how to clean retainers - savina dental clinic malta

After years of debate and numerous studies, orthodontists today agree that dental retainers are necessary for maintaining teeth in an aesthetically pleasing and functional position after treatment. What has remained contentious is the kind of cleaning and care these retainers need. In this guide, we take a look at some of the best methods to clean your retainers.

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What are the best retainer cleaning materials?

The following are the most highly recommended materials for cleaning your dental retainers.

Retainer cleaner

You can now buy speciality retainer cleaners designed for the purpose. It is important to follow all the instructions given by the manufacturer, especially if there is a need to soak the retainers in the cleaner solution for some time before cleaning and rinsing.

Denture cleaner

Many denture cleaners are equally effective for cleaning retainers. That said, you should be careful before opting for a particular denture cleaner. Some of the stronger denture cleaners can turn the surface of your retainers yellow due to bleaching action.

Castile soap

Castile soap is a mild cleaning agent that effectively cleans dental retainers. It is far less abrasive and unreactive compared to other cleaning agents. You can buy a ready-to-use castile soap solution from your grocer. You can also make your own at home using olive oil and coconut soap.

To use castile soap to clean your retainers, add a soap solution to some warm water and soak them for a few minutes. Clean off the surface thoroughly using a toothbrush and then rinse in running water.

Hydrogen Peroxide

A mild solution of hydrogen peroxide is an effective material for cleaning retainers. As a disinfectant, the solution not only kills microorganisms but also serves to eliminate bad odours. Soak the retainers in the solution for about twenty minutes and then rinse them thoroughly with clean, running water.


You should include your retainers when you do your regular teeth brushing. However, it is important to note that not all toothbrushes and toothpaste are suitable for cleaning dental retainers. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and avoid using any toothpaste with whitening agents as these tend to be more abrasive.

People with retainers should brush their teeth before wearing them as retainers will cover areas of your teeth that would remain unbrushed, leading to a higher possibility of dental caries development. Spit excess toothpaste out after brushing, ideally without rinsing so as not to rinse out the fluoride in the toothpaste, and then wear your retainers.

Baking soda

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is a reasonably effective cleaner for your retainers. Baking soda is a powder that has some abrasive properties, making it easier to remove food particles and other forms of debris on your retainers. Even more importantly, it has a mild disinfecting ability, enough to get rid of any microorganisms that may have found their way to the surface of your retainers. Being a little abrasive, it should only be used occasionally.

To clean your retainers, mix equal parts of baking soda and water to make a paste and then apply an even coat over the surface of your retainers using a toothbrush. Brush the retainers thoroughly before rinsing off with plenty of clean water.


As with other materials recommended in this guide, mouthwash has disinfectant and odour-eliminating qualities. However, you should avoid mouthwash brands containing alcohol as this may serve to dry out both the retainer and your mouth.


Using water to clean your retainers seems rather obvious since water is involved in virtually all the other methods detailed above. However, besides regular cleaning, you should also keep a water bottle handy to swish some in your mouth if the retainers feel dirty.

Dentists also recommend that you soak your retainers in water immediately after you take them off your mouth. Letting them dry out will make them brittle and more prone to damage.

How to clean the following types of retainers

How to clean the following types of retainers - savina dental clinics article section

Here is a more detailed guideline on how to clean specific types or brands of dental retainers.

Invisalign retainers

Invisalign retainers are very popular because of their lightweight design and clear, intuitive fit. The manufacturer recommends that you remove the retainers from your mouth before brushing, rinse them in clean, cool water and place them in the custom container they came with.

After brushing and flossing your teeth, you can then replace your retainers and then brush them over gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush and warm water.

As part of Invisalign treatment, they also provide cleaning crystals for a deeper clean and removes surface stains and accumulated tartar.

Clear plastic retainers

Clear retainers are designed to give an almost imperceptible appearance. They are, by design, simple and meant for a relatively short period of use. Soak your plastic retainers in a mixture of lukewarm water, baking soda and a small amount of white vinegar. These work quite well in removing plaque and killing bacteria. Allow the retainers to soak for at least 10 to 15 minutes, and they should be good to go.

Avoid using cleaning materials with abrasive qualities such as baking soda or even some toothpaste brands to clean plastic retainers. Such cleaning agents are likely to leave unsightly scratches on the surface of the retainers and may even lead to irreparable damage. You should avoid using materials such as sodium peroxide or any cleaning product containing alcohol or bleaching agents and also hot water to clean plastic retainers as this can lead to them losing their functional shape and affect fit.

Wire (Hawley) retainers

Hawley retainers are made from acrylic material and fitted with a wire to ensure they align and fit well around your teeth. You should clean them immediately after taking them off your mouth. If any material on the surface of the retainer hardens up, it will become even tougher to clean it off later and may require professional cleaning by a dental technician.

How often should you clean your retainers?

The generally accepted recommendation for taking care of your dental retainers is cleaning them at least once daily. But many dentists and orthodontists recommend cleaning retainers as often as you brush your teeth. You may also find it useful to give your retainers a comprehensive deep clean at least once a week.

What happens if you don’t clean your retainers?

If you don’t clean your retainers often or adequately enough, this can affect their appearance and performance. Ultimately, this could result in a reversal of the teeth alignment correction.

Poorly cleaned dental retainers will show unsightly stains and spots on the surface. They can also emit a bad smell and lead to an unwelcome taste in the mouth.

Dental retainers have moved from the periphery of clinical dental practice to become one of the tools that dental patients rely on to maintain corrected misaligned teeth in the desired position. For dental retainers to work as they are meant to, they should be given proper care and attention.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at its disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.