Are Retainer Cleaner Tablets Effective?

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Table of Contents

  1. The Need for a Clean Retainer
  2. What Are Retainer Tablets?
  3. How Do Retainer Tablets Work?
  4. Which Tablets Can You Use?
  5. Do Retainer Tablets Work?
  6. How Often Should You Use Retainer Tablets?
  7. Leaving Your Retainer in the Cleaner Too Long
  8. What To Look For In Tablets
  9. Can Dirty Retainers Make You Sick?
  10. Alternatives to Retainer Cleaner Tablets
  11. Resources

While options vary in ingredients and cost, many retainer cleaner tablets are effective and convenient. And most dental professionals will agree that any safe retainer cleaner that will help you stay on top of keeping your retainer sanitary and bacteria-free is a good option. 

However, it’s important that tablets are used as directed and that people with sensitivities to chemicals read the ingredients carefully.

The Need for a Clean Retainer

Wearing your retainer is an important part of orthodontic treatment. Retainers keep your teeth in place after wearing braces or aligners, ensuring that the ideal bite and smile you’ve worked so hard for doesn’t shift back to where it was before. 

Most retainers are removable and relatively low maintenance. They do, however, require regular cleaning to keep them clear of the problematic bacteria and food particles that can cause bad breath and health problems.

Today, there are many retainer cleaner tablets on the market offering easy retainer cleaning.

What Are Retainer Tablets?

Retainer cleaner tablets are cleaning tablets or “crystals” that dissolve in water. Retainers (and often other devices, like mouthguards and headgear) can be soaked in them for cleaning and to remove any bacteria or particle buildup.

How Do Retainer Tablets Work?

Retainer tablets contain ingredients (often cleaners or chemicals) that kill germs and bacteria. Usually, users follow these steps:

  1. Dissolve the tablet in a cup or bowl of warm water.

  2. Drop the retainer or device into the water.

  3. Let the retainer or device soak for the recommended time.

  4. Rinse the retainer or device thoroughly before use.

Which Tablets Can You Use To Clean Your Retainer?

You should only use tablets that are specifically designed for retainers. Denture cleaning tablets may eventually yellow your retainer.

Some retainer tablets are formulated for clear retainers, while others may be universal or designed for use with metal (Hawley) retainers. If you are unsure about what kind of retainer cleaner tablet to use, ask your orthodontist or retainer provider.

Many aligner cleaning tablets (cleaning tablets that are designed for clear aligners) can also be used for clear retainers. These products clearly state on the label that they can be used for retainers as well.

Do Retainer Cleaning Tablets Work?

Most retainer cleaner tablets are effective at removing bacteria and germs from retainers. Some claim to kill 99.9 percent of odor-causing bacteria.

Cleaner tablets designed for clear retainers will also keep them clear and free of yellowing or discoloration.

Many dentists and orthodontists recommend retainer cleaner tablets, and some even offer samples. Popular retainer cleaning tablets are lab-tested. Some have thousands of positive online reviews and are endorsed by the American Association of Orthodontists.

How Often Should You Clean Your Retainer with Tablets?

You should follow the instructions specific to your retainer cleaner tablets. Most retainer cleaner tablets are for daily use, but some are used only weekly.

If your cleaning tablets are designed for weekly use, you should still clean your retainer daily to remove day-to-day bacteria and build-up.

What Happens If You Leave Retainers in the Cleaner for too Long?

Depending on what type of cleaner tablets you use and what kind of retainer you have, you can damage the retainer if it is soaked too long in the cleaner. This is especially true of retainers with metal components, as certain chemicals in some tablets may cause corrosion.

Some retainer cleaners are gentler and won’t cause any damage to retainers that are left in the cleaner for longer periods of time. Still, it’s safest to follow the instructions carefully for each product.

What to Look for in a Retainer Cleaning Tablet

You should choose a retainer cleaner tablet that’s designed for your type of retainer or a universal retainer cleaner. Other factors to consider when picking your retainer cleaner include the following:

  • Soaking time: Some tablets require as little as 3 minutes of soaking time. Others may need 15 minutes or even overnight soaking.

  • Chemicals used: Some people report sensitivity to the chemical residue left behind by retainer cleaner tablets, even after rinsing thoroughly. Many retainer cleaner tablets use persulfate, a common allergen.

  • Accessories: Some retainer cleaner tablets come with a tub or bowl, which can make soaking easier. Soaking bowls can also be purchased separately.

Can a Dirty Retainer Make you Sick?

Retainers need to be cleaned in order to remove bacteria. 

A dirty retainer can house harmful bacteria that may feed off other bacteria or food particles in the mouth. These harmful bacteria can spread from the mouth to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and respiratory system, causing infections and illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. 

A dirty retainer can also cause oral health problems by contributing to plaque and bad bacteria in the mouth. In addition to causing bad breath, these bacteria can wear away at the tooth’s enamel and irritate gums, resulting in tooth decay and even gum disease.

Alternatives to Retainer Cleaner Tablets

Retainer cleaner tablets offer a convenient way to sanitize your retainer, but there are other options as well. Here are some of them:

  • Brush your retainer with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Use a soft-bristled brush and non-whitening toothpaste to make the process as non-abrasive as possible. Some people suggest using dish soap instead of toothpaste.

  • Dip it in mouthwash. As an addition to daily cleaning, an antimicrobial and alcohol-free mouthwash will help remove any germs and bacteria. Be sure to rinse completely, and beware of any dyes or harsh chemicals.

  • Gently use baking soda. Baking soda can be a simple and effective cleaning tool. Just be sure to check with your orthodontist or retainer provider first to confirm that it is safe to clean it this way.


Teeth Retainer. (August 2022). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: October 25, 2022.

How to Clean Retainers. (November 2022). Colgate. Date fetched: October 25, 2022.

How Oral Bacteria Affects Your Lungs. (November 2022). Colgate. Date fetched: October 25, 2022.

5 Easy Ways to Clean Your Retainer or Aligners. (November 2022). Real Simple. Date fetched: October 25, 2022.

How to Clean a Retainer or Mouthguard. (July 2022). The New York Times. Date fetched: October 25, 2022.

Evaluation of the Efficacy of Different Cleaning Methods for Orthodontic Thermoplastic Retainers in Terms of Bacterial Colonization. (December 2019). Turkish Journal of Orthodontics. Date fetched: October 25, 2022.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.