We can’t say enough good things about sex toys. They’re great for solo pleasure, they can be a stimulating addition to partnered sex, and in general they help you explore different sensations and learn what feels good to you. But if you’re going to use dildos, vibrators, plugs and the like, whether it’s during masturbation or sex, it’s imperative that you learn how to properly clean them.
Failing to properly clean sex toys both before and after using them can result in bacterial infections like bacterial vaginosis, UTIs and yeast infections. If you use sex toys with a partner(s), not cleaning them before and after use can also spread STIs and STDs.
Follow the tips below on how to properly clean your sex toys — and keep you and any partners infection free.
1. Know What Material Your Sex Toy Is Made Of
Knowing how to clean your sex toy depends largely on what the toy is made of. You can figure this out by checking the box or the manual it came with, or by looking up your toy online.
If your sex toy looks and feels like real skin, then it’s probably made of cyberskin. Since cyberskin (also called “softskin” or “ultraskin”) is super porous, it’s crucial to use a small amount of mild soap and warm water to clean it. Same goes for other toys made from porous materials, such as jelly rubber or latex. Non-porous sex toys, such as those made from silicone, glass, or hard plastic, are easier to clean because they’re soft and generally not irritating to sensitive skin. With these, you should still use mild soap, but you have the option of subjecting them to higher water temperatures without worrying about the material degrading.
2. Make Sure You’re Using Small Amounts Of Mild Soap To Wash Your Sex Toys
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to use a harsh soap to properly clean your sex toys. In fact, some heavy-duty cleansers can damage sex toys that are made out of more sensitive materials like cyberskin. It’s best to stick to fragrance-free, pH-balanced soap to avoid any undue irritation to your vulva, says Megan Stubbs, board-certified sexologist and author of Playing Without a Partner: A Singles Guide to Sex, Dating and Happiness. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re washing toys made from porous materials.
Consider investing in sex toy cleaning sprays and wipes, which are specifically formulated to clean sex toys without damaging them. Stubbs recommends Goodwipes Down There Wipes, or Doc Johnson antibacterial toy cleaner.
Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, cautions against using antibacterial soaps containing triclosan: “This can be an irritating material, and it is implicated (since so many wash their hands using these products) in the growth of ‘super-bugs’,” she says.
3. Check the Label Before Submerging Any Sex Toy That’s Motorized
If your sex toy vibrates — whether that means you’re working with a battery-powered situation or your toy actually has a power cord of some sort — double check the label before you dunk it in water to keep from breaking it. Depending on the toy, you might be able to remove the battery or motorized part and then submerge the rest. According to Stubbs, if it says “waterproof,” you should be fine; if you see “splash proof” on the label then definitely don’t keep it underwater. Instead, clean these toys with a dab of mild soap and a damp cloth, or use a spray or a wipe.
4. Submerge Non-Motorized, Durable Sex Toys In Boiling Water
If your sex toy is made from a durable, non-porous material (like silicone, pyrex or stainless steel) and it’s not motorized, then you should be submerging it in water to properly clean it — in fact, letting your toy sit in boiling water for a few minutes is your best bet for a deep clean.
You can also run your sex toys through the dishwasher to sanitize them, but make sure to pay attention to any cleaning instructions regarding water temperature (and be sure you don’t load your machine up with detergent first). Queen doesn’t recommend submerging natural stone-based toys in boiling water, however, in case the toy contains any fissures.
5. Always Use Clean Towels To Dry Off Your Sex Toys After Washing Them
It’s key that you use either a super clean hand towel or a fresh paper towel to dry off your sex toys. Don’t think it’s ever safe to use the dingy hand towel hanging in your bathroom, either: Unless you live alone and never have guests over, or you wash your bath towels daily, then that towel’s almost definitely holding some bacteria hostage.
Also make sure to dry your toys completely before storing them. Regardless of how sanitary your sex toy storage space is, even slightly damp sex toys are susceptible to mold and mildew growth. Not only will fungus likely ruin your them, it’s obviously not something you want to rub on or inside of yourself.
6. Wash Your Sex Toys Before & After You Use Them
It may sound like a hassle to wash your sex toys before and after you use them, especially if you’re in the middle of something sexy and fun. But if you assume your sex toy is safe to use in the morning just because you washed it the night before, you could end up putting yourself at risk for infections. After you clean it with soap, be sure to thoroughly rinse it to avoid irritation, Queen says.
Stubbs notes that you should also wash your toys right when you take them out of the package. “Even though they’re new toys, the factories they came from aren’t clean rooms,” she says.
Storing your sex toys in their own sanitized case or bag directly after washing them will help keep them hygienic, but it’s still a good idea to wash your toys both before and after you use them: It'll only take a minute, and knowing you’re protected from infection means you can fully focus on pleasure.
Megan Stubbs, board-certified sexologist, author of Playing Without a Partner: A Singles Guide to Sex, Dating and Happiness
Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations
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