How to Clean Aligners and Clear Retainers
Aligners are a quick and easy way to reposition teeth, but they may have you wondering how to clean them properly. Since they're in your mouth for so long, you need to ensure they're kept as clean as your teeth and gums. Many companies recommend cleaning aligners with lukewarm water after eating to keep them clean. Lukewarm water is best because it's warm enough to clean without warping the shape of the plastic aligners, which is a likelihood if you use hot water. The shape of the aligners is incredibly important since that's what's realigning your teeth.
Sometimes water alone isn't enough. Issues such as discoloration and a foul odor may linger and make you uncomfortable wearing the aligners — especially in public. So, how to clean aligners when water isn't enough? We've put together the ultimate guide for how to clean clear retainers and aligners safely and easily.
Does It Matter What Kind of Aligner I Have?
No matter which company you went with — Invisalign, Candid Co, SmileDirectClub, ClearCorrect, SmileLove, SnapCorrect, YourSmileDirect, ByteMe, Orthly, UniformTeeth or any of the others — we've got you. You've invested in getting your teeth straight, you're excited and we're here to help.
We're going to cover:
- - The best on-the-go aligner cleaner.
- - All the at-home soaks you can do.
- - Why you shouldn't use toothpaste or mouthwash on your aligner.
You're probably already aware that you're going to be brushing your teeth a lot more than you're used to — every time you eat or drink something if you're following instructions — but how about keeping your aligners clean? You're only wearing them for a couple of weeks each, but you're wearing them all day — that's 22 hours every single day. Funk builds up, and the last thing you want is for your aligner to smell or look funky, making you self-conscious. After all, you got clear aligners so you can be confident.
If you've already had braces or other orthodontic procedures to realign your teeth, you may have been fitted with a clear retainer. These retainers are designed similarly, but aligner technology can differ based on the brand of aligners you have. Invisalign uses a smart track technology, while Essix — a type of plastic common in other aligner brands as well as clear retainers — doesn't. Regardless of how it's been designed or the brand, the methods listed here are safe to use on any aligner or clear retainer.
What Is That Funk in the First Place?
You might be wondering how your aligner gets funky in the first place. You brush your teeth, so your mouth is clean, right? Well, almost.
Your saliva is a natural tooth cleanser, but your aligners keep your saliva off your teeth. Plaque and biofilm can build up under the aligner, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This means that your aligners start getting dirty the minute you put them in your mouth.
Soaking vs. Cleaning Aligners and Retainers
A basic rinse might be all right, but what about plaque and bacteria?
For most of the day, you're out — at school, at work, to lunch or running errands. A public bathroom isn't the best place to soak your aligners or clear retainer, and you probably don't want them sitting on your desk at work for half an hour. Plus, you want to make sure your breath is fresh and clean, so you need something more than just a rinse.
EverSmile’s® WhiteFoam™ is designed specifically for this situation, and it is safe for all aligners and clear retainers. It's a minty foam made with hydrogen peroxide that is spread on your aligners and put directly back in your mouth — the hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay, the foam reaches every nook in your aligner or retainer to keep things clean throughout the day, and the minty flavor leaves you refreshed and confident. As a bonus, over time, the hydrogen peroxide also gently whitens your teeth.
If you're diligent about your cleaning routine, you probably don't need to soak them too often. But sometimes, life gets in the way, and we slack on routine. That's when soaking your aligner or retainer comes in handy.
Can You Clean Retainers With Vinegar?
The good news is, you can clean your retainers with vinegar. Cleaning your retainers with vinegar requires the same formula as cleaning aligners with vinegar. Just create a mixture of white vinegar and warm water, and let your retainer soak. Then, rinse off the vinegar with water, and you're good to go! The acid in vinegar is ideal for removing tartar from your retainers.
Can You Brush Your Retainers With Toothpaste?
Is toothpaste safe for retainers? The short answer is no. Toothpaste isn't recommended for cleaning your aligners or clear retainers. Toothpaste is abrasive and can end up scratching your aligners or retainer, making them less clear. Scratches in the plastic also act as little pockets in which gunk can easily build up every time you wear the aligner or retainer. You can still brush your clear retainer using a very mild soap and warm water — just remember to brush very gently.
If you do end up using toothpaste — but try not to! — you must be extra careful, especially with which toothpaste and brush you choose. Low-abrasion toothpaste that doesn't contain any dyes is best, and toothbrushes with very soft bristles are recommended. And again, remember to brush very gently to protect the plastic of your aligner or retainer.
Can You Clean Aligners With Mouthwash?
Unfortunately, despite being minty and antibacterial, mouthwash is only recommended for your mouth, not your aligners or clear retainers. Plus, many types of mouthwash have dyes added to them, and certain colors — especially red — can stain your clear aligner, so it's best to avoid mouthwash.
Can You Clean Retainers With Baking Soda?
Yes, although it's not the best option for cleaning your aligners or clear retainers. If you do opt for baking soda to clean your retainers, we recommend soaking them in baking soda and water only. Like toothpaste, baking soda is abrasive, so using it to brush your retainer or aligners can end up damaging them.
Is Denture Cleaner Safe for Aligners?
It's possible to safely and successfully use denture cleaner to clean your aligners or retainer. These often come in tablet form, so simply drop the tablet into some water and soak your aligner or retainer according to the instructions on the packet.
However, oftentimes, these tablets are made specifically for retainers and dentures that are not clear. Tablets that have a color to them could end up staining your aligner or retainer over time, so make sure to only use clear products for your clear retainer and aligner.
Can You Clean Aligners With Hydrogen Peroxide?
Yes, hydrogen peroxide is great for removing stains, thanks to its antimicrobial, antibacterial and oxidizing properties. Just mix one part hydrogen peroxide with an equal amount of warm water and let your aligner or clear retainer soak. Then, rinse it off, and you're good to go.
Can You Clean Aligners With Soap?
Yes, soap and warm water is a simple and safe way to clean your aligners or clear retainers. Just mix regular soap with some warm water, and let your aligner or retainer soak. After soaking it, rinse the aligner or retainer with some cool water.
Can You Bleach Aligners to Clean Them?
Bleach is great for many things, but cleaning and disinfecting your aligners or clear retainer is not one of them. Bleach can be dangerous for your health, and it's strong enough to damage the plastic of aligners and clear retainers. Therefore, bleach is best avoided.
Safe Ways to Clean Aligners at Home
Even with regular cleaning, you may still need to soak your retainer or aligner if there is any discoloration or buildup. You can soak your aligners at home using some household products, like vinegar and soap, or better yet, with a cleaner designed specifically for aligners and clear retainers.
Here are some simple ways to clean aligners or clear retainers at home.
The Best Method: Cleaner Designed Specifically for Retainers and Aligners
Special cleaners, like WhiteFoam, are specifically designed to make cleaning aligners and clear retainers quick and simple. Use WhiteFoam every day, and you won't need to ever have to soak your aligner or clear retainer. The cleaner is designed to keep plaque from building up on your aligner while preventing staining.
If you have to clean your retainer or aligners, and you don't have any specialized cleaner on hand, you can turn to household items to get your aligners or clear retainers clean.
Warm water with soap and water with hydrogen peroxide are the two best at-home methods for cleaning aligners, second only to specialized cleaning products like WhiteFoam.
Okay Methods With Proper Use
If you're really in a pinch, you can settle for cleaning your aligners or clear retainer with denture tablets, vinegar or gentle brushing. While these methods are acceptable, they're only efficient if done properly, so make sure you follow the instructions and remember to be gentle.
Methods You Should Avoid When Cleaning Aligners
It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the methods and products that will do more harm than good for your aligners and clear retainers. These include:
- - Baking soda — unless you're using it to just soak your aligners
- - Mouthwash
- - Bleach
- - Hard or abrasive toothpaste
- - Hard-bristle brushes
How to Fix Common Problems With Aligners
Sometimes, no matter how diligent you are in cleaning your aligners or clear retainer, there are still problems you encounter that seem impossible to solve.
How to Get Plaque off Aligners
Plaque is a deposit of bacteria that nestles itself around your teeth and can transfer to your aligners or retainers after you've worn them for a while. If you've ever looked at your retainers and seen yellowish or light-brown spots, you've probably seen plaque. Cleaning plaque from your retainer is an essential part of keeping your mouth clean — but what's the best way to do it?
A surefire way to clean plaque from your retainers is to clean them immediately after you take them out of your mouth by running them under warm water and gently — and we mean really gently — brushing with a soft-bristle brush or cotton swab in case any plaque is stuck in hard-to-reach places.
How to Get Rid of Retainer Yellowing
Yellowing of your aligners can end up defeating the point of using clear aligners. The best way to get rid of yellowing is by using hydrogen peroxide in your WhiteFoam. Yup, it's really that simple.
How to Get Rid of Aligner Smell
That funky smell that can settle on your aligner or clear retainer can give you bad breath — which can be embarrassing. Luckily, there are some easy ways to take care of this annoying problem. Diligent cleaning is the best way to combat the bad smell, but you can also use products like AlignerFresh, which is designed to help you get rid of bad breath caused by your aligner or clear retainer.
We hope that we've helped you feel confident that you can keep your aligners and your teeth as fresh and clean as possible — anytime, anywhere. Aligners take some getting used to, and it can feel like a hassle to make sure they're clean and fresh all the time. Our WhiteFoam cleansing product can aid you by killing unwanted bacteria in your mouth and preventing buildup on your aligners. Buy WhiteFoam now to keep your aligners clean and fresh.
You did your research — now get out there and smile!