hydrogen peroxide is the way to go!
Some Conjoined Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide and Potassium Permanganate
Hydrogen peroxide and permanganate are both excellent oxidizing agents with a plethora of uses. However, what happens when you combine both of them?
Listed below are some of the most common uses of hydrogen peroxide and permanganate solution:
1. Medication for Dermatitis
Dermatitis refers to the inflammation of the skin and its associated symptoms. Generally, this term covers common skin irritations that involve itchy, dry skin, or a rash. Moreover, conditions like blisters, ooze, crust, or flake-off may also be seen in dermatitis.
There are three common types of dermatitis, atopic (eczema), seborrheic and contact dermatitis. Atopic and contact dermatitis occur as an allergic response against foreign irritants, while seborrheic dermatitis refers to dandruff and scaly patches of the scalp.
In all of these conditions, hydrogen peroxide becomes a must-have. According to various studies, hydrogen peroxide has cellular mechanisms which inhibit the immune response by decreasing the production of associated cytokines (chemicals that accentuate immune response). Moreover, by mixing hydrogen peroxide with potassium permanganate, you can have a more potent oxidizing effect.
However, it is highly recommended to consult your doctor before directly applying the mixture to your face.
2. For Cleaning Wounds
Hydrogen peroxide is classically known for cleaning wounds. It has been used to clean wounds for as long as people can remember. The bubbling action of hydrogen peroxide is a story of every household, which makes it a trusty companion of your first aid toolbox!
The cleaning properties of hydrogen peroxide can be attributed to the free oxygen it liberates. Oxygen is one of the most extraordinary medicinal agents we have. It can oxidize the bacterial cell wall, which is primarily composed of simple fatty acids and lipids. This change in the cell wall composition allows oxygen to kill virtually all kinds of bacteria and pathogens without discrimination.
Combine this action with potent oxidizing properties of potassium permanganate, and you have got yourself a warhead against opportunistic bacteria and pathogens!
Moreover, hydrogen peroxide at lower concentrations like 3% hydrogen peroxide is entirely safe for human use. However, you have to wash away the hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate solution with due time to avoid unwanted irritations. You should not let the mixture contact your skin for longer than 5-10 minutes.
Similar principles can be applied against the bacteria and pathogens resting on surfaces. Every day, millions of bacteria are entering and leaving our homes. And some of them can stick to various objects and multiply. This phenomenon is mainly seen in the recent coronavirus, which can last on a surface for up to 3 days!
Therefore, the need for a disinfectant arises. And not just any disinfectant, but an organic one that can clean the surfaces without eliminating poisonous byproducts. And hydrogen peroxide ticks all the checkboxes! Not only is it easy and economical, but it is very much safe too. So for surfaces like kitchen countertops, hydrogen peroxide becomes a favorite as disinfectants like bleach can poison your food.
Mixing hydrogen peroxide with potassium permanganate is an effective strategy to boost the disinfecting properties. In addition, this allows both of them to release their oxygen, which, as we know, is a potent antimicrobial agent!
So far, the properties of hydrogen peroxide we have discussed are somewhat related to the cleaning and disinfecting properties caused by its oxygen. However, the oxidizing properties of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate has so much more to offer!
Such oxidizing properties are mainly seen in removing foul odors from surfaces. More particularly, the ones caused by bacteria and skunk odors. As you may know, skunk odors are notorious for being contagious and stubborn. Hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate can provide a solution. Most foul skunk odor is hydrogen sulfate and aldehyde products, which are not easy on the nose. Hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate can oxidize these chemicals into odorless or even sweet-smelling products, thereby relieving you of this problem!
More implications of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate’s oxidizing properties can be seen in the industries. Nitric acid and sulphuric acid are two of the most critical chemicals in modern industries. They both require extensive oxidation during their manufacturing (Ostwald and Contact process). Therefore, hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are the picks for many industries as they quickly liberate the required oxygen.
Another important candidate for the oxidizing properties of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate is the mining industry. The minerals obtained from the Earth are impure and chemically adhered to sulfides and oxides. Hydrogen peroxide and permanganate especially can react with those impurities and provide a pure mineral!
5. Treating Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Here is where many antibiotics and disinfectants fail. Bacterial infections and fungal infections are complicated to get rid of. That’s because they can develop immunity against the applied agent and become resistant through time.
A particular example is staph aureus which, after surviving rigorous antibiotic treatments, transformed into MRSA. This pathogen is exceptionally contagious and difficult to treat, and highly specific antibiotics are required to combat them.
On the other hand, the trusty bottle of hydrogen peroxide is ever-lasting! Because of its oxidizing properties, MRSA or any other bacteria cannot develop immunity so easily as it targets the most functional components of the bacteria, its cell wall, and cell membrane. These similar oxidation properties are also seen in treatment with potassium permanganate.
Fungi are a nasty class of organisms that are very hard to get rid of. But as you might have guessed by now, hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are also very effective in neutralizing these stubborn organisms. The fungi cell wall is made up of chitin which is a complex form of carbohydrate. And oxygen can easily react and change the composition of this cell wall, thereby removing the infectious fungi.
Some of the common fungi infections like ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, and yeast infections are easily treated by the oxidizing properties of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate.
6. Managing Dermatitis
As mentioned above, dermatitis is an allergic response that occurs over your skin. They can range from small itchy patches to full-blown blisters and rashes.
The oxygen from hydrogen peroxide is shown to inhibit the formation of mitochondrial cytokines that inhibit the immune response against the allergen, thereby reducing inflammation and redness.
If you regularly get dermatitis, you may want to aim for creams and ointments that have hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate as their ingredients.
7. Sterilizing Equipment
In hospitals, more particularly in the surgical wards, hundreds of types of equipment are used to examine and operate on patients. And most often, they are covered by a myriad of germs and bacteria, which can lead to severe complications in direct contact with the internal body parts.
Therefore it is essential to remove all types of bacteria and germs from the equipment before operating on a patient. And you have to make sure that the equipment is completely stripped off from the germs.
Instead of buying new equipment, every time doctors operate, they have adopted an effective system that can kill almost all the germs. It involves treating the equipment with organic disinfecting agents like hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate. And then boiling them at high temperatures to ensure a thorough clean
By this method, hospitals save millions of dollars and ensure that the equipment is clean and safe to use!
Some General Precautions You Must Take While Handling Caustic Chemicals
The utmost precaution you must take while performing the potassium permanganate and hydrogen peroxide titration is handling the concentrated sulphuric acid used in the experiment. Sulphuric acid is an extremely corrosive chemical. Therefore, if you are not someone who has profound experience in handling equipment, it is best to perform it under the supervision of an expert.
Moreover, make sure you have gloves and goggles on throughout the experiment. Hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate themselves have skin-irritating properties if they can rest there for more extended periods.
In addition to the above-mentioned points, make sure that the surface you are using hydrogen peroxide on is not darkly colored. Hydrogen peroxide has bleaching properties, and it may cause discoloration of the surface and carpets if applied without testing first. It is ideal for testing the surface you are using hydrogen peroxide on with some drop and checking for any discolorations.
The Final Verdict
Hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are both excellent oxidizing agents that yield outstanding results. However, just hydrogen peroxide is enough for the applications we mentioned in the article.
Combining potassium permanganate with hydrogen peroxide makes the process rather complicated and yield similar results at best. Permanganate can accentuate the oxidizing capacity of hydrogen peroxide in some scenarios. But it is rather impractical to combine these compounds when using them for daily life.
This can make even an easy process strenuous and extended. Moreover, potassium permanganate is a lot more expensive than regular 3% hydrogen peroxide. So we recommend using just hydrogen peroxide for your daily tasks. However, permanganate can be used to study the working of hydrogen peroxide under laboratory conditions.
With that in mind, grab your set of hydrogen peroxide bottles today!