Updated on February 22, 2024
6 min read

Is It Safe to Gargle With Hydrogen Peroxide?

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Is it Safe to Gargle with Hydrogen Peroxide?

Gargling with diluted hydrogen peroxide is safe when done correctly. Its potential benefits include:

  • Sore throat relief
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Teeth whitening
  • Dislodged tonsil stones

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, similar to water (H2O). However, it has different properties from those of water.

Generic Hydrogen Peroxide 35 chemical bottle

In addition to gargling, people often use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect wounds or as a cleaning agent. While it has antibacterial effects, it can also be dangerous when misused.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to gargle safely with hydrogen peroxide, the benefits of doing so, and some risks to avoid.

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What are the Benefits?

Hydrogen peroxide has several potential benefits. It can help prevent and fight oral infections, soothe throat discomfort, and whiten teeth.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “Hydrogen peroxide for oral hygiene has been used since the early 1900s to prevent gum disease and bad breath, also known as halitosis.”

These benefits aren’t as strong as prescription chlorhexidine mouthwash or professional whitening. Talk to your dentist about how to keep your teeth and gums healthy and clean.

Effect on Oral Health

Gargling with hydrogen peroxide may benefit your oral health in several ways:

  • Fighting bacteria — Hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial properties. Swishing the diluted solution can reduce the number of harmful oral bacteria in your mouth.1 It can also help prevent small cuts or canker sores in your mouth from becoming infected.
  • Reducing plaque — It’s possible that hydrogen peroxide can reduce plaque buildup over time. This may be due to its effect on oral bacteria. However, the research isn’t conclusive.1
  • Lowering inflammation — Several studies found that hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes lowered gum inflammation.1,2 It also reduced gum pocket depth, an important sign of gum disease.

Effect on Sore Throats and Oral Infections

Because of its ability to reduce oral bacteria, hydrogen peroxide may be helpful for a sore throat. While it won’t cure strep throat or other throat infections, it may reduce the overall number of bacteria in the area.

Similarly, gargling with hydrogen peroxide may help fight bacteria infecting a canker sore or other small wounds in your mouth.

Another beneficial effect of gargling with a peroxide rinse is reducing mucus buildup. When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with mucus, it makes it foamy, loose, and easier to spit out. When you spit out the peroxide, you’ll be able to get rid of some mucus as well.

For the same reason, gargling with a hydrogen peroxide solution may help loosen tonsil stones. These are small bits of calcified debris and bacteria that sometimes form in the crevices of your tonsils. Like with excess mucus, a peroxide rinse may help you to spit these out.

Teeth Whitening Effect

Hydrogen peroxide is often the active ingredient in teeth whitening products. By gargling daily with diluted hydrogen peroxide, you may be able to make your teeth whiter over a period of months.

However, this won’t be as effective as at-home whitening strips, which contain stronger hydrogen or carbamide peroxide concentrations. Professional whitening is also more effective since dentists can safely apply a higher-strength peroxide solution.

What are the Risks?

Because hydrogen peroxide is highly reactive, it comes with risks and potential benefits. This is why diluting and never swallowing it are so important.

Undiluted hydrogen peroxide can cause tissue damage and bleeding. Peroxide solutions over 3% should never be put inside your mouth or body, and solutions over 6% shouldn’t be applied to your skin.

Even highly diluted hydrogen peroxide could cause stomach pain or vomiting if swallowed. It may also cause throat, mouth, or gum irritation if you gargle with it too frequently.

Safety Precautions

To help ensure safety with hydrogen peroxide, do the following:

  • Consult a healthcare professional before using a peroxide rinse. This article is informational and doesn’t replace advice from a doctor or other medical practitioner.
  • Always start with 3% peroxide and dilute it to 1% (one part peroxide solution, two parts water).
  • Never swallow any amount of hydrogen peroxide, no matter how diluted.

For a safer alternative, try gargling with warm salt water.

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How to Gargle with Hydrogen Peroxide

Gargling with hydrogen peroxide is relatively simple. You should never swallow it and always dilute it before gargling.

These are the steps to gargling hydrogen peroxide properly:

  1. Select — The squared brown bottles you see at your local drugstore generally contain 3% hydrogen peroxide. This is the kind you’ll want to have on hand.
  2. Dilute — Home-use hydrogen peroxide is already significantly diluted, but you’ll need to dilute it further. Mix one part of the 3% peroxide with two parts of water, creating a 1% solution.
  3. Gargle — Swish the mixture for no more than 60 seconds in your mouth.
  4. Spit it out — After a full minute, spit the mixture out. Then rinse your mouth with water. Never swallow hydrogen peroxide, no matter how diluted.

Choosing the Right Hydrogen Peroxide

The right kind of hydrogen peroxide is the easiest to find in stores: 3% hydrogen peroxide. This usually comes in dark brown bottles with rectangular edges, regardless of the brand.

This solution (3% peroxide, 97% water) is safe for external cuts and scrapes but is still too strong to ensure safety when gargling. So you should dilute it even more to achieve a 1% solution.

Other concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are also available, including 6%, 12%, and 35% (food-grade hydrogen peroxide). These are generally reserved for bleaching, cleaning, food processing, etc.

Stronger concentrations of peroxide can cause chemical burns if they come into contact with your body. For gargling, stick to 3% peroxide diluted with two parts water.

Common Questions about Hydrogen Peroxide

Is gargling with salt water or peroxide better?

The main benefit of gargling with salt water rather than peroxide is that it’s safer.

Young children, for example, are more likely to accidentally swallow when they gargle. Accidentally swallowing a peroxide solution, even diluted, could cause you to vomit or feel stomach pain.

Salt water, on the other hand, doesn’t come with this risk. And like peroxide, it can help relieve soreness, fight inflammation, and clear up mucus.

How often can I gargle with hydrogen peroxide?

It’s best not to gargle with hydrogen peroxide more than twice a day. In low concentrations, hydrogen peroxide has benefits, but using it too often increases the chance of irritation or accidental swallowing.

Similarly, you should also avoid gargling with peroxide for too long. Stay within a range of 30 to 60 seconds.

Does gargling with peroxide get rid of strep throat?

Gargling with peroxide won’t get rid of strep throat, but it may relieve some symptoms. It may reduce bacteria in your throat and clear up any mucus that has built up, making your throat feel better.

Does gargling with peroxide get rid of COVID-19?

In short, no. One review suggested that mouthwashes with hydrogen peroxide could help reduce viral load, but it wasn’t conclusive.3 Either way, peroxide rinses, and other oral health products will not cure COVID-19.

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Summary

Gargling with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution may provide oral health benefits. It can reduce gum inflammation and oral bacteria, dislodge tonsil stones, and potentially whiten teeth.

However, hydrogen peroxide is a dangerous chemical when misused. Always start with an over-the-counter 3% solution, then add more water to dilute it to 1%. Never swallow hydrogen peroxide, even when diluted.

Before making a hydrogen peroxide rinse part of your oral care routine, talk to your dentist or doctor. This article is not a replacement for professional medical advice.

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Last updated on February 22, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 22, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Muniz et al. “A Systematic Review of the Effect of Oral Rinsing with H2O2 on Clinical and Microbiological Parameters Related to Plaque, Gingivitis, and Microbes.” International Journal of Dentistry, 2020.
  2. Rashed, H.T. “Evaluation of the effect of hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash in comparison with chlorhexidine in chronic periodontitis patients: A clinical study.” Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 2016.
  3. Ather et al. “Efficacy of Mouth Rinses Against SARS-CoV-2: A Scoping Review.” Frontiers in Dental Medicine, 2021.
  4. Hossainian et al. “The effects of hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes on the prevention of plaque and gingival inflammation: a systematic review.” International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 2011.
  5. Walsh, L.J. “Safety issues relating to the use of hydrogen peroxide in dentistry.” Australian Dental Journal, 2000.
  6. Karadas, M., and Hatipoğlu, Ö. “Efficacy of Mouthwashes Containing Hydrogen Peroxide on Tooth Whitening.” ScientificWorldJournal, 2015.
  7. Epple et al. “A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening.” Dentistry Journal, 2019.
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