The best mouthwash you can buy

Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

the best mouthwash

Shutterstock/Business Insider

  • Used in tandem with brushing, flossing, and avoiding salt water taffy before bed, a good mouthwash can play a pivotal role in your oral health and hygiene regimen.
  • Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash is our top choice thanks to its ADA-accepted, clinically-proven ability to kill off germs that contribute to plaque buildup, bad breath, and gum disease.
Every time you gargle an ounce or two of mouthwash about after a meal or just before bed, you might think you're benefiting from the latest advances in chemistry and medical science. In fact, people have been using varieties of mouthwash for millennia. Advertisement

The history of mouthwash can be traced back more than 4,000 years, with ancient Chinese and Indian texts containing references to liquids used for sanitation of the mouth, though exactly what they were swishing is a mystery today. Some Ancient Romans reportedly used urine as an oral disinfectant (and, for some reason, primarily used Portuguese urine), while many Pre-Columbian Mesoamericans used rinses made of salt water often infused with plant extracts both to cleanse their teeth and to soothe aches and pains in the mouth.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the pioneering work of Sir Joseph Lister would change the way people performed surgery, with the medical community adhering to new standards of cleanliness and adopting the use of antiseptics in all surgical procedures. While first applied to an antiseptic used to sterilize surgical instruments, today the eponymous Listerine is arguably the most famous brand of mouthwash. Although Listerine has long been my household's go-to mouthwash choice, it might not be right for yours. Why? Because that stuff's intense, man, no two ways about it.

But don't worry, there are myriad brands of mouthwash out there, and many are specially formulated to appeal to narrow sectors within the oral care marketplace. So whether you're looking for intense, eye-watering rinse mouthwash that lets you know you just must be slaughtering bacteria by the millions or you prefer a gentler, more palatable rinse that won't feel like breathing fire, we've found an option for you. Whether you prefer an all-natural mouthwash made with ingredients you can readily pronounce or you want to go full-on science and trust the methyl salicylate and propylene glycol to do their thing, then you're looking in the right place.

Here are the best mouthwash brands you can buy:

Updated on 5/17/2019 by Les Shu: Updated links, formatting, and prices.

Keep scrolling to read more about our top picks.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Find all the best offers at our Coupons page.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at


The best overall

The best overall
When you gargle with Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash, you can feel it working.

As noted in the intro, I use Listerine mouthwash, two or three times daily. It's the first thing I do upon waking in the morning, the last step I take before leaving the house, and my final ablution before bedtime, too. This has been the case for nine or ten years easily, and while I've occasionally switched to knock-off brands that imitate it, I've always returned to classic blue burn-your-tongue Listerine. Why? Because I don't think the American Dental Association plays fast and loose with its ADA seal of approval.

Listerine features four active antiplaque and antigingivitis (gum disease) ingredients, which are eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, and thymol. Working in concert, these compounds help kill off bacteria that would otherwise contribute to plaque buildup, enamel breakdown, and periodontal disease.

It stings, but it works. Also, the Cool Mint leaves your breath super fresh. On Amazon, 78% of Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash customers give it 5 stars. As one put it, "the pain is worth it" for the oral hygiene results.

Pros: Effective against plaque and gingivitis, ADA-accepted formula, low price point

Cons: Burning and stinging sensation during use

Buy a 1.5-liter of Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash on Amazon for $7.47 Buy a 1.5-liter of Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash from Walmart for $6.57

The best for fresh breath

The best for fresh breath
Crest Scope Outlast Mouthwash is specifically formulated to give you a long-lasting clean feeling and fresh breath.

How does Crest Scope Outlast Mouthwash keep your breath so fresh for so long? It does so by killing the bacterium that would otherwise contribute to that dreaded halitosis. In fact, as the brand rather unscientifically puts it, Crest Scope Outlast "kills 99% of bad breath germs."

While Crest Scope Outlast has a fresh minty taste that most people love and arguably leaves the breath fresh for longer than mouthwashes from other brands, do note that while it's great for killing those "bad breath germs," this mouthwash is not as effective as others at fighting plaque or gingivitis. So gargle it when you want fresh breath, but don't necessarily treat it as a critical part of your overall oral healthcare program.

Crest Scope Outlast Mouthwash has a solid 4.5-star average rating on Amazon, with a customer saying it "doesn't burn like" other brands and "makes [her] mouth feel cleaner for half the price" of many competitors.

A video review from For Us Foodies said Outlast mouthwash did indeed leave a fresh taste and feeling for longer than other mouthwash products but questioned the "five-hour" protection Crest boasts about.

Pros: Great taste, fresh breath lasts longer than with competing brands, non-drug formula

Cons: Not highly effective against plaque or gingivitis

Buy a bottle of Crest Scope Outlast Peppermint Mouthwash on Amazon for $6.50 Buy a bottle of Crest Scope Outlast Peppermint Mouthwash from Walmart for $6.50

The best gentle mouthwash

The best gentle mouthwash
CloSYS Gentle Mint Mouthwash provides oral cleaning and freshening without the harsh burn associated with many mouthwash brands.

You know that stinging, eye-watering misery caused by so many highly astringent mouthwash products? That feeling you get where your cheeks are aflame and your gag reflex starts firing? Yeah, that's not much fun. With CloSYS Gentle Mint Mouthwash, you can kill germs, freshen your breath, and leave your mouth feeling cleaner without the savage burn of those other rinses.

CloSYS Gentle Mint Mouthwash uses an alcohol-free and fluoride-free formula that is non-irritating yet still kills 99% of the bacteria causing bad breath with just a few seconds of swishing, it claims. You can also use this ADA-approved formula for weekly toothbrush cleaning. Just soak the head of your toothbrush in CloSYS Gentle Mint Mouthwash for about a minute once a week and you'll kill off any bacteria clinging to the bristles.

Do note that the absence of fluoride means this mouthwash won't restore any dental decay, effective as it is in helping prevent further degradation.

Pros: Non-burning formula, long-lasting fresh breath, effective toothbrush cleanser

Cons: Quite expensive for the category

Buy a bottle of CloSYS Gentle Mint Mouthwash on Amazon for $11.39 Buy a bottle of CloSYS Mouthwash from Walmart for $11.48

The best natural mouthwash

The best natural mouthwash
If you prefer the fresh, clean feeling without a mouthful of chemicals, then Uncle Harry's Natural Products Miracle Mouthwash fits the bill.

Most brands of mouthwash have a lot of rather odd-sounding ingredients in them, things like polysorbate 80 and cetylpyridinium chloride and such. Not so with Uncle Harry's Natural Products Miracle Mouthwash, an oral rinse with ingredients like mustard seed powder and clove extract — the most difficult-to-pronounce ingredient is calcium carbonate, aka chalk.

By omitting a lot of those potent, often-astringent, but highly effective compounds that other mouthwashes use in their formulas, Uncle Harry's Natural Products Miracle Mouthwash renders itself little more than a freshening solution.

It will make your breath smell better and your mouth taste and feel clean, and it can neutralize acids and prevent further damage to teeth from substances sitting on the enamel, but it won't fight plaque or gum disease and it can't calcify. This is an oral rinse for freshness, not for hygiene. But used in tandem with brushing and flossing and perhaps the occasional fluoride rinse, that's fine indeed.

Uncle Harry's Natural Products Miracle Mouthwash has a 4.3-star average rating on Amazon, with one buyer praising its "strong flavor" that "doesn't burn like Listerine... and lasts a long time." Another buyer called it an "effective and super refreshing mouthwash."

Pros: All-natural formula, long-lasting fresh feeling, numbs mild oral pain

Cons: Flavor unpleasant to some people, not highly effective as antiseptic rinse

Buy a bottle of Uncle Harry's Natural Products Miracle Mouthwash on Amazon for $15.95

The best fluoride mouthwash

The best fluoride mouthwash
ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash is clinically proven to both prevent tooth decay and to restore teeth already afflicted with mild decalcification issues.

Most mouthwashes kill off bacteria that cause bad breath. Some mouthwashes fight the bacteria that can cause gum disease and help break up plaque, thus preventing the development of cavities. ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash takes things a step farther than that by not only preventing the development of new cavities but by actually repairing minor cavities, potentially preventing the need for a dentist's intervention.

If you use ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash as part of your regular oral care routine, there's a good chance you can avoid fillings (or crowns or root canals, for that matter!) altogether. The 0.05% concentration of sodium fluoride found in the formula is actually that effective.

That said, ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash has to be used with more care and caution than most mouthwash products. You're only supposed to swish 10 milliliters at a time (most rinses recommend 20 ml) and children under the age of 12 are advised to use the product only with adult supervision. Kids under six aren't advised to use it at all.

Unlike many types of mouthwash that are perfectly suitable for use multiple times a day, it's best to reserve use of ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash for three to four uses weekly, and only after brushing. Also, don't eat or drink anything for at least a half hour after use, or you'll greatly reduce the efficacy of the fluoride treatment.

In addition to Listerine, I use ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash every other night, as do a lot of other Amazon customers, who have given the product a 4.4-star overall rating. A longtime user named Kathryn says she gets "great dental reports on the condition of [her] teeth," while buyer named Nicole calls it "dentist recommended for [her] sensitive teeth."

A article says it can "restore the health of your teeth."

Pros: Prevents and restores cavities, effective with thrice-weekly use, gentle non-stinging formula

Cons: Can be dangerous if swallowed in volume

Buy 18-fluid-ounce bottle of ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse Mouthwash on Amazon for $8.46 Buy 1-liter bottle of ACT Anticavity Flouride Rinse Mouthwash from Walmart for $5.54

Check out our other great oral health buying guides

Check out our other great oral health buying guides
The best toothbrushes you can buy

There's plenty to be said for the classic manual toothbrush: It can't run out of batteries and it's compact, lightweight, and portable. The Oral-B Pro-Health All-in-One Soft Bristle Toothbrush is our top pick because its myriad bristle types and built-in tongue, cheek, and gum cleaners leave your whole mouth clean and fresh.

You might also like the Primal Life Organic Charcoal Infused Bamboo Toothbrush, the SmileMakers Pre-Pasted Disposable Toothbrushes, the Colgate Premier Extra Clean Toothbrushes, and the Fridababy SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush.


The best electric toothbrushes you can buy

If you want clean teeth and healthy gums without breaking your budget, you can't go wrong with the highly effective Oral-B Pro 1000 electric toothbrush.

You might also like the Waterpik Complete Care Water Flosser and Sonic Toothbrush, the Philips Sonicare for Kids, the Oral-B Pro 7500 Electric Toothbrush, the Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control, and the Fairywill Sonic Electric Toothbrush.


The best teeth whitening kits you can buy

The best teeth whitening kits come with everything you need to whiten your teeth, are easy to use, and do not irritate your gums or teeth. The Active Wow Teeth Whitening Charcoal Powder has all of these features, plus it's affordable, does not use harmful chemicals, and comes in different flavors.

You might prefer the Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips, the Advanced Teeth Whitening Strips Kit by Utilax, the GLO Science Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device, and the Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit.