Act's Large Bottle Of Mouthwash May Say 2x, But It's Really Half The Strength

Act mouthwash may look like it comes in two sizes, but according to Mouseprint, the large and small bottles are actually entirely different products. The labeling looks largely the same until you get to the active ingredient. The small bottle contains .05% of sodium fluoride while the large bottle contains .02%. Hit the jump for Act’s sneaky explanation.

Now who would ever expect that a different size bottle would have a different strength of the active ingredient? In fact, if you look at the larger bottle, there is a “2x” on it. Without reading carefully, one might assume that “2x” means twice the strength or twice the size, but certainly never half the potency. A closer examination reveals that is says “2x a day”. Okay, so you can use the product twice daily.

As it turns out, the company says the smaller bottle is a once a day product, and the larger one is a twice a day product. Apparently you get the equivalent amount of fluoride using the diluted version two times a day.

Who in their reasonable mind would expect a larger bottle to contain anything other than more product? Act is reaping undeserved profit while consumers think they are getting protection that just isn’t provided.

We guess Act and Listerine share the same rotten marketing team.

Act Fluoride: Twice the Size, Half the Strength [Mouseprint]
PREVIOUSLY: Thought Process Behind Listerine Label Finally Revealed


Edit Your Comment

  1. parad0x360 says:

    So you get dont fully get twice as much product but you have to use it twice as much to get the same effect? Nice. So in effect you get less for your money no matter how you look at it.

  2. bradanomics says:

    .02 + .02 = .05 ???

  3. thirdbase says:

    There is no limit to the amount of ways companies will rip you off

  4. yesteryear says:

    wow. no wonder my teeth are rotting out of my head. time for a lawsuit!

  5. Pro-Pain says:

    Yeah, that math doesn’t work for me either…

  6. Mr. Gunn says:

    Maybe it’s a little much to expect people to understand that if you use something twice a day, you need to use half as much to make the dosage consistent, but come on…it does say use twice daily on the bottle.

    Let’s not Act stupid.

  7. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @bradanomics: Rounding.

    It’s the same lousy math that allows food manufacturers to claim that something is “fat free” or what have you when it contains less than 1 gram of the ingredient per serving. They get to round down. I just recently saw a mayonnaise labeling itself “cholesterol free” even though it contained eggs.

    Incidentally…Cholesterol is less than one percent of the entire egg by weight, so you can in effect call eggs “cholesterol free,” too.

  8. RIP MRHANDS says:

    @yesteryear: You’re teeth are rotting because you’re eating too much processed/junk food. Dental problems are surprisngly rare in places where more traditional diets and whole foods are consumed.

  9. backbroken says:

    @RIP MRHANDS: Source please.

  10. DeltaPurser says:

    How do they compare in price?

  11. bohemian says:

    So really your paying for them to dump a bottle of water into the normal sized bottle & charging you more.

  12. mooksas says:

    @bradanomics: 0.023 + 0.023 = 0.046

    Rounding to the hundredths place:
    0.023 -> 0.02
    0.046 -> 0.05

  13. ExecutorElassus says:

    @bradanomics: for extremely large values of .02.

  14. e.varden says:

    a@speedwell: Dietary cholesterol (eggs) has no effect on blood (serum) cholesterol. Saturated fat does.

    Here in Toronto, a smartypants developed some photographic film in just water taken from the harbour….

  15. barfoo says:

    Thing is, fluoride may not be the main thing in ACT that’s doing the work. And in fact you don’t want to put too much fluoride on your teeth–it is good in medium-sized doses, but overdoses can cause damage. See [] (gross teeth warning).

    The product’s home page actually says the following on its FAQ ([]):

    How many times a day should I use ACT® Fluoride Rinse or Restoring™ Mouthwash?

    Please refer to the usage directions listed on the product labeling to confirm the usage frequency recommended for your product. For ACT® Fluoride Rinse 1 oz and 18 oz bottles, use 1x per day. For ACT® Restoring™ Mouthwash 0.6 oz and 18 oz bottles, use 1 x per day. For ACT® Restoring™ Mouthwash 33 oz bottles, use 2x per day.

    It’s not as though this somehow doubles their profit: fluoride is CHEAP (it is, after all, put in most N American tap water). The more expensive ingredients are surely all the other things — ACT isn’t just fluoridated water!

    I don’t mean to defend the company, I think it’s confusing to have two products that are so similar. But I don’t think it’s such a big conspiracy as folks are suggesting.

    Part of the problem is that the definition of “active ingredient” — I guess it has to do with what the FDA regulates & how.

  16. Leah says:

    I don’t really think it’s a huge deal. I use ACT regularly, and I was a bit confused when the 2x a day bit came out. But then I read the back of the bottle and realized *why* you could use it 2x a day.

    They basically did it so that people wouldn’t have to, say, use Listerine in the morning and ACT at night. Instead, you can use mouthwash 2x a day and still get your fluoride treatment in.

    All I did was stick with the bottle that lets me only do one rinse a day and still get my fluoride, as recommended by my dentist.

  17. Michael Belisle says:

    Oooh I didn’t know there was a twice-daily ACT. Please wait while I add this to my shopping list. I’ve been using two different mouthwashes for too long.

    “Countless consumers” may use the larger bottle improperly, but countless consumers are morons. The labeling (a giant “2x daily” sticker and “0.02% fluroride” marking) is pretty clear to the discerning consumer who can read English.

    @barfoo: And you’re right they’re not doubling their profit”: the larger size is a whopping $1.30 more (6.49 vs 5.29). Does anyone actually expect almost twice as much product for 25% more?

  18. Jon Parker says:

    On the other hand, as a former Crest Pro-Health user who bought the stuff at Costco and has a cleaning scheduled for this week to get the brown stains off, I can only wish that Crest had been ethical enough to halve the amount of active ingredients.

  19. Sherryness says:

    @RIP MRHANDS: How is that surprising?

  20. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @e.varden: Non-sequitur much? I wasn’t talking about the effect of cholesterol in the body, I was talking about the disclosure of it on the label.

  21. AMetamorphosis says:


    .02 + .02 = .05 ??? <– Its Orwellian New Speak !

  22. rachaeljean says:

    I kind of agree, this is sort of a duh… if the daily dosage is about .05 and you want to be able to use a mouthwash twice a day, then of course you don’t want to OD on flouride….!

    My husband and I moved to hippy-centric Eugene, OR last September and for the first time in our lives had to face realities of unflouridated water, which of course, suck. We started using ACT the first week we moved here, wanting to avoid any more expensive dental bills (my 26 year old husband JUST finally got a clean dental bill of health, it’s been a several thousand dollar journey…)

    Anyway, the REAL scam is the “restoring” ACT rinse that came out recently. It costs more, certainly has a spiffier looking label, but contains the EXACT same ingredients as regular ACT.

  23. Jason says:

    What has not been made clear here is whether fluoride is the active ingredient or not. It appears not. It looks like ACT is reducing the amount of fluoride so that if you decide to use it twice a day, you will not get too much fluoride in your system. This is a good thing. As someone else pointed out, the right amount of fluoride is good for your teeth. Too much is no good.

  24. witeowl says:

    @AMetamorphosis: Must I say the obvious? No, but if you have any clue of how rounding works (and how it’s repeatedly abused in consumer products and foods), then 0.023+0.023=0.046. Of course, this is one of the most innocuous cases of it as I don’t really need to know active incredients to the hundredths.

  25. Parting says:

    Never heard about Act.

  26. I would be much more apt to use it if it 0,0% fluoride in it.

  27. Christovir says:

    A very good cheap mouthwash is hydrogen peroxide. Use 1/2 tsp (it expands), swish around, and spit it out. It’s very inexpensive and safe as long as you don’t swallow a lot. It’s also the active ingredient in a lot of teeth whitening kits. By the time you spit it out, it is just water and oxygen.

  28. MyPetFly says:

    At least the two teeth in my parasitic twin are healthy. Now if I could just find a decent hair product for his tufts of hair…

  29. yesteryear says:

    @RIP MRHANDS: um, i was kidding. but on behalf of everyone reading this i want to thank you for giving us that vital information. i had no clue about the connection between sugar and tooth decay! are you like, a tooth scientist or something?

  30. BuriedCaesar says:

    Two words – “Always read the label.”

  31. yikz says:


    Product managers are the geniuses that make decisions like what you see above. They look at margin based on manufacturing costs and expected retail price point.
    They want to make sure that retailers have an adequate margin. This means they get a higher profile in retail outlets. If retailers can’t make $$ on the product, they’re going to slash shelf space allocated to that product, and sales will diminish.

    Marketing is responsible for the message to the street. They usually doll it up by including something trendy to lead the consumer away from the real story.
    “Now using 20% recycled plastic!”
    “New improved cap!”
    “New improved taste!”

    Product managers are the same reason that 1/2 gallon containers of ice cream now contain 56 ounces. It’s the same reason that CompUSA raised prices 25% before announcing “40% off sale!” when they announced they were closing their doors.

    I would be like to see what Consumer Reports has to say about the effectiveness of the larger bottle versus the smaller bottle.

  32. JustEaton says:

    At least it doesn’t turn your teeth brown and remove your sense of taste. Maybe they should advertise that. [see previous Crest article]

  33. witeowl says:

    @rachaeljean: Don’t know about your area, but it’s exactly the same price at my local grocery store. So sure, as pointless as Midol, but not exactly a rip-off.

  34. Jesse in Japan says:

    Also, 33.8 oz isn’t “2x” 18 ounces.

  35. ath0 says:

    Frankly I am only interested if there is less alcohol because there is no way I am going to drink twice as much of this stuff unless I get twice as drunk.

  36. AMetamorphosis says:


    Where are you getting .023 ?
    According to this article AND the bottle pictured, its .02

    and it still doesn’t equal .05

    You act as if everyone should already know this and just accept that the fact that manufacturers “it’s repeatedly abused in consumer products and foods”

    Sorry, I don’t accept that & as a consumer, and neither should you.

    Prove your ascertations before condesendingly responding.

  37. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @AMetamorphosis: AFAIK, they’re only required to put it on the label to hundredths of a percent. Specify it any more precisely, and normal manufacturing variations could throw it off.

  38. AMetamorphosis says:


    Thank you for your insite speedwell !


  39. Xkeeper says:

    @Michael Belisle: Obviously, you’ve never seen the “100 calorie” packs :)

  40. Xkeeper says:

    @Xkeeper: (although I suppose that could be summed up as getting “25% product for 75% price”)

  41. Xkeeper says:


    round(0.023, 2) x 2 = 0.4

    round(0.023 x 2, 2) = 0.5

    Somebody already said, it’s just a rounding error.

  42. rachaeljean says:

    @witeowl: Well, it’s about $1 more a bottle here…which is why I said it’s more expensive :p

  43. witeowl says:

    The 0.23% is a hypothetical to illustrate a point. Let’s say that the amount of the active ingredient is 0.23% in the big bottle. If you round that, you’d get the 0.2% printed on the bottle. Now, if you double it before rounding (the double strength in the small bottle), you get 0.23+0.23=0.46%. Round that 0.46%, and you get 0.5%. It works the same if the leel in the big bottle is 0.24%, 0.225%, 0.237% or any of a number of percentages.

    Oh, and not to nitpick at Xleeper, but it’s not a rounding “error”, it’s an unavoidable result of rounding.

    The evilness comes with foods packagers who (intentionally or not) have some laughable results thanks to rounding. I remember when they started listing multiple serving sizes on packages. “Hey, look! If I eat one serving – half the bag – I consume 190 calories. But, if I eat the WHOLE bag I only consume 370 calories. Wow, the calories per serving go down as I eat more!”

    (Foods are rounded to tens of calories. Apparently one serving had something like 187 calories which rounds to 190, while two servings (374) rounds down to 370.)

    And I don’t know how much to get up in arms about this. There are much greater consumer issues to fight than making them write out hundredths of percents. (Because then you’ll complain about the rounding off of thousandths, ten-thousandths, etc.) If anything, I’d want food calories expressed down to ones, not tens.

  44. witeowl says:

    @rachaeljean: Oh, yeah. That’s possibly a rip-off, then. The question might be, to play Pan’s advocate, whether there are any other ingredients that matter. (Is flouride really the only ingredient that does anything, or is the only medically “active” ingredient?) But yeah, I guess it pays to read labels along with price tags.

  45. witeowl says:

    Oops. Divide my numbers referring to Act by ten. My decimal point’s gone wandering.

  46. AMetamorphosis says:


    I just couldn’t figure out where you were coming up with .023.

    Thank you for explaining your reasoning :-)

  47. orielbean says:

    for what it’s worth, it may be more effective in multiple uses vs single uses. Since it is cleaning your mouth and you eat several times a day, maybe it makes more sense to use after a meal so the plaques or whatever have less time to adhere and build up.

  48. irfan says:

    neither of those concentrations at the suggested usage level will give you fluorosis.. and its just topical anyways. Fluorosis is a risk when you ingest too much during developmental years, not from swishing around ACT every morning or night. dont swallow it every nite, dont worry about fluorosis.

  49. ChuckECheese says:

    A slightly dated comment, but I just saw these bottles in the store today. The 2 different sizes were right next to each other. Their prices were pretty similar. I think the point of these two products is that one is for the one-rinse-a-day crowd and the other (2x) is for the twice-a-day crowd. It all seems arcane, and it must be hard for ACT to figure out how to educate customers on their usage-specific products. You just gotta be in the know with these things, I guess.