14 Uses Of Salt Water Gargling For Sore Throat, Cough & More

From treating dry cough to tooth decay – this age-old remedy can never go wrong!

Medically reviewed by Dr. Thomas ConnellyDr. Thomas Connelly, DDS
By Sindhu KogantiSindhu Koganti, Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach  • 

Saltwater gargling is the old-school remedy that effectively treats and provides relief from a sore throat. It is an easy and safe way for soothing the pain and symptoms related to several respiratory conditions. The benefits of saltwater gargling can be attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

It has certain medicinal values that help heal canker sores, prevent upper respiratory tract infections, treat dry cough, relieve toothache, clear mucus, prevent gingivitis, and eliminate bad breath. This time-tested remedy also helps alleviate throat pain.

In this article, we have discussed the potential benefits of saltwater gargling, how to prepare it, how to gargle with salt water effectively, and some risks associated with it. Keep reading!

protip_icon Know Your Ingredient: Salt Water

What Is It?
A solution made by dissolving salt into the water.

What Are Its Benefits?
It eases sore throat, heals canker sores, prevents respiratory tract infections, relieves toothache, and eases tonsilitis.

Who Can Use It?
It can be used by all, but especially people suffering from gingivitis, gum, and toothache might find this solution beneficial.

How Often?
You can gargle using salt water twice a day.

Avoid gargling for a long period of time and do not swallow the salt water.

Benefits Of Salt Water Gargle

Gargling and rinsing your mouth with salt water provide a range of health benefits.

1. May Ease A Sore Throat

Salt water gargle eases sore throat

Image: Shutterstock

A sore throat can be a result of bacterial or viral infections or allergic reactions. Gargling with salt water may help relieve the condition (1).

Saltwater gargling works on the same principle as osmosis. It makes the environment in your throat inhospitable for the bacteria/virus. The solution flushes out the infection-causing microbes and may help build immunity against them.

Salt water gargle can help in the prevention of several infections and keep the mouth clean (2).

2. May Heal Canker Sores

Canker sores are small bothersome ulcers occurring in your mouth. They can be sensitive and quite painful. Accidentally biting the inside of your cheek, sensitivity to certain foods or hormonal fluctuations during menstruation can cause canker sores.

Salt water gargling can relieve the associated pain. It may also accelerate healing and recovery in infants and children (3).

3. May Prevent Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Salt water gargle manages common cold

Image: Shutterstock

Salt water gargle may help reduce upper respiratory tract infections, like flu, common cold, and strep throat.

According to one study, gargling with warm salt water thrice a day is an easy and cost-effective way to decrease your risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection by 40% (4).

A study conducted on 338 Hajj pilgrims found that salt water gargle helped reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections (5).

4. May Treat Dry Cough

Saltwater gargle works equally well in treating a dry cough as well as one filled with phlegm. Gargling with salt water works as an anti-tussive (it helps stop a cough) (6).

5. May Relieve Toothache

Salt water gargle reduces tooth ache

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A toothache occurs due to the build-up of pus in the center of your tooth as a result of a bacterial infection. A saltwater gargle may relieve the pain by flushing out some of the fluid from the tooth.

You can rinse your mouth with salt water every few hours. Salt is a natural disinfectant that may help ease the swelling in tissues (7).

6. May Treat Dental Plaque And Prevent Gingivitis

Saltwater gargles may treat and prevent dental plaque and gingivitis. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and along the gum lining. If left untreated for too long, it can harden into tartar and eventually develop into gingivitis.

Gingivitis is characterized by swollen, painful gums. It can also lead to more serious oral diseases and loss of teeth. The best way to prevent this is by gargling with warm salt water a few times a week. This helps remove the plaque build-up on your teeth (8).

7. May Clear Mucus And Relieve Nasal Congestion

Gargling with warm salt water may help thin out the mucus build-up in your respiratory tract and nasal cavity and expel it (9). This reduces inflammation and may relieve throat pain.

The warm salt water also flushes out the bacteria and virus, which may otherwise lead to congestion. Limited research is available at this point, and more studies are required to conclude. Anecdotal evidence shows that saltwater gargles may relieve nasal congestion.

8. May Maintain Natural pH Levels

There is limited evidence available in this regard. Anecdotal evidence suggests that salt water helps neutralize the acids in the throat produced by the invading bacteria and helps maintain a healthy pH balance.

A normal pH balance helps the natural bacteria in your throat and mouth to thrive. It also prevents unwanted bacteria from accumulating and causing infections.

9. May Eliminate Bad Breath

A warm salt water gargle can neutralize the acids in your mouth. It restores its natural pH level and flushes out oral bacteria. Anecdotal evidence suggests that salt water gargles may help eliminate bad breath.

10. May Ease Tonsillitis

Tonsils can get inflamed due to a bacterial or viral infection and lead to symptoms like sore throat, troubled swallowing, and a yellow-white coating on the tonsils (10). Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve the pain in your throat and ease some of these symptoms.

11. May Treat Bleeding And Swollen Gums

Bleeding and swollen gums are the first sign of bacterial gum disease. Rinsing your mouth with salt water can help reduce inflammation and fight the bacteria (11). Additionally, it can help flush out the bacteria from an abscess in your mouth that is causing the infection.

12. May Protect The Enamel

Salt water contains fluoride minerals that may provide protection or even reverse tooth decay. The fluoride in salt water prevents the loss of minerals from the tooth enamel and helps strengthen it.

It also neutralizes the acids in your mouth that attack and weakens the enamel on your teeth (12). Hence, a salt water rinse needs to be incorporated in your dental routine.

13. May Aid Gingival Wound Healing

Oral diseases like gingivitis cause the gums to weaken and become more susceptible to injury. Over time, the teeth also loosen from their place.

A study conducted in Thailand has found that rinsing your mouth with salt water could promote rapid healing of any wound in the connective tissues in your gums. It also restores gum health (13).

14. May Fight Candidiasis

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused when the yeast Candida starts growing in the mouth, throat, or esophagus. This can lead to symptoms like white patches in your mouth and throat, a cottony sensation in your mouth, and pain while swallowing.

Salt has antimicrobial properties. Rinsing and gargling with salt water may help fight Candida infection (14).

protip_icon Did You Know?
The ancient Chinese were amongst the first people to harvest salt from the surface of lakes and the first to use it for medicinal purposes. They used to collect the salt in the dried lake beds after the water had evaporated during the dry seasons.

Here’s how you can make salt water gargle at home.

How To Prepare Salt Water For Gargling

Preparing salt water at home for gargling is very easy. You just need to follow the procedure below:

  1. Add half a teaspoon of either table salt or sea salt to a cup of warm water. Stir until the salt dissolves completely.
  2. Ensure the solution is not too hot.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Consider adding a touch of garlic juice or lemon juice to your salt water gargle prep for enhancing the taste.

In the following section, we will look at how you can gargle with salt water effectively.

How To Gargle With Salt Water Effectively

Woman holding salt water in a glass

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Take as much of the solution into your mouth as is comfortable.
  2. Gargle the salt water near the back of the throat.
  3. Rinse the water around the mouth, teeth, and gums.
  4. Spit out the solution.

The salt water solution is generally safe to swallow. But if you have any oral infection, it is always better to spit it out. Gargling with salt water twice a day is recommended for maximum effectiveness.

A person should gargle salt water solution for as long as possible. But before they do so, they must be aware of the possible risks of the process and the precautions to be taken.

Risks And Precautions

Salt water in a glass

Image: Shutterstock


Though salt water gargling does not have any serious side effects, there are some ways it can affect you negatively:

  • Gargling with salt water that has too much salt in it can lead to dehydration due to the elevation of plasma sodium levels (15).
  • Swallowing too much salt water can be harmful as consuming excessive sodium can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (16).
  • Engaging in salt water gargling every day for a long period can soften the enamel of your teeth and gums due to its acidic content. Also, people with any medical condition or high blood pressure must consult a doctor before gargling.


  1. Always check how hot the salt water is before gargling to avoid burning your mouth.
  2. If you feel the salt water is too salty, dilute it by adding a little more water.
  3. Make sure the salt has dissolved completely before gargling. Undissolved grains of salt can grate against the lining of your throat and cause more pain instead of alleviating it.

Infographic: Salt Water Gargle: Benefits And How It Works

Gargling with salt water is an age-old remedy for various throat and respiratory infections. Mix edible salt with warm water and gargle with the solution twice a day to ease sore throat. It also offers various other benefits. Check out the following infographic to learn more.

benefits of salt water gargle (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

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Download Infographic in PDF version

The benefits of salt water gargling are not just limited to curing a sore throat. It can also effectively heal canker sores, help combat upper respiratory tract infections, manage dry cough, toothache, dental plaque, and gingivitis, clear mucus, and relieve nasal congestion. It also helps maintain the natural pH levels and is an effective remedy for bad breath. However, avoid adding too much salt, and always ensure the water is not too hot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you rinse with salt water before or after brushing?

You can rinse with salt water either way. The saltwater rinse will act as a mouthwash and keep your mouth clean.

What is the ratio of salt to water to be taken for gargling?

You need a cup of water for half a teaspoon of table salt or sea salt.

Can salt water whiten teeth?

No, salt water may not whiten your teeth. But since salt water helps reverse tooth decay, as discussed above, it may help improve oral hygiene and health and the appearance of your teeth as a consequence.

Key Takeaways

  • Salt water gargle can help in the treatment of small ulcers in the mouth that are often caused due to hormonal imbalance during menstruation, or food sensitivity.
  • It is a cost-efficient remedy for treating respiratory tract infections.
  • Salt water gargle can help reduce nasal congestion and remove mucus.
  • Gargling with salt water may help reduce inflammation in the gums and fight bacterial infection in the mouth.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Check out our editorial policy for further details.
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