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How to Clean Retainers: Your Complete Guide for Effective Maintenance

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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 maintain the alignment of your teeth for the rest of your life.

But just like with any dental products you use, it is important to take good care of them. Various issues can arise when it comes to the cleanliness of retainers. For instance, you may see white buildup on your retainer or notice an unpleasant smell. Each retainer is different so you need to know the proper way to care for them and make them last, so you can keep your teeth aligned.

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?

Cleaning tools for your retainer.
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 are diligent enough to brush your teeth and to 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.

Retainer cleaning frequency

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 a 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.

Caring for different types of retainer

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

The cleaning methods outlined above will work for plastic retainers. Using a mild soap is recommended. Be careful and gentle when brushing your trays. Take your time because rushing can lead to breakage. It is also advisable to use a soft-bristled brush when removing dirt and buildup off of plastic retainers.

How to clean clear retainers

Do not use toothpaste, mouthwash, or other cleaning agents that may discolor your clear retainers. Soaking it overnight in cool water is a better idea. Or, purchase retainer cleaners specifically designed for clear devices. It is also advisable to regularly floss and brush your teeth to minimize debris buildup.

How to clean Invisalign retainers

Follow the Invisalign retainer cleaning methods prescribed by the manufacturer. Cleaning kits specially designed for these trays are available, so it is best to go with those.

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 retainer cleaners available on the market that is designed primarily for the purpose of cleaning retainers. They can be used for Invisalign trays, too. This product comes in a tablet form that is easy to use and highly efficient. 

retainer brite
This may be the most popular cleaning solution

Retainer Brite ingredients

The secret to cleaning your retainers, removing bacteria, and fighting discoloration lie in the formula itself.

The ingredients used in the Retainer Brite formula are as follows:

Sodium bicarbonate

More commonly known as baking soda, this is a chemical compound made with hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon molecules. Sodium Bicarbonate is a naturally-occurring substance, making it safe for use for this purpose.

Also, it offers a mild abrasive action that can remove dried up plaque or tartar while also eliminating stains. It keeps your retainer clean and fresh by neutralizing odor and stabilizing the pH level on the surface.

Sodium carbonate

This is another ingredient used in the formula for Retainer Brite. It is a combination of sodium and acid. This ingredient is commonly used in water softening and detergents to ensure thorough cleansing. 

Citric acid

This is another gentle and natural ingredient found in the Retainer Brite formula. It is an effective cleaning agent that can dissolve calcium deposits in your retainer, effectively removing plaque or tartar buildup. 

How to use Retainer Brite

To use this product, pour warm water into a clean container. Make sure the water is warm, not hot. Drop one tablet of Retainer Brite into the water. It will bubble up and the water will turn blue. Once the tablet is completely dissolved, soak the retainer in the solution for 15 minutes. 

Using Retainer Brite for cleaning your devices.
Cleaning your retainer can be made super easy with Retainer Brite.

Make sure that the retainer is fully immersed in the solution. After 15 minutes have passed, you can take it out and rinse using warm water. Your retainer is now clean and ready to keep your teeth in position!

Other uses of Retainer Brite

Aside from retainers, Retainer Brite is also indicated for cleaning a variety of removable dental appliances. You can, therefore, use it on Invisalign, dentures, clear aligners, bruxism night guards, and sports mouth guards. 

Fresh Guard by Efferdent retainer cleanser

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.

All of these products can be purchased from Amazon. Just make sure that you are buying them from reliable sellers.

Have a look at the table below for a summary of all these options:

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. Doing this at the same time as when you brush your teeth will discourage the overgrowth of bacteria.

Toothpaste

The use of toothpaste is also 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, though, so you won’t damage the retainer. 

It is also best that you use non-whitening toothpaste when brushing. Rinse it thoroughly once you are done.

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 is also a great product to use to clean your retainer. Baking soda is an all-natural disinfectant so it is great for keeping your devices and mouth clean. 

As a bonus, it can whiten retainers that have turned yellowish in appearance. By soaking your trays in a baking soda and water solution, you can get rid of bacteria and maintain the pH balance in your mouth. 

Tips for cleaning with baking soda

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. 

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. 

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. 

If not, you can find one in a store near you. 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. 

Mouthwash: Is it safe to soak your retainers in it?

Using mouthwash as a cleaning solution for retainers should be done with caution. 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. You can find a wide range of natural solutions and products to use. At home, there are several ingredients you can utilize to extensively clean your retainers. 

You can also find a variety of retainer cleaning products on the market. Whichever you choose, it is important that you use them regularly. This will ensure that the retainer does its job of maintaining the correct alignment of your teeth without damaging your oral health. 

FAQs

Can you boil your retainer?

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

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.

How to Clean Retainers: Your Complete Guide for Effective Maintenance
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Sources
Web MD: FDA Warns of Allergy to Denture Cleansers. Consulted  7th February 2020. Medical News Today: 8 tips for cleaning a retainer. Consulted 8th 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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