My simple and frugal night guard (mouth guard) cleaner

In January I got a night guard – a mouth guard for my teeth to protect them from damage from grinding my teeth in my sleep. The night guard itself was far from inexpensive, but I consider non-cosmetic medical expenses worthwhile. This guard protects my teeth from excessive wear, and alleviates tension headaches to a small degree.

night guard (mouth guard) in its storage case with text "my simple and frugal night guard (mouth guard) cleaner"

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

When I received my night guard, the care instructions were quite simple: wash with antibacterial soap after each use. Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of antibacterial soap. According the the FDA, the active ingredient that makes a soap antibacterial – triclosan – doesn’t necessarily make soaps more effective at preventing illness than regular soap and water, may be a hormone disruptor, and contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria. I avoid antibacterial products, specifically those containing triclosan, whenever I can, and I did not want to have to use it daily just to be able to safely use my night guard. I immediately began trying to find another safe and effective way to sterilize and clean my night guard.

Additional disclaimer: I am not a doctor or dentist. I have chosen NOT to follow the instructions provided by my dentist, and I am assuming my own personal risk by doing this. I recommend that everyone discuss health related items with their own medical professionals, make decisions accordingly.

inside of the top of the night guard (mouth guard) case with cleaning instructions "Clean w/ antibacterial soap & warm water. Do not use alcohol or alcohol based products. Store dry. Call your dentist w/ questions."

How do I know my night guard is clean?

I must admit I have not been very scientific about this. I have not bought a bacteria test kit. Instead, I have been relying on my nose. Bad breath is often caused by bacteria in the mouth, and this can be exacerbated by dry mouth. I happen to be a mouth breather in my sleep, so my night guard smells pretty unpleasant when I first remove it. Therefore, I determine if my night guard is clean by if it smells bad or not.

Three successful methods to clean my night guard

I have tried three different methods and recipes for cleaning my night guard, and all seem successful. My favorite is my third attempt, sodium percarbonate – it is the least expensive and least likely to damage the night guard in the long run.

three different night guard (mouth guard) cleaners - UV sanitizing wand, sodium percarbonate, and cleaning mixture, plus measuring spoons with the cleaning powders
three different, yet all successful, night guard (mouth guard) cleaners

Cleaning method 1: UV light sanitization

I was still using my UV sanitizing wand for household cleaning, and this was the first thing I thought of to clean my night guard without antibacterial soap. Since I know UV light can degrade certain types of plastic, I looked up what types of plastic are usually used in night guards, and if these materials are UV resistant or not. I am not sure the specific brand of my night guard, but my dentist told me it is a “hard/soft” night guard, so I am guessing it is this brand or similar, making the plastics polyurethane and copolyester (which are BPA free for those curious). I found that polyurethane will break down with “prolonged exposure” to UV light, and copolyester is too broad a term for me to really figure out UV resistance.

From my observations of plastics breaking down in the sun, this happened over time, with long exposure to sun. I was planning to expose my night guard to UV light for 20-40 seconds per day. Until I came up with a better solution, I decided it was worth the risk of slight degradation and eventual damage to the night guard. I figured it was more likely that I would grind through and break the thing and need it replaced before I would cause enough UV degradation to actually matter.

How to clean with the UV light wand

After using my night guard, I rinse under running water and quickly brush with my toothbrush, pat dry, then use the UV light wand. To use the UV wand, I place the night guard on a table, turn on the UV wand, hold the light of the wand over the night guard for 10-20 seconds, flip the night guard over, hold the light over the other side of the night guard for another 10-20 seconds, then turn off the light and put the night guard in its storage container.

After using the sanitizing wand, all bad smells are completely gone.

cleaning without chemicals UV wand bottom, light on

Cleaning method 2: homemade retainer cleaner recipe

While the UV light wand was a successful cleaning method, I was looking for something that did not use UV light, which may damage the plastic night guard over time. I also wanted something that was easier to take with me when I travel. My friend mentioned that she bought Retainer Brite retainer tablets for her daughter’s metal/plastic retainer, and it never had a smell when the tablets were used. I looked at the ingredient list (the “new” formula, as of August 2019 there are a lot of comments about the formula changing). Items in square brackets [ ] are my notes about the ingredient’s common name and/or cleaning function.

  • Sodium bicarbonate [baking soda]
  • Citric acid [acidity kills bacteria and mold]
  • Sodium carbonate [super washing soda, alkaline]
  • Potassium persulfate compound (bleaching/oxidizing agent]
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Sodium percarbonate [bleaching/oxidizing agent; OxiClean active ingredient]
  • Sodium sulfate
  • Sorbitol
  • Tetraacetylethylenediamine (TAED) [commonly used as a bleach activator in laundry products]
  • PEG-180
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
  • Flavor
  • PEG-8
  • Magnesium stearate
  • Coloring

I recognized the first three, and 6th, ingredients as ones I use as natural or less harsh cleaners that I use in my home: baking soda, washing soda, citric acid, and sodium percarbonate. I made my own night guard/mouth guard cleaner from those four ingredients. Here’s my recipe:


1 Tablespoon (about 16.7 grams) Baking soda
1 Tablespoon (about 15 grams) Citric acid
1 Tablespoon (about 17.5 grams) Super washing soda
1 Tablespoon (about 14.8 grams) Sodium percarbonate (OxiClean)

Mix ingredients well and store in a sealed container.

How to use the cleaning mixture

After using the night guard, I rinse under running water and quickly brush with my toothbrush. I put my night guard in a water tight container (I use an 8oz mason jar), scoop 1/4 teaspoon mixture into the container with the night guard/mouth guard, and add water to cover night guard (about 4 oz). I allow to soak until all powder has dissolved (about 2 hours) or all day*. After soaking, I rinse the night guard and soaking jar with clean water and pat dry the night guard before using again.

*This works for all plastic mouth guards. Long soak times are not recommended for retainers with metal components, and I would NOT soak anything with metal parts in this solution longer than a few minutes. I do not think this solution would be effective with such a short soak time, because the sodium percarbonate (OxiClean) does not dissolve that quickly.

As an added bonus, after several uses I noticed that the yellowing of the plastic night guard started to disappear. It did not completely go away, but the night guard became more clear, like when it was new.

night guard/mouth guard cleaning mixture of sodium percarbonate (OxiClean active ingredient), baking soda, washing soda, and citric acid, 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, and a jar containing the night guard, 4oz water, and 1/4 tsp of the cleaning mixture.

Cleaning method 3: sodium percarbonate

Once I discovered that my night guard/mouth guard cleaning mixture of balking soda, washing soda, citric acid, and sodium percarbonate (OxiClean) did a great job of cleaning my night guard, I started wondering what part of that cleaner really was doing the cleaning. Citric acid in water can help kill bacteria by lowering the pH/creating an acidic environment. But super washing soda is alkaline/a base, so those ingredients would essentially cancel each other out. Baking soda neutralizes acids and bases, so baking soda, washing soda, and citric acid together might not be doing much in my recipe. I thought it was probably the sodium percarbonate (OxiClean) doing the real work in my night guard/mouth guard cleaner so I put it to the test.

How to use the cleaner

After using the night guard, I rinse under running water and quickly brush with my toothbrush. I put my night guard in a water tight container (I use an 8oz mason jar), scoop 1/16 teaspoon sodium percarbonate into the container with the night guard/mouth guard, and add water to cover night guard (about 4 oz). I allow to soak until all powder has dissolved (about 2 hours) or all day*. After soaking, I rinse the night guard and soaking jar with clean water and pat dry the night guard before using again.

*This works for all plastic mouth guards. Long soak times are not recommended for retainers with metal components, and I would NOT soak anything with metal parts in this solution longer than a few minutes. I do not think this solution would be effective with such a short soak time, because the sodium percarbonate (OxiClean) does not dissolve that quickly.

After soaking in just sodium percarbonate, my night guard was just as clean as soaking with the mixture, and as sanitizing with the UV light wand. I considered this method the most successful because it travels well (unlike the UV wand), and is both easier to use and less expensive than the mixture.

Also, like with the cleaning method 2 mixture, the sodium percarbonate lightens the yellowing of my plastic night guard. There is still some residual discoloration, but it looks much more like new than before I used any cleaner with sodium percarbonate.

night guard (mouth guard) and sodium percarbonate, the active ingredient in OxiClean, which is used as anight guard cleaner


It cost me $13.50 for 5lb of sodium percarbonate on Amazon, the best price I have found for this product (unless I want to buy 50 lbs, which would probably last me a couple lifetimes).

Based on my measurement of 1 Tablespoon of sodium percarbonate weighing 14.8 grams, and 5 lb=2267.96 grams,

  • 5 lb of sodium percarbonate contains (2267.96g/14.8g) = 153.24Tbsp
  • 153.24Tbsp/5lb bag x 3 tsp/Tbsp = 460.127 tsp
  • 460.127 tsp x 16 uses/ teaspoon = 7362 uses/5lb bag
  • $13.50/7362=$0.00183 per use
  • $0.00183 per use x 7 days = $0.013 = Less than 2 cents per week to keep my night guard clean!**

**I have assumed the cost of water is negligible, but the cost of the sodium percarbonate is so low that this might not be a great assumption. This cost varies based on the water rate, use of bottled water, well water, etc.

For comparison, the Retainer Brite tabs are $13.48 for 96, which is about $0.14 per use or $0.98 per week. These specialized retainer cleaner tabs cost ($0.98/$0.013)=75 times more than my sodium percarbonate cleaner! For me, the sodium percarbonate is a frugal and easy choice to clean my night guard.

Please share any questions or comments below!

Sunscreen lip balm

I am a self-proclaimed lip balm addict. I probably put lip balm on about 6,237 times a day. Ok, that is an exaggeration. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that I put lip balm on somewhere between 6 and 15 times per day. Sunscreen lip balm is important, especially in the summer when the sun is more intense and I am outside more.

lip balm with sunscreen, package of Burt's Bees All Weather SPF 15, and tubes of homemadelip balm with sunscreen, package of Burt's Bees All Weather SPF 15, and tubes of homemade sunscreen lip balm, with text "Sunscreen Lip Balm" sunscreen lip balm

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

I am all about protecting my skin from sunburn – and that needs to include my lips, too! Lips are susceptible to sunburn, and if skin cancer develops on lips it can actually be more aggressive because the lips are a mucous membrane. I can put my regular sunscreen on my lips – and I have done this when I did not have sunscreen lip balm available – but I have been on the lookout for a good sunscreen lip balm.

My sunscreen lip balm

I love my regular lip balm and solid lotion bars. They are so simple, yet for me, moisturize so well. I love to make this lotion in bulk, solidify it in small molds, and keep some in my travel bags, car, and every room of my house. I use this lotion in lip balm tubes as my lip balm that I apply 6,237 times per day (ha). I have researched and tried a lot of different store bought sunscreen lip balms, and found a lot that I did not like.

So, despite, yet also understanding, my own cautions about making homemade sunscreen, I decided to try making my own homemade sunscreen lip balm. The key points of my understanding are, I will not label this lip balm with an SPF, the SPF is lower than in think it is because the zinc oxide is not evenly dispersed, but I apply lip balm far more often than the “every 2 hours” that is commonly recommended for sunscreens, and also, having some sun protection in my lip balm is better than before when I was using my homemade lip balm with none.

ingredients used to make homemade sunscreen lip balm


  • 18.5 grams beeswax
  • 27.5 grams cocoa butter
  • 27.5 grams coconut oil
  • 7 drops liquid vitamin E (or 1-2 vitamin E tablets, pierced and liquid squeezed out)
  • 5 drops red raspberry seed oil
  • 11-18.4g zinc oxide (11g = 12%, 18.4g-20%; I used 11g)
  • Optional: essential oils for scent, flavor, and additional skin benefits (I omitted)
  • coloring – I used a bit of a lipstick tube, I have also used cocoa powder to tint similar recipes. Some sort of berry powder would likely also work, but I have not yet tried this.

Yields: about 85g (3oz) by weight, 3+ fluid ounces. I filled 5.5 lip balm tubes (3/16 fluid oz each) and a jar about 2 fl oz. I estimate I could have filled at least 17 lip balm tubes.


  1. Weigh the beeswax, cocoa butter, and coconut oil in a microwave safe glass container. I find my 1 cup pyrex measuring cup works great because I can pour directly into my lip balm tubes.
  2. Microwave on 50% power for 3 minutes, stirring every 30-60 seconds. If the wax isn’t completely melted at this point, microwave for an additional 30 seconds on full power, then stir. Continue microwaving, stirring every 15 seconds, until the wax has completely melted.
  3. Add the vitamin E, red raspberry seed oil, and essential oil(s), if using.  Stir to evenly distribute.
  4. Add the zinc oxide, and stir to evenly distribute. If the liquid was too hot, the zinc oxide will all sink. If this happens, allow to cool for a few seconds to a few minutes, stirring to check. The solution should be opaque, and when scooping from the bottom and dragging the spoon up the side of the container, there should not be a pile of zinc oxide.
  5. If adding colorant, add and stir to distribute.
  6. Pour into lip balm tubes or containers.
  7. Let cool and solidify for several hours.
melted sunscreen lip balm with zinc oxide blended in

How I use my sunscreen lip balm

Any time after the lip balm has solidified and cooled, I use this lip balm like any other lip balm. Since it has zinc oxide in it and therefore tints my lips, I make sure to rub my lips together to blend the zinc oxide in and minimize the paling effect. I reapply frequently, and especially before going outside, after eating, and after drinking; to protect from the sun and moisturize my lips.

photo of Diana's hand with sunscreen lip balm not rubbed in

My favorite store bought sunscreen lip balm

Due to the risks of homemade sunscreen, I want to have for myself, and to provide a suggestion to my readers, a good store bought option! I have researched many, and tried a few. I am surprised how many advertise as “mineral sunscreen” lip balms, but also contain the synthetic chemical sunscreen ingredients that I am actively avoiding [oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) – concerns about these ingredients are discussed in this EWG article]. One lip balm that passed the ingredient test was Burt’s Bees 100% Natural All-Weather SPF15 Moisturizing Lip Balm. With a fairly short and natural ingredient list, this lip balm was rated a score of “1” – the best possible rating – in the EWG’s database.

  • Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide 11%.
  • Inactive Ingredients: beeswax, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, isoamyl laurate, butrospermum parkii (shea) butter, flavor, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel wax, jojoba esters, glycine soja (soybean) oil, tocopherol, citric acid, rebaudioside A (stevia leaf extract), polyhydroxystearic acid.

The Burt’s Bee’s lip balm with SPF 15 has a very pleasant, smooth feel and very subtle but nice taste. The zinc oxide only ever so slightly lightens my lips – really barely perceptibly. The feel and taste is so exceptional that I would use this as my every day lip balm if it was less expensive.

Burt's bees all weather SPF 15 lip balm package and open tube

Past experience with sunscreen lip balm

Banana Boat Lip Balm

For years and years (10?) I used Banana Boat Sunscreen Lip Balm with Aloe Vera and Vitamin E. It is SPF45, goes on smooth, has very little taste, and overall has a pleasant feel. After much trial and error through my teens, this lip balm was the one that did not give me hives on my lips. However, as I got into my environmentally conscious journey, I chose to avoid ingredients in this product. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates this product as a 7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst, and items ranted 7-10 categorized as “high hazard”. Between this rating, and my aversion to oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), I stopped using this lip balm.

The ingredient list for this Banana Boat lip balm is:

  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 2.00%, Octocrylene 10.00%, Oxybenzone 6.00%. Purpose: Sunscreen.
  • Inactive Ingredients: Petrolatum, Polyethylene, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Trimethylsiloxyphenyl Dimethicone, Microcrystalline Wax, Isopropyl Myristate, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Peg-8, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Silica, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Saccharin, Fragrance, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

Neutrogena Lip Balm

Prior to using Banana Boat, I used Neutrogena lip balm. The Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer with Sunscreen didn’t have fragrance, which was the main ingredient I was initially avoiding as a known allergen. This lip balm worked for a few years, but it would give me the occasional hive – an itchy red welt at the edge of my lip. I would get these only every month or so despite using the lip balm multiple times per day, but I tie it to this lip balm because I stopped getting them when I switched lip balms, but did not switch other cosmetics or diet.

This lip balm earned a score of 4 from the EWG, better than Banana Boat but still a concnern. Neutrogena’s lip balm also contains sunscreen ingredients that I actively avoid, as well as inactive ingredients that I avoid.

  • Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, oxybenzone 4% (Sunscreen).
  • Inactive Ingredients: Castor (ricinus communis) seed oil, corn (zea mays) oil, ozokerite, petrolatum, beeswax, ethylhexyl palmitate, paraffin, stearyl alcohol, carnauba (copernica cerifera) wax, BHT.


Cost information is provided for reference and is based on cost information available to me at the time of the writing of this post (September 2019). Prices are subject to change and I will not be updating this section every time that prices do change.

Cost for homemade lip balm

  • Beeswax – $19.45 for 2 lb (907.185 g); (18.5g/907.185g)x$19.45=$0.397
  • Organic cocoa butter – $14.99 for 1 lb (453.592 g); (27.5g/453.592g)x$14.99=$0.909
  • Organic coconut oil – $14.99 for 54 oz (1458.99 g) at BJ’s Wholesale Club; (27.5g/1458.99g)x$14.99=$0.283 (or on Amazon for $16.99)
  • Vitamin E* – $4.64 for 2.5 fluid ounces (1,480 drops); (7 drops/1480drops)x$4.64=$0.022 *Vitamin E is sold diluted in carrier oils. I had this variety on had, but there are many different brands that use different carrier oils, so specific oils can easily be avoided.
  • Organic red raspberry seed oil – $8.37 for 1.1 oz (650 drops); (5 drops/650 drops)x$8.37=$0.064
  • Zinc oxide powder – $10.99 for 1 lb (453.59 g); (11g/453.592g)x$10.99=$0.227
  • Total: $1.902 for about 85 grams, or 17+ lip balm tubes. Cost to fill each lip balm tube is $1.902/17=$0.112 for a 5 gram tube.
  • Lip balm tubes are $4.49 for 12, or $0.374 each (buying in bulk will reduce cost per tube even more, if all tubes will actually be used)
  • One tube of my sunscreen lip balm costs $0.112+$0.374=$0.486=$0.49.
homemade sunscreen lip balm tubes and tub

Cost for store bought lip balm

Burt’s Bee’s sunscreen lip balm costs $6.58 for 2 tubes that holds .30 fluid ounces or 4.25 grams each. Cost per tube is $6.58/2=$3.29.

As with many homemade things, my homemade sunscreen lip balm is quite a bit less expensive than the store bought sunscreen lip balm. However, there are some risks involved with using homemade sunscreen products, as I discussed in detail previously. I choose to use my homemade sunscreen lip balm for most day to day use, but use Burt’s Bee’s for days when I will be outside for long periods of time, or outside during the mid-day peak sun intensity time, especially in the summer. I also reapply frequently. Sun burnt lips are quite uncomfortable!

Do you have a favorite lip product? Have you found a good one that provides sun protection, too? Please share with us in the comments below!