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Drinking Habits

How To Get Rid of Alcohol Breath

July 5, 2023
11 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 5, 2023
11 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 5, 2023
11 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 5, 2023
11 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 5, 2023
11 min read

Picture this: it's karaoke night at your favorite local watering hole. You've belted out a not-so-flawless rendition of your favorite song, you’ve solved the world’s problems with a new friend, and you’ve updated the bartender on your family drama. Your buddies are laughing and you're all having a good time. But after a few shots, you realize that your breath could knock out a gorilla. Alcohol breath — it's a real buzzkill, isn't it? If you’re wondering how to get alcohol off your breath, it’s time to look at the science behind alcohol’s smell.

Unraveling the Science: Does Alcohol Have a Smell?

A woman holding her hand over a glass of alcohol

Let's tackle the big question first: why does alcohol give us bad breath? The answer lies in how our bodies process it.

When we sip that cocktail or chug a beer, it's absorbed into our bloodstream and then metabolized by our liver through a process called oxidation. Most of this process takes place in the liver, but it can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol per hour. The rest? Well, it gets excreted through our urine, sweat, and breath.

Yep, you read that right — the body literally breathes out the excess alcohol. The byproduct of this process, acetaldehyde, can be detected when we exhale, leading to that distinctive odor we associate with alcohol breath.

The effect is especially strong when it comes to hard liquor. One shot is only 37 to 44 ml in volume, but packs a strong punch — a typical spirit such as vodka or tequila contains about 40 percent alcohol. And if we have more than one, we’re sure to end up with booze on our breath.

What about beverages with more subtle odors? Can you smell vodka on your breath? Yes, despite some rumors that claim otherwise, you definitely can, since it gets metabolized the same way as other types of booze.

How To Get Rid of Alcohol Breath

Many of us have wondered how to get rid of alcohol breath. Now that we know why it happens, it's time to uncover some easy ways to get rid of alcohol breath.

  • Hydrate. The first step is hydration. Drinking water not only helps dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream but also speeds up its metabolism. Plus, it fights dry mouth — a notorious accomplice in the crime of bad breath. Not a fan of plain water? No worries. Fruit-infused water, herbal teas, or coconut water can be great alternatives.
  • Regular brushing and flossing. Next up, let's talk about oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing are your first line of defense against any form of bad breath, alcohol breath included. And here's a pro tip: also clean your tongue. Why? Because it's a happy hangout spot for bacteria that can add to the bad breath. And remember dry mouth? Well, mouthwashes are a great way to keep your mouth moist and odor-free. Just make sure to choose an alcohol-free mouthwash — they aid saliva production instead of inhibiting it.
  • Eat the right foods. Turns out, your kitchen can also hold the secret to fresh breath. Fruits high in Vitamin C, like oranges and strawberries, create an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Other foods, like apples, celery, and carrots, boost saliva production. More saliva equals less dry mouth equals fresher breath. Win-win, right? And remember when your grandma used to tell you about the benefits of parsley? Well, she was right (of course)! Parsley contains chlorophyll, which has deodorizing properties. So, next time you get it as a garnish, don't just leave it on the plate!
  • Drink green or peppermint tea. Both green and peppermint tea are known to have properties that help fight bad breath. Green tea contains polyphenols that can reduce bacteria and bacterial by-products in the mouth. Peppermint tea, on the other hand, has its fresh and strong fragrance that can help mask the alcohol odor. Better yet, tea is a nice, soothing drink!
  • Pop some sugar-free gum or lozenges. Sugar-free gum and lozenges can stimulate saliva production and help wipe away any lingering smells after that tequila shot. The flavors can also help mask the smell.
  • Use an oral hygiene accessory. Consider using a tongue scraper. It's an oral hygiene accessory that helps you clean your tongue more thoroughly, removing any potential sources of bad breath.
  • Eat a full meal before and after drinking. Before you start drinking, make sure to have a full meal. Foods with high protein content, such as cheese and peanuts, are particularly good at slowing down the absorption of alcohol. After drinking, try eating something with a strong flavor, like peanut butter or a spicy dish. This can help cover up the smell of alcohol.
  • Take care of your gut. There's a strong connection between your gut health and breath. Making sure you have a healthy gut is an easy way to get rid of alcohol breath. Consider probiotics, either in supplement form or from probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut.
  • Don't mix your drinks. Mixing drinks can make bad breath even worse. Different types of alcohol have slightly different odors, and the combination can produce a stronger smell. Does alcohol have a smell? Depends on the type! Stick to one type of drink to avoid noxious concoctions.
  • Increase physical activity. Did you know that being active can help get rid of alcohol breath? That’s right! When you exercise, you increase your metabolic rate, which helps your body to break down and eliminate alcohol more quickly. So take a walk, head to the gym, or have a vigorous dance session in your living room to speed up the process.
Effective Ways To Combat Alcohol Breath

Natural Breath-Fresheners

Nature provides several natural breath fresheners that are also great ways to get rid of alcohol breath!

  • Fennel seeds. Fennel seeds have a strong, sweet flavor. They can freshen your breath, stimulate saliva production, and aid digestion. You’ll find them in a bowl by the door of your favorite Indian restaurant — perfect for freshening up and helping you digest as you go about your day.
  • Cloves. Chewing on a couple of cloves can help as well, thanks to their strong, pleasant aroma and antimicrobial properties.

  • Mint. There’s a reason mint is used to flavor many breath-freshening products. Not only does it have a fresh, clean, cooling taste, but it offers antioxidants as well. You can try chewing on a few leaves, adding them to a salad, or brewing a mint tea (which is also good for digestion and stomach upset!).

  • Cinnamon sticks. Cinnamon has essential oils that can mask the smell of alcohol breath. Plus, they're easy to carry around! 

In the end, remember that these are all just temporary solutions. Cutting back on alcohol and maintaining good oral and overall health will provide the best long-term results and is, in the end, the easiest way to get rid of alcohol breath. After all, less alcohol means less alcohol odor! 

Ready for Fresh Breath — And a Fresh Start?

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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