The family of acidic peroxides derive their cleaning effectiveness from the combination of a strong acid with a strong oxidizer. The effectiveness of these solutions in removing organic residues is due to two separate processes.
The first is removal of hydrogen and oxygen as units of water by the concentrated acids. This dehydration process exhibits itself as the rapid carbonization of common organic materials, especially carbohydrates, when immersed.
The second process can be understood as the acid-boosted conversion of the peroxide part of the mixture from a relatively mild oxidizing agent into one sufficiently aggressive to dissolve elemental carbon, a material that is notoriously resistant to room temperature aqueous reactions.
It is this extremely reactive atomic oxygen species that allows these solutions to dissolve elemental carbon. Carbon allotropes are difficult to attack chemically because of the highly stable and typically graphite-like hybridized bonds that surface carbon atoms tend to form with each other.
The carbon removed by these solutions may be either original residues or char from the dehydration step. In time, the solutions in which organic materials have been immersed typically will return to complete clarity, with no visible traces of the original organic materials remaining.
A final minor contribution to these solutions’ effectiveness is due to their high acidity, which dissolves deposits such as metal oxides and carbonates. For substrates with low tolerance for acidity, the alkaline oxidizing solutions such as “Base Piranha” (aka SC-1) is preferred.