Mouth Rinse Recipes to Use During Chemotherapy

Recipes to Soothe Mouth Sores During Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy is a common—even typical—part of cancer treatment. Some chemotherapy medications can cause painful mouth sores, also called chemotherapy-related mucositis. These mouth sores can have a big impact on quality of life, affecting the ability to eat, swallow, and talk.

woman using mouth wash from glass

imagenavi / Getty Images

Special mouth rinses can correct the balance of healthy bacteria in the mouth and provide soothing relief of the discomfort the sores can cause.

The following make-at-home recipes for mouth rinses are easy to mix using ingredients most people have in their kitchen or medicine cabinet. Different rinses may be better for different symptoms.

Mouth Sores and Chemotherapy

Mouth sores are common during chemotherapy because chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells such as those in the mouth.

Dry mouth can also occur. When too little saliva is present, gums may develop sores and may be at risk for infection.

If you develop mouth sores, talk to your oncologist. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, they may recommend you make your own rinses, purchase a product such as Magic Mouthwash or Triple Rinse, or give you a prescription rinse

Chemo Mouth Rinse Recipes

Below are several mouth rinses that you can make and use at home. Some rinses work better for some people than others, so you may want to try a few to see what works best.

They are used by swishing the liquid around in the mouth and then spitting it out. They can be used several times a day.

Different mixes may be used for mouth sores, crusted sores, and a problem called "gummy mouth."

For Mouth Sores

For generalized mouth sores, a soda and salt mouth rinse or saltwater rinse may be helpful.

Soda and Salt Mouth Rinse

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup of warm water

Mix well until the salt dissolves. Rinse the mouth gently, being careful not to swallow the mixture. Follow this with a plain water rinse to clean out any remaining salt or soda.

Saltwater Mouth Rinse

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of warm water

Mix well to dissolve the salt. This saltwater rinse is close to the natural chemistry of your own saliva, so it may make sores feel better. Rinse well with plain water to remove excess salt.

For Gummy Mouth

Salt and Soda Rinse for Gummy Mouth

Some chemotherapy drugs can increase the acidity in your mouth, leading to thick saliva that can be very annoying. This rinse works well for "gummy mouth."

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking soda
4 cups of warm water

This rinse will help to neutralize the acid in your mouth and dissolve or loosen thick, gummy saliva. Don't drink it, just rinse and spit it out.

For Crusted Sores

Peroxide Rinse for Crusted Sores

If mouth sores are crusting over, it's important to allow the natural healing process in the body to continue, so a peroxide rinse should be used for no more than two days consecutively.

1 cup hydrogen peroxide
1 cup water or 1 cup salt water (1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water)

Try using this rinse three or four times a day for two days. Don't use it for longer than that, because it could prevent mucositis from healing. Switch to a non-peroxide rinse for two days before returning to this mixture.

Keep Rinses Fresh

Make the rinse fresh every day and keep it at room temperature for a maximum of 24 hours.

Coping with Mouth Pain and Sores

In addition to avoiding foods that can be painful and using mouth rinses, there are several other things that can be done to care for the mouth during chemotherapy. These can help ease the discomfort of mouth sores.

  • Visit the dentist.
  • Use a soft toothbrush when brushing teeth.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • Avoid acidic fruits or juices.
  • Avoid sharp, salty, or spicy foods.
  • Eat soft, moist foods.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Mouth sores can sometimes become infected, and when your white blood cell count is low due to chemotherapy, this can be serious. Make sure to call your healthcare provider right away if you:

  • Develop a fever
  • Believe you may be dehydrated
  • Develop any yellow or foul drainage from your mouth
  • Have problems eating or drinking due to mouth sores

Summary

Mouth sores can be an uncomfortable side effect of chemotherapy, but they can be managed with use of mouth rinses. Rinses that contain water, salt, and baking soda can be used in a variety of recipes to treat the mouth.

Other steps to take care of the mouth during chemo include using a soft toothbrush, avoiding irritating foods, and staying hydrated. All of these can help mouth sores as well. Be sure to call your oncology team immediately if you develop a fever or signs of infection, or if you're unable to eat or drink.

A Word From Verywell

Mouth sores can be a distressing side effect of chemotherapy. When someone is dealing with mouth sores, they may have a lot of discomfort with eating, drinking, swallowing, or even talking. Talk to your oncologist to see if they have any suggestions in addition to the rinses above to help manage the symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the fastest way to cure mucositis?

    Giving the mouth time to heal is the best thing you can do to resolve mucositis. Nothing will make the tissue of the mouth heal more quickly, but using mouth rinses and avoiding sharp, spicy, acidic, or salty foods and drinks can help relieve discomfort and reduce irritation in the meantime.

  • Can Orajel help heal chemo mouth sores?

    Over-the-counter topical treatments such as Orajel can help manage mouth sore pain, but you should ask your oncology team before using them.

  • What is Magic Mouthwash?

    Magic mouthwash is a prescription mouth rinse that usually contains lidocaine to numb the mouth, along with an antihistamine and other medications to soothe the mouth.

  • What can you do to prevent chemo mouth sores?

    Certain chemotherapy medications are more likely to cause mouth sores than others. If a medication is a very high risk for this, the cancer team may recommend sucking on ice chips before, during, and after the infusion to help prevent mouth sores.

Originally written by
Pam Stephan
Pam Stephan is a breast cancer survivor.
Learn about our editorial process
Was this page helpful?
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Mouth sores and pain.

  2. Zhu G, Wang Q, Lu S, Niu Y. Hydrogen peroxide: A potential wound therapeutic target? Med Princ Pract. 2017;26(4):301–308. doi:10.1159/000475501

  3. Chaveli-López B, Bagán-Sebastián JV. Treatment of oral mucositis due to chemotherapyJ Clin Exp Dent. 2016;8(2):e201-e209.

Additional Reading