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Updated on January 26, 2023
5 min read

How to Get Rid of Alcohol Breath Fast

Ellie Swain
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
6 Sources Cited
Ellie Swain
Written by 
6 Sources Cited

What Causes Alcohol Breath?

Bad breath is a side effect of your body processing alcohol. Most of the alcohol is metabolized by your liver, the rest is released through sweat and urine. This is the main cause of alcohol breath and sweat.

However, alcohol breath doesn't come from your mouth, it comes from your lungs. This is why you can't get rid of alcohol breath with mints or other methods. It's also why you can still fail a breathalyzer even if your breath smells nice and minty fresh.

However, sometimes bad breath is caused by other conditions like diabetes or ulcers. You might overlook symptoms of other serious conditions if you dismiss bad breath.

How to Get Rid of Alcohol Breath Fast (Myths vs. Truths)

Although there's no real way to get rid of alcohol breath, there are ways to cover up the smell. Some tips are effective, while others are myths:

Myth: Using Menthol and Minty Products

The odor caused by drinking alcohol doesn't come from the mouth. It comes from your lungs, where alcohol in the blood enters the air you exhale. This is how breathalyzers detect blood alcohol levels.

The following may cover up the smell temporarily, but it won't last:

  • Using peppermint chewing gum
  • Flossing
  • Mints
  • Mouthwash

Truth: Consuming Something Smelly

While you cannot replace the smell of alcohol with a fresh smell, you can consume something equally as potent to cover up the odor of alcohol breath.

Try eating foods with a strong smell, like:

  • Garlic
  • Fish
  • Blue cheese

Myth: Trying Breath Perfume

Many cultures finish a meal with a herbal chew to perfume away unpleasant breath. Mukhwas in India, for example, freshen the breath with ingredients like anise, fennel, and coconut.

These breath perfumes and mouth fresheners are unlikely to keep your breath fresh for long.

Truth: Brushing Your Teeth

Alcohol breath doesn't live in your mouth, but bacteria do. Bacteria thrive in your mouth after alcohol consumption. Brush your teeth with toothpaste to scrub off the bacteria and reduce bad breath.

Be sure to brush the following:

  • Teeth
  • Tongue
  • The roof of the mouth

Myth: Drinking Neutral-Smelling Alcohol

Some people believe that drinking neutral-smelling alcohols like vodka or herbal digestifs won't cause unpleasant smells from digestive breakdown. But all alcoholic beverages create a similar unpleasant booze breath, no matter the smell of the drink.

Truth: Helping Your Body Process Alcohol

You can't speed up the hourly rate at which your liver metabolizes alcohol. But you can help your body process the alcohol more efficiently by staying on top of your wellness. 

Be sure to consume a healthy diet, stay active, and drink plenty of water. The more you help your liver stay healthy, the more it will help you.

How to Get Rid of Alcohol Odor from Skin Pores (Sweat)

Heavy drinking or binge drinking can leave you smelling like alcohol. A distinct smell can occur when alcohol leaves your body through sweat.

If you want to get rid of the alcohol from your pores, you can sweat it out through light exercise. Other ways to get rid of the smell include:

  • A long, soapy shower or bath
  • A sauna
  • Changing into fresh clothes
  • Drinking lots of water to help flush out the alcohol through the urine
  • Deodorant
  • Managing your skincare routine
  • Using a pore cleanser

How Long Does it Take to Get the Smell of Alcohol Off Your Breath?

The presence of alcohol in your breath depends on how much you have consumed and other biological factors. The typical rate of alcohol elimination is one unit per hour. At this rate, traces of alcohol disappear in relation to the amount of alcohol you consume.

If you consumed one large glass of wine, it would usually take your body three hours to eliminate any alcohol it has absorbed. During those three hours, your breath may smell of alcohol.

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How to Prevent Alcohol Breath

The best way to avoid alcohol breath is by not drinking in the first place. However, if you want to consume alcohol without your breath smelling, consider:

Drinking in Moderation

If you want to avoid getting alcohol breath, consider drinking less alcohol. Your body will take longer to metabolize alcohol if you drink too much. However, if you drink less, the alcohol will leave your body much faster.

Avoiding Strong Alcohol

Strong drinks or cocktails that contain herbs and spices can leave a strong smell on your breath. Drinking simple drinks, like beer and wine, can help stop you from getting an alcoholic breath.

Avoid Mixing Drinks

Different drinks have different odors. Mixing different types of alcohol can make the smell worse once the alcohol starts leaving your body. Sticking to one type of alcohol can help prevent alcohol breath.

Staying Hydrated

Alcohol can dehydrate you and dry your mouth. This can lead to bacteria responsible for bad odors.

Drinking a glass of water periodically is a great way to stay hydrated. The water also helps eliminate residual alcohol through urine.

Eating Before or While Drinking

Food absorbs some of the alcohol while you drink. It can also stimulate saliva production, preventing dehydration and alcoholic breath.

Bars often provide snacks to stop people from getting sick by overdrinking. Try to eat periodically while you're drinking.

Link Between Alcohol Odor and Alcoholism

If someone regularly smells like alcohol, it could be a sign they're suffering from alcoholism. Some people experience periods when they drink alcohol heavily but manage to reduce their intake before developing a physical addiction. Others progress to alcoholism and develop physical and psychological addictions.

Some people with alcohol problems try their best to disguise their drinking. In many cases, people suffering from alcoholism are unaware they may smell like alcohol.

Confronting someone with concerns about their alcohol odors and potential addiction can lead to denial. But it can also encourage them to seek help.

Summary

Alcohol breath is a result of your body metabolizing alcohol. The bad odor is caused by acetic acid leaving your body through sweat and the lungs.

There is no way of getting rid of alcohol breath aside from not drinking in the first place. However, there are ways to cover up the smell or prevent it from happening.

If someone regularly smells like alcohol or has alcohol breath, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional. The bad smell can result from alcoholism or other serious conditions.

Updated on January 26, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on January 26, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. "Bad breath (halitosis)" NI Direct Government Services.
  2. "Smelling Sickness" NIH News in Health, 2018.
  3. Bragulat et al. “Alcohol sensitizes cerebral responses to the odors of alcoholic drinks: an fMRI study.” Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 2008.
  4. Maurage et al. “Olfaction in alcohol-dependence: a neglected yet promising research field.” Frontiers in Psychology, 2014.
  5. "Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help" National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), 2022.
  6. "Alcohol withdrawal" MedlinePlus, February 2021.

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