If your breath smells like you’re housing a distillery in your mouth, the typical go-tos for getting rid of alcohol breath aren’t going to help much.
Getting rid of alcohol breath isn’t as easy as popping a curiously strong mint.
Think about a full toilet that hasn’t been flushed. Spraying air freshener might make the bathroom smell meadow fresh temporarily, but until you flush it away, the stank’s going to linger.
The same goes for alcohol until it’s flushed — or rather metabolized and eliminated — from your system.
The reason for this is that alcohol breath actually comes from your lungs and not your mouth.
Here’s a quick rundown of the why and how:
- When you drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into your bloodstream from your stomach and intestines.
- Enzymes begin to metabolize the alcohol so that it can eventually be eliminated, mostly by your liver. Keyword being “mostly.”
- The alcohol that isn’t metabolized (roughly 10 percent) gets eliminated in your urine and — you guessed it — your breath.
This is why it takes more than a mint to get rid of booze breath and why you can fail a breathalyzer even if your breath smells (temporarily) minty fresh.
Yep, but you’re probably not going to like the answer: time.
Your body needs time to process and eliminate alcohol in order to really get rid of the smell on your breath. Any other remedy will just mask the odor (sorry).
If time’s not on your side and you’ve got a business meeting — or smooching — on your agenda, there are some temporary fixes you can try.
Gargle with an alcohol-containing mouthwash
A good gargle with mouthwash can definitely help mask the smell of booze on your breath temporarily.
While most rinses will do the trick, you might get better results from fighting fire with fire. We’re not talking about drinking more alcohol, but rinsing with a mouthwash that contains alcohol.
Not only do you get the refreshing mint, but someone who gets up close and personal will have a harder time noticing the alcohol alone when it’s mixed with the alcohol-based mouthwash.
Brushing your teeth, while you’re at it, can also help up the cool minty freshness.
Suck on cough drops
Cough drops are a shady way to cover up alcohol breath, but they can help provide a temporary refresh — for non-shady purposes, of course.
Flavor doesn’t really matter, but you’ll probably get more bang for your buck by sticking with non-fruity cough drops.
Anyone who’s ever stood in close proximity to a coffee drinker knows that coffee breath is a thing.
By drinking a cup of coffee or two, the smell of coffee may temporarily overpower your booze breath.
It isn’t a refresh, per se, but it may briefly mask the smell of alcohol if that’s your main goal.
Eat peanut butter
According to folks on Reddit and other forums, peanut butter works like a charm for masking the smell of booze after a night of imbibing.
It makes sense since peanut butter has a strong and distinct aroma and is thick, which can leave a peanut-y film in your mouth and throat, at least for a little while.
Pick up the strongest chewing gum at the checkout counter and start chewing.
Like every other method, it won’t actually get rid of the smell, but it will help mask it until the gum has lost its flavor.
How much time it’ll take is hard to say since we all process alcohol at different rates and there are all kinds of variables that impact alcohol metabolism.
Typically, the body processes one standard drink per hour, give or take, depending on things like your sex, body fat percentage, and if there was food in your stomach when you drank the alcohol.
The alcohol content in each drink counts, too.
Depending on your body and what you’re drinking, it could take anywhere from an hour to a day to fully clear things up.
The only surefire way to avoid alcohol breath in the future is to not drink alcohol, obviously.
The internet is full of supposed miracle remedies to stop alcohol breath, but none are backed by any scientific evidence.
You might be able to keep the boozy aroma on your breath to a minimum the next time you drink by doing the following:
- Stick to drinks with a low alcohol percentage.
- Keep your drinks to a minimum.
- Alternate between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.
- Water drinks down with water or ice cubes, soda, etc.
You can temporarily mask alcohol breath, but there’s no way to really get rid of it except to ride it out and let your body eliminate it.
Booze breath might give away the fact that you’ve had a drink or a few, and while you can’t fool a breathalyzer (masking your breath won’t that), alcohol breath is essentially NBD. Have a mint — or don’t — and carry on.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.