If you’re interested in whitening your teeth, mouthwash probably isn’t the product for you.
We briefly explain the reasons for this below, but for a more detailed explanation of all the whitening options available to you, we recommend seeing our article: Best Teeth Whitening: Which Kits & Methods Can You Trust?
We also recommend checking out our teeth whitening hub page for a complete overview of the topic.
Why whitening mouthwash doesn’t work to ‘whiten teeth’
Despite products being advertised as ‘whitening mouthwash’, and various articles telling you ‘what the best whitening mouthwash is’, there isn’t an over-the-counter mouthwash product — in the UK, at least — that can whiten your teeth in the sense of bleaching them to be several shades lighter.
There may be products that can help to remove stains, but even this is questionable.
See our explanation of stain removal vs bleaching for more details on this.
There are many ingredients included in mouthwash, but the main whitening agent is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is the active component of professional whitening gels and does work to bleach teeth when its concentration is high enough.
In professional tooth whitening kits the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is 6%. However, the legal over-the-counter limit that can be used in mouthwash is 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. This is a very small amount so it’s unlikely to actually result in any real-life tooth whitening effect.
Further to this, professional kits need to hold the bleach against the tooth for several minutes or hours for it to have an effect, so you can see how swishing a far weaker solution around your mouth rather than holding it to the tooth is unlikely to work.
Could whitening mouthwash remove light staining?
It is unlikely a whitening mouthwash would actually help remove stains.
A low level of hydrogen peroxide may help over a number of months to make a slight difference in colour, but even this isn’t certain. Whitening toothpaste, or any abrasive toothpaste, can help to remove light stains, and certainly more so than a mouthwash.
Before using any whitening product, I recommend first seeing your dentist for an oral health check and a hygiene visit. A hygiene visit will remove any plaque, calculus and extrinsic stains from your teeth, which is more effective than using a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.
If you are concerned about staining, limiting your consumption of strong coloured foods\drink such as curries and red wine will also help to minimise them. We take a more detailed look at this and list the worst offenders in our article on yellow teeth and staining.
Brushing your teeth correctly twice a day and flossing regularly also helps to reduce stains.
How often is it safe to use whitening mouthwash?
General over-the-counter whitening mouthwashes have very low percentages of hydrogen peroxide and so you would need to use it regularly over a very long period of time to have any result, and even this would be minimal.
Most of these off the shelf commercial mouthwashes recommend 30-60 seconds of rinsing time twice a day over a few months. I doubt there would be any real whitening effect in this time given the low hydrogen peroxide concentration, so in this sense it’s pointless using a whitening mouthwash for a prolonged period.
These mouthwashes can also be a mild irritant to the skin inside your mouth, so using them for months or years may cause irritations in your mouth.
You are better off using a mouthwash with a good fluoride level, which can help to stabilise PH in your mouth and help to prevent cavities.
Also, many mouthwashes contain alcohol which can cause a burning effect in your mouth. Alcohol can strip the skin inside your mouth causing a drying effect which is bad for your mouth in the long term.
What about high strength hydrogen peroxide rinse?
There are some medical conditions where your health professional may advise you to use a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash over a period of 2 weeks.
As a standalone product, hydrogen peroxide can be bought over the counter at 3% concentration. This MUST be diluted one part HP to 2 parts water before usage. If a rinse like this was used over many months it may result in a byproduct of whiter teeth, but be warned; this isn’t its intended use and is a very dangerous way of whitening teeth.
High strength hydrogen peroxide rinse can be of detriment to teeth, gums and soft tissues in your month, causing problems such as tooth sensitivity, burns on the gums and tongue and allergic reactions. If severely misused it can cause damage to internal organs. See our hydrogen peroxide FAQ for more information.
Never try to short cut teeth whitening with cheap methods. Teeth whitening doesn’t need to be expensive — see our guide here on the best options .
Which ‘whitening mouthwashes’ do we recommend
Given that whitening mouthwashes don’t work the way their names suggest, it’s not really possible for us to recommend any, nor say which is best.
The best of a bad bunch of whitening mouthwashes are ones that contain some hydrogen peroxide and are alcohol free. They should also contain the basic ingredients such a fluoride to help protect you enamel.
If you’re determined to give a whitening mouthwash a go, we have listed a few below for you to choose from. We also list other mouthwash options and choices by category in our best mouthwash article.
Colgate Optic White Mouthwash
This is a good one as it has a low level of hydrogen peroxide and no alcohol. It contains glycerine to help stabilise the ph. This product leaves your mouth feeling nice and fresh without the burning sensation.
View on Boots.com
Crest 3d white Mouthwash
Again hydrogen peroxide is the active agent in this mouth wash and there is no alcohol in, leaving a nice feeling after use.
View on Amazon.
Rembrandt Deeply White Whitening Mouthwash
This Mouthwash seems to have a pleasant taste and doesn’t burn the mouth. It does contain hydrogen peroxide and a good amount of fluoride. Fluoride is one of the most important ingredients in a mouthwash and is beneficial for strengthening the enamel.