how to clean retainers

How to Clean Retainers- 5 Ways to Clean Dirty Retainers

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How to Clean Dirty Retainers

So picture this. You get braces and choose a clear aligner system such as Invisalign as opposed to traditional metal braces. Most people do this because they don’t want anyone to see anything on their teeth. They want their braces to be invisible. But what happens when your once clear, invisible trays turn yellow or you get dirty retainers?

No one likes it when their once pretty clear retainers turn yellow. Sometimes there can be white stuff on your retainer as well.

As a dental hygienist, I am often asked how to remove stains from retainers. In this article, you’ll find out how to clean retainers and how to keep them clear.

Clear Retainers Turned Yellow

What do you do when your once clear retainers turn yellow? There are several things that can cause your retainers to be yellow.

Causes of yellow build up on retainers:

Foods and drinks are a main cause of staining clear aligners and retainers. Be mindful of what you drink while you have your retainers in. Anything that can stain your teeth can stay in your aligners and retainers as well.

Common food and drink staining culprits are dark colored drinks such as soda and tea. Also, food such as curry. Really you should only be drinking water while you have your trays in and you should never eat with them in. You don’t want to trap any sugars or acids in your trays next to your teeth. This could not only cause stain on your trays but it can also cause cavities as well.

Also be sure that you are not using a denture cleaner that could be staining your retainers or aligners. Some of these denture cleaners are colored and can cause staining on your clear aligners.

So that explains why your clear retainers turned yellow. But what if your clear retainers turned white? If you have white spots on Invisalign trays keep reading.

Did your clear retainers turn white?

What is the white stuff on my retainer?

Saliva minerals can cause retainers to turn yellow or white over time. If the trays are not cleaned properly the bacteria can colonize. Dirty retainers can cause plaque and tartar to buildup in your trays rather quickly. This can cause a hard, white material or white spots to grow on your trays.

If you have white spots on your Invisalign trays, keep reading to see how to clean them.

Why do my retainers smell bad?

Many patients often complain that they’re clear aligners or retainers smell bad. This is due to your saliva and plaque drying on your retainers. This harbors and grows bad foul-smelling bacteria.

So how do you keep Invisalign clean and not stinky? Never let your saliva dry on your Invisalign or retainers. As soon as you take them out, wash your retainers immediately so it does not have a chance to harden.

How to clean retainers:

Looking for a solution on how to remove the yellow stains from your retainers? Trying to clean the white stuff off your retainer? Look no further. Below I will provide you with several different solutions on how to clean your stained retainers.

Steraligner Solution


The easiest and best way I personally recommend to clean clear retainers or clean Invisalign is to use Steraligner cleaning solution. You can get in on Amazon HERE . Or buy straight from the website HERE for a little bit cheaper. No one wants a dirty Invisalign retainer. You purposely get clear reatiners so they are clear. You don’t want them to be stained and ugly.

You can find out why I love this product and see my full review (plus get a coupon!) on by reading here> Steraligner Review and Coupon.

Steraligner is an, easy, affordable and quick solution to clean yellow stains from your retainers. It is great for many different types of mouthpieces such as Invisalign and even mouth-guards. It is also great at cleaning the white stuff on the retainer.

How to clean retainers

So just how do you get yellow and white stains out of retainers, aligners or Invisalign? There are a few ways that you can clean your aligners or retainers in your home.

4 ways to clean your retainer at home naturally

Here are 4 ways to clean your Invisalign retainers at home.

  1. Water & hydrogen peroxide solution
  2. Soap & water solution
  3. Baking soda and water solution
  4. Vinegar, baking soda and water solution

1. Water & hydrogen peroxide solution

How to clean your aligners or retainers with hydrogen peroxide. You can make a 1:1 mix of water and hydrogen peroxide. When you take your retainers out to eat, let your Invisalign soak in this solution. Ideally this is about 30 minutes. Once you’re done eating gently scrub with a soft bristle toothbrush and rinse with water before putting back in. This should keep them clean.

2. Soap and water

How to clean your aligners with soap. Another method I can recommend would be to gently brush or clean aligners or retainers with a soft bristle toothbrush and a gentle and mild soap. Be sure to wash them off very well before putting them back in.

3. Baking soda

You can always clean your retainers with baking soda. Baking soda can also be used for harder to remove debris and particles. Baking soda is a very gentle abrasive that can help break up dried plaque and food off of your retainers.

How to clean Invisalign retainers with baking soda- To use baking soda to clean retainers, create a paste with baking soda and water. The ratio should be half and half. This should form a paste. Then gently scrub the paste onto the retainer with a soft bristled toothbrush. ,

4. Vinegar, baking soda & water solution

How to clean retainers with vinegar? If you have very dirty retainers or aligners that call for so extra elbow grease, use vinegar. Try not to let anything dirty dry on your retainers. But if this happens use this method of cleaning your clear aligners at home.

Soak them in a solution of 1:1 vinegar and lukewarm water. Be sure that the water is only lukewarm and not too hot as to cause warping. Let this sit while you shower for about 30 minutes or so and when you get out gently scrub with a soft toothbrush and rinse them out before putting them back in. This method works well if you also add baking soda. Clean your retainers with baking soda after you use vinegar. You can scrub them gently with baking soda and a soft bristled toothbrush.

Use a designated toothbrush

If you are going to clean your dirty retainer, make sure to use a designated toothbrush. For all of these methods for cleaning your retainers or Invisalign, make sure that’s you have a special toothbrush to help aid in cleaning. Use a soft bristle toothbrush that is gentle so it will not scratch your aligner. Keep this toothbrush separate than the one you personally use to brush your teeth. You do not want to transfer germs.

3 Things to avoid while cleaning your retainers or Invisalign

If you are going to clean dirty retainers, be sure to avoid these few things.

  1. Do not brush aligners or retainers with toothpaste
  2. Do not use mouthwash to clean your aligners or retainers
  3. Do not use hot or boiling water while cleaning your retainers

Do not brush clear aligners or retainers with toothpaste. This may seem like the traditional method you would think of since that is what you do for the teeth. But toothpaste has mild abrasives on it that will be too abrasive for your retainers. It can cause tiny microscopic scratches that will absorb stains and cause your retainers to appear dirty over time. This can cause a cloudy looking appearance to your trays.

Avoid using mouthwash to clean your Invisalign or clear retainers. These often contain dyes and then which can stain your clear aligners. Also, mouthwashes often also have alcohol which can breakdown the plastic over time. So avoid cleaning with mouthwash to avoid damaging your dental appliance.

Do not use hot water or boiling water to try and clean your retainers. retainers and aligners are made from plastics that can warp in hot temperatures.

Final Thoughts

So if you have been wondering why your retainers were stained yellow or white and how to clean retainers, I hope you found this article helpful. If you try any of the above recommended methods of how to clean clear retainers at home, let me know how well it worked in the comments.

Hope you enjoyed this article! Be sure to subscribe for more oral heath tips and tricks!

Kelly Hancock, RDH

how to clean retainers and how to clean aligners
how to clean retainers

Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.

This article and all advice on this website, Toothbrush Life, is intended to help people gain knowledge about general oral health topics. No articles or advice on this website are intended to replace professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or qualified healthcare provider to help you with any questions you have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

3 thoughts on “How to Clean Retainers- 5 Ways to Clean Dirty Retainers

  1. Reply
    Suzanne Hardman - October 11, 2020

    Great wealth of information! Thank you!

    1. Reply
      Kelly Hancock, RDH - October 12, 2020

      You’re very welcome!

    2. Reply
      Kelly Hancock, RDH - October 26, 2020

      You’re welcome!

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