How to Clean Retainers – 2 Easy Ways & Helpful Tips

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Retainers sits inside your mouth so you’ll want to know how to clean retainers to get rid of plaque and odor-causing bacteria.

When it comes to orthodontic treatment, there are two types of removable retainers you’ll need to clean. One is the type that helps the bones and muscles inside your mouth stabilize, like the Hawley retainer or Essix clear retainers. The other type of retainer will move your teeth to the desired position, like Invisalign and Smile Direct Club.

You can soak your retainer in a retainer cleaning tablet that is safe for retainers to disinfect. Place the retainer, water, and the cleaner in a retainer bath. Or use a glass apothecary jar if you want to keep your countertop looking tidy.

You can use an extra-strength cleaning tablet if you’ve got a problem with odor-causing bacteria, bad odors, and discoloration stains on the retainer.

Read on for more ways on how to clean retainers. In this article, you will get a complete guide from how to clean retainers with vinegar to the tips you should keep in mind while cleaning your retainer.

How to Clean Retainers - Invisalign, Hawley, and more types of retainers

How to Clean Retainers – 2 Easy Ways

Method 1: Retainer cleaning tablet

Use a denture cleaner tablet that is safe for retainers.

Soak them in water with the tablet for 5 minutes.

Some denture cleaners are meant to be soaked overnight. Check the label to be sure if you’ve got the regular or overnight soaking version.

Be sure to use a denture bath or apothecary countertop jar for your retainer soak. Don’t use a cup for this daily cleaning activity because you never know when you might accidentally drink it!

Once it’s done soaking, thoroughly rinse the retainer with clean water for 1 minute.

Method 2: Ultrasonic and UV Cleaning Machine

You can clean your retainer with just water when using an ultrasonic cleaning machine.

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to persulphates and cleaners commonly found in retainer cleaning tablets, an ultrasonic cleaning machine is a decent option.

Place your retainer in the machine, add water, and turn it on. In 10 minutes, you’ve got a clean retainer.

The machine will also clean related items like Smile Club clear aligners, sports mouthguards, nightguards, water flosser tips, and dentures.

Keep in mind that this only works with certain types of retainers. It’s best to check with your orthodontist first.
How to clean Invisalign retainers

How to Clean Invisalign Retainers

You can clean Invisalign retainers with retainer cleaning tablets, but not just any retainer cleaning tablet. Some brands of cleaning tablets will cause your retainer to turn yellow as the way it reacts to the film on the retainer.

This section will be about some of the best cleaning solutions for Invisalign retainers.

You can safely use Efferdent tablets to clean your Invisalign retainers.

First, place your Invisalign retainers in the denture bath. If you want to clean your countertops tidy-looking, you can use small apothecary jars instead of a denture bath.

Then, add some warm water to the denture bath and add a tablet of Efferdent. Wait 5 minutes. Check the label as other versions require 15 minutes or overnight cleaning.

When the time’s up, you can dip a toothbrush in the Efferdent solution and gently scrub your Invisalign retainers. You don’t always have to do this step.

Finally, rinse the Invisalign aligners thoroughly with clean water for about 1 minute. It’s now disinfected and ready to wear.

Another brand that will clean your Invisalign retainers is Retainer Brite cleaning tablets.

You can also use extra-strength retainer cleaning tablets that are compatible with Invisalign aligners.

What can I soak my Hawley retainer in?

You can soak your retainer in a denture cleaner that is safe for retainers. With Efferdent, this only takes a few minutes. Then rinse your retainer thoroughly in clean tap water, for about a minute.

However, if you are sensitive or allergic to persulfates, there are other safe ingredients you can use.

Baking soda

Baking soda is one of the safest ingredients you can use for cleaning your Hawley retainer.

  • Baking soda is a natural disinfectant. It can help you get rid of germs or any kind of bacteria that can accumulate on your retainer
  • It helps scrub off layers that have gone yellowish over time
  • Baking soda helps in fighting the smell that usually seems impossible to combat
  • It helps maintain the pH of your mouth

To use baking soda to clean your retainer, use a tablespoon of baking soda and add a tablespoon of water to make a paste. With a toothbrush, brush this paste onto the Hawley retainer.

In a brushing motion, like on your teeth, scrub the retainer gently.

Then place the retainer in a denture bath case and add warm water to cover it.

Let it soak for 10-20 minutes before rinsing it with clean water.


Vinegar is another disinfectant that can be proven helpful in the matter of cleaning.

If you want to clean retainers with vinegar, then create a half vinegar and half water blend. Soak it in the mixture for about 15-20 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.

Since the vinegar itself is a strong deodorizer, it helps remove the bad smell on the retainer.

The other benefit of vinegar is that it removes lining that may form on the surface of the retainer.

Castile soap

Castile soap is a multi-purpose cleaner. Castile soap with peppermint oil can be an alternative way to give a minty freshness to your retainer. Use a drop of pure castile soap on a soft toothbrush to scrub the wet retainer. Rinse with clean water.

How to clean retainers for a healthy mouth and smile

Tips on How to Clean Retainer

Here are some tips to keep your retainer clean:

  • Make sure to clean your retainer before you place it back in your mouth. This is especially true for nightly retainer wear
  • Make a mixture if you are using vinegar and baking soda because the direct use of these ingredients could cause damage
  • Soak your retainer in the mixture for 10-20 minutes. After that, use a toothbrush to remove any residue or spots
  • You can also use brushes with soft-bristles to give a more thorough cleaning
  • When you’re done with the cleaning process, rinse it thoroughly with cold or lukewarm water but not with hot water
  • Store it in a safe container, away from pets and kids, when not in use to avoid damaging it

When to clean your retainer

You should clean your retainer every time you brush your teeth. That is as least once a day before bedtime. And as frequently as after every meal.

If you have a Hawley retainer, you can simply give your retainer a brush with toothpaste whenever you brush your teeth.

Between once a day, but at least once a week, you will have to disinfect your retainer by soaking it in water with a denture-cleaning tablet.

Once the soaking time is done, usually 5 minutes, rinse the retainer thoroughly under clean water.

Moreover, consult your dentist for the proper guideline is preferred.

What is the hard white stuff on my retainer?

When you’ve had your retainer for a while, you may notice a buildup of white deposits. This happens even if you’ve been cleaning your retainer regularly.

Usually, this is a calcium build-up called tartar or calculus. It is a hardened form of dental plaque.

To get rid of the white deposits on your retainer, soak the orthodontic retainer (not Invisalign) in 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts warm water.

Soak the retainer for 5-10 minutes. Check if all the white buildup has gone. If not, soak for another 5-10 minutes.

You can dip a toothbrush in the vinegar mixture and scrub gently. For hard-to-reach spots, use a dental tool to scrape gently.

Then, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

With these methods, you’ll have a clean retainer. Since retainers can harbor buildup and bacteria, that means knowing how to keep your retainer clean is a priority.

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