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Effective Home Remedies for Canker Sores

6 min read

By Patty Weasler, RN

Canker sores are those annoying little sores or ulcers inside of your mouth or gums. They can make eating, drinking, and talking painful. For some people, they are more than an annoyance but a truly painful sore. Thankfully, canker sores are usually a short-term problem that resolves on their own.

When a canker sore is causing pain and irritation you can incorporate home remedies to ease your discomfort. Check out our list of effective home remedies for canker sores to relieve your pain and speed up healing.

Saltwater Rinse

A saltwater (saline) rinse will help canker sores by cleaning your mouth making it harder for bacteria to grow. This will help heal your sore, reduce pain, and dry out the canker sore. A saltwater rinse also promotes healthy gums, reports Very Well Health.

To make a saltwater rinse mix 1-teaspoon of salt in 1-cup of warm water. “Swish it in your mouth or gargle it for about 30 seconds, then spit it out. Though it may sting at first, the benefits are worth it,” says the source. Repeat the saltwater rinse several times a day until your sore heals. Always avoid putting salt right onto your canker sore. The salt will burn and can irritate the sore.

Baking Soda

Just about everyone has baking soda in their kitchen and if you don’t it’s inexpensive and easy to find at any grocery store. Baking soda works by neutralizing the acids in your mouth to heal your canker sore and minimize pain. You can mix salt with baking soda to reap the benefits of both treatments as well.

To make the baking soda rinse mix 1-teaspoon of baking soda in ½-cup of warm water as recommended by the Mayo Clinic. Swish the mixture in your mouth for 15 to 30-seconds and spit it out. You can repeat this several times a day.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Another effective home remedy for canker sores is using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that naturally kills bacteria in your mouth, allowing your body to heal more effectively.

To make a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash mix one part hydrogen peroxide with one part water. You can use a cotton swab or ball soaked in the mixture and dab it against your canker sore. Another option is to gargle the hydrogen peroxide mixture to clean your mouth. Make sure to avoid swallowing the mixture.


Honey is a wonderful natural product that is well known for its ability to heal. When used for canker sores, honey can reduce healing time, minimize pain, and reduce redness. Healthline tells us, “all honey isn’t created equal. Most honey found at your grocery store is pasteurized at high heat, which destroys most nutrients. Unpasteurized, unfiltered honey, like Manuka honey, is less processed and retains its healing properties.”

To use honey to heal your canker sore, just apply it to the sore a few times a day. You can also drink a soothing tea like chamomile with honey mixed in to gain the healing properties of honey.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is another natural product that is known for its antibacterial properties. According to Very Well Health, “coconut oil contains lauric acid, which can help fight some harmful bacteria in the body.” Coconut oil is also a great anti-inflammatory agent and will reduce redness and pain associated with the canker sore.

To use coconut oil to fight your canker sore, take a tablespoon of oil and swish it in your mouth, reports the source. You can also just take a small amount of coconut oil and rub it against your canker sore. Repeat several times a day until your canker sore has healed.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a product that has gained popularity in recent years for its health benefits. When it’s used for a canker sore it can kill bacteria in your mouth to aid in healing. Apple cider vinegar can cause stinging and irritation so use it carefully and if it hurts too much, stop.

You have two options when using apple cider vinegar for canker sores. The first way to treat your sore is to mix 1-teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with 1-cup of water, reports Healthline. Gargle the mixture in your mouth and then spit and rinse your mouth. Your other option is to dab a small amount of apple cider vinegar on your canker sore. It’s important to rinse your mouth after you use apple cider vinegar because it can damage your tooth enamel.

Alum Powder

Alum powder is a pantry staple that is used to preserve and pickle foods. It’s a white powder that “has astringent properties that may help shrink tissues and dry out canker sores,” says Healthline. Using alum powder can lessen pain and reduce the size of your sore.

To make an alum powder paste, Healthline tells us to mix a small amount of alum powder with a few drops of water. Mix until you make a paste-like consistency. Add more water or paste until you achieve the paste. Place a small amount of the alum paste on your canker sore. Leave it on for one minute and then rinse your mouth.

Milk of Magnesia

Milk of magnesia is a laxative used to relieve constipation. But don’t worry, when you use a small amount for a canker sore the medication coats the sore protecting it, neutralizes the acid in your mouth, and helps the canker sore heal faster with less pain, reports Everyday Health.

To use milk of magnesia for a canker sore, cover a cotton swab with the solution and apply it to your sore. Repeat this a few times a day until the canker sore has healed.


Diphenhydramine is the generic name of the more commonly known medication Benadryl. When you use liquid diphenhydramine for a canker sore it “can help reduce inflammation and encourage healing. It may be particularly useful for mouth ulcers caused by food allergies or sensitivities,” says Very Well Health.

To use diphenhydramine for canker sores, mix it with milk of magnesia to make an oral solution. You’ll take one part diphenhydramine and one part milk of magnesia to make the solution. Rinse your mouth with the mixture then spit it out. Avoid swallowing this mixture since it contains two strong medications.

Ice Cubes

One of the simplest home remedies for canker sores is to use ice cubes. Ice is used as a treatment for all sorts of injuries like sprained ankles to muscle injuries and you can use it for canker sores too. The cold will interrupt the pain signal resulting in less pain. It will also reduce swelling and redness.

Take an ice cube and place it on your canker sore. Leave it there for a few minutes. You can repeat this several times a day. Avoid leaving the ice on your skin for too long as it can cause damage.


There are several types of mouthwashes that your doctor can recommend or prescribe that can help your canker sores heal. “If you have several canker sores, your doctor may prescribe a mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone (dek-suh-METH-uh-sown) to reduce pain and inflammation or lidocaine to reduce pain,” says the Mayo Clinic.

While these aren’t home remedies these mouth rinses can be used at home and with your doctor’s approval can be used in conjunction with one of the home remedies we talked about earlier.

When to Call Your Doctor

Canker sores are small ulcers on the inside of your mouth or gums. They generally heal on their own and need minimal intervention. Occasionally these sores can become infected or take an extra-long time to heal. Here is a list that covers when you should place a call to your doctor:

  • You have a fever with your canker sore.
  • The canker sore makes eating or drinking incredibly difficult.
  • The canker sore doesn’t heal within 2-weeks.
  • The canker sore is larger than normal or you have several sores.
  • The canker sore causes significant pain.
  • The canker sore spreads to your lips.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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