# When does hydrogen peroxide act as a reducing and when as an oxidising agent? [closed]

My chemistry books details out both, the oxidizing and reducing properties of hydrogen peroxide, $$\ce{H2O2}$$.

• Its reducing properties:

• It reduces $$\ce{Cl}$$ to $$\ce{HCl}$$
• It reduces $$\ce{Ag2O}$$ to $$\ce{Ag}$$
• It reduces $$\ce{K3[Fe(CN)6]}$$ (potassium ferricyanide) to $$\ce{K4[Fe(CN)6]}$$ (potassium ferrocyanide)
• Etc.
• Half equations for reduction:

• In acidic medium: $$\ce{H2O2 -> 2H+ + O2 + 2e-}$$
• In basic medium: $$\ce{H2O2 + 2OH- -> 2H2O + O2 + 2e-}$$
• Its oxidizing properties:
• It oxidizes sulphites to sulphates
• It oxidizes arsenites to arsenates
• It oxidizes nitrites to nitrates
• It oxidizes potassium ferricyanide to potassium ferrocyanide
• Etc.
• Half equations for oxidation:
• In acidic medium: $$\ce{H2O2 + 2H+ + 2e- -> 2H2O}$$
• In basic medium: $$\ce{H2O2 + 2e- -> 2OH-}$$

I was unable to find any pattern in all of the reactions I studied above (except for potassium ferrocyanide, for which the medium triggers the electron addition/removal) to recognize when hydrogen peroxide behaves as an oxidising agent and when it behaves as a reducing agent.

## closed as too broad by Mithoron, Todd Minehardt, NotEvans., airhuff, andselisk♦Sep 16 '17 at 3:46

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

• Are you familiar with reduction potentials? – gsurfer04 Jan 16 '17 at 16:49
• @gsurfer04 So you are trying to say it depends on the relative reduction potential ?Is this the only reason(I find so many exceptions in chemisty that I suspect there might be some exception here too) – Xasel Jan 17 '17 at 5:52
• The standard electrode potential ($\pu{1M}$ solution at STP) of $\ce{H2O2}$ to $\ce{H2O}$ is $\pu{+1.78V}$. The $\ce{O2}/\ce{H2O2}$ potential is $\pu{+0.70V}$. As always, changing the reaction conditions will change the thermodynamics. So if you get water, $\ce{H2O2}$ is reduced and if you get oxygen it has been oxidised. I've just noticed that you've put the ferri/ferrocyanide reaction as both reduction and oxidation. – gsurfer04 Jan 17 '17 at 11:00
• @gsurfer04 I fixed your comment (almost two years later :D). However, you generally have two options here: delete and repost, custom flag for moderator. – Martin - マーチン Nov 9 '18 at 14:15

Let us say that $$\ce{H2O2}$$ reacts with some ion $$\ce{Y+}$$. If $$+1$$ is yttrium's highest oxidation state then it will have no other option but to to get reduced to one of its lower oxidation states, and hydrogen peroxide acts as reducing agent. If this is not the case it will get oxidized to some higher oxidation state, and hydrogen peroxide will act as oxidizing agent. This is because $$\ce{H2O2}$$ is both an oxidizing and reducing agent.
In a Fenton system, $$\ce{H2O2}$$ can act as an oxidizing and reducing agent.
\begin{align} \ce{Fe(II) + H2O2 &-> Fe(III) + OH^. + OH-}\\ \ce{Fe(III) + H2O2 &-> Fe(II) + HO2^. + H+} \end{align}