Oral malodour is mainly a result of the production of volatile sulphur compounds (VSC). The present study was concerned with investigating the anti-VSC effect of insoluble pyrophosphates (PP) of zinc, copper(II) and tin(II). The hypothesis to be tested was that the sulphide anions produced when VSC are solubilized in water have a higher affinity for the respective metal ions than the PP anion. The anti-VSC effects of insoluble PP were compared with the corresponding soluble metal salts using three in vitro methods: saliva putrefaction; dialysis of a suspension of PP and saliva against water; and analysis of water containing hydrogen sulphide and methyl mercaptan gases, and gases in the headspace. The levels of VSC were analysed by gas chromatography in the first and third methods, and released metal ions were analysed by atomic absorption spectroscopy in the second. The results showed that: the insoluble metal PP inhibited VSC formation in saliva by 99-100%; under dialysis, only minute amounts of metal ions are released from the combination of PP and saliva; and the PP lost their metal cations in water containing dissolved gases and inhibited VSC formation. Hence, the results support the experimental hypothesis. Sulphide ions are obviously very strong ligands for these metal ions.