When it comes to what you do in the bedroom, we don’t judge — unless you’re not properly cleaning your sex toys, in which case we need to talk.
Like pretty much every other product you own, proper cleaning and storage is paramount to maintaining the life and integrity of your vibrators, cock rings and any other pleasure-enhancers in your arsenal. But when it comes to sex toys, cleaning and storage is so much more than just keeping your products in good condition.
“If toys are not cleaned regularly, they have the potential to harbor and spread bacteria, viruses and fungi and could cause yeast infections, UTI’s, GI issues, and STD’s, especially if toys are being shared outside of a monogamous relationship,” says Carrie Smith, VP of Product Development at Cake. “Anal toys can also stain and retain unpleasant smells in addition to transferring the above mentioned nasties.” Whether you’re with one partner, multiple partners or DIY, cleaning is crucial.
Okay, so cleaning your sex toys is a no-brainer, but you should also be cleaning them often. Every expert we consulted agreed: toys should always be cleaned after each use and ideally before each use as well. This holds true whether you use them often or not. “If you use your toys infrequently, cleaning them before and after each use is ideal, because they can collect dust and other air particles while sitting on your shelf or in a drawer,” Dr. Holly Richmond, PhD., Certified Sex Therapist and member of the Clinical Board of Directors for Dame Products tells us.
Sex Toy Maintenance: Key Terms and What to Know
Now that we know cleaning sex toys is essential, let’s get into just how to do that. There are a few different materials that your toys can be made of, and they all need to be tended to differently. The two groups of materials you should know about are porous and non-porous material, says Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., LELO Sexpert and Author of Becoming Cliterate & A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex.
Porous materials: Include hard plastic, elastomer, thermoplastic elastomer (TPR), jelly rubber, and certain types of stones. “Porous materials have tiny, microscopic holes that can hold onto bacteria, dust, and soap—even after they’ve been cleaned,” Mintz shares. Many experts recommend putting a condom over toys made from porous materials for this reason, but Mintz recommends sticking to toys made from non-porous materials.
Non-porous materials: Luckily, there are many different non-porous materials to choose from as well. They include glass, ABS plastic (a dense, nonflexible plastic), medical-grade silicone, steel, and gold. And yes, there are sex toys made of real gold for the luxury lovers among us.
Waterproof or water resistant: Before you start cleaning, Richmond suggests checking to see if your toy is waterproof or water-resistant. If it’s not, you’ll need to be more careful when cleaning it with water, so moisture doesn’t seep into the toy and corrode any of the interior elements, she says.
Best unscented soaps
As a general rule of thumb, most toys (porous and non-porous) can be cleaned with warm water and a gentle, unscented soap. Make sure to wash the toy for at least 20 seconds, then let air-dry on a clean paper towel or washcloth.
Best cleaning spray
Our experts unanimously recommend using sex toy cleaners as well. There are many different options on the market, such as the LELO Toy Cleaning Spray, Dame Hand + Vibe Cleaner and Cake Toy Cleaner to name a few. While every product is a bit different, these generally come in the form of sprays or foams that can be applied to the toys, left to sit and sanitize for a few minutes, and then rinsed off. “This method is especially good for toys that have battery compartments or are not submersible,” Smith shares.
But before you go in with a toy cleaner, make sure the ingredients in the solution are compatible with the materials your toy is made of. “This information is usually available on the toy company or merchant’s website,” Mintz advises. She also suggests looking for a toy cleaner that is water-based, and make sure it is alcohol and paraben-free.
Best UV light cleaner
There are UV sterilizers out there, like the UVee, which use UV light to kill the bacteria hanging on your toys. These devices do not rid your toys of body fluids or dust, so you’ll still need to wash the toy down with another method as well, says Mintz.
Other Cleaning Methods
Dishwasher: If your toy is non-electric, it can be cleaned in the top rack of your dishwasher. Make sure there are no dishes in the machine though, that sounds…messy. You can also ditch the dish soap, as that can be a bit too harsh for many toys.
Boiling Water: This method can only be done with waterproof toys that are made of non-porous materials and don’t have a motor inside. Simply boil a pot of water and put the toy in to boil for 1-3 minutes.
How to store your toys
Now that your toys are squeaky clean, it’s time to put them away. Storage is just as important to the cleanliness of your pleasure products as the cleaning process itself.
Before you put your toys away, make sure they are completely dry. We don’t want any mildew, mold, or bacteria thriving here. If you can keep your toy somewhere that gets light and air, that’s great, Richmond shares. “If we are truly working toward a more sex-positive world where sexual health is prioritized as much as overall physical health, then we should be able to store our sex toys without hiding them,” she states.
But, matters of physical space, as well as taboo, are just a few reasons why your toys may be relinquished to a dark drawer. Smith says that is totally okay, so long as your toys are not touching other toys or products. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, store your toy in a case, the box it came in, a makeup bag, or even a Ziploc.
This may seem like a lot of information, but as you incorporate it into your routine it will become second nature. Those few extra minutes spent cleaning are well-worth the long-term benefits of avoiding STI’s and beyond. Cheers to safe and healthy pleasure!