Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, researchers have been scrambling to figure out possible ways to stem virus transmission and halt the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

One idea that’s been researched throughout 2020 and into 2021 is that the virus can be killed — or, at the very least, slowed down — by over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwashes.

Research into mouthwash as a tool against COVID emerged as the dental industry tried to find ways to protect workers. Mouthwashes were shown in some studies to help break down the protective barrier — called a viral envelope — around viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

Keep reading to learn if this is enough to prevent the spread of this coronavirus.

Mouthwashes can break down or even destroy viral envelopes. But there isn’t enough research to support mouthwash as an effective tool to combat COVID-19. Throat and salivary glands are known hot spots for virus reproduction, but aren’t the primary targets for infection.

Even though some studies have found that certain mouthwashes could destroy the virus, these results were only found in people who hadn’t been infected with the virus for very long.

Other studies confirmed that some mouthwashes could reduce or even destroy detectable virus levels in saliva, but these results were really only observed when mouthwashes were used for more than 30 seconds.

Even when research was promising on the use of mouthwashes to help control the spread of the new coronavirus, researchers stopped short of making such a recommendation.

In fact, even the makers of Listerine offered up a statement confirming that there was no evidence-based research in favor of mouthwashes as a COVID control or prevention tool.

While mouthwashes may help create an inhospitable environment for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there’s no evidence to suggest it’s effective at controlling the spread of the virus. There’s also no evidence that it’s effective at treating active infections.

Some things to consider before relying on mouthwash as a way to prevent COVID include:

  • The new coronavirus collects in nasal passages, not just in the throat. This means that even if “throat washing” were effective, pieces of the virus could still remain in the nose and pass back down to the throat.
  • There are no large-scale clinical studies in support of mouthwash to prevent or kill the virus.
  • Promotion of mouthwashes as a COVID prevention or treatment tool could take away from other, more effective methods to control the virus.

There are no large-scale clinical studies that compare mouthwash as a way to prevent COVID-19 transmission to other, more proven tools. With this in mind, public health experts continue to support prevention strategies that are more effective against the virus like:

While mouthwash would be a fairly simple way to stop the spread of COVID, there’s little evidence to support it as a prevention strategy.

Some studies have found that OTC mouthwashes can kill viruses, but there haven’t been any large-scale clinical studies to confirm how effective mouthwash might be against COVID-19.

It’s more effective to turn to more-proven methods of COVID-19 prevention, including mask wearing and vaccination.