How to clean retainers

Do you use a dental retainer to keep your teeth in line? Find out how to keep plastic retainers clean.

Updated 8 July 2019

Dental retainers on a wooden surface

Plastic dental retainers are increasing in popularity – they’re easily removable, barely noticeable and can actually make your teeth straighter. They’re also often used as a tray for at-home teeth whitening kits.

It’s really important to keep your retainers clean and hygienic - after all, it’s going in your mouth for several hours at a time. Follow our top tips on the best way to clean dental retainers.

 Don’t clean your retainers in hot water – this could actually change the shape of it. Lukewarm or cool water is fine.

Best way to clean dental retainers

  1. Clean the retainer as soon as you take it out of your mouth, while it’s still wet. This will stop any debris hardening, which can make it more difficult to remove.
  2. Brush it very gently with lukewarm water. You could add a little washing up liquid or antibacterial soap like if it’s more dirty. Don’t use toothpaste as this can actually scratch the retainer’s surface – but if you like, you could use baking soda mixed with a little water.
  3. If you really need to, you can use a cotton bud to get into any grooves that need more of a clean. You can easily get more environmentally-friendly cotton buds that use paper stems rather than plastic.
  4. To finish off, or for a general clean, clean retainers by soaking them in special cleaning tablets (normally offered by your orthodontist) and lukewarm water, following the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also use mouthwash to clean retainers as a quick way to get rid of germs and freshen them up.
  5. As a weekly ‘treat’, soak it in white vinegar for 15 minutes to get rid of bacteria.

How to clean retainer cases

It’s easy to forget about the case your retainers are kept in, but this is just as important. Clean your retainer case in hot, soapy water – preferably every day.

Replace your retainers regularly

Inevitably, retainers will need replacing as the plastic often isn’t that durable and they may stop fitting your teeth. Ask your dentist for new retainers when this happens.

Originally published 7 June 2019