Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound that combines hydrogen with oxygen. You can buy it at most drug stores and use it for everything from disinfecting wounds to cleaning your bath tub.
Some people even swear by gargling with it to sooth a sore throat, whiten teeth, and reduce gum inflammation. Keep reading to learn how to safely gargle hydrogen peroxide, and whether it really works.
How to gargle hydrogen peroxide
The key to safely gargling hydrogen peroxide is to make sure you never swallow it. This is true whether you’re using 3% hydrogen peroxide or 35% “food grade” hydrogen peroxide.
Follow these steps for safe gargling:
- Start with a 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide. This is the strength you’ll find in a brown bottle at most drug stores. Next, combine one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water. Your final mix will have a concentration of 1% hydrogen peroxide.
- Tilt your head back and take a small mouthful of your hydrogen peroxide and water mix. Gargle and swish the mixture around in your mouth for 60 seconds. (You can use a timer or count silently in your head to 60 while gargling.)
- Spit the solution out after gargling. Don’t try to gargle the mixture for more than 90 seconds.
Health benefits of gargling hydrogen peroxide
Soothe a sore throat
Gargling with hydrogen peroxide may help a sore throat in several ways. Hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial properties. It can help your body fight off bacterial infections that often cause sore throats.
In addition, when the mucus in your mouth comes into contact with hydrogen peroxide, it creates a foam. This foam makes the mucus less sticky and easier to drain. It can also help to loosen the mucus in your throat, which can cause irritation and pain.
Young children and people who have a hard time gargling without swallowing can try gargling warm salt water instead for similar benefits. Follow these steps for salt water gargling:
- Mix one cup of warm water with ½ to ¾ teaspoon of salt.
- Swish this salt water mixture around in your mouth for about 60 seconds.
- Spit the solution out after gargling.
Improve oral health
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant that can help to keep canker sores and other small wounds in your mouth from becoming infected, which also helps them heal faster.
A 2012 review of studies about hydrogen peroxide and oral health found that it can also help to reduce gum inflammation when used in conjunction with regular brushing and flossing. To get the most out of hydrogen peroxide’s oral health benefits, make sure you swish it around the front of the mouth while you’re gargling so it reaches your front teeth and gums.
Whiten your teeth
Hydrogen peroxide is the main active ingredient in many over-the-counter and professional teeth-whitening products. Gargling with hydrogen peroxide might make your teeth look whiter for a few hours right after you do it. However, a 2015 study found that hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes need to be used consistently over several months to produce a lasting effect.
This same study also found that over-the-counter whitening gels with 10% carbamide peroxide, which contains about 3.5% hydrogen peroxide, were significantly more effective at whitening teeth.
Are there any risks?
Ingesting undiluted hydrogen peroxide can burn your internal organs and cause internal bleeding. However, if you accidentally swallow some diluted hydrogen peroxide, such as the 3% solution widely available at drug stores, you’ll likely only notice some mild stomach pain. You may also vomit a slightly foamy substance, which is normal.
After gargling hydrogen peroxide, you might notice some redness around your gums or irritation on the inside of your mouth. This should go away within a few hours of gargling. Call your doctor immediately if the redness or irritation doesn’t go away, or if you start to throw up or feel dizzy and weak.
The bottom line
Gargling hydrogen peroxide may be an effective way to sooth a sore throat, disinfect your mouth, and whiten your teeth. Just make sure you dilute it first, and try not to swallow any in the process. If you’re hoping to whiten your teeth, try to gargle consistently for several months for the best results.