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How to Clean Retainer

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Maintaining the results of orthodontic treatment is a key concern for anyone who has undergone the process of braces or clear aligners. After the braces come off or aligners are no longer needed, there is a risk of teeth shifting back to their original positions over time. However, this concern can be effectively addressed with the use of retainers. Retainers play a crucial role in preserving the progress achieved during orthodontic treatment by preventing unwanted shifting and keeping the teeth in their new, straight positions. In this article, we will delve into the importance of cleaning retainers for good oral hygiene and explore various effective methods to ensure their longevity and effectiveness in maintaining a healthy mouth and a radiant smile.

Why is it important to clean retainers

Cleaning retainers is of paramount importance for several crucial reasons:

  • Oral hygiene. Like teeth, retainers can harbor bacteria, plaque, and food particles. Failure to clean them properly can lead to bad breath, gum disease, and other oral health issues.
  • Preventing infections. Unclean retainers can contribute to oral infections, especially if harmful bacteria accumulate over time. Regular cleaning helps reduce the risk of infection and promotes overall oral health.
  • Maintaining fresh breath. A dirty retainer can cause unpleasant breath odor. By cleaning the retainer regularly, you can eliminate odor-causing bacteria and enjoy fresher breath.
  • Preserving the retainer. Proper cleaning helps maintain the retainer’s integrity and durability. Regular care can prevent premature wear and tear, ensuring the retainer lasts longer and remains effective.
  • Avoiding stains. Certain foods and habits can stain retainers. Regular cleaning removes these stains, preserving the retainer’s appearance and cleanliness.
  • Preventing biofilm buildup. Retainers, if not cleaned properly, can accumulate biofilm, leading to tooth decay and gum issues. Consistent cleaning prevents this buildup, promoting better oral health during orthodontic treatment.
  • Eliminating germs resurgence. Neglecting retainer hygiene allows harmful bacteria to multiply. Wearing an unclean retainer reintroduces these germs into the mouth, potentially causing infections or exacerbating existing dental problems.

How to clean retainers

Properly cleaning your retainer is a key aspect of maintaining optimal oral health. As there are different cleaning methods to consider, understanding their effectiveness becomes crucial. Let’s delve into these methods and examine them closely.

Fizzy 3-in-1 foam cleaner

Fizzy 3-in-1 foam cleaner is a retainer cleaner designed to provide quick and effective cleaning for various oral appliances. It is specifically formulated to clean all types of removable retainers (like Essix or clear retainers and Hawley retainers), dental night guards, sports mouthguards, and dentures.

The foam cleaner offers a unique three-in-one solution, making it convenient and versatile for daily oral care. It serves as a retainer cleaner, a mouthwash, a breath freshener, and a foam toothpaste all in one product. Fizzy’s retainer cleaner is free of alcohol, parabens, fluoride, hydrogen peroxide, and artificial colors, making it ideal for individuals with sensitive gums and the best retainer cleaner for everyone.

  1. Pump the foam. Start by pumping some Fizzy foam cleaner onto your retainer. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the retainer with the foam.
  2. Let it sit. Allow the foam to sit on the retainer for a few minutes. This gives the cleaner enough time to work on removing bacteria, stains, and odours.
  3. Brush for deeper clean. For a deeper clean, use a soft bristle brush to gently scrub every detail and corner of the retainer. This helps remove any stubborn buildup.
  4. Rinse with water. After the waiting time is up, rinse your retainer thoroughly with water. Ensure you remove all the foam residue from the retainer.

Baking soda

Using baking soda to clean retainers is a simple and effective process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Create a baking soda paste. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water to form a paste. The paste should be thick enough to spread easily but not too watery. 
  2. Apply the paste. Take a soft-bristled toothbrush or a toothbrush specifically designated for cleaning retainers and apply the baking soda paste to the bristles.
  3. Gently brush the retainers. With the baking soda paste on the toothbrush, gently brush the retainers, covering all surfaces both inside and outside. Be thorough but avoid applying excessive pressure to prevent any damage.
  4. Rinse thoroughly. After brushing, rinse the retainers thoroughly with water to remove any leftover baking soda particles. Ensure there are no traces of the paste before wearing the retainers again.
  5. Repeat if necessary. If there are stubborn stains or lingering odor, you can repeat the process for more thorough cleaning.

Ultrasonic cleaner

To clean your retainer using an ultrasonic cleaner, follow these simple steps. First, fill the tank with water, making sure not to overfill it. If your cleaner comes with a cleaning solution, add the recommended amount to the water. Next, place your retainer in the water-filled tank, ensuring it is fully submerged. Turn on the cleaner and let it run for the recommended cleaning time, usually just a few minutes. Once the cycle is complete, take out the retainer and rinse it thoroughly under running water to remove any residue or cleaning solution. Finally, pat the retainer dry with a soft towel and store it in its designated case until you use it again.

While ultrasonic cleaners are effective and convenient for cleaning retainers and other dental appliances, there are some caveats to consider:

  • Compatibility. Not all types of retainers may be suitable for cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner. For example, retainers with delicate components, such as permanent retainers with bonded wires, may not be recommended for ultrasonic cleaning. Always check with your orthodontist or the manufacturer of your retainer to ensure it is safe to use with an ultrasonic cleaner.
  • Cleaning solutions. Some ultrasonic cleaners come with specialized cleaning solutions designed for use with the device. While these solutions can enhance the cleaning process, not all cleaning solutions may be suitable for all types of retainers. Some solutions may contain chemicals that could potentially damage certain retainer materials. Follow the instructions provided with the cleaner and consult with your orthodontist to ensure you are using an appropriate cleaning solution.
  • Frequency of use. While ultrasonic cleaners can provide thorough cleaning, it’s essential not to overuse them. Excessive use of ultrasonic cleaning may cause wear and tear on the retainer material over time. It’s best to follow the recommended cleaning frequency provided by your orthodontist or the manufacturer.

What should you not do to clean your retainer

Vinegar is not recommended

Using vinegar to clean retainer is generally not recommended for several reasons:

  • Acidic nature. Vinegar is acidic, and if used for a long time, it can potentially damage the material of the aligners. This may lead to discolouration, warping, or weakening of the aligners, affecting their effectiveness and lifespan.
  • Unpleasant taste and odour. Vinegar has a strong smell and taste that can linger on the aligners even after rinsing. This can be unpleasant and affect your overall experience while wearing them.
  • Incomplete disinfection. Although vinegar has some antimicrobial properties, it may not be as effective as specialised cleaning agents in thoroughly disinfecting the aligners. Proper cleaning and disinfection are vital for maintaining oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment.

It’s best to avoid using vinegar and instead opt for safer and more effective cleaning methods recommended by your orthodontist or retainer provider.

Don’t use hard-bristle toothbrush

Avoid using a hard-bristle toothbrush to clean your teeth or retainer because it can be too harsh on your gums and the delicate surface of your teeth and retainer. Hard-bristle toothbrushes can cause irritation, gum recession, and even scratch the enamel of your teeth or damage the material of your retainer. It’s better to use a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean your teeth and retainer gently without causing harm to your oral health.

Don’t use your toothpaste to clean your retainer

Avoid using your toothpaste to clean your retainer because toothpaste can be abrasive and may scratch or damage the material of the retainer. Retainers are made of delicate materials, and harsh toothpaste can cause them to wear out faster or lose their shape, making them less effective in keeping your teeth aligned properly. It’s best to use gentle and non-abrasive cleaning methods to keep your retainer clean and in good condition.

Don’t use mouthwash to clean your retainers

Some mouthwashes have alcohol, which can harm the plastic material of your aligners over time. It may weaken or damage them, affecting how well they fit your teeth.

Other issues with mouthwash include:

  • Discolouration. Mouthwashes with colorants can stain your retainer aligners, making them look discolored or less clear.
  • Residue and taste. Mouthwash may leave a hard-to-remove residue on the aligners, giving them an unpleasant taste or odour.

Don’t use hot water to clean your retainers

Hot water can soften and distort the material, making them less effective in straightening your teeth. It can also make the retainers look cloudy or discolored. Stick to lukewarm or room temperature water to clean them and keep them working well.

Don’t use UV light sanitisers to clean retainers

Using UV light sanitisers to clean retainers is not commonly recommended. The effectiveness of UV light sanitisers in cleaning retainers is not well-documented or studied extensively. While UV light can kill some bacteria and viruses, its ability to remove plaque, tartar, and other debris from retainers may be limited. Retainers are made from various materials, including plastic and acrylic. The UV light exposure might degrade or discolour some retainer materials over time, affecting their fit and function.


Cleaning your retainers is of utmost importance for maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing dental problems. Regular cleaning helps eliminate harmful bacteria and plaque, preventing bad breath, infections, and other oral health issues. It also reduces the risk of biofilm buildup, tooth decay, and gum problems associated with wearing retainer. Cleaning your retainers ensures a fresh breath and preserves the retainer’s effectiveness, making it last longer and preventing the need for frequent replacements. Additionally, proper cleaning helps prevent stains from certain foods and habits, reduces the risk of oral infections, and avoids the spreading of harmful germs. It is crucial to avoid using vinegar, hard-bristle toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, hot water, and UV light sanitisers as they can harm the retainer’s material and compromise its function. By adhering to effective cleaning methods, you can maintain a healthy mouth and enjoy the benefits of a bright smile.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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