how to wash a retainer

How to Wash a Retainer

Retainers play an essential role in maintaining that million-dollar smile after orthodontic treatment. As a dental healthcare accessory that’s in your mouth for a considerable amount of time, it’s crucial to keep them as pristine as your pearly whites. Ensuring they are clean not only helps maintain oral hygiene, but also prolongs the retainer’s lifespan. So it’s important to know how to wash a retainer the correct way.

To wash a retainer, you can use a mild soap and water “Soak and Scrub” routine, a vinegar and water solution, or a hydrogen peroxide method. Each method aims for deep cleaning, and the choice depends on your preference for natural ingredients or stronger stain removal.

In this article, we’ll expand on those three reliable methods to clean your retainer.

The Soak and Scrub Routine For Retainers

The “Soak and Scrub” routine is a common and effective way to keep your retainer clean. It’s straightforward and easily fits into your daily oral hygiene routine.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare a Solution: Mix lukewarm water with a specialized retainer cleaning solution or a mild dish soap. Avoid using hot water, as it may warp the retainer.
  2. Soak: Submerge your retainer in the prepared solution for 20-30 minutes. This allows time for any hardened plaque or bacteria to soften.
  3. Pre-Scrub Rinse: Before scrubbing, give your retainer a quick rinse under cold running water. This helps to remove any loose debris.
  4. Scrub Gently: With a soft-bristle toothbrush, gently scrub each side of the retainer. Pay extra attention to grooves or corners where debris might accumulate.
  5. Floss the Wire: If your retainer has wires, run dental floss through them to dislodge any trapped particles.
  6. Check for Residue: Hold the retainer up to the light to inspect for any leftover plaque or debris. If you find any, return to scrubbing until it’s clean.
  7. Rinse Again: Once you are satisfied that it’s clean, rinse the retainer thoroughly under cool running water.
  8. Taste Test: Give it a quick, safe taste test to ensure no soap residue remains. If you detect any, rinse again.
  9. Air-Dry: Shake off excess water and allow the retainer to air-dry on a clean towel.
  10. Store Safely: After drying, place your retainer in its case until you use it again.

Washing Retainers With a Vinegar Solution

The vinegar solution method for cleaning a retainer is an excellent choice for those seeking a natural yet effective cleaning option. Vinegar is especially handy for tackling stubborn bacteria and mild stains.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare a Solution: Combine equal parts white distilled vinegar and lukewarm water in a bowl.
  2. Soak: Place your retainer in the bowl and let it soak for 15-20 minutes. The vinegar’s acidity will work to break down bacteria and stains.
  3. Pre-Scrub Rinse: Rinse your retainer under cold running water to wash off some of the vinegar and any loosened debris.
  4. Use a Toothbrush: Grab a soft-bristle toothbrush and gently clean all areas of the retainer, paying special attention to nooks and crannies.
  5. Inspect the Retainer: Hold the retainer up to good lighting to check for any leftover buildup. If you spot any, resume brushing.
  6. Utilize a Cotton Swab: For hard-to-reach areas, use a cotton swab dipped in the vinegar solution to dab and clean.
  7. Final Rinse: Run your retainer under cold water to wash away any remaining vinegar solution.
  8. Smell Test: Take a quick sniff to ensure that all vinegar odors are gone. If you still notice a smell, repeat the rinsing process.
  9. Shake Off Water: Gently shake the retainer to remove excess moisture.
  10. Air-Dry: Let your retainer air-dry on a clean surface, such as a towel or tissue.
  11. Place in Case: Once the retainer is dry, put it in its protective case for safekeeping.

Washing Retainers With Hydrogen Peroxide

The Hydrogen Peroxide Method offers a deep-clean approach that is particularly helpful for removing tough stains and eliminating strong odors.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare a Solution: Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with one part lukewarm water in a bowl.
  2. Soak: Immerse your retainer in the solution for 30 minutes, allowing the hydrogen peroxide to penetrate any accumulated buildup.
  3. Pre-Cleaning Rinse: Rinse the retainer under cold tap water to wash off some of the loosened buildup and hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Brush Carefully: Using a soft-bristle toothbrush, gently brush the retainer, focusing on any grooves or corners.
  5. Inspect: Hold the retainer up to the light to make sure all areas are clean. If needed, continue brushing.
  6. Use Dental Picks: If your retainer has tiny spaces or complex structures, use dental picks to dislodge trapped debris.
  7. Final Inspection: Check one more time for any areas you may have missed. Clean again if necessary.
  8. Rinse Thoroughly: Make sure to rinse off all hydrogen peroxide by running the retainer under cold water.
  9. Smell and Taste Test: Take a moment to smell and safely taste the retainer, ensuring that no hydrogen peroxide residue remains. If you detect any, rinse again.
  10. Shake Off Excess Water: Give the retainer a gentle shake to remove lingering water droplets.
  11. Air-Dry: Allow the retainer to dry on a clean, dry surface such as a towel or tissue.
  12. Store in Ventilated Case: Once completely dry, store your retainer in its case, preferably one with ventilation holes.


How often should I clean my retainer?

Cleaning your retainer should be part of your daily oral hygiene routine. Aim to clean it every time you brush your teeth to prevent bacterial buildup and foul odor. If your retainer is particularly prone to staining, a more thorough cleaning may be necessary once a week using any of the methods mentioned above.

Can I soak my retainer in mouthwash?

Soaking your retainer in mouthwash is generally not recommended, especially if the mouthwash contains alcohol or colorants. Alcohol can weaken the plastic and potentially damage your retainer, while colorants can stain it. Stick to the cleaning methods mentioned for better results.

How do I remove stains from my retainer?

For tough stains, you may consider using the Hydrogen Peroxide Method. The hydrogen peroxide works effectively to remove staining without damaging the retainer. If stains persist, it may be wise to consult your orthodontist for professional cleaning options.

Can I put my retainer in the dishwasher?

Placing your retainer in a dishwasher is not advisable. The high temperatures can deform the plastic and render the retainer useless. Stick to manual cleaning methods to ensure that your retainer remains in optimal condition.

How do I store my retainer when I’m not using it?

Your retainer should be stored in a ventilated case when you’re not using it. This allows any residual moisture to evaporate, preventing bacterial growth. It’s best to keep the case in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources.


Keeping your retainer clean is vital for your oral health and prolonging the lifespan of the appliance. From the simple “Soak and Scrub” routine to the deep-cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide, you have various options to ensure your retainer remains in top condition. Remember to clean it daily and store it properly when not in use. Happy smiling!