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August 23, 2006 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Is drinking mouthwash actually harmful to anything other than your social standing?

I'm not desperate, or even in the mood for a drink. I was just getting ready for bed and noticed that the makers of my mouthrinse didn't try as hard to discourage me from swallowing it as they might.
posted by Mayor Curley to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'd probably survive a shot, but I'd avoid the Scope Kegger:

Turning to the journals again, we read of one fellow who died after drinking three liters of Listerine; if mouthwash is quaffed in keg-size quantities, the authors conclude, the "phenolic compounds" it contains (eucalyptol, menthol, and thymol) "may contribute to a severe anion-gap metabolic acidosis and osmolar gap, multiorgan system failure, and death."

-Cecil Adams; "Can You Get Drunk on Listerine"?
posted by headspace at 8:10 PM on August 23, 2006

A few years ago I swallowed some listerine/similar brand mouthwash accidentally, but I didn't think much of it. I ended up throwing up later on. Of course, this was on an empty stomach, so this might not happen to you.

I wouldn't, but hey, that's me.
posted by Camel of Space at 8:11 PM on August 23, 2006

my dentist told me listerine actually burns tissue. i still use it but i don't drink it.
posted by brandz at 8:42 PM on August 23, 2006

Classical disclaimer: IAND. I may not even know what I am talking about.

It might have fluor, which can cause poisoning in large doses (Americans already drink insane amounts of fluor in their tap water, so a small extra may be a non-issue).

I'd say a dose of it won't harm you permanently (it's something you put in your mouth... I don't believe it would be FDA approved if it were poisonous in small doses). You may get stomach or intestine uneasiness (like farting mint/lyptus for two days straight), but I don't _suppose_ you'll get something serious like an ulcera or renal/liver disease from a single dose. If you're thinking of drinking the whole bottle, that's another story. The germicides can cause mayhem in your intestinal flora, and give you diarrhea until it's restored (could be weeks).

On the other hand, my cousin used to eat a lot of toothpaste (strawberry flavoured), and he's still alive. Your mileage may vary.
posted by qvantamon at 10:00 PM on August 23, 2006

Some manufacturers of NBA (non-beverage alcohol) products put denatonium benzoate in their stuff to make it taste so bad as to discourage consumption. I don't know if this is so useful in mouthwash, though.

If you google for "listerhol", you can find some lovely recipes.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:30 AM on August 24, 2006

Mouthwash kills bacteria and if you swallow large enough doses you might kill the 'good' bacteria that helps digestion in your intestines.
posted by PenDevil at 1:48 AM on August 24, 2006

Your question made me smile as it reminded me one of the numerous dumbass things an ex of mine did.

She'd been trying to hide from her parents that she was a smoker. While she was driving back to her mum's house she drank several of caps of Listerine. She drank them, as it was howling with rain and she didn't want to open the window to spit.

Then she got pulled over by the NJ traffic police for failing to stop at a STOP sign.

This would have been a better story, of course, if she'd been breathalysed and found to be over the limit, but, erm, well, in answer to your actual question then drinking mouthwash in your car can probably lead to a loss in social standing due to being prosecuted for DUI.

It does brings up another question. If carrying alcohol in your car is illegal in Ontario, do you have to hide the mouthwash in the trunk?
posted by randomination at 4:16 AM on August 24, 2006

Any number of live prep school graduates can attest that it will not kill you, but might make early-morning classes a little hazy.
posted by yerfatma at 4:27 AM on August 24, 2006

Here's another story about someone drinking mouthwash (3 large glasses!) who presumably survived.
posted by srah at 5:33 AM on August 24, 2006

This bum that roams the blocks near me sometimes has a little bottle of Scope or something with chunks of fruit floating in it, and he's all right. Wait...
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:23 AM on August 24, 2006

I remember in Penn & Teller's old "How to Play with Your Food" book, they say that mouthwash with alcohol in it also have a chemical that will make you throw up.
posted by falconred at 8:01 AM on August 24, 2006

It's not mouthwash, but when my mom was a kid her father owned a dime store, and they sold bay rum aftershave which has a high alcohol content and was really cheap. She said it used to come in long neck bottles, and the bums would buy it and put the neck as far back in their throats as possible to avoid the nasty taste while getting drunk. Sales significantly decreased when they switched to a short necked bottle.

Anyway, she never heard of one dying from it...and they kept coming back.
posted by thejanna at 10:43 AM on August 24, 2006

Whether you swallow or not, you're getting a small amount of it into your bloodstream through your mouth. While you're in the cabinet, look to see if you have older or off-brand NyQuil in there -- that stuff used to run 50 proof.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:20 PM on August 24, 2006

Mouthwash usually has a surfactant in it. Listerine contains poloxamer 407, which is a liquid at room temperature, but turns into a gel at body temperature, and can also contain trace amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, neither of which is good to ingest.
posted by owhydididoit at 10:44 AM on August 26, 2006

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