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How to Make Your Own “Green” Mouthwash

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Bottles in a WindowEvery year I make my ritual visit to my local dentist for a routine cleaning, and every year I get the “you should really be using mouth-wash” speech. And every year I get sent home with my bag of dental goodies, including a little bottle of Crest mouthwash.

OK, I get it.

Mouth-wash is an important part of my teeth-cleaning-routine. After four years in braces and becoming a mother (something about the hormones affecting teeth enamel). As the EcoDiva, and the champion of all things organic, natural and non-toxic, I have to do what I know it right – “read the label”.

If you’ve never taken the time to read the label on your mouth-wash, you may be shocked, as I was, to learn about some extra unwanted ingredients that are not all that great for your teeth OR your health in general. Here is a list of ingredients (mostly un-pronounceable) directly from my Crest Pro-Health bottle of alcohol free mouth wash:

Active Ingredients

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride: according to Environmental Working Group’s Human Toxome Project this main ingredient is a “Pesticide, antibacterial agent; causes skin irritation, lesions, eye irritation, allergy; in animals, linked also to respiratory irritation, neurotoxicity

Inactive Ingredients

  • Water
  • Glycerin : A good solvent and pretty harmless to skin when diluted.
  • Flavor: This can mean a myriad of things but generally used to indicate a taste or aroma has been added. This can also be used to mask multiple chemical ingredients. If it’s natural… why not just say so.
  • Poloxamer 407: According to Tom’s of Maine, this is “Derived from natural gas and oil, Poloxamer 335 and 407 belong to a category of ingredients generally known as surfactants” which “make it possible for oil-based ingredients to be dissolved into a water-based solution.” Another negative – it’s a derivative of a non-renewable resource.
  • Methylparaben and Propylparaben: Parabens are a huge no-no in the world of natural health, beauty and personal care products. These are used as antifungal and antibacterial agents and used as a preservative. Also found as : Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Butylparaben. . According to OrganicConsumers.org, Parabens have been found in extensive testing of “the chemical form of the Parabens found in 18 of the 20 tumors tested indicated that they originated from something applied to the skin, the most likely candidates being deodorants antiperspirants, creams, or body sprays.”
  • Sodium saccharin: In low doses as found in mouthwash, this is relatively harmless.  According to the Environmental Working Group, the safety scores are less then great.
  • Blue 1 – : Added for the blue hue of course.

How to Make Your Own Mouthwash

So, now that you are running scared, let’s take a look at another alternative -making your own mouthwash that will do the job, minus the toxic twist. Using a mouthwash is great for your gums and keeps your breath minty fresh (as well as making you more pleasant to be around!). There are some amazing natural ingredients that can do the job of the conventional brand.

The Ingredients

Warning: This recipes contains alcohol, so please do not give to children. Check with your child’s dentist to find a natural, alcohol-free alternative.

  • 6 tbsp of high proof vodka
  • 10 drops of peppermint (or fennel) oil
  • 2 drops of organic lemon juice
  • 1 drop of thyme (or chamomile) essential oil

Directions

Pour the alcohol into a clean sterilized glass bottle or jar, add the essential oils one at a time, shake well. Make sure to label the bottle clearly “Mouth Wash”. For each use, add a few teaspoons to a glass of warm water and stir well. Store in the refrigerator for longer shelf-life. Enjoy!

(Photo: calliope)

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37 Responses to “How to Make Your Own “Green” Mouthwash”

  1. tom says:

    that sounds like a crazy shot the bar around the corner would mix

    • Elena says:

      Tom,

      In my follow-up post to this, I will be comparing some natural brands of mouth-wash along with a few more recipes that do not require alcohol. I was skeptical on this particular recipe as well, and was curious how everyone would feel about it.

      Thanks for the comment ;)

      Best,
      Elena

      • Molly says:

        Hi Elena, the concept is great, but the recipe leaves something to be desired! There are several alcohol-free mouthwash recipes using various herbal/oil antiseptics at the Care2 website, including here: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/6-diy-dental-tips.html
        I hope to get my husband off the commercial stuff!

        • Elena says:

          Molly,

          Thank you for the site tip. These are great. I think I will be moving on from the alcohol recommendations. The more I research alternatives, the more I see there are much better options. I will follow-up with a thorough review of better option.

          Thank you,
          Elena

    • Linda says:

      Sure does! Okay, what I would do is NOT dilute it with water until I get ready to use it. That way you can just keep it undiluted (therefore no refrigeration needed) and dilute a bit of it for each time I use it. Those small cups that are used in bathroom cup dispensers would work great for this.

  2. Caitlin says:

    Images in posts don’t seem to be working in the RSS feed for some reason (I’m using Google Reader). Now to read the post…

  3. Caitlin says:

    I think we need a better word than “chemicals” for articles like this. Anything made of matter is made of chemicals. Lemon juice is made of chemicals. It’s not something that means “bad” or “unnatural”.

    • Elena says:

      Caitlin,

      That’s a great point. I am now investigating some natural brands of mouthwash on the market to see how they compare to the conventional brands. As with everything it is a journey of discovery.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      Elena

  4. Steven says:

    I’m thinking this mouth wash is useless because the alcohol concentration is too low.

    You’re going to want something at least 50% alcohol, and this article says 60-90 is optimal.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=88911

    • Elena says:

      Steven,

      Great point. Have you tried making a recipes that works for you? I am just getting into this whole world of green cleaning for teeth. Any tips would be great!

      Best,
      Elena

    • Sharon H. says:

      But the 60-90% cited seems to be for purposes of sterilization of flat surfaces, as in prepping skin for surgery or cleaning countertops as in a hospital.

      I can’t imagine we want to kill off cells in our mouth to that extent. And the alcohol seems to work by making cells unable to replicate, so it would be more effective against quickly reproducing germs than skin cells (one hopes).

  5. zapeta says:

    I usually just get away with using the first ingredient for my mouthwash. :)

    On a more serious note, thanks for sharing this. If the alcohol concentration is too low as Steven suggests, just switch to Everclear!

  6. My Journey says:

    I always jump back and forth between natural products and chemical products – what do you think of Tom’s products?

    • Elena says:

      I just got the Tom’s brand to test out today. Watch for my full review of several brands coming soon. The ingredients looked good, but 1 still caught my eye as not great.

      Thanks for your comment.
      ;)
      Elena

  7. Very interesting! I’d definitely like to hear about natural brands.

  8. Patrick says:

    Wow, never knew you could use drinking alcohol for mouthwash. I’m sure many adults wouldn’t mind just drinking this mixture after making it :)

  9. Alcohol alone is a good disinfectant. Its used to clean wounds, naturally if you swish it around in your mouth you will kill off a good percent of the germs. In a normal mouthwash, we spit out the alcohol but here its the same one we normally drink. 70% is a suffice concentration.

  10. Interesting idea, but I think I’d probably poison myself and die if I tried this!

    I think I’d rather pay $5 bucks for a bottle of ACT!

    • Elena says:

      I do like ACT! Used it for 4 years while I had braces. It’s been a while since I’ve read the list of ingredients. I’ll have to check them out again.

      ;)

      Thanks for your comment!
      Elena

  11. Steven says:

    On a side note, I believe there have been studies linking excessive alcohol (ethanol) consumption to oral cancer.

    Most alcoholics I know never let their drinks sit for long, let alone “swish” it in their mouth to taste it, so if they get oral cancer…

    Also, you’re killing the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria and drying out your mouth as well when you rinse with mouth wash.

    Typically, if you brush and floss consistently, mouth wash won’t be necessary.

    Man this post is fragmented.

    • Elena says:

      Hi Steven,

      I will be following up to this post with some great non-alcohol alternatives as well as a review of natural products on the market.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Best,
      Elena

  12. cvs says:

    CVS has there own version of Mouthwash with fluoride, and no alcohol.

  13. Sue says:

    Before I retired from Grocery Land, I spent years in natural food stores (management and opening new stores).

    That said, did you folks know that Tom’s Of Maine is now part of the Proctor and Gamble empire? A couple years ago, Tom and Kate “sold” the company to Colgate for $100 million, but still kept a 16% ownership state.

    P&G wanted to have a larger presence in natural food stores,and said it was an easy jump for them to buy Tom’s of Maine as Tom’s is the #1 brand of natural toof-paste in America.

    I’m not thrilled with Tom selling to Proctor & Gamble and reading P & G’s press release as to why they purchased Tom’s (all for profit, really nothing about how natural/organic choices may be better for all of us), I’m using the last of my Tom’s toof-paste that was a true money maker for me.
    (The store paid me $1.50 to buy 5 tubes: a Tom’s clearance toof-paste + $1.00 off coupons + a $10 Longs gift card for the purchases).

    My son recently told me about Tea Tree Therapy’s “Tea Tree Toof-paste with Baking Soda”. It’s incredible!

    Tea tree oil is nature’s antiseptic. The tea tree oil cleans teeth, prevents tartar build-up and also keeps gums healthier. It truly keeps my mouth clean without having to buy mouthwash at all.

    It’s pricey–usually about $6.45/5 oz tube, but if you stock up when it’s on sale and add coupons available from Tea Tree then it’s only about $2.99. (I got it for about $2.50 as my son works at a natural foods store which offers a 20% discount for employees and their families).

    I’m switching to Tea Tree toof-paste after using Tom’s of Maine for more years than I can count. Just my 2 cents, but I didn’t know if many people know that Tom’s of Maine is no longer just “Tom and Kate”.
    PS And yes, I know how most folks spell “toothpaste”, but when our kiddos were little, they always said: “toof-paste”.

    • Steven says:

      Antiseptic is only one of the functions of toothpaste. Toothpaste normally includes “grit” as an abrasive to scrub off the plaque. Might want to check for fluoride as well.

      Not trying to be cynical about natural products, but many times, it’s just ignorance. When you switch, you need to know what the original purpose is as well as the mechanism for achieving that purpose.

      I’m a materials engineer by trade, and in my line of work, I’ve seen some parts designed to fail, just to increase sales. So, when we get the part to analyze, not only do we improve the part so they fail less and have to replace less, but we sell it at a discount from the OEM/brand name as well.

      I think about this stuff daily, so I’m quite skeptical about many natural replacement products, unless they have been well thought out.

  14. daemondust says:

    But whatever will we do without an unnatural color?

    While I do understand the desire for a mouthwash, rinsing with water, flossing, and brushing do a lot more for overall oral health. In fact, the drying effects of the alcohol can exacerbate existing problems.

    4:1 by volume of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and a drop or two of peppermint or other flavoring oil makes a great toothpaste. Baking soda works as a gentle abrasive to scrub your teeth clean, the peppermint oil makes it taste good and leaves you with ‘minty fresh’ breath, and the peroxide helps whiten, while providing a bit of an effervescent quality to work things out from between teeth.

  15. Aaron says:

    hey-

    This all makes good sense to me except the lemon juice. I’ve always heard that lemon is especially harsh on teeth, as in “you better brush your teeth after eating a piece of lemon.” I would leave it out of the mouthwash, although it is only 2 drops.

  16. Chris says:

    Are there any safer, greener alternatives at the store?

  17. Wilma says:

    Unfortunately when a big name company buys a small time natural or organic name product, it no longer will be natural or organic. They will fool with the recipe and use cheaper ingredients to make the big bucks. You must read the ingredients list. Buyer always beware and always read and always do your research. It may save your life to know the products you use.

  18. mary says:

    So why the peppermint and other oil mixed in the vodka. why not just dilute the vodka

  19. Ann Woods says:

    Delighted to find an alcohol-free, horrid-ingredient-free recipe. I had just had dental surgery and after they had me on Peridex for a couple of days, I learned that it turns your teeth BLACK!!!–which fact is nowhere to be found on the label. I had to “extract” it from the dental assistant; all the DDS told me was that it might “stain” my teeth. So then I began looking for a good (i.e., alcohol-free, safe) mouthwash as a substitute and, like you, found their labels shocking and began this search. So this is my question: somewhere I heard that one could use spearmint oil as well; is it safe in mouthwash? And if one doesn’t use vodka, for an alcohol-free version, what can one substitute? I tried a drop of tea tree oil in one effort–leaves the mouth feeling fresh, but is it safe to do, if really well diluted?
    Thanks.

  20. Ann Woods says:

    This is in response to Sue’s information about Tom’s of Maine being sold to P&G. I’d suspected something had happened when some months ago I bought Tom’s of Maine dental floss: it was awful: just shredded every time I attempted to pull in off. Despite their 16% stake, it seems Tom and Kate have little say in quality control. Now I know what happened, and where I can turn for better products. I too love tea tree oil for/in a variety of things, among them my deodorant and even my toothpaste, which is not from Tea Tree Therapy but from Desert Essence, which seems another responsible company. Thanks again.

  21. Ann says:

    Glad to see some alternatives to using any sort of alcohol in a mouthwash being offered and discussed. I too had doubts about using vodka in place of cetyl alcohol and wondered if there might any important difference. I agree with many of the previous posts about flossing and good brushing obviating any need for mouthwash under normal circumstances. My need came just after oral surgery, or whenever advised to limit brushing and the area is too sore to allow flossing thoroughly. Even though one is eating only soft foods, they leave residues too, that can make your mouth feel stale.


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