How to Remove Tonsil Stones at Home

Three Parts:Using Manual Removal TechniquesUsing Unverified Home RemediesTaking Preventive Measures

Tonsilloliths, also known by their common name, "tonsil stones," are hard, rock-like growths on the tonsils at the back of the throat. Tonsil stones, which can cause sore throat, inflamed tonsils, sinus problems, and (perhaps most embarrassingly) bad breath, can be a serious nuisance for the person afflicted with them.[1] Luckily, a doctor's visit isn't always necessary to remove pesky tonsil stones — with manual removal techniques, preventative measures, and other remedies, it's sometimes possible to cure your tonsil stones at home.

Part 1
Using Manual Removal Techniques

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    Use a mirror to spot your tonsil stones. Before you begin, locate your tonsil stones in a mirror. Ideally, you should have a clear view of the stones while also being able to hold the mirror comfortably. Take some time to get used to looking into your mouth with your mirror — it will save you time and frustration in the long run. If you don't have a mirror handy, try using the reversible camera in your smartphone to see what you're doing (flashlight apps can be handy here).
    • You're looking for one or more small, hard, whitish pieces of debris at the back of your throat. These may be lodged in the folds of the tonsils, which can make them hard to see.
    • Before you start, it can also be a good idea to have some towels, warm rinse water, and a handheld flashlight (torch) to help you see down your throat.
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    Use a moistened cotton swab or Q-tip. Many homes are already stocked with this useful tool for tonsil stone removal. If the cotton swab is long enough to reach the back of your throat and stiff enough not to bend under pressure, it should work great. Use only clean, fresh swabs — never ones that have been previously used — and avoid setting your swab down on non-sterilized surfaces like your counter-top during use. Below are a few brief guidelines for usage:
    • Stroke the stone with gentle but steady pressure repeatedly in one direction. Try not to poke the stone further into the tonsil — if you already have a sore throat, this can cause more irritation.
    • Note that it isn't harmful to swallow tonsil stones once they're dislodged. However, many people find that this can cause a lingering unpleasant aftertaste.
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    Use a toothbrush. Another extremely common tool you can use to remove tonsil stones is an ordinary toothbrush. You can even use both ends of the toothbrush to dislodge reluctant tonsil stones — the bristles can be useful to give the tonsils a (very gentle) scrubbing and remove loose stones, while the blunt end can help remove individual stubborn stones.
    • If you have an electric toothbrush, try using the smooth (non-bristled) side of the head to vibrate stones out of nooks and crannies in your tonsils.[2]
    • Because tonsil stones often contain foul-smelling bacteria, you may want to give your toothbrush a washing before the next time you use it. However, if you don't, you won't be in any danger.
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    Remove the stones with a hair or bobby pin. Many women keep a supply of bobby pins ready in their bathroom. If this is the case for you, consider using one of these handy pins to remove your tonsil stones. The common black-colored ones work well because they're thin and flexible, yet firm enough to dislodge the stones. Be sure to wash your pin with soap and water before putting it in your mouth. Though unlikely, a dirty pin can potentially transfer infectious bacteria into the mouth, leading to further throat problems.
    • Use the bobby pin the same way you would use a Q-tip, using a steady stroking motion to dislodge the stones.
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    Invest in a water pick or oral irrigator. An oral irrigator (or "water pick") is a tool frequently used by dentists. Oral irrigators work by shooting water out of a small nozzle at a high speed, creating a narrow jet that can blast obstructions away. This sort of concentrated pressure is perfect for removing tonsil stones. Believe it or not, these devices are actually available over the counter at pharmacies — often for as little as $20-40.[3]
    • Before using the oral irrigator, set it to the lowest setting and test it on a non-sensitive part of your mouth, like the side of your cheek. If your throat is sore, as is common with tonsil stones, an irrigator set to high pressure can be painful.
    • Aim the water stream at the visible stones and wait for it to dislodge. Do not touch the stone directly with the irrigator's nozzle, as this may contaminate the irrigator with bacteria from the stone.
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    Try a saltwater gargling solution. If it's uncomfortable to touch your tonsils, try this non-invasive trick. Mix about a teaspoon of iodized salt or rock salt to one cup of warm water and then gargling it at the back of your throat. Since you're not touching the tonsil stones directly, this can take some time, but keep at it. Even if you don't move the harder-to-dislodge stones, the gentle action of the warm saltwater should make them easier to remove with one of the methods above.
    • The salt in the water acts with the heat as a mild antibacterial remedy and can also help to dull any pain from a sore throat.[4]
    • You may also want to try gargling with neutral carbonated liquids like club soda. Some practitioners claim that the bubbles help dislodge stubborn stones.
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    Consider using your finger to dislodge the stones. Though there's not necessarily anything wrong with using your index finger to reach for the stones, it's not usually a good first choice. Statistically, people's hands can often be host to a wide variety of bacteria.[5] If your tonsils are already irritated from their stones, this bacteria can cause an infection, leading to further problems that may necessitate a doctor's visit. If you need to use a finger, take the following precautions:
    • Make sure your hands are thoroughly washed. This will reduce the risk of spreading bacteria and germs.
    • Trim your fingernails. Long, sharp nails can scratch the tissue around the tonsils and hard-to-reach bacteria can hide under dirty nails.
    • If you can, consider wearing sterile latex gloves.
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    Remove any impacted material after the stone comes out. Sometimes, removing a tonsil stone will reveal a small crater filled with pus or other impacted material. This usually has a foul smell and taste. Carefully remove as much of this material out as possible with the tool of your choice. Repeat the process until the crater is empty. Rinse with water or your preferred mouthwash to deal with the smell and taste.
    • Note that you may feel slight discomfort, pain, or bleeding during this extraction process or during the removal of the impacted material. Usually, this is nothing to worry about. However, if the bleeding doesn’t stop or the pain lasts for longer than an hour or two, consult a doctor — the wound may be infected.

Part 2
Using Unverified Home Remedies

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    Understand the uncertain nature of these remedies. The internet is bursting with amateur tips on how to remove tonsil stones and keep them away once they're gone. Some of these tips may work well, while others may not. In this section, we've collected some of the most popular online rumors and so-called home remedies for treating tonsil stones. While none of these tricks will hurt you, it's important to understand that since there's no scientific evidence supporting claims that they work, not all may be effective for you.
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    Try a lemon juice gargle. Mix a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a cup of warm water to make a stone-fighting mouthwash. Using this citrus solution to gargle vigorously, taking care to swirl around in the pockets in the back corners of your mouth several times per day. According to unverified sources, the acid in the lemon juice may work with the salt and the heat of the water to help loosen the stones from your tonsils.
    • Lemon juice also contains vitamin C, which is often heralded as a cure for minor ailments like sore tonsils. However, recent studies have cast some doubt on the true effectiveness of vitamin C at fighting colds.[6]
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    Use aloe vera jelly. Aloe vera juice (which comes from the inner gelatinous, gummy section of the aloe leaf) is often sold as aloe vera jelly over the counter in pharmacies and supermarkets. Some sources claim that aloe vera can help with tonsil stones by cleansing the mouth of stone-causing bacteria.[7] There is, in fact, some evidence that aloe vera can act as a mild antibacterial, so this method may have some truth to it.[8]
    • If you want to try this soothing jelly, take a teaspoonful of it in your mouth, swirl it around your tonsils, and let it stay there for a few minutes several times per day. When the time is up, gargle water with the jelly in your mouth, swirl it all around, and spit it out.
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    Experiment with garlic. Eating a single solid clove of raw garlic twice a day is sometimes claimed as an effective way of dealing with tonsil stones. Though it may seem unnatural, all you need to do to try this method is pop a whole clove in your mouth, chew, and swallow. Allicin, a chemical in garlic, has antibacterial properties.[9] Allegedly, chewing garlic will allow the allicin to kill the stone-causing bacteria, helping prevent new stones.
    • While tonsil stones are often associated with bad breath, note that eating raw garlic has its own strong effects on the breath, which some may find unpleasant.
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    Gargle with extra virgin olive oil. If you're bold, try gargling olive oil to dislodge tonsil stones. Gargling a few times each day with a teaspoon of the oil may help get rid of your current stones and reduce the chance of new stones forming. Afterward, gargle with water to get rid of the viscous residue.
    • The logic behind this method is that since olive oil is known to sometimes have anti-inflammatory properties, it can help reduce the swelling of sore tonsils and thus reduce the likelihood of stones forming.[10] However, it is unclear whether olive oil works as an anti-inflammatory when applied directly to the tonsils.
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    Use apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar, an acid, may be able to treat tonsil stones by acting as an astringent. To try this, add a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and use it to gargle with. Gargle vigorously at least twice a day as long as needed for the stones come out.
    • Like lemon juice, the logic behind this home remedy is that the acid in the vinegar helps to loosen and dissolve the stones during the gargling process.
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    Eat more carrots. Chewing hard foods like carrots several times per day may help with tonsil stones. Chewing hard carrots forces the hard pieces of carrot catch on the stones in the back of your throat and loosen them. Consider having a carrot with every meal if you're suffering from tonsil stones.
    • In addition, carrots are loaded with vitamin A, beta carotene, and fiber, important nutrients that can help keep you healthy and prevent tonsil stones in the future.
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    Stock up on active culture yogurt or curds. These products are pro-biotics, which means they have beneficial (or good) bacteria in them. According to some online sources, adding these foods to your diet can help balance out the bacteria levels in your mouth and stomach, making it less likely that the harmful bacteria will be able to cause tonsil stones. However, it's somewhat doubtful that bacteria in the digestive tracts act this predictably.
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    Eat raw onion. Believe it or not, some sources claim that eating one full onion each day can have a similar effect to that of a garlic clove (discussed above). According to these sources, the chemicals found in onions can help kill the bacteria that produce tonsil stones. In addition, the increased saliva production that comes with eating onions can allegedly help loosen deeply embedded stones. If you're willing to brave the strong odor and tears that are likely to occur with eating the vegetable, try ending each meal by downing pieces of raw onion.
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    Experiment with essential oils like lemongrass, thieve and myrrh. These fragrant essential oils can be used for gargling and swirling purposes. While they'll almost certainly help deal with bad breath caused by tonsil stones, they can also allegedly work as mild antibacterials to kill the stone-forming bacteria in the mouth. Try using the procedure below to use this home remedy:
    • Put about 10 drops of your essential oil(s) in a cup of water.
    • Take a mouthful of this water and gargle well, with your head tilted back so that the water reaches your tonsils.
    • Continue gargling with new mouthfuls of water until you finish the cup. Repeat several times per day until stones loosen or fall out.

Part 3
Taking Preventive Measures

  1. Image titled Remove Tonsil Stones at Home Step 17
    Use mouthwash after every meal. Tonsil stones form when small bits of food, mucus, bacteria, or other types of debris get caught in the folds of the tonsils and begin to harden.[11] By keeping your mouth as clean and free of debris as possible, you lessen the chance that tonsil stones will have a chance to form in the first place. For example, try using mouthwash after meals to kill bacteria in the mouth and remove any lingering food debris.
    • As discussed above, a mild saltwater solution can also be helpful. In addition, saltwater solutions can help dull the pain of a sore throat.
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    Maintain good oral hygiene. Always brush your teeth at least twice per day. Ideally, brush after every meal. As noted above, food particles getting caught in the tonsils are one of the reasons tonsil stones form, so removing them routinely may prevent the stones' formation entirely.
    • Flossing, which removes bacteria and debris between the teeth, doesn't hurt either. Most dental resources recommend flossing daily.[12]
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    Avoid getting tonsillitis. Since tonsil stones are most common in people who frequently have tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), avoiding this condition can make your chances of getting tonsil stones much smaller. Below are just a few tips for avoiding contracting tonsillitis — they're more or less the same common-sense tips that will help you avoid the common cold:[13]
    • Wash your hands frequently, especially after eating or using the bathroom.
    • Stay away from people with tonsillitis or strep throat until about a day after they start antibiotics.
    • Get plenty of sleep to keep your immune system functioning at top capacity.
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    Consider taking antibiotics for throat ailments. If your tonsil stones are causing noticeable problems and you aren't able to remove them by yourself, seek medical attention. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you a course of antibiotics to help cure an underlying throat ailment that's inflaming your tonsils and allowing stones to form.
    • If you're prescribed antibiotics, be sure to follow you're doctor's instructions for taking them. Take exactly as much as you are directed to take. Don't stop taking them early, even if you start to feel better. Poor usage of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic-resistant illnesses, which can be very difficult to treat.[14]
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    If all else fails, consider tonsillectomy surgery. The only way to prevent tonsil stones with 100% effectiveness is to have your tonsils removed. Without tonsils, debris in your mouth will have nowhere to get trapped, and stones will be unable to re-form. While tonsillectomy surgeries can leave the throat sore after the surgery, in the long run, they provide permanent relief from tonsil stones. If you are suffering from a serious, recurring case of tonsil stones, this may be the smartest option.
    • Another surgical option for tonsil stones involves using a precisely-aimed laser to remove the stones.[15] While this option doesn't require you to go under general anesthesia and allows you to keep your tonsils, it may not be as effective as a tonsillectomy in permanently stopping tonsil stones.


  • Tonsil stones can be removed manually with relative ease.
  • However, you should do it very carefully so that you do not cause further damage to your mucosa or infection.


  • Signs of infection may include fever, pain, swelling or edema of the tonsillar area. If this happens, visit your dentist immediately.
  • Following the manual removal of tonsil stones you should watch out for signs of infection for the next 7 days.

Things You'll Need

  • A mirror
  • Well-lit room
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Tool of choice (bobby pin/Q-tip/oral irrigator, etc.)

Article Info

Categories: Home Remedies