How to Clean Your Retainer Effectively

Wearing a retainer after your braces have been removed is a very important part of your orthodontic treatment. The retainer helps your teeth maintain their new position in your mouth. Without the retainer, your teeth will naturally try to shift back into their original position and all the work the braces did will be undone.

In order for your retainer to work properly, it must be kept clean. Learning how to properly clean your retainer is extremely important.  

Why Retainers Need to be Cleaned on a Regular Basis

Just like your teeth, plaque and bacteria can build up on your retainer. The plaque and bacteria come from inside the mouth. When the retainer is worn, the bacteria and plaque transfer from inside the mouth to the retainer. If it is left on the retainer, it can eventually harden.

Once plaque and bacteria hardens, it can change the shape of the retainer. An improperly shaped retainer will not hold your teeth in their proper place. Over time, your teeth will eventually start to shift and move due to the retainer’s inability to hold your teeth in their proper position. Regular cleaning will prevent plaque and bacteria from hardening and help maintain the shape of your retainer.

The 5 Step Retainer Cleaning Process

Your retainer can be quickly and effectively cleaned in just 5 steps. The following are the 5 steps you need to take to effectively clean your retainer:

  • Step 1 – Rinse your retainer in cool or warm water. While rinsing, use your finger to loosen any buildup that may be present on the retainer.
  • Step 2 – Create a mixture of water and cleaning solution. Let your retainer soak in this solution for approximately 5 minutes. If you wish to give your retainer a deeper clean, you can place a baking soda and water paste directly onto the retainer and let it sit for 5 minutes. Afterwards, you can then let it soak in the cleaning solution.
  • Step 3 – Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and start scrubbing the retainer. Make sure to clean every nook and cranny as those are places where bacteria like to hide.
  • Step 4 – Rinse your retainer in warm or cool water. This will remove any paste or cleaning solution that may be left on the retainer after cleaning.
  • Step 5 – Properly store your retainer in a case when not in use. There should be a small amount of water in the case to keep the retainer moist.

To keep your retainer clean, you should go through this entire process every single day.

Choose the Proper Tools and Cleaners to Effectively Clean Your Retainer

The dental tools and cleaners you use can either effectively clean your retainer or cause extensive damage to it. Keep the following things in mind when choosing toothbrushes and cleaning solutions for your retainer:

  • Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes can cause damage to your retainer.
  • Do not use toothpaste to clean your retainer. Toothpaste will soften the material used to make your retainer and cause irreversible damage.
  • Do not use mouthwash. The alcohol in the mouthwash will dry out the retainer.
  • Use denture cleaners only as a last resort. Denture cleaners can cause extensive damage to your retainer when used over a prolonged period of time. Use this solution only when absolutely necessary.
  • Do not place your retainer in boiling water.
  • Do not use bleach, Pepsi, or other cola drinks to clean your retainer.
  • Clean your retainer with baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or castile soap.
  • Try and avoid using commercial retainer cleaners. These cleaners tend to use harsh chemicals that can damage your retainer.

Work with Your Orthodontics Team to Learn How to Properly Clean Your Retainer

When you receive your new retainer, your orthodontics team at Stevens Orthodontics will take the time to show you the proper cleaning technique. Not only will you learn the proper steps on how to clean your retainer, but you will receive helpful cleaning tips. Feel free to ask any questions you may have about retainer maintenance as the staff at Stevens Orthodontics is always willing to help.


Call Stevens Orthodontics to schedule an appointment with Dr. Clark to be fitted for a retainer if you have already had braces or to ask any questions you may have about retainer maintenance and cleaning.


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