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How to Clean Retainers: Tips, Tricks, Cleaners, and Natural Solutions

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how to clean retainers
It's essential to keep your retainers clean

Let's talk about how to clean retainers! If you were born with crooked or misaligned teeth, wearing braces and retainers is most likely the best solution to fix your smile.

Retainers are recommended for use after braces in order to make sure your teeth stay straight after orthodontic treatment.

Retainers also require care to make them last as long as possible. That's why in this article, we'll go over:

  • How to get rid of calcium buildup
  • Best household products to use
  • Best products you can buy

Armed with this information, you should have a retainer that will serve you well for the rest of your life…as long as you don't lose it!

What's the white stuff on my retainer?

how to clean retainers
Cleaning your retainer should be done right.

Have you noticed the presence of white spots on your orthodontic retainers? Even when you brush your teeth regularly, it seems as though they just won’t come off! 

Those white spots are actually calcium left behind by your saliva and can be deposited on your retainers over time. Note also that your retainers, like your teeth, can experience a build-up of plaque and tartar. Leave the buildup there for long and you increase your own risk of developing plaque, decay, and other dental issues.

If you brush your teeth at least twice a day and clean your retainer regularly, then these white deposits will be a minor problem. Keep reading to find out the most effective ways to maintain your retainers.

How often should I clean my retainer?

Cleaning your retainer is something that should be done regularly. But how often should you do it? Experts suggest that you should clean your retainer once a day before you insert it into your mouth. Whenever you brush your teeth, use a soft-bristled brush to eliminate any buildup. 

But if you want a more thorough cleaning, you can soak them in special cleaners at least once a week or as often as needed. How do you know it’s time to clean your retainers? Look out for the following signs:

  • If the retainer tastes or smells bad
  • If you see film on the retainer
  • If it feels uncomfortable
  • If it has been over a week since you last cleaned your retainer
  • If there are white spots or deposits on the retainers
  • If the retainer is cloudy in appearance
  • If you notice that the retainer starts to crack or break

On top of these signs, you can also look into cleaning your retainers when you have developed oral health problems. Cavities, tooth sensitivity, and other mouth issues can be major signs that a retainer needs cleaning. 

Have a look at the following video to see how one dentist recommends cleaning retainers.

Best methods for cleaning retainers

Depending on the type of retainer you have, the cleaning method you use may vary. Most methods involve removing it to brush it and some kind of soaking. Here are some general guidelines:

How to clean plastic retainers

Use a mild soap or cleaning product and use a soft-bristled brush to remove dirt and buildup off of plastic retainers. Take your time to be thorough yet gentle, to avoid breakage.

How to clean clear retainers

Rinse your clear retainers after taking them out, and gently brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush once a day. Do not use toothpaste, mouthwash, or other cleaning agents that may discolor your clear retainers. Instead, soak them in cool water overnight, or purchase retainer cleaners specifically designed for clear devices (see some recommendations below).

How to clean Invisalign retainers

Cleaning Invisalign retainers, called Vivera retainers, should be done according to the cleaning methods prescribed by the manufacturer. You can purchase special Invisalign cleaning kits designed for the aligners and retainers.

How to clean Hawley retainers

Hawley retainers should be rinsed in cool water after taking them out, and they should be brushed once a day for maximum freshness. If you use a product like Retainer Brite to clean Hawley retainers, which are made from wire and plastic, you should soak them for a maximum of 15 minutes to avoid damaging them over time.

How to clean Essix retainers

Essix retainers are a brand of clear retainers, so the cleaning methods will be the same as those outlined above: Soak them in cool water overnight, and purchase clear retainer cleaners for a deeper clean. Avoid toothpaste, mouthwash or cleaning agents that may be abrasive or discolor your clear aligners.

How to disinfect retainers

If you get sick with an infection, once you're recovered you should make sure to disinfect your retainer. You can do this by cleaning it with antibacterial dish soap or Listerine. However avoid using colorful soap or mouthwash as this could stain your retainer, and mouthwash should only be used in special cases.

The best products for cleaning retainers in the US

There are many over-the-counter products you can buy to clean your retainer. But at-home solutions can work, too. For example, did you know that you can use a water and vinegar solution to keep your retainers in tip-top shape? Let's have a look at some of the best solutions, including retainer cleaning tablets and even UV cleaners.

Retainer Brite cleaner

Retainer Brite is one of the best retainer cleaners available on the market, and it's designed primarily for the purpose of cleaning retainers. They can be used for Invisalign trays, too, as well as other dental appliances like dentures and mouthguards. Retainer Brite comes in tablet form for easy use and efficiency. 

These retainers cleaning tablets contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and citric acid, both of which are effective natural cleaning ingredients. They also contain sodium percarbonate, which is a bleaching agent used in some teeth whitening products.

By using this product regularly you will help eliminate odors, remove plaque and tartar and keep your retainers looking like new for as long as possible.

retainer brite
This may be the most popular cleaning solution

How to use Retainer Brite

To use Retainer Brite to clean your retainers or aligners, follow these steps:

  • Fill a glass with enough water to cover your retainers
  • Add one Retainer Brite tablet
  • Place your retainer into the blue solution as it's bubbling
  • Leave your retainer to soak for 15 minutes then rinse under running water

Retainer Brite used to change color from blue to clear, but now uses a new formula which stays blue. In the video below you can see a dental hygienist demonstrating how to clean retainers with Retainer Brite.

If you want to use Retainer Brite to clean your retainers, you can save money on bulk purchases on Amazon. This box comes with 96 tablets, or a three-month supply if you use them every day.

Fresh Guard by Efferdent for retainers

Fresh Guard is specially formulated to clean retainers, as well as other dental appliances such as clear braces and aligners. It promises to clean your dental devices in just 5 minutes while killing odor-causing bacteria.  Each box contains 24 packets.

Fresh guard
Get rid of stains and odor

To use:

  • Fill a container with enough warm water to cover the retainers.
  • Tear open one packet and pour the contents onto the water. This will cause the solution to foam and turn blue. 
  • Place the retainer into the solution and soak for at least 5 minutes. Avoid soaking your retainers for more than 10 minutes.
  • Once the time is up, remove and rinse thoroughly. 

WhiteFoam cleaner

instant cleaner
On-the-go cleaning!

For on-the-go cleaning, this is the product you need. It doesn't require soaking or rinsing whatsoever. It uses hydrogen peroxide to clean your retainers while also providing whitening benefits to your teeth. 

To use:

  • Simply apply a pump of the WhiteFoam solution to the top and bottom trays of your retainer.
  • Spread it evenly to make sure all areas are covered.
  • Place your retainer back into your mouth. If there is any excess foam, spit it out. 

UV sanitizer

If bacteria is the main concern of yours, you may want to consider purchasing a UV sterilizer like this one from Dazzlepro. This cleaner is a portable case that cleans retainers and other devices like dentures and night guards in just 10 minutes.

The UV light kills 99.9% of bacteria, and the case is lightweight and portable. It takes two AA batteries to work and is apparently easy to use. You'll probably want to keep brushing your retainer as well to get the gunk off it, but the UV sanitizer could be a good supplement.

Natural methods for cleaning retainers

Cleaning your retainers does not necessarily require you to purchase dental cleaning products. While you can find plenty of them sold on the market today, there are a wide variety of natural cleaning solutions. These are some of the best options available to clean your retainer:

Wash with water

The use of water to clean your retainer is one of the most basic natural solutions there is. Simply by rinsing your retainer after removing it to clean saliva off before storing it, you can make a significant difference in its overall cleanliness. For best result, you should also rinse it again before putting it back into your mouth.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste is another cost-effective way to clean your retainer. When you brush your teeth, you can also brush your retainer along with it. Make sure you use a soft-bristled brush so you won’t damage the retainer. 

It is also best that you use non-whitening toothpaste when brushing because abrasiveness could damage the retainer. Rinse it thoroughly once you are done.

How to clean retainers with baking soda

Baking soda is one of the most versatile items to have in your home. Not only does it whiten your teeth, but it can also clean retainers that have developed stains over time. Baking soda is an all-natural disinfectant so it will help remove bacteria as well as stains.

Follow these steps to clean your retainer with baking soda:

  • Mix equal amounts of water with baking soda to form a paste. The paste should be thick enough in consistency so that it will stick to your retainer.
  • Scrub the paste mixture directly onto the retainer. Use a soft toothbrush and apply the paste onto the retainer as you would when brushing your teeth.
  • Remove any residue by rinsing thoroughly with water.

Because this paste can be quite abrasive, it's best to limit this cleaning method to a maximum of once a week, to prolong the life of your retainer.

How to clean retainers with vinegar

Aside from baking soda, vinegar is another highly recommended natural product to use for keeping your retainer clean. White vinegar is a natural disinfectant. So, how do you clean retainers with vinegar?

By soaking your retainers in a vinegar and water solution, you can eliminate odors and bacteria from your device. 

To use this cleaning solution, combine equal parts of water and vinegar in a dish. Soak your retainer in that solution for at least 20 minutes. This is a great way to remove mineral or calcium deposits on your retainer. 

How do you clean retainers with castile soap

Castile soap is an effective cleaning product that is not as harsh as other cleaning chemicals. Therefore, it is a good option for cleaning retainers at home. You can make your own castile soap solution by mixing coconut oil with olive oil, or you can buy it in health stores or on Amazon.

To use, add a small amount of the castile soap into warm water. Dip the retainer into that mixture and then use a toothbrush to scrub it clean. Repeat the process as often as necessary. But make sure to rinse your retainer with cool water before putting it back into your mouth. 

Can you use mouthwash to clean retainers?

Be careful if you use a mouthwash to clean your retainers. A quick mouthwash soak is a great way to kill bacteria buildup in your retainer. It can also give it a fresh smell. 

mouthwash for cleaning retainers
Is mouthwash good for cleaning retainers?

However, you need to be cautious about alcohol-based mouthwashes. Make sure to limit the frequency of use as it can damage your device, especially if it is made of plastic.

When using a mouthwash soak, make sure to combine equal parts of the mouthwash rinse with lukewarm water. Soak it for a few minutes and rinse thoroughly. 

Does boiling your retainer do anything?

Don't use boiling water for retainer cleaning purposes. Exposing the retainer to high heat can damage it. In fact, hot water should be avoided as well.

Conclusion

Knowing how to properly clean your retainers is very important. Your retainer sits inside your mouth and comes into direct contact with your teeth. If not cared for, retainers can facilitate the buildup of tartar, plaque, and bacteria.

Cleaning your retainer is something that should be a priority, whether you choose to use natural ingredients like baking soda or vinegar, or purchase a special retainer cleaner like Retainer Brite.

However you choose to clean your retainers, you must wear your retainers as instructed after orthodontic treatment. And by taking proper care of your retainers, you can make sure that they last as long as possible, so you don't have to buy new sets as often.

FAQs

Can you boil your retainer?

You cannot boil your retainer! In fact, keep it out of hot water of any kind.

Can you use denture cleaner on retainers?

If you're in a pinch, you can use denture cleaner for retainers. It will clean your retainers, but since it isn't designed specifically for retainers, it will turn plastic retainers yellow if used too often. If you use denture cleaner, don't soak it for more than 20 minutes. Then make sure to gently scrub with a toothbrush and rinse very well.

How do I get the white stuff off my retainer?

The presence of ‘white stuff' on your retainer is caused by calcium buildup from your saliva. The best way to get this off is to lean your retainer regularly with one of the solutions above.

How often should you clean your retainer?

You should clean your retainer at least once a day, and the best time is before you insert it into your mouth.

What's the best way to clean retainers at home?

You can use natural products like baking soda or vinegar when cleaning plastic retainers at home. Toothpaste can also be effective. If you find your retainers still smell or look dirty, try cleaning them weekly in a stronger solution with a retainer cleaning tablet.

How to Clean Retainers: Tips, Tricks, Cleaners, and Natural Solutions
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Sources
Web MD: FDA Warns of Allergy to Denture Cleansers. Consulted  7th February 2020. Mayo Clinic: Dental braces. Consulted 8th February 2020. American Association of Orthodontists: Taking Care of Your Retainer. Consulted 9th February 2020. American Dental Association: Glossary of Dental Clinical and Administrative Terms. Consulted 10th February 2020.
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