How Much Alcohol Is In Listerine?

Written, Edited, and Reviewed by Dr David Chen.

The amount of alcohol in Listerine will vary depending on which mouthwash product line it is a part of. Some of their mouth rinses will have more alcohol while others will have less. They even have an entire line of mouthwashes that don’t contain any of it at all.

Listerine - Cool Mint

So, which of their mouthwash do you have? Or perhaps you’re looking to purchase one from them and are unsure of which one to get. We can help you figure that out!

Listerine alcohol percentage

The alcohol percentage in Listerine may vary from 0% to 26.9% but it depends on which product line you’re looking at. In general, we can group together their mouthwashes into three distinct categories based on the amount of alcohol in it.

Listerine ProductAlcohol %
Listerine Original26.9%
Listerine (the rest of their products)21.6%
Listerine Zero Alcohol0%
Table: Listerine Mouthwashes Alcohol Percentages

How to identify which mouthwash you have

The product naming can be a little bit confusing so we tried to simplify it for you.

  • Only the Listerine Original comes in a yellow color and it has 26.9% alcohol.
  • All of the products labeled as “Zero Alcohol” all have 0% alcohol in it.
  • The rest of their product line all fall under the 21.6% alcohol group.
Listerine label - alcohol percentage

If you follow the three rules we’ve provided above, you should be able to figure out which product you’ve in your hands.

Product with the most alcohol

The Listerine Original has the highest amount of alcohol content at 26.9% which is much greater than all of their other rinses. The rest of their rinses are either 21.6% or 0% ethanol. It is essentially in its own category.

If you’re curious, you can compare it to alcoholic drinks:

standard drink alcohol content - NIH
Credit: NIH

Product with the least alcohol

All of the Listerine products that have the label “Zero Alcohol” in its name do not have any ethanol in it. That also means it’ll cause the least amount of burn while rinsing.

What type of alcohol does it use?

The type of alcohol in Listerine is ethyl alcohol (ethanol) C2H5OH but it is USP (pharmacopoeial) grade. That means it was made according to a certain standard and under strict conditions. It was not brewed at home nor was it an off label product.

The USP standard is also commonly used for a variety of other chemicals and compounds around the world. In fact the FDA even references it in their Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

What does the ethanol do in mouthwash?

The alcohol in Listerine may be an inactive ingredient but it contributes to its efficacy in three ways:

  • Acts as a solvent and helps to solubilize the rest of the ingredients.
  • Helps to deliver the active ingredients (essential oils).
  • Enables the essential oils to penetrate through the bacterial plaque biofilm.

Will it show up on a breathalyzer?

Since Listerine does contain alcohol, it can be detected by a breathalyzer but it won’t identify you as being intoxicated.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that it poses little risk to your breath test. Apparently, the breath alcohol values will dissipate very quickly after rinsing, thus will not flag you as an alcoholic.

The results of the study:

  • They tested – Listerine (29.6% alcohol), Scope (18.9% alcohol), and Lavoris (6.0% alcohol) using the Alco-Sensor III intoximeter.
  • Breath alcohol values decayed exponentially, 2 minutes after rinsing.
  • After 10 minutes, the values were well below the intoxicated driving level.

In summary, the ethanol can be detected by a breathalyzer but it will rapidly decay within a few minutes. That means if you’ve brushed and rinsed in the morning prior to getting tested, you shouldn’t fail it from your usual oral hygiene morning regime.

Vs Other Brands

Our research shows that Listerine’s alcohol based rinses have significantly more ethanol in it than its competitors, Crest (Scope) and ACT.

Crest mouthwashes alcohol content:

ACT mouthwashes alcohol content:

In summary, our darling Listerine especially their ORIGINAL, is the most intense and potent mouth rinse with the highest amount of alcohol in it. They eclipse their competitors by a wide margin.

What if I accidentally swallow it?

If you accidentally swallowed Listerine, the warning label specifically instructs you to contact a poison control center immediately. The most notably adverse effect from doing so would be intoxication which stems from the ethanol in the rinse.

No, please don’t try to drink this.

Which Listerine should I use?

All of their product lines regardless of whether or not they have alcohol, are all extremely effective as an oral rinse. They will help reduce plaque, biofilm, and help fight gum disease. They’ll also help get your mouth feeling fresh. Although after an extraction, it isn’t the preferred rinse by dentists despite its wonderful benefits.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be worried that one is more “effective” than the other.

However, what you should take into consideration is your tolerance to the burning sensation from rinsing with an alcohol based Listerine product. That feeling can be quite intense for some people and they may not be able to handle it nor do they desire it.

  • If you don’t like the burn, you should go with their Zero Alcohol rinses.
  • If you like the burn, you can use their alcohol based rinses.
  • If you’re a masochist and really like the intense burning sensation then you should opt for the ORIGINAL version which has the highest ethanol content.

We hope that answers all of your questions in regards to this fantastic mouthwash that is ADA approved. Yes, by none other than the American Dental Association, which is why you see their seal on the label.


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