Welcome to my weekly featured ”IN WITH THE NEW” CLEAN SWAP! This week we are taking a closer look at mouth wash.

I’m always fielding questions from clients and friends about how they can swap out some of their favorite products for safer, toxin-free options without a loss in quality, taste, or performance (depending on the product). Every week, I cover food, cosmetics, personal care, cleaning and laundry products, and even behavior, so if you enjoy these Clean Swaps, please follow me on Instagram and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (⬅️by clicking on this link to the left) so that you never miss a new one.

Let’s talk mouth wash 👅🌱

Homemade mouthwash, such as salt rinses, vinegar, alcohol and plants, has been around for thousands of years. In the 1870's, Listerine was introduced and originally used as an antiseptic to reduce infections after surgery. It was also sold as a floor cleaner!😮

Listerine took off as a mouth rinse in 1920’s, after a series of ads promoting it as a cure for chronic halitosis (i.e., bad breath). Prior to the ad campaign, people didn’t worry much about their breath, but the ads resonated, and Listerine’s sales shot up by some 8,000% (yes, that’s 3 zeros!) in under 10 years.

Today, drugstore shelves are teeming with a vast variety of mouthwashes and rinses, and many consumers are convinced that these are a critical part of improving and maintaining oral health.


There is more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on Earth, and the majority of these organisms are necessary to protect you against more harmful bacteria. Antibacterial mouthwash indiscriminately kills off all kinds of bacteria, including the good guys. This can result in an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and lead to infection.

Furthermore, mouthwash does not replace the need for regular brushing and flossing. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that their mouth is clean when it isn’t. This can increase their risk of plaque, infection and cavities.

But what about the ingredients? Let's take a closer look at what you're putting in your mouth. 🧐

🚫 ALCOHOL can irritate oral tissues and cause dry mouth, which can ironically be one of the causes of bad breath. It can also cause sensitivity to the root surfaces of the teeth and wash away your teeth’s protective shield. This loss of protective mucous and saliva can lead to an especially vicious cycle where your teeth stain and build up plaque more easily, decay faster and cause bad breath, leading you to use more mouthwash, which just makes the problem worse. Worst of all, some studies suggest a link between alcohol-containing mouthwash and oral cancer.

🚫 SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE is a cleansing and foaming ingredient linked with dry skin, rashes, dermatitis, and impaired hair growth. It is a known irritant and has been shown to cause mouth inflammation and worsen mouth ulcers.

🚫 ARTIFICIAL FOOD DYES are present in nearly all mouthwash brands. For instance, Cool Mint Listerine contains Green 3, which has been linked to bladder cancer. Original Scope contains Yellow 5, made from a coal tar derivative, and Blue 1, which has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals.

🚫 FLAVORS, both artificial and natural, are “catch-all” terms for hundreds of undisclosed chemicals that are concocted in a lab. These ingredients are considered proprietary (just like those in fragrance or parfum) and not disclosed either on the label or to a customer who inquires – so we have no clue what is in them. The only difference between natural and artificial flavors, is that natural flavors are derived from things found in nature, which isn’t necessarily a good thing (psst: lead and arsenic are also natural). 

🚫 ACIDIC STABILIZING AGENTS make most mouthwashes as acidic as vinegar. Acid is one of the most corrosive substances in nature and studies show that rinsing your mouth with a mouthwash that contains a high concentration of acid causes a drastic increase in enamel loss, weakening teeth, making them more susceptible to tooth decay, and increasing sensitivity to hot and cold.

🚫 FLUORIDE is a known neurotoxin and is linked to IQ loss and ADHD. It’s also an endocrine disruptor and slowly kills off the thyroid (it's original use was to treat hyperthyroidism—an overactive thyroid—and it slows down thyroid function), which regulates all of the body’s metabolic processes. Not only will a sluggish thyroid make you fat and tired, but it will make you sick too.

🚫 SODIUM BENZOATE can create free radicals in the body, destroying mitochondrial DNA, speeding up the body's natural aging process. When combined with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or citric acid, it forms benzene, a known carcinogen. 

🚫PARABENS disrupt our hormonal balance which can lead to early puberty in children & an increased risk of hormonal cancers. It is also linked to birth defects & organ toxicity.

🚫 CHLORHEXIDINE can temporarily alter your sense of taste, and isn’t recommended for long-term use.

🚫 COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE is a surfactant and has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.

🚫 FORMALDEHYDE (aka quanternium-15) is classified as a “probable human carcinogen” and can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat as well as coughing, wheezing, nausea and skin irritation.

🚫 SODIUM SACCHARIN, a synthetic ingredient, manufactured from petroleum products. It is a possible carcinogen and has been linked to bladder cancer in animals.


Mouthwash plays a fairly minor role in the prevention of plaque and gum disease. If get regular professional cleanings and brush and floss properly, mouthwash is not a necessary component in maintaining healthy teeth. However, if you love the feeling of rinsing your mouth, try a safer alternative like Dr. Brite Natural Whitening Mouthwash with Activated Charcoal.

It’s organic, alcohol-free, cruelty-free, and fluoride-free, contains no artificial colors, and comes in a BPA-free container. Best of all, it’s EWG-verified, which means that this product meets meet EWG's strictest standards for your health and contains none of EWG's chemicals of concern.

Clean Swap - Dr. Brite Organic Mouthwash

DR. BRITE Mint Whitening Mouthwash

Other strategies for keeping your mouth clean and your breath fresh?

🚭 Quit smoking!

😁 Brush and floss twice a day.

👅 Don't forget your tongue!

💦 Drink lots of water. Add fresh mint and parsley. Green tea may also help.

🥗 Eat a healthy and well balanced diet. Limit sugar and grains and increase probiotics and healthy fats..

Do you have a favorite clean brand? 

Send me a message to tell me Leave a comment below and share what it is. If I like it, I may feature it (and give you props) in a future Clean Swap.

If you enjoyed this weeks’s Clean Swap, share it with a friend and sign up for my 360° OF WELLNESS Newsletter (below) so you never miss a new one.

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