How to Make Simple and Effective Zero Waste Mouthwash

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This easy-to-make mouthwash passes the I-avoid-putting-anything-down-the-drain-that-I-won’t-eat test, which I mentioned in my recent TMI post. You might actually want to drink this, since it contains only vodka, spices and water. With just these few edible ingredients, you can make a large amount of inexpensive mouthwash that works really well to freshen your breath.

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Original Listerine, on the other hand, contains:

Active ingredients

  • Eucalyptol 0.092%
  • Menthol 0.042%
  • Methyl salicylate 0.060%
  • Thymol 0.064%

Inactive ingredients

After you’ve polluted your mouth with this chemical concoction, you then have to deal with the disposal of the plastic pollution that comes with it—the bottle and lid. Yes, you can recycle the bottle (but not the lid), however, plastic is downcycled, meaning it is recycled once or twice only before it ends up in—yes—landfill.

Cut plastic at its source and make your own mouthwash for pennies, sans the nasty chemicals. I am able to buy spices in bulk and the vodka comes in a glass bottle I can reuse for my scrap vinegarkombuchaginger beer and so on. Or I can recycle it. Glass is recycled where I live.

A DIY alternative mouthwash

This is one of those non-recipe recipes. Essentially, you make a tincture—alcohol infused with a medicinal substance. You can substitute the spices, although I would still include the cinnamon and cloves. Not only do those both have antibacterial properties, they also make this smell so good and taste more palatable (I’m not a big vodka fan).

Other spice options include rosemary or sage, also with antibacterial properties. Someone on my Facebook page suggested including neem tree in any form. Someone else on Instagram suggested adding myrrh and said it’s good for the gums. I’m not sure where to buy neem tree or myrrh but Google knows.

To dilute or not to dilute?

When I posted a picture of this on Instagram, a couple of people asked if they could dilute the entire tincture with water in advance and skip the step of diluting the mouthwash before every use. I’m not sure if mold will grow in a diluted form of this or not, so I’m giving it a try with just a small amount of my finished tincture. In the picture below, I combined about 1 part tincture to 10 parts water. I will keep you posted.

07/09/17 update: The temptation to apply this directly from the diluted jar and not pour in a cup was too great and so I contaminated the mouthwash. A bit of mold formed, I’m embarrassed to admit (at least I’m honest). If you dilute it, be sure to keep a separate cup in the bathroom for use. I prefer to store it at full strength. It takes up less space when I bring it to work.

A finished jar of amber colored mouthwash sits next to a small glass jar on top of a fence outside
Diluted mouthwash, ready to use, in an old honey jar
A jar filled with dark orange homemade mouthwash filled with whole spices sits on a white background as a hand holds the side of the jar
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5 from 1 vote

Zero Waste Mouthwash

Make this concentrated mouthwash with ingredients in the pantry. After it steeps for a month, to use, dilute 1/4 teaspoon with 2 tablespoons of water.
Prep Time5 mins
Resting time30 d
Total Time30 d 5 mins
Cost: $3.50

Equipment

  • 1 glass jar

Materials

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken to fit your jar
  • 8 to 10 drops essential oil if desired, such as cinnamon, peppermint or tea tree oil (optional)

Instructions

  • Pour vodka and spices into a jar. Replace the lid. Shake.
  • After a month, strain the tincture.
  • To use, combine 1/4 teaspoon with 2 tablespoons of water, swirl around your mouth, gargle and spit out if desired.

35 Replies to “How to Make Simple and Effective Zero Waste Mouthwash”

  1. This looks great!! Im excited to give it a try!

    1. Great! Thanks Sarah. ~ Anne Marie

  2. Nice recipe! Will try 💚

    1. Thanks for that and for the reblog 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on ecogreenlove and commented:
    Nice and natural recipe… must try! 💚

  4. Wow, very cool! Adding this to my list of must-dos 🙂

    1. Great! I hope you like it 🙂

  5. Easy peasy, and this recipe sounds much better than the one I tried last year! I don’t use mouthwash typically, but last year my mouth was wired shut, so I definitely felt the need for it. I made my own, but it wasn’t that delicious.

  6. I’ve just strained my mouthwash and I am eager to try it. What happened with your pre-diluted jar, did it spoil?

    1. Hi Sonya, I prediluted it and then took swigs straight from it, which I wouldn’t recommend! It got a bit of mold in it. I think I contaminated it. I will have to try again and use a separate glass to pour the diluted mouthwash into. Sorry I’m not more help. I think it should work. You may want to try with only a small amount and see how it goes. That way you won’t ruin the whole batch if something goes wrong. ~ Anne Marie

  7. This sounds great, I’m starting it now! Do you pour the the essential oil before the one month resting?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hmmm, that’s a good question. I don’t think it really matters. I made a new batch last week and I didn’t add any essential oil. I will try at the end and see how it goes. It should be fine.

  8. Emre GUNERKEN says: Reply

    If you use Rum instead of vodka and pour hot water on it before usage, It will become a Grog =)) We drink this during Christmas holidays =))

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hahaha! A multi-use product :p

  9. I made this recently and my daughter and I both tried it. We are huge fans!! Thank you for the recipe! I am going to make a second batch as I know it needs about a month to steep and we don’t want to run out. 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Great! I’m glad you both like it. Thanks for the feedback. Good idea to get another batch going now.

  10. Hi, I don’t drink alcohol (Muslim) any way to make this with another substitute? It’s such a nice recipe

  11. […] For mouthwash, Anne Marie from Zero Waste Chef creates her own vodka tincture mouthwash. […]

  12. I have loved this recipe, I will definitely try it. I only have one question. Is the storage for a month in a dark place like the cupboard or on the kitchen counter? Thank you in advance for the response, greetings from Costa Rica.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Gloriana,
      I store mine on a kitchen shelf. You don’t need a dark place but a dark place is fine also. Greetings from California 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  13. This is such an awesome recipe. Thank you for always offering alternates !

  14. Hi there. Love this idea. I did have one question though. Do the cinnamon sticks do anything other than flavor or could you substitute mint leaves?

    1. Hi Elsa,
      Thank you! Glad you like it. I put in cinnamon sticks because I almost always have them on hand but you can change things around. I think mint is a great idea. I have to try that! Thanks for the idea 🙂
      Anne Marie

  15. Krystle Willmore says: Reply

    Do you compost the spices after you strain? Also how long does the tincture last for you?

    1. Hi Krystle,
      Eventually I compost them but often I’ll just add them to the next batch. This lasts indefinitely.
      ~ Anne Marie

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  18. Good one, This go be much useful to our family in the pandemic time. Now this organic mouthwash is going to be part of my morning routine.

  19. Rebeca Gomes Almeida says: Reply

    I use water with peppermint essential oil and bicarbonate 😊

  20. I’m going to try this for sure, but I have question. The reason I use mouthwash every morning is because my dentist says it helps reduce my heavy plaque. Do you think this recipe will have the same effect in controlling plaque. Love this site; it’s so practical.

    1. Hello! I’m not sure about that and don’t want to make any health claims on here. The alcohol in this differs from the alcohol in store-bought mouthwash so I’m thinking probably not. I use my homemade version simply to freshen my breath. I will ask my dentist during my cleaning next week 😉

  21. Hi Anne-Marie, I would love to try this! But money is tight atm, so I’m wondering; I’ve got some vodka with a vanilla pod in it (an experiment from a few years ago, which I completely forgot about until recently) (don’t ask 🤭) do you think I could use this? Or is vanilla “not done” in this recipe?

    1. Hi Lucy. I haven’t tried that but I think it would be fine. The vodka in this mouthwash does the breath freshening. The other ingredients make it more palatable and do provide some benefits and a nice aroma. If your vanilla bean has steeped that long, the vanilla extract might be very good! But if you want to try it as mouthwash, just dilute a little bit and see how you like it. Maybe breathe on a test subject afterward and see what they think 🙂

      1. Thanks! I’ll put in the other ingredients and I’ll let you know next month 😄

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