If a terrorist attack has left an area contaminated with nerve gas, chances are no one wants to add any other noxious substances to it. Using conventional chlorine- and lye-based decontamination agents, however, that’s exactly what’s happening. Not only can these substances run off and harm people or the environment, they can also react with the very materials they’re cleaning up, forming new toxic substances. It is for reasons such as these that the US military has developed Decon Green - a non-toxic set of ultra-strength cleaners.

The chief ingredient in all the Decon Green products is hydrogen peroxide, as found in household cleaners and whitening toothpaste. Mixed with non-toxic bases such as bicarbonates, it produces highly-reactive ions called peroxyanions. These ions are said to completely break down substances such as nerve gas and mustard gas, as opposed to just washing them away.

Decon Green has also been proven effective at killing anthrax spores, and at removing radioactive cesium and cobalt from smooth surfaces. One of the formulas can work in sub-zero temperatures, while another can be transported as a powder, then mixed with water on-site.

Given the public appetite for military-grade products like Humvees, one has to wonder if there will come a time when Decon Green is available for cleaning your garage, or perhaps your teenage son’s bedroom. It seems unlikely, although given that almost all the ingredients are said to be found in food, cosmetics, hygiene products, or vitamin pills, perhaps you could make your own.

The research was recently published in Industrial Engineering and Chemistry Research.