How to clean retainers

How to clean retainers.
How to clean a mouth retainer.

Maintaining good oral hygiene goes beyond just brushing and flossing; it also involves taking care of orthodontic appliances like retainers. Retainers play a crucial role in preserving the results of orthodontic treatment and ensuring a beautiful smile. However, neglecting to clean them properly can lead to a buildup of bacteria, plaque, and unwanted odors.

Here we’ll discuss effective techniques and tips on how to clean retainers to keep them in optimal condition and ensure your oral health remains uncompromised.

Topics Covered

  • Why cleaning retainers is important
  • How often should I clean my retainer?
  • How to clean a mouth retainer
  • What is the white stuff on my retainer?
  • Can mold grow on a retainer?
  • Can dirty retainers cause yellow teeth?
  • Things to avoid
  • Conclusion

Why cleaning retainers is important

Retainers are custom-made devices designed to hold teeth in their corrected positions after braces or other orthodontic treatments. Wearing them as prescribed by your orthodontist helps prevent teeth from shifting back to their original positions. However, the mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, and over time, these microorganisms can accumulate on your retainer’s surface.

Failing to clean your retainer can lead to:

Bacteria Buildup: Unclean retainers can harbor harmful bacteria, which may contribute to bad breath and other oral health issues.

Plaque Formation: Bacterial buildup can lead to the formation of plaque on your retainer, which can contribute to cavities and gum disease.

Unpleasant Odors: Bacteria and food particles left on your retainer can cause foul-smelling odors to develop.

Discoloration: Failure to clean your retainer regularly can result in discoloration and staining.

How often should I clean my retainer?

Here are some general guidelines for how often you should clean your retainer:

Daily Cleaning: Just like you brush your teeth daily, it’s a good idea to clean your retainer on a daily basis. After wearing your retainer, rinse it thoroughly with lukewarm water to remove any loose debris, saliva, or food particles. This simple rinsing can help prevent the initial buildup of bacteria and plaque.

Deep Cleaning: Aim to deep clean your retainer at least once a week. This involves using a more thorough cleaning method, such as soaking your retainer in a retainer cleaning solution, hydrogen peroxide/water mixture, or other mild cleaning agents. Deep cleaning helps eliminate any accumulated bacteria and keeps your retainer fresh and odor-free.

How to clean a mouth retainer

As mentioned, a quick daily light clean and a thorough weekly clean is recommended to keep your retainer free from harmful bacteria as well as plaque and tartar buildup.

How to do a light clean

Simply remove your retainer each morning when you brush your teeth. Afterward, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-whitening toothpaste to gently brush your retainer. Rinse it off in lukewarm water.

How to do a deep clean

When it comes to the more through weekly clean, you will have several cleaning solutions to choose from which we will discuss in more detail below.

How to deep clean retainers with vinegar

White distilled vinegar is an excellent natural disinfectant. To use it simply mix two equal parts of water and white distilled vinegar into a container and let your retainer soak in it for around 10 minutes.

Do not put it straight back into your mouth – unless you love the taste of strong vinegar. Instead, properly rinse it off with lukewarm water and let it soak in distilled water for a couple of minutes.

It’s important to dilute by 50% because vinegar is acidic and will eventually cause irreversible damage to your retainer.

How to deep clean retainers with baking soda

Baking soda, just like white vinegar, is great for disinfecting. However, baking soda is better and more preferred compared to vinegar because of its excellent ability to deodorize and neutralize bad odors that are commonly associated with retainers.

To use baking soda just add a teaspoon of it to a container of distilled water. Mix it well and let your retainer soak in it for 10 minutes. Rinse it off with cold water.

How to clean retainers with hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning retainers but it can be corrosive, which is why you should always dilute it by 50% with water.

Mix two equal parts of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide into a container and let your retainer soak in it for around 10 minutes. Rinse it off in lukewarm water when done.

How to deep clean retainers with castile soap

Castille soap, with its olive oil and coconut oil ingredients, does a great job at not only cleaning but also keeping your retainer moisturized.

Squirt some into a water-filled container and let your retainer soak in it for 10 minutes before gently brushing it with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse it off with clean cold water.

How to deep clean retainers with an ultrasonic cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaners are great for cleaning a wide variety of items – including retainers. As a matter of fact, a decent denture ultrasonic cleaner is the best and most thorough way of cleaning your retainer.

It works by creating an ultrasonic frequency which creates millions of microscopic bubbles that has a vacuum effect. This thoroughly cleans and disinfects even the hardest to reach places.

If you’re interested in this method, you will be pleased to know that these devices, as revolutionary as they are, do not cost an arm and a leg. Actually, they are very affordable and we have reviewed one such product here.

The HLFLYG professional ultrasonic cleaner

The HLFLYG Professional Ultrasonic Cleaner is a must-have for anyone who wears dental appliances such as dentures, retainers, aligners, wire retainers, sports mouthguards, and nightguards. It creates powerful 46,000Hz sound waves, that can access hard-to-reach areas and kills contaminants from surfaces and cavities, thus keeping your dental appliances healthy and 100% clean.

It’s easy to use, provides two timed cleaning functions (3 minutes and 6 minutes), and is compatible with a variety of dental appliances.

The package includes the HLFLYG Ultrasonic Cleaner, an AC power cord, a cleaning basket, and a user manual. It also comes with a 12-month warranty and friendly customer service.

How to deep clean retainers with retainer cleaning tablets

These specially formulated tablets are designed to dissolve in water and effervesce, helping to break down bacteria and plaque. Follow the instructions on the packaging for the correct usage. Generally, you’ll dissolve a tablet in a glass of lukewarm water and soak your retainer in the solution for the recommended time (usually around 15-20 minutes).

Retainer Brite

Retainer Brite is a specially formulated product created specifically for cleaning retainers. It works great as it destroys all plaque and tartar build-up while killing up to 99% of all odor-causing bacteria.

How to use Retainer Brite

Place your retainer inside of a container filled with warm water. Important to note: the water used should be warm and not hot.

Drop one tablet into the warm water and let it fizzle. Allow it to soak for around 15 minutes before thoroughly rinsing your retainer and hands in cold water.

The product comes with 192 tablets – a 6 month supply.

What is the white stuff on my retainer?

The white stuff that you may notice on your retainer is likely plaque buildup. Plaque is a soft, sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and oral appliances like retainers. When you wear your retainer, it creates a surface where bacteria can accumulate and multiply, leading to the formation of plaque.

Plaque can appear as a white or colorless substance on the surface of your retainer, and if left untreated, it can harden into tartar (also known as calculus), which is more difficult to remove and can contribute to dental issues such as cavities and gum disease.

Can mold grow on a retainer?

Yes, mold can grow on a mouth retainer if it is not properly cleaned and dried. This is because mouth retainers provide a warm, moist environment that is ideal for mold growth. If you don’t clean your mouth retainer regularly, different types of bacteria and fungi can grow on it, including mold. This can lead to bad breath, mouth sores, and a list of other health problems.

Can dirty retainers cause yellow teeth?

Yes, dirty retainers can contribute to the yellowing of teeth. When your retainer is not properly cleaned, it can accumulate plaque, bacteria, and food particles. Over time, this buildup can lead to the growth of harmful microorganisms that produce acids. These acids can erode the enamel of your teeth, causing them to appear yellow or discolored.

Additionally, the bacteria on a dirty retainer can release byproducts and toxins that contribute to bad breath and oral health issues. As the bacteria multiply and thrive on the retainer, they can also transfer back to your teeth and gums when you wear the retainer, further exacerbating the risk of tooth discoloration and other oral health problems.

Things to avoid

There are certain cleaning agents and methods that should be avoided when cleaning retainers, as they can potentially damage the retainer’s material, compromise its effectiveness, or even pose a risk to your oral health.

Here’s a list of things you should never use to clean your retainers:

Alcohol: Alcohol-based solutions can be too strong and may degrade the retainer’s material over time.

Hot/Boiling Water: Exposing your retainer to hot water can cause it to warp or lose its shape. That is why it is important to always use lukewarm or room temperature water for cleaning.

Abrasive Toothpaste: Regular toothpaste often contains abrasive particles that can scratch the surface of your retainer, making it more susceptible to bacterial buildup and discoloration.

Harsh Chemicals: Avoid using any cleaning agents that are not specifically recommended for retainer cleaning. This includes strong household cleaners, solvents, and industrial chemicals.

Undiluted Vinegar: Using undiluted vinegar can be too acidic and potentially damage the retainer’s surface.

Undiluted Hydrogen Peroxide: While diluted hydrogen peroxide can be used for cleaning, never use undiluted hydrogen peroxide, as it can be corrosive and damaging.

Sharp Objects: Never use sharp or abrasive objects, such as brushes with hard bristles, to clean your retainer. They can scratch the surface and create crevices where bacteria can accumulate.

EC3 Sanitizer Fogger and Mold Solution Concentrate Bundle

The EC3 SANITIZER Fogger is a specialized sprayer that utilizes ultra-low volume technology to apply antibacterial, deodorizing, and antifungal solutions in indoor spaces.


Proper retainer care is essential for maintaining a healthy smile and ensuring the success of your orthodontic treatment. By following these tips and techniques for cleaning your retainers, you can effectively prevent bacterial buildup, plaque formation, and other potential issues. Remember to incorporate retainer cleaning into your daily oral care routine and schedule regular checkups with your dentist or orthodontist to ensure that your retainer remains in optimal condition for years to come.

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