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Best Mouthwash of 2020

By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor
Monday October 5, 2020
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We have rinsed, spit, and repeated to find the best mouthwash available in 2020. We researched over two dozen products before selecting the 10 top contenders for hands-on testing. With a market full of options, it can be overwhelming to find just the right one for your specific needs. Our expert reviewers cut through the noise with rigorous, hands-on testing to find the best products for fresh breath, the ones that get the job done at an economical price, and even ones that will get the kiddos excited about oral hygiene.

1

Best Overall Mouthwash


ACT Anticavity Fluoride Mint


Editors' Choice Award
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$3.59
(60% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 1x daily, 60 sec
Easy dosing cup
Effective cleaning
No burn
Might be too sweet tasting for some

The ACT Anticavity Fluoride Mint is our pick for best overall. It offers great protection, effective cleaning, and fresh breath. This alcohol-free formula does not burn at all. We also really appreciate the easy-dose cup that allows the user to squeeze out exactly the right amount from the bottle.

We struggle to come up with many negatives, but perhaps for those who enjoy that tingly feeling that other products leave behind, this one has none of that. We like this one because we found that it does just about everying a mouthwash should with really no downside.

This mouthwash comes with a self-dosing cup  no burn  and a powerful clean.
This mouthwash comes with a self-dosing cup, no burn, and a powerful clean.

2

Best for Freshest Breath


Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh


Editors' Choice Award
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$22.44
(42% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 1x daily, 60 sec
Fresh breath
Natural ingredients
Tannic feel
No cap measurer

The Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh left our breath smelling great. The cool mountain mint flavor was powerful but not overwhelming. We were pleasantly surprised by the cleaning power that it packed as well. We observed a notable reduction in the amount of visible plaque on tooth surfaces and between premolars and molars. We did not experience any burning or tingling sensation when using this product.

Similar to some other products, we also noticed that this one left our mouths temporarily dry feeling. There is also no easy way to measure out the recommended amount since the cap is large, and the bottle does not come with a self-dosing cup. However, if fresh breath is what you are after, then the slightly sweet menthol punch of this mouthwash is worth trying out.

We found that this wash with natural ingredients left our breath feeling fresh.
We found that this wash with natural ingredients left our breath feeling fresh.

3

Best Bang for the Buck


Amazon Solimo Tartar Control Plus


Best Buy Award
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$3.99
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: Yes, 21.6% | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 30 sec
Protects against bacteria growth
Inexpensive
Burns
Leaves iron-y feel

The Solimo Tartar Control Plus is an excellent budget-friendly option that performs its primary functions well. During our cleaning test, it did admirably, removing a notable amount of plaque from between premolars. It also prevented bacteria from growing in any notable amount during our cultivation test. This product can also typically be found at a comparatively low price.

On the downside, it burned the most out of any product that we tested. Its high alcohol content made for a high-tingle experience. We also found that it temporarily left a tannic feeling, like it somehow dried out our teeth. In terms of smell, it is certainly an improvement over bad breath, but our testers did not find that it smelled good; it is, in fact, somewhat chemically. However, because of its effectiveness at what counts the most, this one is worth looking into if you need to rinse and spit on a budget.

This alcohol-based product burns  but cleans and protects like we would expect.
This alcohol-based product burns, but cleans and protects like we would expect.

4

Best with Whitening


Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Multi-Action Fluoride


Top Pick Award
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$6.49
(7% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: Yes, 8% | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 60 sec
Whitening
Foaming
Expensive
Slight burning sensation

The Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Multi-Action Fluoride is a great choice if you want a product with whitening power in addition to everything else. The formula includes hydrogen peroxide, which foams up on contact. We observed that it effectively removes visible plaque and found it to be one of the most effective cleaners of any product that we tested.

The formula includes a small amount of alcohol, which is definitely noticeable when rinsing with it. The burn is slight but present in a way that is not the case with alcohol-free products. This product also didn't leave our testers with stunningly fresh breath — just a much more neutral non-smell. The foaming action is nice but taking too large of a dose becomes an issue quickly as the fluid can quickly fill up your mouth. All of these minor issues aside, if you are looking for a mouthwash plus whitening, this one is your best bet.

The wash with whitening foams up to get in between teeth.
The wash with whitening foams up to get in between teeth.

5

Excellent for Kids


ACT Kids Anticavity Fluoride


Top Pick Award
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$3.94
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 1x daily, 60 sec
Easy dosing bottle
No alcohol
Comparatively inexpensive
Numbs mouth
Flavors not for everyone

The ACT Kids Anticavity Fluoride Rinse is our pick for building good oral hygiene habits for kids. We appreciate the easy-dose bottle that allows you to squeeze out just the right amount into a small chamber at the top. We found that the no-alcohol formula doesn't burn, and the fruity flavors are kid-friendly as is the shape of the bottle.

On the downside, most adults who tried out this product during test thought it tasted bad. We tested groovy grape, which did not leave us feeling 'fresh' at all. We also found, despite the lack of alcohol, it did still leave our mouths slightly temporarily numbed. This product is unquestionably for kids and comes with the flavors and engaging packaging to stand up to the test.

We don't love the taste of this product  but it does have a self-dosing cup and offers solid cleaning power.
We don't love the taste of this product, but it does have a self-dosing cup and offers solid cleaning power.

6

Great Whitening Option without Alcohol


Colgate Optic White


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$23.93
(27% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 60 sec
No alcohol
Foaming
Whitening
Large cap not useful for dosing
Expands, can drip out as it foams

The Colgate Optic White offers the benefits of a hydrogen peroxide formula with the addition of whitening. Its foamy formula gets between teeth, and the lack of alcohol means that it also doesn't burn at all. We found that it was fairly effective at cleaning between back teeth and prevented new bacteria from growing.

We found that this product has a very strong flavor that isn't connected to fresher breath. Some of our testers did not enjoy it. We also found that the cap is large and not terribly helpful for dosing. However, at the end of the day, this one is a good option for those looking for a whitening option without the burn of alcohol.

This foaming whitening wash has a distinctive taste that not everyone will enjoy  but still gets the job done.
This foaming whitening wash has a distinctive taste that not everyone will enjoy, but still gets the job done.

7

Great for Sensitive Mouths


CloSYS Sensitive Antimicrobial


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$11.48
(18% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 30 sec
Feels gentle
Cleans effectively
Expensive
Smells like chlorine

The CloSYS Sensitive Antimicrobial is a solid cleaner that is gentle on sensitive mouths. Its alcohol-free formula does not burn, and it has a very mild taste and soothing quality if you find yourself with a canker sore. It is one of the rare products that comes with a cap and bottle shape that is fairly useful for dosing (though there are still no marked lines to know exactly what the right amount is).

On the downside, we were a little confused by the cleaning outcomes that we observed. It did not do an exceptional job at removing plaque and stains from the surfaces of teeth, and it was one of the few products that allowed a visible bacteria colony to grow on our test plate. Some of our testers also noted that it smells mildly chlorinated like a swimming pool. Despite these drawbacks, if you have sensitive gums or just prefer gentler oral hygiene products, this rinse is one to keep in your medicine cabinet.

This wash for sensitive mouths has a very mild taste and won't leave your gums burning.
This wash for sensitive mouths has a very mild taste and won't leave your gums burning.

8

Another Good Option for Fresh Breath


TheraBreath Fresh Breath


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$18.99
(5% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 90 sec
Innocuous taste
ADA accepted
Expensive
Small bottle

The TheraBreath Fresh Breath is a unique product that leaves breath fairly neutral smelling. It proved to be up to the task of preventing new bacterial growth and did an adequate job of removing plaque. For those who are sensitive to strong flavors or smells, this could be a good option.

When used as directed, this product will get used up quickly. You are meant to rinse in two cycles (once to clean your mouth, a second time to gargle) twice a day. In addition to the typically loftier price per ounce, we used it up four times faster than some other products. It has a fairly innocuous taste — mostly like really soft water. If you are looking for long-lasting fresh breath, this potent formula will get the job done.

This product is effective  but when used as directed  you can go through it very quickly.
This product is effective, but when used as directed, you can go through it very quickly.

9

Effectively Cleans Surface Bacteria


Listerine Total Care Alcohol Free


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$12.61
(16% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 60 sec
Cleans surface stains
Inexpensive
Slight tingle
Tastes like cleaner chemicals

The Listerine Total Care Alcohol Free cleans surface bacteria effectively. It also prevented any visible bacteria colonies from growing in our protection test. We appreciate that it tends to fall on the less expensive side as well. Though we have more to say about the odor that it leaves behind, it does at least conceal bad breath odors.

Many testers found this product to just be a little too much. It has a big dentist's office energy and tastes a bit like chemicals. It also leaves behind a slight tingle, which undoes the supposed benefit of an alcohol-free formula. However, for a low-cost product with several intact benefits that you would expect from a mouthwash, we would certainly use it if this is what we had on hand.

This alcohol-free wash still left our mouths feeling just a little bit tingly.
This alcohol-free wash still left our mouths feeling just a little bit tingly.

10

An Alcohol Free Mouthwash


Crest ProHealth Advanced Alcohol Free Extra Deep


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$23.96
(27% off)
at Amazon
See It

Contains Alcohol: No | Recommended Use: 2x daily, 60 sec
Fluoride for strong enamel
Alcohol free
Expensive
Cap not effective for dosing

The Crest ProHealth Advanced Alcohol Free Extra Deep is an alcohol-free mouthwash with fluoride to protect and strengthen tooth enamel. Our testers found that this formula does not burn and did as good a job as any other product at preventing new bacteria from growing. The taste is strong but not overpowering and may be good for people who are looking for a tolerable mouthwash.

We are slightly annoyed by the bottle cap. It is large and configured in such a way that it not only doesn't actively facilitate proper dosing but makes it almost impossible without dripping some mouthwash onto the bathroom counter when replacing it. We also saw some of the least visible plaque removal with this product. However, for a product that offers multi-point protection and cleaning, this one is still a worthwhile addition to a medicine cabinet.

This wash is reasonably effective  though we did find that the cap was not helpful.
This wash is reasonably effective, though we did find that the cap was not helpful.

Why You Should Trust Us


Lead reviewerBen Applebaum-Bauch has been testing home goods and consumer products for GearLab for three years. In that time, he has worked his way through a variety of personal hygiene products, from electric razors to toothbrush heads. He always remembers to rinse with mouthwash daily.


At GearLab, we research and thoroughly test the products that we review and purchase everything at retail price. For this review, we used each product dozens of times and ran a variety of experiments with them. We used plaque identifying tablets to assess before-use and after-use results, observed how much each product curbed growth in bacteria samples, and did some classic smell and feel tests for fresh breath.

Analysis and Test Results


We identified four primary metrics to compare our mouthwash contenders. These include cleaning ability, protection, fresh breath, and comfort. Below, we define each metric and outline the results of our review.

We are not dental professionals. Our testing is thorough but conducted in 'everyday use' environments. Claims about product efficacy are limited to our own observations.


Cleaning


By cleaning, we mean how effectively each product removes plaque that is already on teeth and gums. We used plaque disclosing tablets to highlight the gunk in our mouths, then used each product and made observations about each one's effectiveness.

Most products were fairly effective at visibly reducing the amount of plaque on and between teeth.
Most products were fairly effective at visibly reducing the amount of plaque on and between teeth.

The top tier in this metric proved to be the Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Multi-Action Fluoride and the ACT Anticavity Fluoride Mint. After using as directed, both removed a notable amount of plaque from both flat tooth surfaces as well as harder to reach areas in between molars and premolars. Other top performers include Solimo Tartar Control Plus and CloSYS Sensitive Antimicrobial.

The disclosing tab highlights plaque between the lower canine and first premolar.
After rinsing  much of the visible plaque between the lower canine and first premolar is gone.

Following very closely behind are the Tom's of Main Wicked Fresh, Colgate Optic White, ACT Kids Anticavity Fluoride, and TheraBreath Fresh Breath which were all highly effective, but left behind just slightly more gunk between teeth.

Protection


In addition to removing bacteria and plaque, mouthwashes also typically claim to prevent bacteria from growing. By protection, we mean exactly that — the ability of each mouthwash to limit new plaque-causing bacteria from flourishing.

The products in this category prevented a significant amount of bacteria regrowth.
The products in this category prevented a significant amount of bacteria regrowth.

During testing, we actually found that almost all of the products lived up to their claims. Eight out of ten prevented any noticeable bacteria colonies from growing when we tried to cultivate them in an agar dish. Only two products, the CloSYS Sensitive Antimicrobial, and the TheraBreath Fresh Breath permitted any visible bacterial growth at all. And every product easily outperformed the control. For everyday intents and purposes, our testing showed that all products in the category performed fairly uniformly.

Fresh Breath


Fresh breath is relatively straightforward. How much better does your breath smell before using the product than after? How much better does one product make your breath smell versus another? How long does the smell last for?

In practice  we found that the activities of daily life (e.g. eating  drinking  sleeping) meant that breath did not stay fresh all day with these products.
In practice, we found that the activities of daily life (e.g. eating, drinking, sleeping) meant that breath did not stay fresh all day with these products.

The Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh wash was a pleasant surprise that left our breath smelling slightly sweet but very fresh. We also found that the ACT Anticavity Fluoride Mint had a similar effect, while the Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Multi-Action Fluoride offers a foaming action that left seemed to neutralize bad breath.

A lot of bad breath can be caused by tongue bacteria  so it's important to make sure the wash makes it all around your mouth.
A lot of bad breath can be caused by tongue bacteria, so it's important to make sure the wash makes it all around your mouth.

Contenders like the Solimo Tartar Control Plus, Colgate Optic White, TheraBreath Fresh Breath, CloSYS Sensitive Antimicrobial and Listerine Total Care Alcohol Free got rid of bad breath, but also replaced it with something that wasn't necessarily good smelling. Each of these products left a more chemical odor than a fresh scent.

The ACT Kids Anticavity Fluoride groovy grape flavor that we tested was found by adults to be far too sweet smelling and generally unenjoyable.

Comfort & Taste


Mouthwashes come in different formulas with different base compounds. Some products cause a 'burning' sensation, and, to put it bluntly, hurt like hell. Comfort takes into account the user experience of each product. That is, how painless/painful it is to use it and how easy it is to dose out. Taste is also about experience and relies on broad qualitative observations.

Self-dosing cups are a nice perk that make it a no-brainer to get the right amount of wash every time.
Self-dosing cups are a nice perk that make it a no-brainer to get the right amount of wash every time.

Once again, the ACT Anticavity Fluoride Mint takes a top spot in this metric for its zero-alcohol, totally burn-free formula, easy-dosing cup, and sweet, but clean taste. Following very close behind are the Tom's of Main Wicked Fresh, and Colgate Optic White, which also did not burn at all.

Some products use alcohol in their formula  which can be uncomfortable and burn.
Some products use alcohol in their formula, which can be uncomfortable and burn.

There were a few products like the Crest ProHealth Advanced Alcohol Free Extra Deep, ACT Kids Anticavity Fluoride, and Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Multi-Action Fluoride that have no- (or low) alcohol formulas but still tingled, stung, or otherwise did not taste pleasant. The Solimo Tartar Control Plus has a potent alcohol content that definitely stung during use.

Conclusion


Whether you are looking for powerfully fresh breath, or a mouthwash that won't leave your mouth burning, we hope that this expert review gives you the information that you need to find your right product. Here's to a healthy smile!

Ben Applebaum-Bauch