Have you been given a retainer to help give your teeth the support they need for a better smile? Whether it’s to help keep your teeth from shifting or you’re getting straighter teeth with an Invisalign® retainer, you’ll want to know exactly how to clean it to keep your mouth health at its best.

How To Clean Retainers

Signs It’s Time To Clean Your Clear Retainer

You certainly wouldn’t want to go more than a day without brushing your teeth. The same goes for your clear container. You don’t have to go through the deep clean daily, but you should get into a cleaning routine. To keep it simple, it’s best to adapt this during your daily brushing routine. After all, wouldn’t you want a fresh retainer after cleaning your mouth?

Giving it a quick rinse can only go so far. If you notice one of these red flags, it’s time to do your weekly cleaning ASAP:

  • The retainer tastes or smells bad. This isn’t normal, and your mouth deserves a refresh.
  • You notice a film on the retainer, or it looks cloudy.
  • You can’t remember the last time it was cleaned thoroughly, especially if it’s been more than a week.
  • A more severe sign is that the retainer will crack or break from bacteria that have damaged it.

Retainers are meant to help with your oral health journey. If you’ve noticed that you’re getting more cavities, have tooth sensitivity, or have other problems, talk to your dentist or orthodontist to ensure it fits properly.

How To Clean Retainers Properly and Protect Your Teeth

Your regular or electric toothbrush and toothpaste also work great to clean your retainers. Here are a few other things we recommend to keep your clear retainer clean and maintain its lifespan.

Use lukewarm water after each meal.

While hot water may be great for the dishes, it’s not so great for the plastic material that will be going inside your mouth. You’ll want to rinse your clear retainer in lukewarm water after each meal, and if possible, brush them gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush. You can also use mild dish soap, such as Dawn, to gently scrub away any bacteria. Ask your dentist for recommendations on the best way to clean your retainer and what type of brush you should use.

Do a deep clean weekly.

Once a week, give your retainer a thorough cleaning to remove built-up plaque, hardened tartar, and germs. If you don’t, you may be subject to bad breath and make your mouth susceptible to cavities. A thorough cleaning of your retainer will keep it looking new and preserve the clarity of your clear plastic retainer. Keep in mind that you don’t want to clean your retainer with any harsh chemicals. You’ll want to use gentle cleaning solutions during your weekly hygiene routine.

Choose the right cleaning solutions.

Your retainer will soak up the cleaning solution you use and can make it turn a yellowish colour. Your dentist will recommend the best cleaning solutions for your individual case. Here are some of the safest ways to clean your retainer and maintain the health of your mouth.

Baking soda

Baking soda is an all-purpose cleaner that is completely harmless. Baking soda kills bacteria without using harsh chemicals, and it may reduce pH imbalances in the mouth caused by retainers. Another bonus is that they can help prevent them from yellowing!

To make the most of it, you’ll want to mix a solution of half lukewarm water and half baking soda. The paste should be thick enough to stick to your retainer. Then you’ll want to gently scrub it with your soft-bristled toothbrush, just like you would with toothpaste. Once you’re done, give it a good wash to ensure the solution is gone.


White vinegar is a gentle disinfectant that can be used to remove odours and residues from surfaces. To clean a retainer with vinegar, create a small dish filled with 1 part lukewarm water and 1 part white vinegar. Afterwards, soak the retainer for 20 minutes in the solution.

If the retainer is coated with film or mineral deposits, a soft toothbrush can be used to remove them. Afterwards, it should be submerged for another 20 minutes in warm water. Keep in mind that vinegar does have a strong odour, so you may want to do this outdoors.

Retainer cleaner

For anyone that wants a ready-made solution, there are retainer cleansers available. You’ll want to follow the instructions carefully, as you may be required to do some overnight soaking. Certain types of retainers may not work well with the cleaner solution. Ask your dentist to recommend the best one for you.

Dental Office Cleaning

We also recommend that you bring your retainers, mouthguards or nightguards with you to your dental cleaning appointment, and we will do a thorough cleaning/disinfection for you in our office with our airflow system. This will remove all deposit and stain from your appliances as well as completely disinfect them.

Steps to cleaning your retainer.

Now that you know all the basics, here are the simple steps you can follow that will keep your retainer fresh.

  1. Clean your retainer ASAP once you remove it from your mouth.
  2. Gently brush out any food from your retainer in lukewarm water after every meal. If any grooves prevent a thorough clean, use a cotton swab to get better access.
  3. Once a week, opt for a deeper clean by using one of the safer cleaning solutions.

The Bottom Line

Keeping your retainer clean is just as important as brushing your teeth! While all of the tips in this article are great to follow, your dentist will know more about your specific dental plan and be able to make further recommendations. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about how you can have a straighter smile!

What steps do you take to keep your retainer clean? Do you have any additional tips? Share your story with our readers to help them get the best results with their retainer.