You took care of your braces or Invisalign® clear aligners throughout your whole orthodontic treatment, and look where that got you—to a beautiful, brilliant smile!

Now to maintain your smile, it’s time to give your retainer the same respect. By storing and cleaning your retainer properly, you’ll keep your retainer in its best condition and your smile in its most beautiful state.

Here’s how to clean your retainer and how to store it properly to maximize its lifespan!

Storing Your Retainer

When you first begin the retention phase, you’ll be instructed to wear your retainer full-time. During this time, you should only remove your retainer while eating/drinking, cleaning your teeth, or cleaning your retainer.

If you’re a sports player, be sure to remove your retainer during practices and games, and replace it with a quality mouthguard to protect your teeth (and other players) from impact.

When you remove your retainer, rinse it off with lukewarm water if you can, and store it in your retainer case. (You’ll receive a carrying case with your retainer.)

It’s crucial that you store your retainer properly when it’s not in your mouth, because retainers are small and easily misplaced! Don’t store it on your dinner plate or in a napkin either; you may be surprised how many retainers end up in the trash. And if you have a pet, be especially careful with your retainer. Pets love retainers.

As we say, if it’s not in your face, it’s in your case!

How to Clean Retainers

We provide Essix clear plastic retainers and Hawley acrylic retainers. Both types of retainers are easy to remove and clean!

To remove your clear Essix retainer before cleaning it, gently loosen the retainer by using a clean pointer finger to hook the edge of the retainer toward the back inner surface of your teeth. Gently pull the retainer downward (or upward on your bottom retainer) and loosen both sides to ease it off carefully.

To remove your Hawley retainer, gently hook your clean finger over the wire loop toward the back of the retainer. Pull downward to free it from one side, then repeat the same motion on the other side. Don’t use your tongue to pull your retainer out or push it into place! This can damage your retainer.

How to Clean Plastic Retainers (Essix) and Hawley Acrylic Retainers

We advise that you clean your retainer with mild soap and lukewarm water every time you brush your teeth (2 to 3 times a day). You can soak your retainer in RetainerBrite solution once or twice a week too!

To keep your retainer free of plaque and bacteria, clean your retainer as soon as you take it out of your mouth. It’s easiest to remove plaque on a retainer while it’s still soft. Hardened plaque can be difficult to remove!

Gently brush your retainer with a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste or mild soap and lukewarm water after every meal. You want to keep your retainer as fresh as possible throughout the day and night.

How to disinfect a retainer

There are a few options for deep cleaning your retainer, and fortunately, most kitchens already have these ingredients in stock.

How to disinfect a retainer with vinegar

You can also use a 50/50 solution of half distilled water and half white vinegar to soak your retainer for about 20 minutes. Doing this should soften any hardened layers of plaque, making them easier to remove. Gently rub the retainer with the solution, then rinse it with lukewarm water.

The ‘Do’s and Dont’s’ of Cleaning Your Retainer


  • Do rinse the retainer under lukewarm, clean water.
  • Do have a separate, soft-bristled brush for your retainer.
  • Do use RetainerBrite, vinegar or baking soda to soak your retainer, prevent discoloration and eliminate odors.
  • Do wear your retainer as frequently as your orthodontist advises to prevent your teeth from migrating back to their original, pre-treatment positions.


  • Don’t use wipes like Clorox on your retainer. These chemicals are dangerous for your retainer and your mouth.
  • Don’t use hot water or boiling water; this can warp or damage your retainer.
  • Don’t use mouthwash to clean your retainer.
  • Don’t leave your retainer out in the open after cleaning, or store it in a napkin.
  • Don’t use dishwashers to clean a retainer.
  • Don’t force your retainer back into place after cleaning it. Place it back in carefully to prevent damage.

Still have questions about storing and cleaning your retainer properly?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We love to hear from you. We’re here to guide you through your treatment process, from your very first visit, to your last appointment.

If you’re looking for a top orthodontist in Las Vegas, we’d love to meet you! Request a complimentary exam for you or your child today.