how to clean retainers

How to Clean Retainers- 5 Ways to Clean Dirty Retainers

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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? In this article, you’ll find out how to clean retainers and how to keep them clear.

Why are my retainers/aligners yellow or white?

Why are my retainers turning white? What is the white stuff on my retainer? What do you do when your once clear retainers turn yellow.

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.

There are several things that can cause your retainers to be yellow. 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. And 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.

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:

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.


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

How to clean a retainer that has plaque at home

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

  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

How to clean your retainers with 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.

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. You can then also scrub them gently with baking soda and a soft bristled toothbrush.

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

  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.

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

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