Tips for Effective Cleaning of Retainers

Retainers are essential orthodontic appliances that ensure your teeth remain straight after braces removal. They also help maintain your bite and prevent orthodontic relapse. However, like any other dental appliance, retainers require proper cleaning and maintenance to remain effective and hygienic.

When you fail to clean your retainers regularly, they can harbor bacteria, plaque, and tartar, leading to bad breath, gum disease, and other dental problems. Moreover, dirty retainers can also weaken and break, rendering them unusable and requiring replacement.

Cleaning your retainers is not a complicated process, but it requires consistent effort and attention. In this article, we’ll explore simple yet effective ways to clean your retainers and keep them in good condition. Let’s get started.

Cleaning Retainers: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Rinse with Water

Before cleaning your retainers, make sure to rinse them with water to remove any large food particles or debris.

Step 2: Brush with Toothpaste

Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste, gently brush your retainers to remove any plaque or buildup. Make sure to brush all surfaces, including the wire if applicable.

Step 3: Soak in Retainer Cleaner

Retainer cleaners, such as Retainer Brite or Efferdent, are designed to remove tough stains and bacteria from retainers. Place your retainers in a glass with a retainer cleaner tablet and let them soak for the recommended amount of time.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

After soaking, rinse your retainers thoroughly with water to remove any cleaner residue. Dry them off with a clean towel and place them back in their case.

Step 5: Avoid Certain Foods

To prevent buildup on your retainers, avoid consuming hard or sticky foods, as well as sugary drinks. These can contribute to plaque buildup and potentially damage your retainers.

  • Tip: Be sure to clean your retainers regularly, at least once a day, to prevent bacteria growth.
  • Tip: Do not use hot water or harsh chemicals to clean your retainers, as this can warp or damage the plastic.

Types of Retainers

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are a popular option for patients who have completed their orthodontic treatment. These retainers can be easily taken out and put back in, making them convenient for eating and brushing teeth. Some common types of removable retainers include:

  • Hawley Retainers
  • Invisalign Retainers
  • Essix Retainers

Hawley retainers are made of acrylic and metal wires, and can be adjusted as needed. Invisalign retainers are clear and custom-made to fit over the teeth. Essix retainers are similar to Invisalign retainers, but are made of a sturdier plastic material.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers, also known as bonded retainers, are fixed to the back of the teeth using a dental adhesive. These retainers are typically used for patients who require long-term retention following orthodontic treatment. Some common types of permanent retainers include:

  • Lingual Retainers
  • Cuspid-to-Cuspid Retainers

Lingual retainers are attached to the back of the upper or lower teeth with metal wires. Cuspid-to-cuspid retainers are bonded to the canines and are used to prevent the front teeth from shifting. Both types of permanent retainers require extra care during brushing and flossing to prevent food buildup and plaque.

Retainer Type Pros Cons
  • Adjustable
  • Durable
  • Easily replaceable
  • Visible wires
  • May cause speech difficulties
  • Clear and discreet
  • Flexible and comfortable
  • No speech difficulties
  • Need to be removed for eating and cleaning
  • May require replacement
  • Not suitable for all cases
  • Clear and discreet
  • Flexible and comfortable
  • Need to be removed for eating and cleaning
  • May require replacement
  • May break or warp with excessive wear
  • Not visible from the front
  • Can be used for most cases
  • Difficult to clean
  • May cause speech difficulties
  • Might irritate the tongue
  • Can prevent front teeth from shifting
  • Can be used for most cases
  • Difficult to clean
  • Not suitable for all cases
  • May come loose or break

It is important to discuss your options with your orthodontist to determine the best type of retainer for your individual needs.

Why You Need to Keep Your Retainers Clean

Oral Health Benefits

Oral Health Benefits

Retainers are an essential part of orthodontic treatment, helping maintain the position of your teeth. However, if you don’t clean them regularly, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to bad breath and gum disease. Good oral hygiene is key to keeping your mouth healthy, and this includes cleaning your retainers.

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Longevity of the Retainers

Cleaning your retainers not only benefits your oral health, but it also helps prolong the lifespan of your retainers. When bacteria and plaque build up on your retainers, they can begin to smell and deteriorate, causing them to need replacement earlier than expected. Regular cleaning will prevent this and save you the additional cost of replacing your retainers.

Cosmetic Benefits

Retainers are often worn for extended periods, and dirty retainers can stain your teeth, causing them to lose their natural sparkle. Proper cleaning helps prevent discoloration and keeps your teeth looking healthy. Additionally, clean retainers improve your appearance and contribute to fresh breath.


Cleaning your retainers regularly is essential for good oral hygiene, prolonging the life of your retainers, preventing discoloration of your teeth, and keeping your breath fresh. A little effort in cleaning them goes a long way in maintaining your oral health and ensuring your smile is as bright as it can be.

Materials Required for Cleaning Retainers

Retainers are devices worn to hold teeth in position after braces treatment. They are made from various materials such as acrylic, wire, and plastics, and require good oral hygiene to maintain good oral health. You may need some materials to clean your retainers effectively. Here are some materials you might need for cleaning retainers.

  • Toothbrush: A soft-bristled toothbrush, preferably a brush designed for orthodontic devices, is recommended for removing plaque and debris from retainers.
  • Retainer cleaning device: There are several cleaning devices you can use, such as an ultrasonic cleaner or retainer brite, to disinfect and clean retainers.
  • Denture or retainer cleaning solution: A cleaning solution designed for retainers or dentures may be used to clean retainer trays or clear retainers.
  • Mild soap: You can use a mild soap or dishwashing liquid to scrub and clean your retainers, but rinse thoroughly after cleaning.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda can be used as an alternative to denture cleaning solution to eliminate odors and stains on retainers.
  • Storing case: You must store your retainers in an appropriate case to keep the retainers clean when you’re not wearing them.

Cleaning your retainers frequently will extend their lifespan and maintain their optimal functionality. Make sure to clean your retainers regularly to avoid infections and risks to your oral health.

Daily Cleaning Routine for Retainers

Clean your retainers after every meal

In order to keep your retainers clean and free from bacteria, it’s important to clean them after every meal. This will prevent food particles from getting stuck in between your teeth and your retainer. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a non-abrasive toothpaste to gently clean the surface of your retainers.

Soak your retainers daily

Soaking your retainers daily is an important step in maintaining their cleanliness. You can soak them in a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar for 15-20 minutes. This will help to kill any bacteria that may be lingering on your retainers. Rinse them thoroughly with water before using them again.

Avoid hot water

Hot water can damage your retainers. Make sure to only use water that is lukewarm or cool when cleaning your retainers. Hot water can distort the shape of your retainers and cause them to not fit properly.

  • Always brush your teeth before putting in your retainers
  • Store your retainers in a clean container
  • Avoid using mouthwash on your retainers as it can cause discoloration

Following these simple steps everyday will help to keep your retainers clean and bacteria-free. This will ensure that your retainers work as they should and help keep your teeth straight and healthy for years to come.

Deep Cleaning Methods for Retainers

1. Vinegar Soak

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and lukewarm water in a glass or plastic container. Place your retainer in the solution and let it soak for 15-20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water and gently brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush. The vinegar will help remove any buildup and kill bacteria.

2. Baking Soda Paste

Mix a small amount of baking soda and water to create a paste. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently scrub your retainer with the paste. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a clean towel. The baking soda will help remove any stains and odors from your retainer.

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3. Retainer Cleaner Tablets

Purchase retainer cleaning tablets and follow the instructions on the package. Typically, you will need to dissolve one tablet in water and soak your retainer for a specified amount of time. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a clean towel. Retainer cleaner tablets are specifically formulated to kill bacteria and remove stains.

4. Ultrasonic Cleaner

If you have a lot of buildup or staining on your retainer, consider investing in an ultrasonic cleaner. This machine uses high-frequency sound waves to agitate a cleaning solution, effectively removing any buildup on your retainer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use to ensure the best results.

5. Professional Cleaning

If you can’t seem to get your retainer clean or have concerns about its condition, consider taking it to your orthodontist for a professional cleaning. They have specialized solutions and tools that can thoroughly clean and disinfect your retainer.

  • Always rinse your retainer with water before and after wearing it.
  • Avoid using hot water or harsh chemicals on your retainer as it can deform or damage it.
  • Store your retainer in a clean and dry container to prevent bacteria growth.

Do’s and Don’ts of Retainer Cleaning


Use a soft-bristle toothbrush: A soft-bristle toothbrush is the ideal tool for cleaning your retainer. It’s gentle enough to not damage your retainer but strong enough to remove any buildup.

Clean your retainer daily: To keep your retainer in good condition, you need to clean it every day. A good time to clean it is in the morning after you brush your teeth.

Soak your retainer in water: Soaking your retainer in water will help to remove any buildup or debris that might be on it. You can also use a retainer cleaning solution for a more thorough cleaning.


Use toothpaste: Toothpaste is abrasive and can cause small scratches on your retainer. These scratches are a perfect place for bacteria to live and grow, which can cause bad breath and other oral health problems.

Use hot water: Hot water can cause your retainer to warp or bend, which can make it uncomfortable to wear. Always use lukewarm or cold water when cleaning your retainer.

Expose your retainer to direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause your retainer to discolor or become brittle. Always store your retainer in a case when you’re not wearing it.

Forget to rinse your retainer after cleaning it: After cleaning your retainer, make sure to rinse it thoroughly with water. Any remaining cleaning solution or debris can cause irritation or an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

How Often to Clean Your Retainer


Retainers are an essential part of orthodontic treatment. They help maintain the position of teeth after braces are removed. However, just like braces, retainers need to be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria buildup. Poor maintenance can lead to bad breath, gum disease, and other dental problems. This article provides information on how often you should clean your retainer and tips to keep it hygienic.

Clean After Each Meal

The general rule of thumb is to clean your retainer after each meal. Food particles and debris can get stuck in the retainer, leading to foul smell and stains. Rinse the retainer under running water and use a soft-bristled brush to clean it gently. Avoid using hot water or harsh chemicals as they can damage the retainer.

Clean Daily

Apart from after each meal, it’s essential to clean your retainer daily. Plaque and bacteria can build up overnight, leading to dental problems. Soak the retainer in a retainer cleaning solution or a mixture of water and vinegar for 15-20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and brush gently before wearing it.

Deep Clean Weekly

In addition to daily cleaning, it’s recommended to deep clean your retainer once a week. Use an effervescent tablet or a specialized retainer cleaning product to eliminate stubborn stains and odor. Place the retainer in the solution and let it soak for the recommended time. Rinse thoroughly and brush gently before use.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your retainer regularly is crucial for good oral hygiene. Neglecting to clean can lead to foul smell, bacterial buildup, and dental problems. Follow the tips above to maintain the hygiene and life of your retainer. If you notice any issues or have concerns, seek advice from your orthodontist.

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Additional Tips for Retainer Maintenance

1. Clean your retainer regularly

To keep your retainer in great condition, it’s important to clean it regularly. As a general rule, you should aim to clean your retainer at least once a day. You can do this using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a gentle soap or cleanser. Simply wet the toothbrush, add a small amount of soap, and gently brush your retainer.

For a deeper clean, you can soak your retainer in a cleaning solution or retainer cleaner. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product carefully and avoid using anything too harsh or abrasive that could damage your retainer.

2. Store your retainer properly

When you’re not wearing your retainer, it’s important to store it in its case. This will help protect it from damage and prevent it from getting lost or misplaced. Be sure to keep the case clean and dry at all times.

3. Avoid eating or drinking with your retainer in

It’s best to avoid eating or drinking with your retainer in whenever possible. This can help prevent food particles and bacteria from getting trapped in your retainer and causing damage or decay. If you do eat or drink with your retainer in, be sure to clean it thoroughly afterwards.

4. Don’t expose your retainer to heat

Exposing your retainer to heat can cause it to warp or become damaged. Try to avoid leaving your retainer in hot cars or direct sunlight, and never put it in boiling or hot water. If you need to clean your retainer using warm water, be sure to let it cool down before putting it back in your mouth.

5. Replace your retainer as needed

Over time, your retainer may become worn or damaged, or your teeth may shift and require a new retainer. Be sure to follow your orthodontist’s guidelines for retainer replacement and schedule regular check-ups to ensure that your retainer is still fitting properly.

  • Summary: Regular cleaning and proper storage are key to maintaining your retainer. Avoid eating or drinking with your retainer in, and never expose it to heat. Replace your retainer as needed to ensure that it’s still fitting properly.

Questions and Answers:

How often should I clean my retainer?

It’s recommended to clean your retainer every day, preferably before you go to bed. This will help prevent the buildup of bacteria and plaque.

Can I use toothpaste to clean my retainer?

It’s not recommended to use toothpaste to clean your retainer, as it can be too abrasive and damage the material. Instead, use a mild soap or retainer cleaning solution to gently clean it.

What’s the best way to remove stains from my retainer?

One effective method is to soak your retainer in a mixture of water and white vinegar for 15-20 minutes, then scrub it gently with a soft-bristled brush. You can also use a denture cleaning tablet to remove stains.


Emily Parker

As someone who has been wearing retainers for years, I found this article to be incredibly helpful. I’ve tried various methods of cleaning my retainers, but have never had much success. The tips in this article are easy to follow and have really made a difference in the cleanliness and appearance of my retainers. Thanks for sharing!

Jessica Hughes

Great article! Easy and simple tips to keep my retainers clean. Thank you!

Katherine Campbell

This article was a game changer for me when it comes to cleaning my retainers. I’ve struggled with keeping them clean and free of odor for years, even with regular brushing. The tips outlined in this article, particularly using baking soda and white vinegar, have made a noticeable difference in the odor and cleanliness of my retainers. I also appreciated the reminder to avoid using hot water, which I had been doing and is likely why my retainers had become misshapen over time. The step-by-step instructions were easy to follow and I now feel confident in my ability to keep my retainers clean and in good condition. Thank you for sharing this valuable information!