The mechanism of activity and the antiviral spectrum of Listerine antiseptic have not been examined thoroughly. We therefore tested its effect on laboratory strains of herpes simplex type 1 and type 2 (enveloped DNA viruses), influenza A virus (enveloped RNA virus), rotavirus (nonenveloped RNA virus), and adenovirus type 5 (nonenveloped DNA virus). Each virus was mixed with an equal volume of Listerine for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and the residual infectivity of the virus was assessed. An antiviral effect was defined as greater than 95% reduction of infectivity. Exposure to Listerine for 30 seconds had an antiviral effect against herpes simplex type-1 and type-2 (96.3% and 100% reduction in infectious virus, respectively) and influenza A (100% reduction). In contrast, rotavirus-induced plaque formation was reduced by 12.2% after 30 seconds of exposure to Listerine, whereas 5 minutes of exposure to Listerine resulted in a 21.5% increase in plaque formation. Exposure of adenovirus to Listerine had a minimal effect on the cytopathocity of the virus, with a 33.4% reduction in virus levels after 5 minutes. The antiviral activity of Listerine is thus not related to the viral genome but is probably directed to the viral envelope.