Whether you’re new to the world of sex toys and tools, or a seasoned veteran, it’s vital for both your own health and the health of your toys to be sure that they’re properly taken care of and sanitized.
Most sex toys will come with clear directions as to how to care for them, but it’s helpful to have an extra guide. You can also always contact the manufacturer of your goodies or look on their website, for information on how to best care for them.
Why You Need to Clean Your Sex Toys
Taking care of your sex toys is self-care. It’s caring for your own health and putting effort into having a well rounded, sustainable sex life – whether that’s with yourself or someone else (or both).
This may be common sense, but sometimes we need a reminder. You should only use clean toys in your vagina and around your vulva!
Sex toys can easily collect bacteria and other pathogens. Put dirty toys near your sensitive parts, and you have a recipe for a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or a urinary tract infection. Just like peeing after sex, cleaning your toys helps to maintain your vaginal flora, and a balanced pH level.
It’s not just for your health, properly taking care of your gear also helps to ensure the longevity of your sex toys for years to…come.
How Often Should I Clean My Sex Toys?
Every. Time. You. Use. Them. No exceptions.
Clean them after using them. It doesn’t have to be immediately if you need a few moments to *ahem* recollect yourself before hauling your blissed-out body to the sink. It’s also important to clean any new toys before using them for the first time.
If you’re a before-bed masturbator, it can be tempting to fall asleep with your vibrator tucked neatly under your pillow. Don’t start this habit! Be sure to clean your gear before dozing off.
If you still find yourself forgetting to clean them after each use, be sure to clean them before using again, as an extra precaution.
Cleaning Your Toys
How you clean your toys depends on what they’re made from.
Sex toys can be divided into a few main categories – porous and nonporous materials, as well as motorized or non-motorized.
Porous toys are made using hard plastic, cyberskin, nylon, neoprene, jelly rubber, vinyl, acrylic, and elastomer These materials can easily harbor bacteria and are not the easiest to clean. The best method is with soap and warm water or a washcloth.
Nonporous sex toys may be made from glass, pyrex, silicone, stainless steel, or certain stones and crystals.
For any non-waterproof motorized toys, you can clean them using warm soap and a washcloth. Do not submerge them in water. Waterproof motorized toys can be deep cleaned by making a warm sink bath with a bit of soap and warm water.
Toys made from 100% silicone or pyrex, a heat resistant glass, should be cleaned with soap and water. As long as they’re not motorized, you can put them on the top rack of the dishwasher, or boil them for 10 minutes for extra sanitation.
Glass toys can be cleaned using an alcohol-based cleaner. But be sure to wipe them down again before using to avoid any possible irritation. Ouch!
Stainless-steel toys can also be boiled, put in the dishwasher, or you can use a partial bleach solution for sanitation. Again, if you use bleach, it’s important to rinse them before using to avoid irritation.
Again, even if your toys are made from a dishwasher safe material, if they are motorized, they are not meant for the dishwasher.
Crystal and stone dildos and wands can be a beautiful choice for toys. Materials however, vary greatly in quality. Since some are porous, while others aren’t, opt for a nonporous stone, and always check with the manufacturer for cleaning instructions.
You can purchase a UV-C light made specifically for cleaning sex toys. This is an ultraviolet light used for disinfecting and can kill 99% of germs.
If you choose to put your toys in the dishwasher, use the sanitizing mode if you have the option.
As for what kind of soap to opt for, a mild antibacterial soap or an unscented hand or dish soap can get the job done. Be sure to check for any potential allergens in your soap.
Alternatively, you can buy special sex toy cleaners at many retailers. Most of these can be used with a cloth from the privacy and comfort of your bed. For those of you with roommates – that means no awkward trip to the bathroom juggling your various dildos. No shame in that though!
Heat of The Moment Tips
If you’re using lube, which we highly recommend, it’s important to choose the right lube for your toy. For silicone toys, use water-based lube to avoid breaking down the material, and shortening the life of your toy.
If you’re using the same toy as your partner, be sure to clean them in between uses to avoid STI transmission. You can also use a condom with them.
Porous toys are harder to disinfect, as bacteria can live in the material. Use a condom when using them with a partner and even with yourself.
Be sure to use separate toys near the vagina and anus, or at least clean thoroughly before switching orifices.
Smart Storage Tips
Store your toys in their own special bag or box to avoid airborne bacteria and cross-contamination between toys. You can use a clean, cotton sock, to avoid your toys rubbing up against each other, which can also potentially damage them.
Make sure your toys are dry before storing them, as moisture can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
For rechargeable motorized toys, be sure to charge them before letting the battery fully run out. This will help maintain the life of your battery, and keep you from being stranded with a dead vibrator. If your toy has removable batteries, take them out of it when storing it, to lengthen the life of your batteries, and avoid damaging the motor.
When Buying New Sex Toys…
Sex toy maintenance can be made easier by paying attention to what you’re purchasing in the first place.
Buy new toys from a trusted website, and thoroughly read reviews. This helps ensure that you’re buying a quality toy.
For anal toys, opt for a material that can be disinfected by boiling or putting in the dishwasher.
Toys made from porous materials like soft jelly will easily collect bacteria. It’s best to avoid purchasing these in the first place.
Don’t forget to be diligent about cleaning your toys, and most importantly – enjoy yourself!
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.