Cleaning up

It's kind of a strange day here at the office, as we're all making sure we vote for Portland in the Bushmills 400 Years contest (at, which you can read about in Deirdre Fulton's story in this week's paper.

But then I look at the pile of mail from yesterday and notice that strange box I picked up, opened, and left on the couch in the middle of the afternoon. It's a sample of Listerine Smart Rinse, some new mouthwash, apparently. It's one of the odder samples we get mailed here in the office, in hopes, I assume, that we'll write about the product in some way. (You caught me!)

Investigating this package is a lesson in modern marketing, and a cautionary tale for anyone who might think there's such a thing as truth in advertising. It's touted as having "Magnetic Cleaning Action," which seems odd, because I don't think many people have trouble with too many iron filings or steel girders in their mouths.

Then I notice that it's in "Berry Shield" flavor, which makes me wonder what it actually tastes like. (You thought I was going to try that? Wrong. I smelled it, though, and it smells like berries, I guess, perhaps with a hint of shield.)

This particular product goes even further, offering to show "proof of a cleaner mouth," by which the literature appears to mean that there's some sort of dye in this liquid that tints "food particles and bacteria" so they're easier to see when you spit it out into the sink. What's preventing them from just dyeing everything you spit out some color, and then claiming it's all bad stuff the product has "cleaned" out? Nothing.

Making matters worse, they don't actually tell you what's in this liquid. The "active ingredient," sodium fluoride, is 0.0221 percent of the total. What about the other 99.9779 percent? We're left to guess. What do you think is in it? And would you try it if you didn't know?

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