A blind cross-over trial was carried out to compare the tooth and tongue staining associated with the use of a 0.035% alexidine and a 0.2% chlorhexidine mouthrinse. Twenty-two volunteers were divided into two groups termed "tea drinkers" and "non-tea drinkers". All volunteers were requested to refrain from oral hygiene measures throughout two 10-day periods when they rinsed twice a day with the preparation randomly allocated for the respective period. During both periods the members of the groups excluded coffee, red wine and port from their diet. The tea drinking group consumed seven cups of tea per day. Tooth and tongue staining was recorded for extent and severity at the end of each period. The amount of stain accumulating in the two groups was similar following the use of chlorhexidine and alexidine. However, for both chlorhexidine and alexidine the extent and severity of tooth and tongue staining were significantly increased in the tea drinking group. An in vitro study of tea staining of perspex blocks exposed twice a day to 0.035% solutions of alexidine or chlorhexidine throughout a 5-day period demonstrated significantly more staining with alexidine when measured spectrophotometrically. Visually however, the differences in the specimens were minimal. Saliva treatment of the perspex did not significantly alter the staining by alexidine or chlorhexidine. The results provide further evidence for a dietary aetiology to the staining associated with cationic antiseptics. However, alexidine at the concentration used offered no advantage in reducing the side effect of staining when compared with chlorhexidine.