Sore throats and mouth sores are common conditions that most people experience. Saltwater gargles can be a cheap, safe, and effective way to ease pain and relieve symptoms from conditions that affect the mouth and throat.

While pharmacies and other stores sell medicated mouthwashes and similar products, some people prefer saltwater gargles and other home remedies.

In this article, we discuss what saltwater gargles are and what conditions they can help treat and prevent. We also cover how to make and use a saltwater gargle, as well as risks and considerations.

Natural salt gargle mouthwash rinse
A saltwater gargle is a mixture of salt, water, and baking soda.

A saltwater gargle is a home remedy for sore throats and other causes of mouth pain. Saltwater solutions are a simple mix of water and table salt and can be a cheap, safe, and effective alternative to medicated mouthwashes.

Saltwater solutions are not well studied. A of 45 children investigated the effectiveness of a saline saltwater gargle and a mouthwash containing alum.

The researchers reported that children who used one of the saltwater gargles twice daily for 21 days had significantly reduced levels of mouth bacteria, compared with children who used a placebo.

However, the saltwater gargle was not as effective at reducing bacteria as the alum mouthwash. Alum, which is potassium aluminum sulfate, is an active ingredient in some medicated mouthwashes.

Doctors and dentists often recommend saltwater gargles to help alleviate mouth and throat pain.

Saltwater gargles can be effective for treating mild pain, discomfort, and tickles in the mouth and throat. We discuss some of the conditions that saltwater gargles can help treat and prevent below.

Sore throats

Saltwater gargles can be an effective way to relieve discomfort from sore throats.

Both the and the recommend gargling with salt water to soothe sore throats. According to the ACS, regular use of saltwater gargles can help keep the mouth clean and prevent infections, particularly in people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Canker sores

Canker sores are painful ulcers that can develop in the mouth. Gargling with salt water may help ease pain and promote healing of the sores.

Allergies

Some allergies, such as hay fever, can cause a person's nasal passages and throat to swell, which can be uncomfortable. Though gargling with salt water will not prevent the allergy, it may help alleviate some of the throat discomfort.

Respiratory infections

Gargling with salt water may help relieve the symptoms of common cold.
Gargling with salt water may help relieve the symptoms of the common cold.

Upper respiratory infections are typical and include common colds, the flu, mononucleosis, and sinus infections. Some research suggests that gargling with salt water can alleviate symptoms and even help prevent upper respiratory infections.

For example, a involving 338 participants found that those who gargled with salt water were less likely to have upper respiratory infections.

Dental health

Regularly gargling with salt water can assist in removing bacteria from the gums, which helps in cleaning and preventing the buildup of plaque and tartar. A buildup of bacteria in the mouth can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

The recommend that people gently rinse the mouth with a warm saltwater solution after having a dental procedure. Doing this can help keep the extraction site clean and prevent infection.