A variety of mouthwashes are frequently used in the management of irradiation-induced mucositis. Benzydamine has recently been introduced for alleviating this condition. Its efficacy as a mouthwash was compared with chlorhexidine in two groups of patients receiving radiotherapy for oral carcinoma. Mucositis and pain were recorded over a 6 week period and oral carriage of Candida species, coliforms and Staphylococcus aureus was assessed using an oral rinse technique. There was no significant difference in the mucositis scores, overall pain scores or the yeast and bacterial species isolated between the two treatment groups. However, 58% (7 out of 12) and 92% (12 out of 13) patients reported oral discomfort when rinsing the mouth with chlorhexidine and benzydamine, respectively. In both groups, the most common coliform isolated was Klebsiella pneumoniae and the carriage of yeasts was significantly greater than that of coliforms. These results indicate that, although the individual patient acceptance of chlorhexidine is better than benzydamine, there is little difference between the two mouthwashes both in controlling pain and mucositis or in the oral carriage of the micro-organisms studied.