Table of Contents
- General Maintenance and Things To Avoid
- DIY Methods
- Commercial Products
- How to Clean Retainers Wrap Up
After we get braces, one would hope that the discomfort would end. Keeping those teeth straight, however, doesn’t happen with magic. Many have to wear retainers to make sure the years of alignment pay off. ‘
Retainers, especially the plastic ones, are notoriously hard to clean. They get smelly, gunked up and turn a nasty, yellowish color.
If you’re wondering how to clean retainers, there are several methods out there using both commercial products and DIY methods. Before delving into how to get that retainer clean again, there are some important things to remember in day to day care for retainers.
General Maintenance and Things To Avoid
Cleaning retainers can be kept to a minimum if you follow some of these tips:
- Keep the retainer moist. This might sound counterintuitive but keeping the retainer (if it is a plastic retainer) in some distilled water will greatly reduce the chance of plaque or tartar buildup.
- Brush the retainer every few days without toothpaste. Make sure to brush it every 3-4 days. Don’t worry, this won’t harm the retainer at all.
- Keep it in a secure, safe place. Retainers are surprisingly delicate and can be broken easily.
Sounds easy enough right? Well, the retainer will inevitably get nasty at some point. There are some reasonable-sounding cleaning methods that are very harmful for your retainer. Here are some methods to avoid:
- Do not let the retainer totally dry out. A totally dry retainer will bring the bacteria back.
- Using rubbing alcohol, bleach or mouthwash. Retainers are porous, meaning that they will soak up whatever they are dipped in. They will absorb rubbing alcohol or bleach which is not good for your health!
- Boiling water or high heat. It might sound like a good idea to stick the retainer into a dishwasher but this will definitely damage it as high heat will warp and deform the retainer.
Even if you follow these steps your retainer will need a more thorough cleaning. What is the best way to clean a retainer? There are actually several effective DIY methods along with a few commercially available products that will get the retainer clean in no time.
There are a bunch of different ways to get a retainer clean. Remember, avoid using harsh chemicals or high heat and these methods should work.
Method #1: Baking Soda
This is probably the cheapest, easiest and most effective DIY method for cleaning a retainer. It just takes three easy steps.
- Make a paste of baking soda and water about the consistency of toothpaste.
- Use a brush to scrub the retainer with the baking soda paste.
- Rinse with water.
The baking soda method works well for a few reasons. First, the baking soda method makes the pH of the retainer neutral so bacteria can’t grow as easily. Second, it helps eliminate unpleasant odors. Third, it soaks into the pores of the retainer so it’s cleaning power stays for a while.
Method #2: The Vinegar Method
Sort of the reverse of the baking soda method, using vinegar’s acidic properties could be more effective than baking soda depending on the situation. Again, it’s easy and cheap to follow these steps.
- Put retainer into a shallow bowl
- Add distilled water, making sure the retainer is fully submerged.
- Pour about 1 Tablespoon of vinegar into the bowl
- Let soak for about 5-10 minutes.
- Rinse and brush thoroughly after soaking
Method #3: Castille Soap
Castile soap is a really gentle, olive oil-based soap. It’s gentle on the retainer and will still clean it effectively. Here’s how to do it.
- Fill a bowl with water
- Add a little bit of Castile soap to the water and stir until it dissolved.
- Put retainer in bowl and use a brush to scrub the retainer.
- Rinse off thoroughly with water.
It’s probably a good idea to use a separate toothbrush for this purpose as your normal toothbrush might still absorb some of the soapy taste.
Well, what happens if none of the DIY methods work? There are many commercial products out on the market for cleaning retainers. I have highlighted three of them to show the range of options available.
Probably the most popular retainer tablet on the market, Retainer Brite uses a powerful chemical formula to clean retainers in under 10 minutes. Simply drop one of the effervescent tablets into a glass of water and put the retainer in. They are super easy to use and effective.
The one downside is the possibility of persulfate allergy. Occasionally, people are allergic to the main ingredient in Retainer Brite. If you think you may be allergic at all, it would be best to avoid this product and find an alternative with no persulfates.
CleanGuard is a great alternative for those allergic to sulfates or persulfates. It’s sulfate free and contains only a handful of ingredients. It contains menthol and mint flavors, leaving your retainer with a fresh flavor.
Just like the Retainer Brite tablets, just drop one in a glass of water and add your retainer.
If you are looking for extra cleaning power for your retainers, the iSonic device uses ultrasonic power to clean your retainers in 5 minutes. The device uses sound waves to get into the pores and crevices of your retainer. All you have to do is put it in and push a button!
The iSonic, however, is not magical. You will still need to generally care for your retainers if you want the iSonic to work for you.
How to Clean Retainers Wrap Up
Retainers can be a pain to clean. Once they get plaque and bacteria build up, it can be very difficult to remove. There are, however, some easy solutions to get them clean.
It’s easy to prevent retainers from becoming dirty in the first place. All one has to do is take a few simple steps to care for the retainer day to day. Make sure to brush it with a clean brush, keep it in distilled water and you’ll be much better off.
When the time comes to clean off the retainer, you can use a few DIY methods to clean them off. Baking soda, vinegar or castile soap are viable options for cleaning off the retainers.
If DIY methods fail, make sure to check out the range of tablets and formulas available on the market. Even cleaning machines are a viable and affordable alternative.
Cleaning retainers is much easier than it seems. All it requires is the right materials and technique.