Salt Water Gargling: Complete Guide (Updated 2024)

wooden spoon filled with salt placed on a black background

In this post, we reveal everything you need to know about gargling, including how to gargle, the science behind gargling, when to use salt water for gargling, the best ways to gargle, the benefits of gargling and the best recipes for gargling. Let's get started!


woman holding cup leaning back gargling in an airy light room

Gargling is an essential step in any dental hygiene routine. It helps clear the mouth and throat of any bacteria that cannot be reached during brushing or flossing. Gargling can also help soothe the inflammation and pain of a sore throat.

According to Ayurvedic medicine, one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems, gargling (known as gandusha in Ayurveda) is considered an important part of any health regime.

Ayurveda believes that disease arises from the interaction between three doshas or energies, namely vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (water). Ayurveda posits that any imbalance between these doshas or energies causes illness. In particular, it is believed that a doshic imbalance which weighs in favour of vata and kapha can lead to a sore throat. To soothe sore throat, Ayurveda recommends special kinds of gargling.

Sore throat is the primary symptom of the common cold and represents one of the most commonly faced problems caused by cold and flu. No matter how healthy you are, you cannot escape occasional sore throat. Salt water gargling is a safe and effective home remedy to ease throat pain. It not only relieves you from irritation but also prevents it from getting worse. The effect of gargling is seen within a matter of hours.

Ayurvedic practitioners recommend warm water gargling as a treatment measure for removing phlegm and mucus, loss of taste, gingival and dental infections. Along with bringing lightness, it makes you feel clean and nourished.

In this blog post, we discuss the science behind gargling, its benefits, explain how it works and when it is needed. We will also discuss a step-by-step procedure for gargling and conclude by identifying several Ayurvedic remedies and recipes for gargling mixtures.

What is Gargling?

Gargling is a simple and natural home remedy which helps to address oral health problems like sore throat, tonsillitis, laryngitis and bad breath. Warm salt water gargle can be the best home remedy for a sore throat. This sore throat cure can be done by adults as well as children above 6 years who can gargle easily.

The act of gargling causes the liquid in your mouth to bubble and creates a  vibration in your throat. This vibration helps the liquid in your mouth cover various parts of your throat and all or most of the oral mucosa, which, in turn, helps remove harmful bacteria and other pathogens. This process can help remove viruses which cause irritation in your throat, and thereby help soothe your sore throat.

The Science Behind Gargling

Salt water gargling is believed by health practitioners to be among the best alternative treatment measure for minor oral discomfort. Saltwater is believed to create an effective barrier that prevents harmful pathogens from entering the system. By blocking viruses and bacteria, salt water gargling reduces the chances of infection in the throat.

It is also believed that salt water creates an osmosis effect in your mouth with the result that it draws pathogens from the tissues of the mouth and throat. It also removes allergens by breaking up the thick mucus in your throat, making it among the best home remedy for a sore throat. This process essentially creates a saltwater rinse which flushes out harmful pathogens from your mouth and throat leaving behind fresh and healthy oral mucosa. 

When Salt Water Gargling is Recommended

Salt water gargling can be done regularly to ensure a healthy and fresh mouth and throat. In particular, gargling is recommended to treat the following health conditions:

Sore Throat

Cold and flu can cause sore throat. Salt water gargling can efficiently reduce throat pain. In fact, a study conducted in Japan has revealed that simple gargling can effectively prevent 40% of upper respiratory tract infections. The positive health impacts of gargling can be increased with a warm salt water gargle.

Respiratory Infections and Sinusitis

Salt water gargling also helps reduce viral and bacterial infections that include strep throat, flu and mononucleosis. In fact, a study conducted showed that salt water gargling is the most effective preventative measure for respiratory tract infections.

Certain Allergies

Some allergic reactions also cause a sore or scratchy throat. In order to ease such a condition and reduce irritation, try salt water gargling.

For Oral Health

Saltwater helps support gum and dental health, thereby helping to prevent cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis. In fact, in a clinical trial, it was found that regular salt water gargling significantly reduces the salivary levels of the bacteria streptococci mutans. These bacteria are one of the major culprits in the formation of pitting and fissures in the teeth which will eventually lead to cavities. By regularly gargling with saltwater, you can reduce this type of bacteria in your mouth and help prevent future oral health issues.

Mouth Ulcers or Canker Sores

Salt water gargling also helps to ease the pain and inflammation caused by canker sores. In particular, gargling is recommended for children suffering from mouth ulcers.

Best Ways to Gargle

glass jar filled with salt spilling over a table

Your salt water gargle can be prepared easily at home. Adults and children above 6 years of age can engage in saltwater gargling. In order to prepare your gargling solution, mix ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm or hot water. The water should be warm enough to dissolve the salt, but not so hot that you burn your mouth.

How to Gargle 

Gargle the saltwater at the back of your throat, then swish it around your mouth. Afterwards, spit it out. You can repeat this process multiple times throughout the day, and it is recommended that you repeat it at least twice a day. It is also advised to gargle first thing in the morning and before bedtime.

You should engage in the following steps when gargling:

  1. Prepare the gargle of your choice. You may want to start with plain water, as salt water can burn the throat if your gargle ineffectively.
  2. Take a large sip of the liquid in your mouth, and make sure you are comfortable with it.
  3. Tilt your head back, and let the liquid cover the back of your throat. 
  4. Push air from your throat making an ‘Aahh’ sound , but keep your epiglottis closed so as to ensure that you do not swallow the liquid. 
  5. Let the liquid bubble through your mouth and continue this for 30 to 40 seconds. 
  6. Spit the liquid in the sink.
  7. Repeat several times until you have finished your glass of gargling solution.

Here are a few tips for effective gargling:

  • If you feel uncomfortable with saltwater, try plain water at the beginning, but then slowly shift to saltwater as you become more comfortable with gargling. 
  • While gargling, make sure you tilt your head back far enough so as to ensure that the liquid reaches the back of your throat and tonsils.
  • Do not rush! Take your time and keep breathing throughout the gargling process.
  • After gargling, swish your mouth with fresh water to remove any remaining pathogens and other bacteria.

While gargling is a great way to help a sore throat, you should make sure that you do not limit gargling to those occasions. In particular, it is recommended that you gargle regularly and that it forms part of your daily health routine. Gargling helps ensure a healthy mouth and oral system free from bacteria and germs.

Benefits of Salt Water Gargling

Salt water gargling is an effective home remedy that helps to keep your teeth, gums and tongue healthy. It is a simple way to boost your oral health and promotes quick healing. You can engage in salt water gargling as a daily hygiene routine to boost your oral health. Gargling with warm water also improves your blood circulation.

Salt also has antiseptic properties, with the result that gargling helps to kill or expel harmful pathogens in the throat. The mucus build-up in your throat also contains bacteria and viruses responsible for infection which, when removed from the throat, makes it easier for the body to fight the infection.

1. Alleviates Inflammation and Prevents Reinfection

Salt water gargling relieves throat inflammation caused by cold, flu or sinus infections. By drawing all the harmful pathogens from the mouth and throat, it also prevents any chances of reinfection.

2. Reduces Harmful Bacteria Count in the Mouth

Saltwater helps to maintain a balanced pH level in your mouth. It also guards against the spread of infections in your mouth or throat.

3. Relieves Nasal Congestion

Warm salt water gargling helps to thin out the mucus build-up in your respiratory tract and nasal cavity. In this way, along with relieving your discomfort, it flushes out viruses and bacteria.

4. Helps to Ease the Symptoms of Tonsilitis

Due to bacterial and viral infection, the tonsils can become inflamed, which is known as tonsillitis. Salt water gargling helps relieve pain due to tonsillitis.

5. Cleanses Your Mouth

Saltwater cleanses your mouth by removing food particles stuck between your teeth. It also prevents the development of oral infections.

6. Reduces Bad Breath

Salt water gargling is a natural way to cleanse your mouth and freshen your breath. By preventing bacteria build-up in your mouth, it helps eliminate bad breath.

Safety Precautions

Salt water gargling is completely safe with no side effects. That said, some safety measures to consider include the following:

  • Adding too much salt to your gargling mixture can dehydrate your mouth and lead to throat issues. Adding a half teaspoon of salt to a glass of water should be sufficient.
  • Do not take a lot of gargling liquid in your mouth, as it will make you uncomfortable and may prevent you from gargling effectively. 
  • Try not to swallow the gargling liquid, particularly if it contains salt or other ingredients, as it may cause you to vomit. 

Ayurvedic Recipes for Gargling

Salt water gargling is a remarkably effective scratchy throat remedy which can give you quick relief. If you dislike the taste of saltwater or are simply looking for an alternative to saltwater gargling, you might consider trying different gargling mixtures which contain natural ingredients with a variety of health benefits. Some of the most popular natural variations include the following.

Lemon and Water

two clear glass mason jars filled with water and lemon slices

Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to a glass of warm water. This mixture helps shrink swollen throat tissues and creates an acidic environment in your throat which makes it inhospitable for bacteria and viruses. Lemon is also loaded with vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant to consume when battling the common cold.

Ginger and Honey with Lemon Water

Add half a cup of hot water to one teaspoon of ginger powder. Then add honey and one tablespoon of  lemon juice. Honey is highly antibacterial and will coat your throat to provide instant relief from a sore throat. As an anti-inflammatory and immunity booster, ginger provides pain relief and fights infections which cause sore throats.

Turmeric and Water

Mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric and ½ teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of hot water until dissolved.  Turmeric relieves inflammation and swelling and pairs well with the antibacterial qualities of salt. If you are having trouble getting the turmeric to dissolve evenly in the water, consider adding this three ingredient gargling solution to a blender for 30 seconds to quickly and effectively combine the ingredients.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Salt

Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with ½ a teaspoon of salt and warm water. This recipe is perfect for helping relieve a bad cough. The apple cider vinegar will create an acidic coating in your throat in which germs will be unable to survive. Repeat every two to four hours throughout the day and watch your nagging cough disappear.

Echinacea and Water

Echinacea is an excellent herb for killing viruses. Add two teaspoons of echinacea to a cup of warm water and gargle with this solution three times a day. Echinacea is a popular herbal remedy known for its potential to prevent or treat the common cold. This echinacea gargling solution will not only help soothe a sore throat, it will also boost your immune system so your body can effectively fight the infection.

Myrrh Gargle

Add a few drops of myrrh essential oil or a ½ teaspoon of myrrh powder to a glass of warm water. Myrrh is a reddish-brown dried sap that comes from the thorny tree Commiphora myrrha that is native to northeastern Africa and southwest Asia. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, myrrh is an excellent astringent and it quickly reduces inflammation.

Copper Infused Gargle

Any of the above gargling recipes can also be used with copper infused water from a copper water bottle. Copper is well-known for its incredible anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Copper is especially effective against E. coli and S. aureus, two bacteria that are commonly found in our environment and are known to cause severe illnesses in the human body. Copper water vessels have also been used since ancient times to disinfect and purify water. To create copper infused water, fill a 100% copper bottle with water and let sit at room temperature overnight or for 6 to 8 hours.


Gargling is an easy and natural way to improve your oral health and promote fast healing. You can make it a part of your daily routine and can also use it to get immediate relief from throat pain. By incorporating this natural remedy in your daily life you can avoid recurrent throat infections and allergic irritations while also improving your dental hygiene. 

About the Authors: This article was collaboratively written by our team of researchers and writers with the benefit of all available scientific studies and other relevant literature. Our team of researchers and writers include experienced health researchers including a qualified medical professional. Please note that information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Did You Enjoy This Article?

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Aug 29, 2020 • Posted by Copper H2O

Hi Kim, thanks so much for your comment! We’re so glad to hear you found this post useful. Please let us know if you have any questions!

Aug 29, 2020 • Posted by Kim

Great article about gargling salt water! I heard it was good to do but never knew why. Also really enjoyed learning about other remedies other than salt water.

Jun 29, 2020 • Posted by Copper H2O

Hi Indumati, thanks for your message! Great, so glad to hear it was useful to you!

Jun 29, 2020 • Posted by Indumati

This information is very nice n useful

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