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How To Clean Retainers – Healthy Ways

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Most people are familiar with the term braces but do you know what are the retainers? For those who don’t know, it is a tool used to fix teeth. Or, we can say it is worn right after your braces are taken off. Even after your teeth have been adjusted to normality by braces, you might be asked to wear the retainers all the time to keep them in a better position, or else they will shift back to the previous arrangement within months. 

Retainers work by supporting your gums, mouth muscles, and tissues that hold teeth. In short, it is required to keep the recently amended teeth in their new placement. And if you are one of those who are asked to wear retainers, whether in a day, at night, or 24/7, you must be questioning how to take care of it so you will get the most out of the time.

Some of the most frequently asked questions are HOW to clean retainers, WHY retainers need to be cleaned? WHAT are the common cleaning practices? 

Do I have to clean my retainer?

The simplest answer is YES!

Why? Because they are fitted inside your mouth, home to an uncountable variety of bacteria

As soon as you place a retainer against your teeth, you expose them to all the microorganisms inside your mouth which accumulate rapidly. In no time, they start forming plaque or tartar either on your teeth or on the retainer edges. This uncleanliness could lead to severe infections and an uncomfortably bizarre look. 

So, as you know, you need to clean the retainer every day, as you clean your teeth by brushing. Depending on the type of retainers, you can clean them in various ways.

How to clean Hawley and clear plastic retainers

The Hawley and clear plastic retainers are removable. For daily cleaning, follow the below-mentioned tips or steps.

  • It must be cleaned right at the moment you take it out of your mouth as the retainer will be moist and wet letting you have a better chance at removing debris
  • When you are brushing your teeth, your retainer must be brushed along with not hot but lukewarm water. Repeat it after every meal of the day.
  • Want deep cleaning? Add mild or neutral dish soap in lukewarm water and immerse your retainer while scrubbing away all the plaque with the help of a super-soft toothbrush.
  • If a toothbrush is making it difficult, you can use a cotton swab. It will help you get away from the deepest and hidden debris right in the grooves and ridges.
  • If your dentist allows you to use denture or retainer cleaner, mix cleaner in lukewarm water following the package instructions and let the retainers soak

Hold up!

Are these stubborn stains not getting off? Is it getting difficult to remove the stuck debris? Do not push so hard! You must bring your dentist or orthodontist as they will help you get rid of the stubborn tartar of the retainers, effortlessly.

How to clean Fixed, or bonded, retainers

These three types are the retainers that you cannot remove and are permanently attached to the teeth. The best practice to keep them cleaned is FLOSSING!

Do not forget to floss and floss them daily with a 6-inch piece. Let’s start with flossing between your front lower teeth as soon as you place the thread below your retainer wire. Try moving it up and down but so gently all the way to the gum line that it neither bleeds nor gets stuck.

Various types of cleaning products

Today, we are discussing “how to clean retainers” as our hottest topic, here we are mentioning a few best options as the cleaning products for your retainers!


Being one of the ideal solutions, washing retainers with simple lukewarm water can help you deject the bacteria growth. You can either wash retainers while brushing or swish some tap water in your mouth a few times to get rid of all the dirt. Dried-out retainers are more susceptible to damage so immersing them in distilled water will be a smart move. Besides, warm soapy water can be used to wash the retainer case, and do try to scrub gently.

Baking Soda

In place of water, you have another option to choose which is also a natural disinfectant, baking soda. But what will be the easiest and safest practice to make the best use of soda for cleaning your retainers?

Mix 2 Tbsp. baking soda in 3/4 cups water (warm) or you can also take both in equal amounts and make a paste in a clean stainless-steel pot. Now you have two options:

  • If the paste is kept thick, stick it over the retainer’s surface with the brush and scrub gently with softer bristles. Rinse before placing it in your mouth.
  • If the paste is liquid, soak the retainers as long as you are not wearing them. Before putting it inside the mouth, do not forget to rinse it deeply either with cold or warm water. The quickest way to whiten the retainers apart from cleaning and taking the pH of your mouth under healthy range!

White Vinegar

Here is another natural disinfectant that can help you clean the debris stuck to your retainers. The VINEGAR! But, how to clean retainers with vinegar is the main question. To counterbalance the striking effects of vinegar, mix it with water in equal amounts. Do not soak the retainer for more than 30 minutes or else the solution will damage the retainer’s quality and shape.

What can be the biggest benefit? It takes away all the salts, calcium, and other minerals deposited on the retainers. And, yes, it does eliminate unpleasant odors.

Castile Soap

Although it is one of the least used products but is absolutely safe for effective cleaning. Do you know how easily you can create castile soap solutions? All you need is coconut and olive oil. Mix it! Shake it! Make it one! VIOLA!

Well, if you are planning on using a commercial castile soap, remember two things: Use soap in a smaller amount and never mix it in cold water but warm only.

How NOT to Clean Your Retainer

  1. Using mouthwash for cleaning is not prohibited but not advisable at all. In fact, anything that has alcohol in it is absolutely not a preferable option.
  2. Toothpaste helps you get rid of all the dirt and seems like an easy option while brushing BUT it comprises abrasive compounds that can negatively affect the quality of the retainers by damaging the delicate materials including wire.
  3. Never think about using any of the household cleaning agents, particularly bleach. Considering the elements of retainers, they will be extra harsh for the quality as well as for the mouth. Inexplicably DAMAGING!
  4. Use of dental cleaners is pretty common but is not advisable until the dentist recommends
  5. They usually have persulfate which is regarded as a chemical and harmful allergen by the legal authorities of the FDA. Don’t believe us? Try using it and see how retainers change their color.
  6. Sodas or sugary drinks are a BIG NO! They won’t clean retainers but breed more bacterial growth
  7. Thinking of boiling your retainer? SKIP THE IDEA RIGHT AWAY! It will only distort the shape.

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