Clean that Nasty Retainer!

Do you (or does your child) have a nasty retainer? Here’s what to do.


Do you (or does your child) have a nasty retainer? Here’s what to do.


First, there is a good bit of mis-information out there. You should not act on this information:

  1. You should not clean a retainer because you will kill the “good bacteria”
  2. If you brush your teeth twice each day, you don’t need to clean your retainer. Just don’t eat with the retainer in your retainer
  3. The products available that claim to be for retainer cleaning are actually not good for your retainer.
  4. If you take probiotics or other dietary supplements, your retainer and your mouth will be healthy without cleaning.
  5. All retainers begin to look cloudy after a time. This does not mean it is dirty.

What you should know about cleaning a retainer:

  • It is time to clean a retainer when: it smells or tastes bad, it is covered with a film, there are bits of food stuck to it, it breaks or cracks, it looks cloudy, it was last cleaned more than a week ago, or there are white spots on it.
  • If you use a retainer and you start to get cavities or you develop sensitivity to hot or cold, you should see your dentist or orthodontist and discuss cleaning.
  • Rinse a retainer in water throughout the day and keep it moist. Do not drink sugary beverages while wearing your retainer.
  • Brush your retainer when you brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush.
  • Denture cleaner can be used occasionally.
  • Make a toothpaste of baking soda and water (equal proportions), and use it to brush with a soft toothbrush.
  • Mix equal amounts of vinegar and water in a small dish. Soak the retainer in it for 20 minutes.
  • Castile soap can be combined with water. Dip the retainer into the mixture, brush with a soft brush, and then soak for 2 or 3 minutes. Rinse in cool water.
  • If there are no other options, the retainer can be dipped in non-alcoholic mouthwash for 2 or 3 minutes. Then rinse in cool water.
  • Use a commercially available retainer cleaning product.


Wishing you no more nasty retainers.