How To Clean Your Retainer

Welcome to Clement Orthodontics‘ guide on how to clean your retainer effectively. Your retainer plays a crucial role in maintaining that beautiful smile we’ve worked hard to achieve together. However, to ensure it continues to do its job and keeps your teeth properly aligned, proper cleaning and care are essential.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to maintain your retainer’s hygiene and longevity. We understand that each retainer is unique, just like your smile, so we’ll provide tips and insights tailored to different types of retainers.

At Clement Orthodontics, we’re committed to not only creating beautiful smiles but also to ensuring they last a lifetime. So, let’s dive in and discover the best practices for keeping your retainer clean and your smile shining.

Why Cleaning Your Retainer is Crucial

Your retainer is more than just a dental appliance; it’s a guardian of your smile. It serves to maintain the alignment of your teeth, preventing them from shifting back to their original positions after orthodontic treatment. However, for it to perform this important task effectively, it needs to be clean.

Here are some compelling reasons why cleaning your retainer is crucial:

Oral Hygiene

A dirty retainer can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Placing an unclean retainer in your mouth can lead to bad breath, gum problems, and even cavities. By keeping it clean, you maintain good oral hygiene.

Prolonged Lifespan

A well-maintained retainer can last for many years. Regular cleaning and care can help you avoid the need for frequent replacements, saving you time and money in the long run.


Clean retainers are more comfortable to wear. Bacteria and residue buildup can make your retainer feel unpleasant or even cause irritation. A clean retainer ensures a comfortable fit.


Retainers can develop unpleasant odors if not cleaned properly. Regular cleaning eliminates these odors, ensuring your breath stays fresh.


A clear retainer, for example, can become cloudy or discolored if not cleaned regularly. This can affect the appearance of your smile while wearing the retainer.

Healthier Smile

A clean retainer supports a healthier smile. When your retainer is free from harmful bacteria, you’re less likely to experience dental issues like gum disease and cavities.

In the following sections, we’ll provide you with step-by-step guidance on how to clean your retainer effectively, ensuring it continues

Types of Retainers

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s essential to understand the type of retainer you have. Different retainers require slightly different cleaning methods. Here are the most common types of retainers:

Hawley Retainers

These are the classic retainers with a wire that goes across the front of your teeth and an acrylic piece that rests against the roof of your mouth or behind your front teeth. They are removable, and their design allows for minor adjustments. Cleaning a Hawley retainer involves a specific process to avoid damaging the acrylic.

Clear Retainers (Essix Retainers)

Clear retainers are made from a mold of your teeth and are nearly invisible when worn. They are also removable. Cleaning them requires special care to avoid clouding or scratching the plastic.

Permanent Retainers (Bonded Retainers)

These are wires that are glued to the back of your teeth, typically the lower front teeth. They are not removable and provide long-term support for teeth alignment. Cleaning them is essential to prevent plaque buildup, which can lead to other dental issues.

Vivera Retainers

Vivera retainers are made by Invisalign and are similar in appearance to clear retainers. They are known for their durability and effectiveness in retaining tooth alignment. Proper cleaning can extend their lifespan.

Now that you know the type of retainer you have, let’s explore how to clean it effectively, ensuring it remains in excellent condition and supports your smile’s health.

Daily Cleaning Routine

Maintaining a daily cleaning routine for your retainer is crucial. It only takes a few minutes and can make a significant difference in keeping your retainer fresh and free from harmful bacteria. Here’s a step-by-step guide to your daily cleaning routine:

Rinse Thoroughly

After removing your retainer from your mouth, rinse it under lukewarm (not hot) water. This initial rinse helps remove loose debris and saliva.

Brush Gently

Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and non-abrasive, mild, and clear liquid soap (without added dyes or fragrances) to gently brush your retainer. Avoid using toothpaste, which can be too abrasive and cause scratches. Focus on all surfaces, including the front, back, and in-between any wires or attachments.

Rinse Again

After brushing, rinse your retainer thoroughly with lukewarm water to remove any soap residue.

Soak Daily

Soaking your retainer in a specialized retainer cleaning solution or a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar can help eliminate bacteria and odor. Be sure to use a solution that is safe for your specific type of retainer. Follow the product’s instructions for the recommended soaking time, usually around 15-20 minutes.

Rinse Again (Yes, Again)

After soaking, rinse your retainer once more under running water to ensure it’s free from any cleaning solution.

Dry Carefully

Pat your retainer dry with a clean, soft towel. Avoid using a rough or abrasive cloth that could scratch it. Ensure it’s entirely dry before placing it back in your mouth or its storage case.

Handle with Clean Hands

Always clean your hands thoroughly before handling your retainer. This practice helps prevent transferring harmful bacteria to your mouth or your retainer.

Store Properly

When not in your mouth, keep your retainer in its designated case. This step not only prevents accidental damage but also protects it from dust and debris.

By following this daily cleaning routine, you’ll keep your retainer in excellent condition and ensure it continues to support your beautiful smile. Remember, consistency is key to maintaining good oral hygiene and overall retainer care.

Weekly Maintenance

In addition to your daily cleaning routine, it’s essential to perform weekly maintenance to keep your retainer in optimal condition. These additional steps help prevent the buildup of stubborn plaque and bacteria, ensuring your retainer remains as effective and hygienic as possible. Here’s what you should do on a weekly basis:

Deep Cleaning

Once a week, consider giving your retainer a more thorough cleaning. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and a non-abrasive cleaner, specifically designed for dental appliances. Brush every nook and cranny of your retainer, including wirework, using gentle, circular motions. This deep cleaning can help remove any lingering bacteria or deposits.

Check for Damage

During your weekly maintenance, take a close look at your retainer for any signs of damage or wear. Inspect wires, clasps, and any plastic components for cracks, bends, or sharp edges. If you notice any issues, contact your orthodontist promptly for a professional evaluation and possible repairs.

Maintain Your Cleaning Supplies

Ensure you have an adequate supply of retainer cleaning solutions, soap, and a soft toothbrush. If you’re running low, this is an excellent time to restock your cleaning arsenal.

Refresh Your Soaking Solution

If you use a soaking solution, replace it weekly, even if it hasn’t been fully used. Fresh cleaning solution is more effective at eliminating bacteria and odor.

Give Your Mouth a Break

During your weekly maintenance, consider giving your mouth a brief break from your retainer. This can help reduce the risk of developing mouth sores or irritation. If your orthodontist recommends wearing your retainer full-time, discuss this with them before making any changes.

Remember that consistency is essential when it comes to maintaining your retainer. By incorporating weekly maintenance into your routine, you’ll help ensure your retainer remains in excellent condition, promoting good oral hygiene and preserving your beautiful smile.

Handling Persistent Buildup

Despite your best efforts, there may be times when you notice persistent buildup or discoloration on your retainer. This can happen due to factors like diet, oral hygiene habits, or the type of retainer you have. When you encounter stubborn stains or deposits, don’t worry; there are effective ways to handle them:

Vinegar Soak

A vinegar solution can work wonders in removing persistent buildup. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and lukewarm water in a container, and let your retainer soak for about 15-20 minutes. This can help break down mineral deposits and stains. After soaking, brush your retainer gently with a soft toothbrush to remove any loosened debris, then rinse it thoroughly with cold water.

Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help lift stains and buildup. Make a paste by mixing a small amount of baking soda with water. Apply this paste to your retainer, carefully brushing it with a soft toothbrush. Be gentle to avoid scratching the retainer. Rinse it thoroughly after brushing.

Professional Cleaning

If stubborn buildup persists despite your efforts, consider taking your retainer to your orthodontist or dentist for professional cleaning. They have specialized equipment and cleaning solutions that can effectively remove even the most stubborn deposits without damaging your retainer.

Avoid Harsh Cleaners

While it’s important to remove stubborn buildup, avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaners that can damage the retainer’s material. Stick to mild solutions like vinegar or baking soda, and never use bleach or other strong chemicals.

Adjust Your Diet

Sometimes, persistent buildup can be caused or exacerbated by certain foods or beverages. Consider making dietary adjustments, such as reducing your intake of coffee, tea, or red wine, which are known to stain dental appliances. Additionally, drink water regularly to help wash away food particles.

Remember that patience is key when dealing with persistent buildup. Be consistent with your cleaning routine, and if you ever have concerns about the condition of your retainer, don’t hesitate to consult your orthodontist for guidance and professional cleaning options.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While cleaning your retainer is essential, there are common mistakes that people often make. Avoiding these pitfalls will help you keep your retainer in great condition:

Skipping Cleanings

Consistency is key when it comes to cleaning your retainer. Skipping cleanings can lead to a buildup of bacteria and plaque, making it harder to clean later on.

Using Toothpaste

Toothpaste can be abrasive and may scratch the surface of your retainer, creating small crevices where bacteria can thrive. Stick to mild, non-abrasive cleaners.

Boiling or Microwaving

Never use hot water, a microwave, or boiling water to clean your retainer. High temperatures can distort the plastic, rendering it ineffective or uncomfortable to wear.

Using Harsh Chemicals

Avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach or alcohol-based mouthwashes to clean your retainer. These can damage the material and compromise its integrity.

Leaving it Exposed

When you’re not wearing your retainer, always store it in its case. Leaving it exposed on a countertop or in a napkin can lead to damage, loss, or contamination.

Not Rinsing After Eating

After eating, give your retainer a quick rinse before reinserting it. This helps remove food particles and reduces the risk of bacterial growth.

Ignoring Professional Advice

If your orthodontist provides specific cleaning instructions for your retainer type, be sure to follow them closely. They know the best practices for maintaining your specific appliance.

By avoiding these common mistakes and following the cleaning and maintenance tips we’ve provided, you’ll ensure that your retainer remains clean, comfortable, and effective in supporting your orthodontic treatment.

Cleaning your retainer is a simple yet crucial aspect of maintaining your oral health during and after orthodontic treatment. With the right care, you can enjoy a beautiful smile for years to come.

Benefits of Proper Retainer Care

Investing time in proper retainer care offers numerous advantages for your oral health and overall well-being. Here are some key benefits:

Improved Oral Health

Keeping your retainer clean reduces the risk of bacterial growth and plaque buildup, which can contribute to gum disease, cavities, and bad breath.

Prolonged Lifespan

Regular cleaning and maintenance can extend the lifespan of your retainer. This means fewer replacement costs and fewer trips to the orthodontist.

Comfortable Wear

A clean retainer is more comfortable to wear. You won’t have to deal with unpleasant odors or tastes, and it won’t irritate your mouth or gums.

Consistent Results

If you’re using a retainer as part of your orthodontic treatment plan, proper care ensures that it continues to work effectively. Consistency is key to achieving and maintaining the desired results.

Confidence in Your Smile

Knowing that your retainer is clean and odor-free gives you the confidence to wear it as prescribed, even in social situations.

Preventing Health Issues

Bacteria and buildup on a dirty retainer can lead to health issues beyond your mouth. By maintaining proper hygiene, you reduce the risk of systemic health problems.

Cost Savings

Avoiding damage and replacements due to poor maintenance saves you money in the long run.

Taking care of your retainer is a simple but essential part of your orthodontic journey. It ensures that you enjoy the full benefits of your orthodontic treatment and maintain excellent oral health. So, make cleaning and maintaining your retainer a regular part of your dental hygiene routine, and you’ll reap these rewards for years to come.


A clean retainer is not just a dental accessory; it’s a key player in maintaining your oral health and the success of your orthodontic treatment. At Clement Orthodontics, we understand the importance of proper retainer care and its impact on your smile and overall well-being.

By following a routine of daily and weekly cleaning, handling buildup effectively, and seeking guidance from your orthodontist, you can ensure that your retainer serves you well for years. Remember, the benefits of proper retainer care go beyond a beautiful smile; they include improved oral health, comfort, and confidence.

If you have any questions about retainer care or need assistance with your orthodontic journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced team at Clement Orthodontics. We’re here to provide you with personalized care and guidance, ensuring that your smile remains healthy, vibrant, and beautifully aligned.

Maintaining your retainer is a commitment, but the rewards in terms of oral health and a stunning smile are more than worth it. So, embrace the responsibility of caring for your retainer, and you’ll continue to enjoy the benefits it brings to your life.