How to clean retainers?

How to clean retainers? Brushing your teeth and cleaning your retainer are both equally important activities that you should perform on a regular basis. To keep it healthy, you should clean your retainer with warm water and dish soap once every day. Brushing your teeth after each meal is also a good idea.

how to clean retainers

Do I have to clean my retainer?

Keep your retainer in good condition by following these simple instructions. When you wear a retainer, bacteria, plaque, and tartar quickly build up on the surface of your teeth. It’s just as important to clean your retainer every day as it is to brush your teeth.

Many people find that after getting their braces off, they need to use a retainer full-time for a while. This is due to the fact that teeth aren’t kept in a rigid setting. Once corrected by braces and moved into a better position, they can shift again.

In order to keep your teeth in their new position, you will need to wear a retainer. You may have to wear your retainers at night for the rest of your life to keep your teeth in place.

Here, you’ll learn more about the different types of retainers, how to clean them, and other helpful hints for keeping them in good condition.


Bacteria, plaque, and tartar rapidly accumulate on the surface of your teeth while you wear a retainer. Cleaning your retainer on a regular basis is just as vital as brushing your teeth.

Cleaning retainers by type

Identifying the type of retainer you have is the first step to maintaining it. Retainers can be divided into three categories:

  • Hawley retainers are moulded to fit your mouth. With the help of a wire, they keep the retainer in place better. This type of retainer is easy to clean, as it can be taken out.

  • Essix, Vivera, or “clear aligners” are brand names for clear plastic retainers. These retainers fit over your teeth like a second skin. In comparison to Hawley retainers, they’re easier to remove, but they aren’t as long-term.

  • It is possible to refer to a fixed retainer as a “permanent” retainer. Your lower front teeth are actually attached to these. If you have a high risk of shifting your teeth, these are the best options for you. This type of retainer cannot be removed. In most cases, it has been in place for a long period of time.

Tips for cleaning a retainer

Tooth brushing is something that almost no one would ever consider skipping. In contrast, many people who wear retainers don’t clean their devices for a long time.

Retainers are susceptible to the same bacterial growth that occurs on teeth. When you put an unclean retainer in your mouth, you’re essentially giving your teeth and gums a dose of bacteria and plaque.

If you don’t know how to do it yourself, there are a few simple ways to clean retainers. However, if someone is worried about how clean their retainer is, they should always talk to their dentist or orthodontist first.

Here are eight tips for people to make sure their retainers are clean and free from bacteria.

Retainer cleaner

Retainer cleaners are available from some manufacturers. These products are an affordable alternative for those who do not want or have the time to create their own solution.

It’s critical that you adhere to the instructions provided on the product’s packaging. There are some types that necessitate sonic cleaning or overnight soaking. Certain types of retainers or people with sensitive teeth or gum disease should not be used with others.

An orthodontist can recommend a retainer cleaner that is tailored to a patient’s specific needs.


When it comes to mouth hygiene, mouthwash is a must-have item. In the absence of any other options, it can be used to clean a retainer.

Retainers should not be cleaned with mouthwash every time they are worn. Retainers and the mouth can be dried out by mouthwashes that are high in alcohol.

It’s possible to use non-alcoholic mouthwash for 2-3 minutes, rinse with cold water, and brush with a soft toothbrush if no other options are available.

Castile soap

Many other cleaning products are more hazardous to the environment than castile soap. Castile soap can be made at home using olive oil and coconut soap, but most supermarkets carry it.

A small amount of castile soap should be added to warm water in order to clean a retainer. They can then use a toothbrush to scrub the retainer after dipping it into the solution.

Allow the retainer to soak for two to three minutes before scrubbing it again. Rinsing with cool water and putting it back in the mouth or putting it in distilled water is recommended afterward.


In addition to disinfecting, white vinegar also eliminates unpleasant odours and residues. Vinegar can be used to clean a retainer by combining half white vinegar and half warm water in a small dish. After that, soak the retainer for 20 minutes in the mixture.

It is possible to use a soft toothbrush to scrub the retainer clean of any films or mineral deposits. It should be soaked for an additional 20 minutes after being rinsed with cold water.

It’s a good idea to clean your retainer outside with vinegar if you’re following this advice. The vinegar smell can be minimised by using a single-use dish.

Baking soda

Baking soda is an all-purpose disinfectant that is safe for use on all surfaces. Retainers that have turned yellow may also benefit from this treatment. Retainers can be bad for your mouth if they change the pH level of your mouth because they contain baking soda.

To use baking soda, mix half water and half baking soda into a paste. Because you don’t want the mixture to fall off the retainer, make it as thick as possible.

They can then use a soft toothbrush and a mixture of baking soda and water to gently scrub the retainer. The retainer should be thoroughly rinsed to remove any residue.

Denture cleaner

A denture cleaner can be used to clean a retainer, especially if there is no other option. It’s possible that denture cleaner will turn a retainer yellow if you use it for long periods of time.

Rinse the retainer and soak it in denture cleaner for about 20 minutes before cleaning it with denture cleaner. After removing it, they should then use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub it. Rinsing should continue until the retainer no longer tastes like denture cleaner.


People should brush their retainers as well as their teeth when they brush their teeth. When brushing your teeth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that is not whitening. After that, take out the retainer and thoroughly wash it.

Brushing one’s teeth again after removing a retainer is a good idea in order to remove any residue left behind by the appliance.

Water for cleaning on the go

Drinking a lot of water throughout the day can help prevent the buildup of bacteria in your retainer. Retainers can be damaged if they are not kept moist. Drinking water helps to keep your mouth moist, which reduces the risk of tooth decay.

People can try swishing water in their mouth a few times to clean their retainers if they feel they are dirty.

Drinking soda and other sweetened beverages can harm a retainer in the same way that sugary foods and beverages harm teeth. Retainers should be removed prior to consuming sugary beverages or eating anything.

A dry retainer is more likely to be damaged. Therefore, people should not allow this to take place, especially over the course of one night. Instead, every time you take out a retainer, soak it in distilled water.

If the retainer is dirty and cannot be cleaned right away, it can be soaked in a damp paper towel until it is cleaned if no other container is available to store it in.


Some manufacturers provide retainer cleansers. Certain kinds of retainers, such as those with sensitive teeth, should not be worn in conjunction with others. A gentle toothbrush may be used to scrub the retainer clean. Baking soda is an all-purpose disinfectant that may be used on almost any surface.

When to clean a retainer

Every time a person brushes their teeth, they should gently brush their retainer with a soft-bristled brush. Once a week, a more thorough cleaning should be performed.

Here are various indications that a person should clean their retainer:

  • The retainer has a foul odour or flavour.

  • On the retainer, there is a film.

  • The retainer seems hazy.

  • It’s been almost a week since it was cleaned.

  • The retainer has white dots on it.

It’s possible that white spots on your teeth could be mineral deposits (tartar), plaque that causes tooth decay, or a mix of both things.

Another clue that a retainer needs to be cleaned is if it is constantly breaking or cracking. Bacteria may ruin a retainer in the same way that they can destroy teeth.

If a person suddenly develops cavities, tooth sensitivity, or other mouth health issues, there might be a problem with their retainer. If this happens, they should consult with their dentist or orthodontist about correct retainer maintenance and have the retainer attached properly.

In Short

Every time a person washes their teeth, they should use a soft-bristled brush to gently clean their retainer. A more thorough cleaning should be done once a week. Bacteria may wreak havoc on a retainer in the same manner that they can wreak havoc on teeth.

Avoid These Methods to Clean Retainers

Do not use the following methods to clean your retainer:

:small_blue_diamond: Hydrogen peroxide: Because peroxide generates free radical reactions, it is an effective antibacterial agent. However, I do not advocate putting it in your mouth since it has the potential to disrupt your mouth microbiota.

:small_blue_diamond: Brushing your teeth: Even a gentle toothbrush might harm your retainer. Scratches provide a place for germs to hide.

:small_blue_diamond: Toothpaste: Many toothpastes are abrasive, which might cause the same issue as using a toothbrush. When you use toothpaste to clean your retainer, you risk scratching it and leaving abrasions where germs may live.

:small_blue_diamond: Dishwashers, boiling water, or other sources of heat: Heat might cause your container to distort. Never use hot or boiling water; instead, use warm or lukewarm water.

:small_blue_diamond: Mouthwash: The alcohol and SLS in most mouthwash may cause the material to dry out, causing it to age more quickly.

:small_blue_diamond: Persulfate cleansers: cleaning tablets or solutions containing persulfate, which are often sold for dentures, might irritate your delicate mouth tissue.

:small_blue_diamond: UV light sanitizers: UV light may degrade acrylic on a molecular level.

:small_blue_diamond: If you use caustic or drying agents, your retainer will be destroyed.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Retainers

Advantages Disadvatages
compared with removable retainers: More complicated mouth hygiene procedures
requires little patient compliance Possible obstruction of the occlusion
superior aesthetics Impassive wire can result in unwanted tooth movement
more predictable long-term retention
specific to multi-stranded wire retainers:
flexibility of the wire allows for physiological tooth movement

Frequently asked questions

Following are some frequently asked questions related to how to clean retainers.

1. Should I keep my plastic retainer in water?

To keep your retainer secure, keep it in it carrying bag. Soaking it in water may help keep it clean. To keep germs at bay, we suggest soaking your retainer once a week. Storing your retainer while it is still wet might cause germs and jeopardise your dental health.

2. How often should retainers be cleaned?

Clean your retainers well at least once a day, ideally just before putting them in your mouth. Use cold water, not boiling. Rinsing your retainers reduces plaque and neutralizes odors. Soak your retainers in a denture cleaner, such as Efferdent, at least once every two weeks to properly clean them.

3. How do I get the white stuff off my retainer?

When combined with equal parts water, distilled white vinegar with an acidity of 5% or less softens those white, crusty, barnacle-like spots on your retainer. Before you try to clean your retainer, soak it in water for at least 30 minutes. Then, use a soft bristle brush to remove the crusty parts.

4. How do I clean and disinfect my retainer?

Warm water and anti-bacterial dish detergent may be used to sterilise your retainer. Rinse the retainer after scrubbing it with the liquid. After that, immerse it for a few minutes in rubbing alcohol. This should not last more than 15 minutes since the alcohol might harm your retainer.

5. How long do plastic retainers last?

Acrylic detachable retainers, sometimes known as Hawley retainers, may endure for up to ten years. Plastic detachable retainers aren’t going to last as long and will need to be changed more often.

6. How do you care for clear plastic retainers?

Scrub the retainer using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a mild dish cleanser. Thoroughly scrub both the interior and exterior of the retainer. When cleaning your retainer, be sure you use a fresh, unused toothbrush. Before reapplying it to your teeth, properly rinse it with warm water.

7. Can I clean my retainer with mouthwash?

You may also soak your retainer in mouthwash to eliminate odors and destroy germs if you wish. In an equal parts ratio, combine mouthwash and lukewarm water. Soak your retainer in this solution for no more than an hour. Brush and rinse with warm water, just as you would with denture cleaners.

8. How do I make my yellow retainers clear again?

Use half water, half hydrogen peroxide, 2 TBSP baking soda, and a toothbrush in a warm bowl of water. Depending on the intensity, it will take anything from a few minutes to many hours to brighten and clean. Soak them overnight, or all day if they are really filthy.

9. Can a dirty retainer make you sick?

Yes, absolutely. Bacterial colonies thrive in filthy retainers. Candida is a fungi that can cause a yeast infection in the body. Staphylococcus is a bacterium that can be deadly if it spreads to other parts of the body.

10. How do you clean a retainer that fell on the floor?

If your retainer becomes dirty and lands on the ground, you should clean it before putting it back in your mouth. Warm water with a moderate detergent and a gentle toothbrush may be used for this, followed by a brief dip in a germ-killing mouthwash solution like Listerine. Before putting it on, thoroughly rinse your hands.


:black_small_square: It’s crucial to keep your retainer clean and odor-free, yet many common cleaning procedures might damage both your retainer and your mouth microbiota.

:black_small_square: Chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and persulfate (found in Efferdent, Polident, and other cleaning products) should never be used in your cleaning regimen. Neither should bleach, hot water, or regular toothpaste be used.

:black_small_square: Instead, just soak your retainer in distilled water (with baking soda and/or castile soap) to keep it fresh. Soaking your retainer in white vinegar once a week or taking it to the dentist for a clean will help.

:black_small_square: Avoiding the use of dangerous chemicals could help you maintain your retainer for a long time while also keeping your mouth healthy.

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