Mouthwash Does Not Kill COVID, According to Listerine

Sen. Ron Johnson insists mouthwash is a “proven” treatment for COVID-19. It is not.

Dec 9 2021, 3:20pm

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has a novel idea for treating COVID-19: using mouthwash. The only problem is that the companies that make mouthwash think this is a terrible idea, as do medical experts.

On a recent Wisconsin tele-town hall, Johnson said mouthwash was a “proven” treatment for COVID-19, which is not true. 

“By the way, standard gargle, mouthwash has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” Johnson said in an audio recording published by Chicago-based progressive website Heartland Signal. “If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?”


“It just boggles my mind that the NIH continues to tell people, ‘Do nothing, you know, maybe take Tylenol,’” he added. 

After he was criticized for the claim, Johnson tweeted a link Wednesday night to a study posted on the National Institutes of Health website suggesting that antiviral mouthwash—not “standard gargle”—decreased the viral load in saliva. 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Another study by Rutgers researchers earlier this year suggested that “Listerine and the prescription mouthwash Chlorhexidine disrupted the virus within seconds.”

While there’s no harm in using mouthwash while you have COVID-19, it has not been proven to treat or prevent the spread of the virus. “Even if gargling kills some of the virus, it won’t be able to clean the nasal area, nor the viruses that’s already penetrated deeper into the body,” Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease expert at Korea University in Seoul, told the Washington Post.

In a statement to VICE News, Johnson & Johnson said Listerine “is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.”

“We are aware of several ongoing, independent clinical trials where Listerine  is being assessed in patients with COVID-19,” Johnson & Johnson said. “However, the current available data is not sufficient to support a conclusion that the use of LISTERINE® mouthwash is helpful against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 


“We continue to be active participants in the scientific exchange on this and any topic related to our products,” the statement says.   

Proctor & Gamble, which manufacturers Crest mouthwash, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Crest’s website says that Crest and Scope mouthwashes “have not been tested against any strains of the coronavirus,” and that they “are not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19.”

Even in the right-wing Republican Senate caucus, Johnson has stood out for his highly questionable positions on COVID-19. Earlier this year, as federal, state, and local governments embarked on an effort to vaccinate the population against COVID-19, Johnson complained about “the big push to make sure everyone gets a vaccine,” and suggested that getting COVID is a better way to immunize yourself than vaccines. 

The vaccines, unlike mouthwash, have the specific purpose of inoculating against COVID-19,  and have gotten either full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (Pfizer) or an emergency use authorization from the same agency (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson). 

Johnson has also been a frequent critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House Chief Medical Adviser who has served as the face of the federal response to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. 


Last week, Johnson said Fauci—who was an early AIDS researcher and later responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—“overhyped” AIDS. 

“Fauci did the exact same thing with AIDS. He overhyped it,” Johnson said during a radio interview with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade on Dec. 1, which was also World AIDS Day. “He created all kinds of fear, saying it could affect the entire population when it couldn't. He's using the exact same playbook with COVID, ignoring therapy, pushing a vaccine.”

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

The AIDS pandemic has killed more than 36 million people globally, including more than 700,000 Americans, since the early 1980s. “How do you overhype that?” a clearly exasperated Fauci asked in a Sunday interview with CNN, calling Johnson’s claim “preposterous.” 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

“Overhyping COVID that's already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide,” Fauci said. “I don't have any clue what he's talking about.” 

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conspiracy theories, mouthwash, Ron Johnson, listerine, Anti-Vaxxers

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