How To Clean Sex Toys
Nobody teaches how to clean sex toys in sex-ed. So when you’ve just had an incredible solo play session with your favorite toy, and you’re totally blissed out, or if you played with a partner and you’d rather drift off to sleep wrapped in each other’s arms we get why you wouldn’t think about the unsexy topic of toy hygiene. Cleaning that little button of bliss is just not…well, a priority.
So much easier to just set it aside, slip it in your bedside drawer, and promise yourself to clean it tomorrow. You’ll get to it eventually. Or so you tell yourself.
It’s even easier to convince yourself that cleaning sex toys is not a priority if you don’t share toys. You’ll just rinse them off every once in a while and call it all good. No big deal, right?
Wrong. The least you can do for the toys-that-cause-your-toes-to-curl is to keep them appropriately clean. On the regular.
Not to mention, eww. Who wants to play with a dirty toy?
Cleaning Sex Toys Prolongs Their Life
Cleaning your sex toys is the responsible thing to do. Also, it extends the life of your “baubles of bliss” and you want to keep those babies coming (excuse the pun) on for as long as you can.
Besides, can you even imagine pulling out your favorite toy, and having it smell or god-forbid it has bits of something on it? What if you pulled it out in that condition in front of a partner? What if that partner was someone NEW?
Critic Amber Rose at My Slut Box admonishes cleanliness when it comes to sex toys, saying “Dirty toys can cause nasty infections, and sharing improperly cleaned toys with a partner can actually transmit STIs and STDs between you and bae. Yikes!”
Bacteria the Boner Killer
Avoiding bacteria and infections–especially preventing sexually transmitted diseases–are pretty powerful motivators for keeping your toys clean. According to Brown University, “while some STIs die once the fluid they live in dries, others (such as hepatitis and scabies) can live for weeks or months outside of the body.”
What’s that? Oh, it’s the sound of desire deflating faster than balloon in cold weather. Diseases tend to do that, unfortunately.
SexBloggess warns that you’ll want to be extra careful with your disinfecting routine “if you have had an STI recently, but also if you’ve experienced any oral (strep throat, bronchitis, the flu, etc) vaginal (yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, UTIs, etc) or anal (actual anal infections but also stomach/bowel illnesses such as diarhea) infections.”
Beware Playing Whack-a-Hole
Whether you are sharing with a partner or using your toy solo, always use caution when using one toy for both vaginal and anal play. You may want to have extra toys handy rather than risk infection from going back and forth willy nilly.
And unless you are sharing with a fluid-bonded partner whom you know to be free of infections, sharing is not a good idea. Self advises that “the rectum is home to all kinds of bacteria your vagina isn’t used to, like E. coli, and some of this bacteria could get transferred to a toy you use anally. If that bacteria comes in contact with your (or your partner’s) urinary tract, it could cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).”
The Sex Toy Protection Act
Protecting your investment is always a good idea. Expert sex toy ctitic Lily at Dangerous Lily recommends proper cleaning not only for health and safety, but also for the longevity of your toys. Most sex toys (at least the ones you should be buying and sticking inside your body) aren’t exactly cheap. If you are going to invest your hard-earned cash in a high-quality sex toy that provides hours of pleasure and (hopefully) reality-altering orgasms, the least you can is make sure it lasts as long as you do.
Critic Mia Hart at Blissful Cherry agrees: ”Especially when it comes to the pricier sex toys, it’s definitely a good feeling knowing that you are truly getting the most out of your purchase before having to replace it.”
How To Clean Your Sex Toys
Now that you know WHY you have to clean your sex toys, you need to know HOW. Which depends on the material they’re made of. Are they porous or non-porous? Not all cleaning processes provide the same results so make sure you know whether your toy is porous or non-porous.
The most important distinction between porous and non-porous toys is the fact that “non-porous sex toys are the only ones that can be safely shared (without the need for a condom barrier)”, says expert sex toy critic Dangerous Lily.
Toys made from materials such as metal, glass, ceramic, stone, wood, and 100% silicone are all non-porous and can be safely sanitized for safe sharing.
Porous toys, on the other hand, can only be cleaned with soap and water, meaning they cannot be thoroughly sanitized. “Jelly, latex, PVC, rubber, cyberskin, unsealed woods and ceramics, other weird shit that should never be a sex toy material in the first place – all porous. This means microorganisms can penetrate and camp out inside the pores of the material, growing and potentially causing infection,” explains SexBloggess.
Know the Difference Between Clean, Disinfect, and Sanitize
Professional sex toy critic SexBloggess encourages sex toy owners to learn the basics of toy cleaning vocabulary. “ Clean, Disinfect, Sanitize, and Sterilize – are all used fairly interchangeably to those who don’t work in medical/health, scientific, or food service industries, but they do mean very different things, so it’s important to know their differences and how they relate to your sex toys, and ultimately, your safety,” explains SexBloggess.
Cleaning really only refers to the simple process of washing a toy off with soap and water. While this may clear any debris on the toy, it is not thorough enough to consider a toy safe for sharing, nor does it protect you from reinfecting yourself with bacteria if you use your toy while having an infection. Cleaning your toy should be the first step in the overall cleaning process, says SexBloggess. “Cleaning with soap and water may remove some germs from the surface, but doesn’t claim to kill them. Disinfecting, sanitizing, and sterilizing cannot happen on any dirty surface with debris keeping parts covered.”
The process of disinfecting a toy generally requires a soaking period and often with a chemical additive to aid in the killing of germs. Bleach, isopropyl alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide are common products used for disinfecting, typically at a 10% disinfectant/90% water solution. SexBlogess points out that “Disinfecting doesn’t necessarily clean,” and you should always wipe your toy clean of all debris prior to the disinfection process.
Is there a difference between disinfecting and sanitizing? For our purposes, not really (disinfecting is where you want to go). However, beware toys that claim that throwing them into the dishwasher means they are automatically sanitized. For true disinfecting and sanitizing, you must soak them in germ-killing solutions.
How To Clean Sex Toys of Different Materials
Now that you know the why and the how of cleaning your little orgasm-a-trons, let’s talk about recommendations for specific toys.
If your toy is 100% silicone, it’s non-porous and you have many options for cleaning and disinfecting. Clean and remove debris by washing with soap and water, and consider disinfecting by boiling or soaking in a 10% bleach solution every few uses, especially if used for anal play. Be aware that “while silicone is considered non-porous, it’s actually microporous and can hang on to odors,” warns expert critic Dangerous Lily. Preventing and removing smells is another reason to disinfect regularly.
Steel, being non-porous, is also easy to clean. Similar to cleaning methods used for silicone, steel toys can washed with soap and water after use, and your choice of disinfecting method when needed. You can boil your steel toy (be sure to let the toy cool before handling to prevent burns) and if you choose to use a bleach solution, be sure to use COLD water, since “warm bleach can ruin stainless steel,” recommends Lyps.
Wash your glass toys with soap and water. As with silicone and steel, you can disinfect by boiling for 3-4 minutes, being careful that it is cooled down before handling. A mild bleach solution of 10% bleach and 90% water is also an option, though Self advises you should “rinse it off thoroughly, then wash it with mild soap and water. Bleach is persona non grata for your vagina and related parts. You need to make sure there’s not a trace left before using the toy.”
Be sure you know what kind of plastic your toy is made out of before cleaning it. A hard ABS plastic is non-porous and non-toxic, and can be cleaned like your silicone,glass, and steel toys. You should skip the boiling and bleach solution and “use the wipe-down method or soap and water. Shiny ABS plastic can handle rubbing alcohol, PU [polyurethane] coated might not. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions if they have any,” says Dangerous Lily. Thermoplastics are another story. They are porous, and “porous toys can give you yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, expose your vagina/anus to harsh chemicals or mold, and more,” Dangerous Lily explains. The best you can do with thermoplastics is washing with soap and water, and they can never be sanitized, which makes them unsafe.
Is your wood sex toy sealed? If not, find out before cleaning. Properly sealed wood is non-porous, if the wood isn’t sealed it will be porous. You should also be aware that wood toy sealants can wear off over time, meaning that eventually it will become porous and unable to be disinfected. Dangerous Lily recommends purchasing toys from Nobessence if wood toys are your thing, and be sure to follow manufacture cleaning instructions: “Clean your wood sex toys with a soft cloth, and do not use abrasive cleaners. Currently Nobessence is the only company making wooden sex toys with a medical-grade finish that can tolerate diluted bleach washes / rubbing alcohol for sanitization in between partners.”
After cleaning, be sure to store your toys properly.
In addition to keeping your toys clean, you’ll also want to make sure they’re stored properly. A toy that’s stored while still wet can mildew, and a toy just rolling around in your junk drawer is prone to pick up undesirable hitchhikers like lint, hair, and germs. An unprotected sex toy can also get damaged if not properly stored, causing it to be unsafe to use.
Should I invest in commercialized sex toy cleaners?
The easy way is not always the best way. While there are a ton of products on the market claiming to be all you need to clean your sex toys, professional sex toy critic Robyn at Secret Room says “The truth is…Sex toy cleaners should NOT be your go-to washing method.” Between questionable claims, suspicious ingredients, and unknown long-term effects on you and your toy, it is not a necessity for clean toys, but more of a convenience.“It’s nice to have, but you don’t NEED it,” explains Robyn.
It may serve a purpose when you are traveling without access to bleach or boiling water, and expert critic Robyn uses it as one part of a multi-step process: “I like to use a sex toy cleaner as a stage after soap and before disinfecting. It’s another layer of hygiene for the germophobic.” So feel free to buy a bottle, but make sure it is not your sole method of cleaning your toys.
Can’t I just use a condom on my sex toys?
Here’s a pro tip from expert sex toy critic Dangerous Lily: When using condoms with your sex toys, use non-lubricated condoms or be sure that the condom is lubricated with a water-based lube. “Most condoms that are lubricated use a silicone lube, and it is usually a cheap one.”
Silicone lubes don’t mix silicone sex toys. That’s kind of a funny rule to remember, but you must if you want to keep your toys safe: Silicone lubes will destroy silicone sex toys.
What have we learned?
Cleaning your toys should be a two-part process of removing debris, then using a material appropriate method of sanitizing. In a perfect world, you would do this every time you use your toy. In reality, you’re more likely to clean with soap and water after use, and use a disinfecting method every couple of uses.
That rule changes, of course, if you’re doing a lot of anal play. Disinfecting often is especially important when you go south. Take good care of your toys, and your toys will take good care of you!
Live long and come often, friends.
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