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How Effective Is Salt Water as a Mouthwash?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 21, 2024
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The use of salt water as a mouthwash is a relatively common practice in many places around the world. Combining a small amount of warm water with common table salt is considered helpful for killing bacteria in the mouth, as well as helping to wash away loose deposits of food on the teeth. When used as part of a regular regimen of brushing and flossing, using salt water can be very effective as a mouthwash.

Creating this type of homemade mouthwash is a simple task. Generally, a small amount of table salt dissolved in a glass of warm water is all that is needed for the task. It is important to note that as little as half of a common teaspoon in a dinner glass would be sufficient. The idea is to make sure the mouth rinse contains enough salt to kill the bacteria, but no so much that the taste is too strong for the user.

Using salt water follows the same basic approach as using a commercially produced mouthwash product. The product is held in the mouth and swished along the gums and the interior section of the mouth vigorously. During the action, the salt water helps to remove some of the buildup on teeth and gums that occurs throughout the day. The salt in the water also helps to dislodge food particles from between teeth. After swishing for about a minute, the water can be spit out into a sink or other repository. If desired, a second round of the mouthwash can be used before proceeding with brushing and flossing.

There is some difference of opinion as to whether using salt water as a mouthwash is as effective as using a commercial mouthwash product. Proponents note this solution is more environmentally friendly, as well as being cost effective while still killing the bacteria that causes bad breath. Critics tend to note that while the salt water is effective, there are no scientifically controlled tests that indicate that it is as effective in killing germs and bacteria as many of the commercial products on the market.

Along with promoting good general oral hygiene, using salt water has the benefit of being an ideal substitute when other mouthwashes are not available. The product can easily be mixed while on a camping trip or even when it is discovered there is no more mouthwash in the house. This alternative is also good for people who must avoid the alcohol or other ingredients that are often found in commercial mouthwash products, allowing them to still practice sound oral hygiene while avoiding the use of products that may cause allergic or other adverse reactions.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including BeautyAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon970499 — On Sep 18, 2014

I just read that salt water rinses are good in the short term for two ro three weeks after teeth being pulled etc or for sore but that in the long run their acidity can destroy the enamel of the teeth. Very confusing information.

By anon932639 — On Feb 12, 2014

I just used four teaspoon heaps of salt in 2/3rd glass of water and rinsed my mouth. The dehydration caused only that part of the gums to go white, which the periodontist indicated as needed cleaning due to chronic periodontal disease in that area.

Salt is a natural preservative used to preserve all kinds of fish and meat. If only I had used my knowledge in practice, I could have prevented the bio film of bacteria from eating at the root of my teeth.

Hopefully, this is the last treatment I will need from a dentist as long as I remember to wash away the bacteria a couple of times every week.

By shell4life — On Feb 18, 2013

@Kristee – It's also great for treating canker sores. I get these pesky mouth ulcers now and then, and they are so incredibly painful and irritating. They last about two weeks if I do nothing, but if I rinse with salt water, I can shave several days off that time.

The salt water rinse burns a little when it hits the sores, but it isn't as bad as rubbing baking soda right on top of them. I tried that before, and it felt like I had poured acid on them!

I gargle with salt water two to three times a day when I have canker sores. If I'm not battling the sores, I just swish it around in my mouth once a day to kill bacteria and cleanse everything.

By Kristee — On Feb 17, 2013

I've never heard of using salt water in place of a regular mouthwash. I didn't know it could loosen up particles from around your teeth.

I did know that it could be used to treat a sore throat, though. My mother always had me gargle with warm, salty water when I got a sore throat as a child.

My throat was swollen and full of mucus, and the salt water seemed to soothe the pain and wash out some of the mucus. The relief was only temporary, but I definitely felt better after gargling than before.

By orangey03 — On Feb 16, 2013

@seag47 – It should be fine. You will be gargling it and spitting it instead of swallowing it, so you will only get a tiny amount of salt in your system, if any.

As long as you can remember not to swallow, it should be safe. Since salt water doesn't taste that great, it shouldn't be too hard.

By seag47 — On Feb 16, 2013

I found out last year that I have high blood pressure. My doctor told me to reduce my sodium intake, so I have been scared to try a salt water mouthwash. Is using this kind of mouthwash dangerous for someone with high blood pressure?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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