The aim of this study was to determine the contribution of plaque and saliva towards the prolonged activity, also called substantivity, of three antimicrobial mouthrinses (Listerine®, Meridol®, Crest Pro Health®), used in combination with a toothpaste (Prodent Coolmint®). Volunteers brushed for 4 weeks with a toothpaste without antimicrobial claims, while during the last 2 weeks half of the volunteers used an antimicrobial mouthrinse in addition to brushing. At the end of the experimental period, plaque and saliva samples were collected 6 h after oral hygiene, and bacterial concentrations and viabilities were determined. The contribution of plaque and saliva towards substantivity was assessed by combining plaque obtained after mechanical cleaning only with plaque and saliva obtained after additional use of an antimicrobial rinse. Subsequently, resulting viabilities of the combined plaques were determined. The viabilities of plaque samples after additional rinsing with mouthrinses were lower than of plaque obtained after mechanical cleaning only, regardless of the rinse involved. Moreover, plaque collected 6 h after rinsing with antimicrobial mouthrinses contained a surplus of antimicrobial activity. Only Listerine showed decreased viability in saliva, but none of the mouthrinses showed any residual antimicrobial activity in saliva. The findings indicate that plaque left behind after mechanical cleaning contributes to the prolonged substantivity of antimicrobial mouthrinses.