Quick Guide on How to Clean Retainers

Once you finish up your journey with braces or aligners, you’re rewarded with a winning smile – and a retainer to help protect all your hard work. Although your retainer might not be a wholly welcome sight, it can serve you well by keeping your teeth straight. To enjoy all its benefits, you just need to wear it as recommended by your orthodontist and keep it sparkling clean. Not sure how to clean it, right? Here’s a quick guide on how to clean your retainer to help you out.

Bacteria Builds Upon Retainers (Just like Teeth!)

Whether you wear your retainer all around the clock or just at night, sneaky bacteria build up on it fast. To avoid that, you have to scrub them away with the quickness to keep them from wreaking havoc on your dental health.

You wouldn’t ever think of not brushing your teeth, right? Of course not! So, be just as diligent with the care of your retainer, too, or the bacteria buildup will get in the way of your dental care efforts.

With regular cleaning sessions, the bacteria could transfer back and forth from the retainer to your teeth and result in cavities or worse. Plus, it’s just plain gross to think of all that bacteria lurking around and waiting for the chance to pounce.

Top Cleaning Methods for Your Retainer

Plan to clean your retainer at least once per day, although twice is better, especially if you wear it day and night. Clean your retainer right before you put it in your mouth in the morning and again before bed. You can use any of the following methods to get it feeling fresh and clean.


If you’re on the go, a quick swish of water is the best way to freshen up your retainer. Although it doesn’t provide a thorough clean, it will do in a pinch. You can either pour cool water in your mouth and swish it around or pull out your retainer and rinse it under running water.

Either way, this will help remove debris and prevent bacterial growth. The quick rinse also helps protect the retainer from damage by keeping its materials thoroughly moist.


If toothpaste is good enough for your teeth, it’s definitely good enough for your retainer. Just remember to use a soft-bristle toothbrush, which you should use anyway to best protect your tooth enamel. Also, skip the whitening toothpaste in favor of a gentler formula in your favorite flavor.

Once you have your gear in hand, pull out your retainer and gently scrub it clean. Then, rinse it and turn your attention to your teeth to get rid of bacteria and make your beautiful smile shine brightly.

Denture Cleaner

Denture cleaner is specially formulated to remove biofilm before it can harden and turn into plaque. It’s also great at removing microorganisms that could result in inflamed gums and other health issues.

For those reasons, it can work great at deep cleaning retainers but should only be used occasionally. If you put your retainer in denture cleaner too often, its materials could turn an unsightly yellow color – and no one wants that. So, every once in a while, let it soak for up to 20 minutes in the denture cleaner, and then rinse thoroughly before returning the retainer to your mouth.

Baking Soda

To deep clean your retainer without the risk of turning it yellow, consider scrubbing it with a 50/50 mix of baking soda and cool water. You’ll just want to rub the baking soda paste onto your retainer using a soft-bristle toothbrush. Then, rinse it off until there’s no more residue on the surface.

Although this method requires a little bit of extra elbow grease, baking soda is a safe, all-purpose disinfectant that can be used anytime. You can trust that it will control bacterial growth without the need for harsh chemicals or long soaks.


When your retainer needs serious help with lingering odors and tough residues, it’s white vinegar to the rescue. Despite having such a strong smell, vinegar is actually great at getting rid of odors. You’ll just want to work outside if you’re not keen on its rather strong scent.

To get your retainer clean, mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of water and place it in the mixture to soak. After about 20 minutes, pull the retainer out and rinse it under the tap to see if it’s as clean as a whistle. If not, you might have to do a longer soak or scrub it up with non-whitening toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush.

Castile Soap

Since it’s made from vegetable oil, castile soap is a gentle cleanser that can help get your retainer nice and clean. You can create a concentrated castile soap washing liquid by chopping up a five-ounce bar and soaking it in four cups of water for at least one day.

Or, if you’re in a hurry, just suds up a bar in your hand and scrub away at your retainer with your fingers. You’ll need to do a deeper clean later on, but this method will work fine on occasion.


If you have nothing else on hand, you can set your sights on mouthwash as your retainer cleaner of choice. It’s best if the mouthwash has zero alcohol since that can dry out the retainer and damage its materials.

Either way, don’t soak your retainer in the mouthwash. Instead, just pour a little on your soft-bristle toothbrush or fingers and scrub around your retainer’s nooks and crannies. Then, rinse all its surfaces off really well before going back to wearing it like normal. Since mouthwash doesn’t do a great job cleaning retainers, plan to do a deeper clean the next day.

Retainer Cleaner

Specialized retainer cleaners are available if you just want to breeze through the cleaning process. Each brand has their own idea of how to use their products best, so be sure to read and follow the directions carefully.

If you have sensitive teeth or gum disease, it’s best to skip this option in favor of one of the above methods. The retainer cleaner formulas can aggravate those conditions, making the symptoms worse and putting you off from cleaning your retainer.

Dr. Laster is Here to Help

No matter how or when you clean your retainer, always remember to wear it as recommended by your trusted orthodontist, Dr. Laster. Otherwise, your teeth could start to shift back to their original positions, negating all the time you spent wearing braces or aligners.

If you’re finding it difficult to wear your retainer day and night, simply reach out to our team at Laster Orthodontics with a call to 919-676-0541. We are always here to help you troubleshoot issues and keep your smile looking fantastic through the years. So, feel free to give us a call anytime to receive our full support.


At Laster Orthodontics, we help families develop healthy, life-changing smiles using customized treatments, cutting-edge technologies, and caring relationships. Our individualized treatment plans help our patients achieve their perfect smile in the quickest, most painless way possible by utilizing a wide range of options from traditional braces to propel accelerated treatment to Dr. Laster’s in-house aligner program, Laster Perfect Smile. With three locations throughout the Triangle Area, we create life-changing smiles every day.