Best Cheap Mouthwash

Price Range

$0.10 - $0.25


$0.25 - $0.50


$0.50 and up

High End

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Why do you buy cheap mouthwash? To combat gingivitis, periodontitis, calculus, xerostomia? Or perhaps, like most of us, the primary motivation is straightforward: to get rid of bad breath. At the very least, the best cheap mouthwash provides a cosmetic solution -- it kills some bacteria and reduces bad breath, leaves a fresh taste in your mouth, and loosens food particles -- that gives you confidence to get in close and personal with loved ones and to interact with friends and colleagues.

Cheap Mouthwash Buying Guide

There are a slew of options available in the cheap mouthwash segment. Our top pick is Listerine Original Antiseptic (starting at $0.13/oz.), which packs a powerful and lasting punch even as some users groan about the bracing taste. (The milder Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic is an equal in nearly all respects but decidedly more palatable.) Our second-tier picks include Act Total Care Anti-Cavity Fluoride Mouthwash (starting at $0.18/oz.), another cheap and well-regarded rinse that addresses both cosmetic and minor dental health issues, and Scope Original Mint (starting at $0.10/oz.), which garners a tepid response from users for its seemingly short-term impact but pleases many with its fresh, tingling taste. One cheap mouth rinse that doesn't rise to the occasion is Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection Oral Rinse (starting at $0.20/oz.) for what users assert are disagreeable side effects like brown teeth stains and a long-lasting aftertaste.

Mouthwash can be divided into two categories: cosmetic, which dentists consider little more than a band-aid for bad breath, and therapeutic, which target serious conditions like tooth decay, gum disease, and dry mouth and more common problems like plaque, cavities, and tartar. Some mouthwashes are both cosmetic and therapeutic; Act's Anticavity line (a close relation of Act Total Care products), for example. Therapeutic rinses are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, available with and without a prescription (depending on the product), and cost considerably more than cheap mouthwash, sometimes as much as $0.85/oz. The American Dental Association awards a Seal of Acceptance to products that have been independently evaluated for the safety of their ingredients and the veracity of their claims to effectiveness; among our picks, Listerine Antiseptic mouthwashes pass the test.

If the cost and/or formula of store-bought mouthwashes are not to your liking, numerous recipes for homemade mouthwash are scattered across the blogosphere. The cheapest of all the options we researched, DIY brews are made with the likes of herbs (myrrh, calendula, goldenseal), aloe vera, witch hazel, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, plantain leaf, baking soda, filtered water, vodka, and so on (but not all at once!) and cost less than pennies an ounce. Moreover, you know exactly what's in the rinse and can avoid the chemicals, sweeteners, and dyes found in commercial mouthwash, such as cetylpyridinium chloride, domiphen bromide, propylene glycol, sodium saccharin, sucralose, and blue 1.

You could also opt for commercially-produced natural mouthwashes, like Tom's of Maine Cleansing Mouthwash (starting at $0.29/oz.), which cost more than cheap mouthwash but shun synthetic flavors, preservatives, and colors, not to mention animal-derived ingredients.

Before committing to a mouth rinse, speak with a dentist. Mouthwash may mask the evidence of dental or other health problems, so dealing with underlying issues is critical. Even the best cheap mouthwash won't have the desired effect if the root of the bad breath problem is unrelated to having eaten garlic or raw onion. Investing in a therapeutic mouthwash that combats a given set of dental problems will cost more, but it could generate long-term savings by minimizing the need for expensive procedures down the road while simultaneously attacking opportunistic oral hygiene needs.

Still, the best cheap mouthwashes have their place in the medicine cabinet. The brand names you're most likely to see on the store shelf include stalwarts such as Listerine, Crest, Act, Colgate, Oral-B, Scope, and Cepacol; private label (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, Safeway) mouth rinses also abound. Many come in a variety of flavors (e.g., cool mint, berry blast) and niche formulas target specific issues, such as fighting cavities (look for rinses with fluoride), whitening teeth, eliminating dry mouth, and rebuilding enamel. Many oral rinses also contain alcohol, often in staggeringly high amounts; check the ingredients list carefully if this is an issue for you or anyone in the household (e.g., kids, pregnant women, seniors, and recovering alcoholics).

And remember, don't ever swallow mouthwash. Most importantly, continue to brush regularly – mouth rinse is no substitute for that basic component of every good oral hygiene routine.

Mouthwash Reviews

As with so many personal care products, the choice of a mouthwash is a very personal thing. Predictably, mouthwash reviews are divided, with the majority extolling the benefits of our top picks and the minority condemning them for one thing or another -- horrid taste, for example, or limited staying power. One product we researched was dinged more often than not for unsightly and unpleasant side effects.

First developed in 1895, Listerine Antiseptic Original Mouthwash today is dentist-recommended and carries the ADA's Seal of Acceptance for fighting plaque and gingivitis and decimating bad-breath germs. The original formulation of this brand has carved out a name for itself with its signature spunky -- some say appalling -- taste, but mouthwash reviews at sites such as Amazon give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up for effectiveness. Listerine Antiseptic Original takes some getting used to, reviewers concede, but a daily 30-second flush is worth the discomfort. Benefits range from lower dental bills to very fresh breath and a mouth that feels spanking clean. Some mouthwash reviewers, though, cite negatives such as a burning sensation (alcohol content exceeds 25 percent), a lingering aftertaste, and dry mouth. New flavor introductions, such as Cool Mint and FreshBurst, generate more favorable commentary regarding the taste.

If, despite all the affirmations of effectiveness Listerine Original is a no-go, Act Total Care Anti-Cavity and Scope Original Mint mouthwashes pass as comparatively pleasant alternatives, according to online posts. Act Total Care is often recommended by dental professionals who like the dose of fluoride it delivers; one mouthwash review posted by an army hygienist at says she urges it on all her patients. Users like the alcohol-free formula, which they say eliminates any burning sensation, and note that the gentle taste appeals regardless of age (i.e., it's good for the kids). In terms of effectiveness, reviewers mention a clean and fresh mouth feel, help for receding gums, and a bill of health from the dentist.

Scope Classic Original Mint is a purely cosmetic mouth rinse – it lays no claim to any dental health benefits and merely trumpets its effectiveness in the war on bad breath germs. Users seem to agree, but with caveats. At Viewpoints, for example, mouthwash reviews say it gets the job done but several report that the effect wears off relatively quickly; one woman says she keeps mints in her purse for freshening up while out and about. Still, reviewers approve of the smooth-tasting formula, with some noting this is why they chose the brand.

Consumers with an all-natural bent might try experimenting with homemade recipes, promoted on numerous frugal and natural/organic blogs. Or, there's Tom's of Maine Cleansing Mouthwash, a commercial all-natural, alcohol-free choice. The brand was acquired by Colgate-Palmolive Co. several years ago and, claim some users in mouthwash reviews at sites such as, the formula seems to have been altered. This has sparked dismay among long-time users who decry what's variously described as the insipid and artificially sweet taste. Others counter that Tom's of Maine Cleansing mouth rinse continues to be gentle and refreshing.

Crest may be a household name but Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection is not welcome in some homes. Users who are down on the product report in mouthwash reviews at Walmart, for example, that it stains their teeth, leaves an aftertaste that dulls their taste buds, and partially morphs into little blue gobs after energetic swishing. A few mention a slight burning sensation despite the alcohol-free formula, but some consider this a sign that the germ-killing ingredients are working. On the other hand, a measurable sample of reviewers like the minty taste and clean mouth feel, and say the positive effects are long-lasting.

Sarah McMinn

Sarah McMinn is a freelance writer based out of New York City. A graduate of The Juilliard School with a B.F.A. in Acting, her post-college life among the overly romanticized starving artist class has taught her the value of thrift. Her favorite part of a newspaper is the coupon inserts.

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