How to gargle saltwater

How to gargle saltwater

There’s nothing quite like autumn in Albany! There’s a chill in the air, frost on the pumpkin, the leaves are turning vibrant shades of color…and a lot of people are sneezing and coughing. Fall marks the beginning of cold and flu season in New York, and one of the first symptoms is often a sore throat. Your mother may have suggested a saltwater gargle to provide soothing relief, and guess what? She was right!

What causes a sore throat?

Sore throats are short-lived but unpleasant. The majority are caused by cold and flu viruses and usually run their course after a few days, but in the meantime, they can cause quite a bit of discomfort. Throat lozenges and sprays can help, but the relief they provide is temporary. You might have better luck (and speed up the healing process) by gargling with saltwater.

Does saltwater have medicinal properties?

There is scientific evidence to support saltwater’s purported medicinal benefits. It won’t cure a sore throat—only time can do that—but its hypertonic properties (a biological term indicating the osmotic pressure is higher than that in the surrounding fluid) can help relieve pain and inflammation.

How does saltwater clean your throat?

When you gargle with saltwater, you are submerging the cells and drawing liquids to the surface, along with any virus and bacteria in the throat. When you spit the saltwater out, you’ll rid the body of those germs, as well. Another benefit? Moisture on the surface of the throat acts as a lubricant and helps soothe irritation.

How much salt do you need to make a saltwater gargle?

In order to benefit, you’ll have to come up with the correct ratio of salt to water.

Too little is ineffective; you’ll need to dissolve at least a quarter teaspoon of salt in half a cup of warm water in order to make it hypertonic. And yes, the water’s gotta be warm—the heat helps to dissolve the salt and increases blood flow in the throat, aiding the immune system and potentially leading to quicker healing. You can use any type of salt, but smaller granules tend to dissolve more quickly and easily.

How often should you gargle?

You’ll also have to be consistent. Gargling once won’t cut it; implement a routine and stick with it for the best results. Your Albany ear, nose and throat doctor recommends a saltwater gargle two to four times a day, depending on how bad your symptoms are. You should start to feel better after 24 hours. It’s important to drink lots of water so the salt doesn’t cause your other cells to dry out.

Is a saltwater rinse safe for anyone?

Gargling with saltwater isn’t recommended for everybody. If you suffer from high blood pressure, try another remedy to help moisten the throat. Chicken soup is a good alternative and, as with saltwater, it has been medically proven to work. As an added bonus, the broth contains nutrients that help fight infection. Other tips for soothing a sore throat include a spoonful of honey; cold, smooth treats such as ice cream or yogurt; a humidifier to moisten the air; avoiding cigarette smoke and drinking plenty of fluids in order to keep hydrated.

When should you visit an ENT?

If your sore throat lasts longer than a few days or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing or swollen glands, make an appointment with an ENT specialist in Albany. You’ll want to make sure you aren’t suffering from a more serious condition that requires antibiotics, like strep throat.

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We would like to address the claim that the popular home remedy of a salt water gargle during cold and flu season can help improve your health and list the scientific findings:

How to gargle saltwater

  1. A salt water gargle can help ease the symptoms of a common cold or respiratory tract infection and there is some evidence of a faster recovery.
  2. It will not outright prevent or cure either, nor is there any evidence that gargling with salt will or has prevented people from being infected with the new coronavirus or eliminating it once infection has taken.
  3. Only time will cure a common cold. A sore, itchy throat and respiratory congestion are some of the more common symptoms of a cold, a salt water gargle can ease the symptoms. The vast majority of sore throats are viral, not bacterial and will go away on their own in 3-7 days but there is some limited evidence that it can help recover more quickly from the common cold..
  4. Gargling with salt water seems to help for several reasons: “A saline solution can draw excess fluid from inflamed tissues in the throat, making them hurt less”, said Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor in chief of the Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies. Dr. Hagen pointed out that “Gargling also loosens thick mucus, which can remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat.”
  5. In a randomized study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005, researchers recruited almost 400 healthy volunteers and followed them for 60 days during cold and flu season. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.

Some of the subjects were told to gargle three times a day. At the end of the study period, the group that regularly gargled had a nearly 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections compared with the control group, and when they did get sick, “gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms,” the researchers wrote.

If you choose to do a salt water gargle:

Our Kona Deep Seawater Salt is especially mild to the taste and has no bitterness. After the solar dehydrating process, the salt is allowed to sit and drained of magnesium chloride for three weeks and therefore losing any bitterness.

How often should you gargle with salt water?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, gargle between 2-4 times per day. You should start feeling better soon after your first salt water gargle but to receive the benefits, keep up your routine.

How much salt should you use to make a salt water gargle for a sore throat?

Add half a teaspoon to warm water. Warm water will help dissolve the salt and increase the blood flow to your throat. Gargle repeatedly for 30 seconds until the salt water is finished.

* If you suffer from high blood pressure, it is not recommended to a salt water gargle since you will likely ingest a little bit of it.

This article was co-authored by Andrea Rudominer, MD, MPH and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD. Dr. Andrea Rudominer is a board certified Pediatrician and Integrative Medicine Doctor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Rudominer has over 15 years of medical care experience and specializes in preventive health care, obesity, adolescent care, ADHD, and culturally competent care. Dr. Rudominer received her MD from the University of California, Davis, and completed a residency at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. Dr. Rudominer also has an MPH in Maternal Child Health from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Member of the American Board of Pediatrics, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Member and Delegate of the California Medical Association, and a Member of the Santa Clara County Medical Association.

There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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If you’ve ever complained of a sore throat, a friend or family member might’ve suggested that you need to gargle with salt water. Seems easy enough, but does it really do anything? As it turns out, it does! Salt water helps reduces inflammation, which soothes a sore throat. It can also reduce the duration and severity of an infection. [1] X Research source Here, we’ve collected answers to all your burning questions about this safe and simple home remedy, including how it works and how to do it correctly.

How to gargle saltwaterKatie Morton

How to gargle saltwater

Salt water gargles are an easy and natural home remedy for a host of common ailments that may be the root cause of your pain. It could possibly soothe the inflammation in your throat in a matter of hours. What have you got to lose?

Keep reading to learn more about gargling salt water

How to gargle saltwater

Photo: Getty Images/ Michelle Arnold

What happens when you gargle salt water?

Salt water gargles may seem like an old wives’ tale (raise your hand if you first heard about it from Grandma), but there’s science to back up its effectiveness. The addition of salt to a glass of warm water used as a gargle creates an osmosis effect where the concentration of salt draws fluids from your mouth and throat tissues to relieve a painful infection. It also breaks up thick mucus, which can remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat, according to Philip T. Hagen, MD, editor in chief of the Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies.

Benefits of gargling salt water

Soothe inflammation and prevent infection from returning

For the above reason, salt water gargles can help alleviate throat inflammation caused by seasonal allergies, colds, and sinus infections. But the simple mixture can also prevent an infection from striking twice. The osmosis effect that helps your throat is also effective at drawing out harmful pathogens on your gum tissues and creating a salt barrier that helps prevent their return. (These effects were recently proven in a clinical study that focused on the effects of salt water.)

Pain caused by canker sores and bleeding gums can also be lessened by a periodic salt water gargle, which is why the trusted parenting site Doctor Sears names it as a go-to remedy.

Cut down on harmful bacteria in the mouth

Salt water neutralizes acids caused by invading bacteria. This, in turn, helps keep a balanced pH level in your mouth (the bacteria would much prefer a steamy, acidic home), which can help prevent gingivitis.

Salt water can also guard against the spread of fungal infections such as the yeast Candidiasis, which attacks the mouth and throat. (And no one wants that.)

Reduce respiratory infections

A 2005 study by the Mayo Clinic used a test group of 400 people split into two groups. One group was asked to gargle salt water three times a day. The other group was not. After a test run of 60 days during flu season, the group of people who used salt water gargle saw a 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections compare to the other group. For those who did get sick, their bronchial symptoms were greatly alleviated by the salt water gargle.

A clinical study in Japan also recently showed that using a salt water gargle can reduce the chance of upper respiratory infection by as much as 40 percent.

Clear your nasal passageways

If you’re suffering from the flu or a cold with head and chest congestion, a salt water gargle can thin the sore-throat-causing mucus build-up in your respiratory tract and nasal cavity.

Side effects of a salt water gargle

While a pinch of salt may be just what the doctor ordered, be careful not to turn your glass into the Dead Sea: Too much salt can dehydrate the mouth and throat tissues. A quarter to a half teaspoon per cup of water will do the trick.

How to prepare a salt water gargle

According to the Mayo Clinic, to make a salt water gargle, simply stir a quarter to a half teaspoon of table salt or sea salt into a cup of warm or hot water until it is completely dissolved. You want the water to be warm enough to dissolve the salt, but not so hot that it will burn your mouth. (Because then you’ll really need a doctor.)

It’s best to use pure water because tap water often includes chlorine, which could irritate your throat and weaken your immune system. So, even though it may seem extra-fancy, avoid tap water unless your home has its own well.

If you want to improve the taste, you could add honey, lemon, peppermint, or garlic.

How to gargle salt water

Take a large sip of the salt water, tilt your head back, and gargle for 30 seconds, then swish the water around your teeth and gums before spitting it out.

One sip won’t do it: Repeat this method until your cup of salt water is finished. And you can repeat the whole shebang every four hours until your sore throat subsides.

If your throat is still crying out for help after three days, it’s time to see your doctor. And if you have a fever or show symptoms of white mucus spots on your throat or tonsils, you may have an infection requiring antibiotics.

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An oral saline solution, or salt water mouth rinse, can be used to cleanse the mouth and relieve pain. People often use salt water for canker sores, after oral surgery, and for general mouth pain.

This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to make a salt water rinse you can use at home. It also answers some common questions about when and how to use the rinse.

How to gargle saltwater

Salt Water vs. Mouthwash

Traditional mouthwashes often have alcohol in them. They can irritate swollen mucous membranes in the mouth. That's a big reason why dentists suggest using a salt water rinse to relieve pain and swelling after a deep cleaning or other dental procedure.

Salt water rinses have been proven to:

  • Soothes oral ulcers or mouth sores
  • Reduces dental plaque and microbial count
  • Freshen breath

How to Make a Salt Water Mouth Rinse

You can easily make a good saline solution at home. You'll need two to three ingredients that almost everyone has in their kitchen. It's a good idea to make a fresh batch every time you use this rinse.


  • 8 ounces warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (optional)


Making a salt water mouth rinse is easy. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare.

  1. Start by bringing 8 ounces of warm water to a rolling boil.
  2. Turn off the heat.
  3. Let water stand until it's cool enough to rinse with but still warm. The heat helps to dissolve the salt and baking soda.
  4. While the water is still warm, sprinkle in the salt and stir until the salt completely dissolves.
  5. As an option, dissolve the baking soda in the water along with the salt.
  6. Use the saline solution as directed and discard any leftover solution.

Make a fresh solution for each use.

How to Use

Unless otherwise directed by your dentist or physician, swish the solution around in your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit it out. Don't swallow it. Nothing will happen to you if you do swallow it, but it's not necessary.

For Toothache

Salt water is also a good toothache aid. Rinsing with warm salt water two to three times a day may help to relieve a toothache because salt water works as an antiseptic. It gently removes bacteria from the infected area.

Oral Baking Soda Paste

If you want to target a specific sore in your mouth, such as a canker sore, it's easy to create a paste. Mix baking soda and small drops of water gradually until the paste is about as thick as toothpaste. Cover the canker sore with the paste. Repeat as often as necessary.


Salt water rinses can be used to reduce pain and help with swelling if you've had a dental procedure or you have canker sores or a sore throat.

Making the saline solution is as easy as stirring a teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of water that has been boiled and cooled a little. You can also add 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the mixture if you like.

Use the rinse while the salt water is still warm, but not hot enough to burn your mouth. Make it fresh each time you use it.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about how often to rinse with salt water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Saline is a mixture of water and sodium chloride (salt).

Saline solution has many uses. People use it to soothe mouth sores and bleeding gums, heal sore throats, loosen food stuck between teeth, freshen breath, and relieve toothaches.

Salt water rinse can remove some bacteria from the area of infection and may help relieve pain, but it does not cure the gum infection. You should speak with your dentist or healthcare provider about treatment.

Use a salt water rinse before brushing your teeth. The rinse shouldn't be used after brushing your teeth since it can interfere with the protective fluoride in toothpaste.

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Upper respiratory tract infections (URI) are prevalent in the United States. URIs can also be debilitating and costly. The most common etiology for an URI is viral, and there are currently no antiviral medications for the common cold. Therefore, cost-effective preventative measures are essential in the prevention of URIs. This literature review intends to compare the few studies evaluating the effectiveness of saltwater gargle for preventing URIs. The goals of this review include commenting on the potential for a saltwater gargle in preventing URIs, shortcomings of the few studies performed and recommendations for further research in evaluating saltwater gargle as an effective prevention method. This review looks explicitly at three studies evaluating the effectiveness of saltwater gargling and the prevention of URIs. Conclusions derived from this review include both physiological and clinical evidence of the potential for saltwater gargling in URI prevention. The first two studies demonstrate patient-derived evidence for saltwater gargling, potentially providing a decreased risk of URI when used preventatively. The third study demonstrates the potential for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in evaluating the effectiveness of saltwater gargling in reducing the duration of illness. Additionally, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cost-effective treatment options targeting viral URIs, such as SARS-CoV-2, warrant further evaluation and discussion.

Now that it’s officially fall, cold and flu season is upon us. It’s too bad pumpkin spice isn’t an effective prevention, because you can hardly walk ten paces without bumping into something edible and pumpkin-flavored. Unfortunately, people in Topeka are going to get sick, and one of those primary symptoms is likely to be a sore throat. Age-old wisdom stipulates that gargling with saltwater will help soothe discomfort and speed up the healing process, but is there any truth to this popular remedy?

Mom Was Right. Well, Kind Of.

How to gargle saltwater

What causes a sore throat?

Most sore throats are caused by a virus, usually the common cold or flu, and will run their course in a few days. But the pain that accompanies a sore throat is anything but pleasant, so reducing discomfort is a priority.

Mothers everywhere have been recommending gargling with saltwater for about as long as sore throats have plagued their kids.

Can saltwater help a sore throat?

It turns out that there is some science to back up this claim. Saltwater doesn’t actually cure a sore throat, but it’s got important properties that help alleviate pain and discomfort.

It’s hypertonic, meaning the osmotic pressure in saltwater is higher than the surrounding fluid in your cells; submerging the cells in saltwater draws liquid to the surface, as well as any virus and bacteria that are in your throat.

When you spit it out, you are likely to get rid of some of these germs along with the saltwater.

Additionally, moisture on the surface of the throat acts as a lubricant and helps relieve some of the pain.

How much salt do you need?

You’ll have to pay attention to the ratio in order to come up with an effective solution.

A little bit of salt won’t do; in order to make the water hypertonic, you’ll need to dissolve at least a quarter teaspoon of salt in half a cup of warm water. The heat will help dissolve the salt and increase blood flow in your throat, giving your immune system a boost.

Any kind of salt will work, but smaller granules are best because they will dissolve faster and more easily.

How often should you use a salt water rinse?

If the idea of a saltwater gargle makes you queasy, you might be tempted to do it just once. Unfortunately, you have to keep up the routine in order to ensure it works. If a sore throat persists, you may need a visit to an ENT to rule out tonsilitis and other conditions.

Your Topeka ENT specialist recommends gargling with saltwater two to four times a day, depending on the severity of your symptoms. You should begin to feel better after 24 hours.

Be sure to drink plenty of regular water so the salt doesn’t dry out the rest of your cells.

Can you use something other than salt water?

Gargling with saltwater isn’t for everybody. People with high blood pressure should refrain; instead, they should try other home remedies to help moisten the throat. Chicken soup is another favorite of moms, and it too has been shown to work. Plus, it contains other nutrients that help fight infection.

Other natural remedies include a spoonful of honey, using a humidifier, drinking lots of water and other fluids to stay hydrated, and avoiding cigarette smoke.

When should you go into the doctor for a sore throat?

Sore throats that persist longer than a few days or are accompanied by other symptoms should be evaluated by a physician.

If you have tried a saltwater gargle or other natural remedy and your symptoms haven’t improved within a week, make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor in Topeka to rule out anything more serious.

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With October in full swing the leaves are changing colors, the lines for pumpkin spice-flavored coffee are out the door…and people in Augusta are getting sick. The change in weather sparks the unofficial start of cold and flu season; one of the most common symptoms is a sore throat. You’ve probably heard that gargling with salt water will help ease throat pain and might even accelerate the healing process. Is there any truth to this?

An Age-Old Remedy That Works

Sore throats are usually caused by a virus—often the common cold or flu. Allergy symptoms including postnasal drip can also cause a sore throat. They are often the first symptom you notice, an indication that illness is imminent. Fortunately they tend to run their course in a few days, but the pain they cause during that time can make you downright miserable. Medications might help, but Augusta mothers have been recommending a saltwater gargle for decades. If this sounds like an old wives’ tale (no offense, mom!), you’ll be surprised to learn that there is some scientific basis to this claim.

Will saltwater cure a sore throat?

Saltwater won’t actually cure a sore throat, but it can help reduce pain and discomfort. This is because saltwater has hypertonic properties; in other words, the osmotic pressure in saltwater is higher than the pressure in the fluid of the surrounding cells.

In layman’s terms, osmosis refers to the movement of water molecules across cell membranes; hypertonic fluids encourage movement of water from the cell to the surface, helping to draw out not only liquid, but any virus or bacteria in your throat, as well. After gargling, when you spit out the water, you will get rid of some of the germs, as well.

An additional benefit of a saltwater gargle is that moisture on the surface of the throat acts as a lubricant and will help relieve some of the soreness.

How to Gargle with Saltwater

Making a saltwater gargle is easy and inexpensive. The key is to make sure you have enough salt to make the water hypertonic; at a minimum, dissolve a quarter teaspoon of salt in a half cup of warm water.

  • Don’t use cold water; the heat is necessary to help dissolve the salt and increase blood flow in your throat, which helps strengthen your immune system.
  • You can use any type of salt, but smaller granules dissolve more quickly and easily, so save the kosher salt for your next Sunday roast.
  • Tilt your head back, gargle for a few seconds and then spit it out.

You’ll want to do this several times a day to really benefit, but in about 24 hours you should begin to feel better. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day so the salt doesn’t dry out the rest of your cells.

Don’t use a saltwater gargle if…

Not everybody should gargle with saltwater to help with a sore throat. Individuals with high blood pressure should focus on other home remedies that help moisten the throat. Chicken soup is another mom- and grandmother-approved solution that actually works; it contains nutrients that fight infection naturally. Other tips include honey, ginger, using a humidifier and staying away from cigarette smoke.

If you still have a sore throat, call your local ENT.

If you have tried a saltwater gargle and your sore throat hasn’t gone away after a few days, make an appointment with an ENT in Augusta GA. You’ll want to make sure there isn’t anything more serious, such as strep throat, causing your symptoms.