Before Listerine killed germs in your mouth, it killed bacteria on bathroom floors. Yes, back in the late 1800s, Listerine, which was originally developed as a hospital-grade antiseptic and later used as “a pharmaceutical specialty for dentists,” was commonly sold to consumers as an all-purpose cleaner, used to sanitize floors, clean feet, and douse smelly armpits.
The product didn’t become a household name until the 1920s, when the Lambert Pharmacal Company invented the bad breath “disease” known as halitosis and marketed Listerine as the cure. It was a profitable move for Lambert — according to the book Freakonomics, “in just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $US115,000 ($148,569) to more than $US8 ($10) million.”
Since then, people have been swishing this one-time household cleaner around in their mouths in the hopes it will freshen their breath. And sure, you can keep gargling that floor cleaner — but here are 15 other household uses for the terrible-tasting mouthwash.
Clean your toilet
Strong mouthwash can be used to both cleans and disinfect your toilet bowl. All you need is mouthwash and a toilet brush. Put a capful of mouthwash in the toilet and let it sit for 15 minutes. Use the toilet brush to scrub away toilet rings, and flush. You’ll have a clean toilet. (Use the minty kind for a better-smelling one, too.)
Kill germs in the laundry
You can kill bacteria in your clothes by throwing mouthwash into your next load. Turn the washer on and let it fill with water. Before the cycle starts, throw one cup of mouthwash in with your detergent and run as usual. The mouthwash will aid in killing any germs lurking on your clothes. Caution: Steer clear of any mouthwash with dyes or artificial colouring that could stain your clothes.
You can also use mouthwash to disinfect the washing machine itself. Let the washer fill up with water, pour in one cup of mouthwash, and run a full cycle. Your washing machine will then be germ-free.
The antiseptic in mouthwash like Listerine makes it a perfect product for killing fungi — including malassezia, the kind that can cause dandruff. Mix half a cup of mouthwash and half a cup of water in a spray bottle. Apply the solution onto a clean scalp and let it sit for five minutes, then rinse. Your dandruff should improve, and your head will smell like a stick of gum.
Get rid of foot fungus
Let’s stay onboard the fungus train and move from head to toe(s). If you suffer from foot fungus, mix equal parts warm water, white vinegar, and Listerine in a basin or the tub, making sure there is enough water to submerge your feet entirely. Soak your tootsies for 45 to 60 minutes to kill any bacteria. Afterward, your feet will be soft and minty fresh.
Make a foot scrub
You can also make a Listerine and vinegar foot scrub to fight fungus and exfoliate dead skin. Mix one-third a cup of Listerine, one-third a cup of white vinegar, and two cups of white sugar. You can also add one tablespoon of coconut oil for moisturizer and a few drops of essential oil for aroma (try to choose one that works well alongside the smells of vinegar and Listerine). You can use it daily to keep your feet soft and looking presentable.
The antiseptic in mouthwash can be an effective astringent for your face. Dab a small amount of sugar free mouthwash onto a cotton ball or face cloth. Apply it directly to the skin; you can either spot treat any blemishes or wipe it across your face as needed.
Prevent your garbage from smelling up your home before garbage day with a little mouthwash. Put a small amount on a cotton ball or paper towel and throw it in with the rest of the trash. It’s not going to make it smell great in there, but it can help keep things under control until next time you take out the trash.
Kitchen sinks, especially those with garbage disposals, can get pretty stinky if not cleaned regularly, as food particles lodged in the drain can start to smell. If you don’t feel like boiling water or pulling out the vinegar and baking soda, you can simply pour a cap full of mouthwash down the drain to kill bacteria and freshen the smell in your sink.
Help cut flowers live longer
According to the gardening site Plantea, Listerine contains sucrose and a bactericide, ingredients that serve as plant food and keep away plant-killing bacterias, respectively. They also note the acidity in Listerine is, “said to help water move up the cut stem.” Next time you get fresh flowers, make your own plant food at a ratio of two ounces of mouthwash for every gallon of water, and use the concoction in your vase. Voila — longer-lasting flowers.
Freshen smelly armpits
The antifungal and bacteria-fighting elements of mouthwash work perfectly outside of your mouth too, and will happily kill the bacteria that cause smelly body odor. Dab a cotton ball or facial cloth with Listerine and wipe your underarms as needed.
If you feel a bruise coming on, dab a cloth in an alcohol-based mouthwash and apply it to the affected area. The Listerine will prevent bad bruises from forming after bumping into nightstands and bed frames in the middle of the night.
According to DIY site Thrifty Fun, mouthwash can serve as a great alternative to traditional glass cleaners. Mix equal parts water and equal parts mouthwash in a spray bottle and use it to wipe down windows, glass tabletops, and more, leaving them clean and streak-free.
Yes, you can bring mouthwash back to its roots and use it to clean your bathroom floors and tiles. Use the liquid antispetic directly on surfaces or dilute it with an equal part water for scrubbing away soap scum and removing mould and mildew from around your bathroom.
Get rid of fleas
Alcohol-based mouthwashes like Listerine can penetrate the shells of fleas, killing them in a matter of minutes. To rid your home of them, mix one-part Listerine two parts water in a spray bottle and spray it around your home as needed. To rid your pets of fleas, add equal parts shampoo and Listerine to a bowl or container. Wash your pet with the shampoo mouthwash mix, making sure to work it into areas where fleas congregate, especially behind the ears and on the legs. Let the animal sit in the shampoo for five minutes, then rinse and repeat if necessary.
Dry out cold sores
The antifungal and antibacterial nature of mouthwash makes it a great defence against cold sores and blemishes. Apply a small amount of mouthwash with a q-tip or cotton ball to the affected area to dry it out, reduce the symptoms, and promote faster healing.