The glee after getting it on assumes laying back down and experiencing the full sensation of bliss. But if you’re using a toy, whether solo or with a partner, there are unfortunately more important things on the schedule than having a good cuddle.
Enter: the process of cleaning sex toys!
Not a particularly hot topic, sex toy cleaning is essential for a glorious after-bonking experience. Bodily fluids are flying around during sex, and sex toys are the perfect vessels for harboring bacteria. When rumbling between the sheets, the last thing you want is germs joining along for the ride.
Evidently, getting an infection is the last thing on anyone’s sex bucket list. Therefore, disinfecting – be it with warm water or a designated sex toy cleaner – is paramount. Keeping sex toys in good health and hygiene prolongs the longevity of your toy, and ensures you a safer and sultrier bedroom repertoire.
When cleaning your sex props, first thing’s first – know that no sex toy cleans the same. Sex props come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Therefore, cleaning instructions can vary from product to product.
There are tons of ways you can clean your sex toys – but no amount of dish soap on a damp cloth will get the job done for every sexy gadget in your arsenal. That’s why Google has ranked the topic of cleaning sex toys as one of the most popular and in-demand – in 2021 alone.
To keep your sex life and sex toys in top shape and excellent state, here is the A101 on how to clean your sex toys.
Cleaning Sex Toys: Why Do It?
Getting your freak on with a sex toy that potentially carries bodily fluids from the last time you used it can be pretty icky. What’s more, there are some serious dangers that uncleaned sex toys can pose to your health. Unwarranted bacteria, STDs, and germs are some of the health perils that may come with using uncleaned toys.
A not-so-fun fact: you can actually get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from your favorite vibrator. If you don’t fully disinfect your toy – mild soap can do the trick – it can lead to the toy accumulating gnarly bacteria. Even diseases like chlamydia can spread from sex toys. This is despite the fact that most bacteria depend on human skin for survival. In other words, improper cleaning of a sex toy may leave skin cells on top of its material.
Hence, dirty sex toys equal dangerous bacteria. It’s pretty simple.
Sex toys can also spread non-STIs, such as shigella. If you’re into tasting the forbidden fruit, know that not washing your anal toy or other props can lead to bacteria-harboring.
Moreover, depending on where you leave your sex toy, it can land on and collect some other compounds. Hair, dust, or leftover crumbs of food, when your sexual play gets a bit dirty, it’s paramount to consider using soap and water. Boiling water, that is.
When you are cleaning your sex toys, doing it gently is vital, especially if you’re recleaning the same toy. Most genitals don’t do well with extreme fragrance. So, the use of scented soaps or an aromatic soapy washcloth when cleaning your toys may cause irritation to your skin. Furthermore, not cleaning off the liquid soap properly after rinsing your dildo is likely to cause additional issues. Worst case scenario, it will potentially lead to a burning sensation in your privates.
The Material Breakdown
Properly cleaning your toys means knowing what they’re made of first. Before using any kind of product, make sure to read exactly what material it is made of and whether it is safe to use. General wellness advice notes that high-quality toys are usually accompanied by a medical-grade claim on the product box. So, if you happen upon ‘medical grade stainless steel’ anal beads, you’re probably on the right track.
Veteran users will already know the difference between erotic toys based on their material. If it’s flimsy and jiggly, it’s probably a jelly rubber or thermoplastic rubber vibrator. If it has a certain, distinct rubbery scent to it, it’s probably a latex dildo. Since ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic is quite recognizable by touch, you will know if you’re handling a butt plug that hard.
Typically, sex toys are made from two types of materials: porous materials and nonporous materials. The nub may be medical-grade silicone while the handle is hard plastic. Due to this, it’s always recommended to read both the box and the manufacturer’s instructions to see what exactly you’re dealing with.
Porous materials are a very self-explanatory term – a type of material with tiny holes (‘pores’) throughout its surface area. Admittedly, these make for a great breeding ground for bacteria. Because of this, it’s always important to clean the toys thoroughly. Also, refrain from sharing toys and use them for solo action, or exclusively, with no more than one partner.
Porous toys include jelly toys made from PVC and vinyl. Those into BDSM know that any type of leather equipment -straps, harnesses, even leather-clad battery-operated toys- is extremely porous. While most sex toys made of leather aren’t made for insertion, they do exist.
RECOMMENDATION: For porous sex toys, it’s best to stick to some mild soap (or mildly antibacterial soap) and warm water. Alternative to a soapy washcloth, opt for sex toy cleaners that are specifically designed to clean off any gunk or fluid on the item. Remember to use a clean towel and air dry before and after every use. This will ensure some squeaky-clean yet dirty sexy times.
For the most effective results, make sure to put a condom on the toy before using a toy. This way, you know it’s both sanitary and safe for any future play. This is especially vital if you’re with a partner.
Nonporous materials typically include 100% silicone toys, stainless steel toys, and glass or borosilicate glass toys. These materials are completely smooth to touch and come with no punctures or holes. Unlike porous toys, nonporous products are easy to clean in different ways.
Much like any toy made from a porous material, using soap and water is a good way to clean your non-porous toys. Remember to make sure they’re completely clean before you air dry them. Alternatively, opt for a toy cleaner. This is usually best suited for keeping the toy clean without having to leave your bed.
If the toy is not battery-operated, that means it’s dishwasher-safe. So, chucking it in for a quick wash will do the trick as well. How to clean sex toys if you don’t have a dishwasher? Just fill a pan with boiling water to sanitize and clean the toy. In doing so, ensure there really are no battery slots anywhere. Otherwise, this can lead to an even messier and potentially dangerous situation.
If it’s a vibrating product, use a soapy washcloth to rinse off any residue, liquid, or fluid. Most toys that aren’t waterproof can be easily cleaned with a quick rinse and a washcloth. Be careful to take out the batteries first and not clean anywhere near that compartment.
How to Wash Your Sex Toys
Option #1 | Use Liquid Soap and Water
Much like washing any other device or tool, good old soap and water can get your sex props squeaky clean. This method of cleaning applies to both porous and nonporous materials so it works best with any toy you’re bound to use.
While there are no general guides on this, make sure that the soap you’re using is relatively mild. Use no overwhelming scents, no antiseptics, no high concentrations of alcohol. This way, you won’t end up giving yourself skin irritations or possible infections. Our bodies don’t do well with weird, sticky, or long-lasting smells. This may be obvious, but whether you’re opting for medical-grade materials or anything else, don’t use any household cleaning products to wash your toys.
It may not say it on the label, but household cleaning products are designed for a much more thorough cleaning and typically contain materials that are not meant to be ingested, digested, or pushed onto the skin.
A soap and water wash will also do well for motorized toys. Turn them off during the wash, remove batteries and get in there.
Option #2 | Sex Toy Cleaners
For those looking for a ‘certified’ way of doing things, opting for a cleaner is one option. The great thing about a sex toy cleaner is that it differs depending on the product, so there’s more precision in handling porous vs. nonporous toys.
There are some good branded as well as pharmaceutical ones that you can choose from – so it’s pretty easy pickings when it comes to finding a good sex toy cleaner.
While they’re all safe, it’s important not to go for any cleaners that contain high amounts of alcohol – especially true for people with super sensitive skin. Aim for cleaning products that come paraben-free. Read the ingredients of your toy cleaner to make sure they contain neither irritants nor allergens.
Make sure that the cleaner you’ve picked is actually right for the toy you’re using. Remember, rubbing silicone-based oils onto a silicone toy is a one-way ticket to never using your favorite silicone vibrator ever again.
If you don’t particularly trust mild soap and water, a water-based cleaner is usually the best alternative since it works with all skin types and is less irritating overall.
Option #3 | Dishwasher
If you’ve ever seen Broad City, you know the dangers of putting a random dildo you’re unfamiliar with into a dishwasher. Hoping it will clean itself is a myth, and won’t do anything for cleaning your props either, so don’t just chuck it in and hope for the best.
If the toy is made from soft material or plastic, it’s best to keep it as far away as possible from your dishwasher. If you don’t, you’re more than likely gonna end up with a leftover mess of melted dildo plastic on the bottom of your dishwasher. It’s also crucial to understand that dishwasher soaps leave residue behind and they might stick to your toy for good.
That’s why a quick wash for 10-15 minutes without soap is the ideal solution to keep the toy safe and clean.
Option #4 | Boiling Water
There’s always a good alternative in cases where you don’t have a dishwasher (or when you are unsure of using it). Reaching for a boiling pot of water is a good alternative. As with the previous cases – do not use any soft, jelly, or plastic materials. These will melt inside any stew pot you try to dip them into.
Most pure (meaning 100%) silicone, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass toys can be boiled – with the exception of those that have a motor inside. The process is pretty quick, even since sanitization happens anywhere after 3-5 minutes – just keep an eye on the pot while it does its thing.
Option #5 | UV Light Cleaning
In all the ways you can clean your sex toys, there’s been a more interesting and precise way to rub off any gunk from the toy. Specifically, with a UV sterilizer. These are types of gadgets that use UV light to disinfect materials by targeting the bacteria on the surface and killing them. However, it’s important to know that these don’t actually clean the toy – just rid it of surface bacteria.
This means there will still be some leftover dust or fluid on the surface of the toy that you will need to wipe away following the UV light cleanup. Or use any of the abovementioned methods to make sure the toy you’re using is squeaky clean for the next time you decide to use it. All in all, it’s an elegant method of laser-precise (or rather UV-precise) bacteria extermination.
Option #6 | Wet Wipes
Wipes should be the last method of cleaning a sex toy, used only if no other method is available at that moment. While wet wipes contain soap and disinfectants depending on the brand, they are more of an immediate cleaning than anything. If you don’t have access to any soap and warm water, wet wipes are the only solution – but only for the time being. Afterward, make sure to use any of the other abovementioned methods to thoroughly clean your sex toy.
How to Store Sex Toys?
Cleaning sex toys goes hand in hand with properly storing your toys.
Even if you’re washing your toys the right way, not knowing where to store them can lead to some sticky situations – and potentially an awkward visit to the doctor. While there are some ‘special’ sex toy storage containers out there, most people don’t have a need for them.
More than likely, you will end up putting your dildo away in a drawer, your bullet vibrator in a makeup bag, your special butt plug in a stocking for discreetness and snugness, or anything else in between.
However, depending on the toy in question, as well as the material that it’s made of, there are some less than desirable spots to hide your toys.
While most nonporous toys are safe to be stored anywhere (including nightstands, special kits, or even toolboxes to keep from prying eyes), that’s not necessarily the case with toys made from porous materials. For example, most jelly rubber toys don’t do well in direct sunlight. Plus, it’s especially bad to store them in one container with another jelly toy. You will probably end up with a goop of jelly stuck together and no way of properly using it during sex anymore.
Many sex toys come with comprehensive instructions on the back of the toy’s manual. Reading them can probably help find the right spot for storage and even provide medical advice. For toys that require batteries, keep them outside the toy since they drain when left inside the toy too long.
If it’s a rechargeable toy, make sure to not overcharge it for long periods of time. Doing so can damage the longevity of your favorite sex tool.
Whatever type of sex toy you have on hand, make sure to store it properly. Moreover, remember to clean and rinse after taking it from its storage to keep your sex toys safe and sanitary.
Keep a close eye on your sex toy as you would with any other sensitive product in your house. Since you are using them for especially intimate areas, it’s a good idea to take care of them.
Sex toys are made for pleasure. But they can very quickly turn into a painful experience if you’re not careful with them. Aside from potential damage, extended use without proper cleaning can lead to some less than desirable results in the long run. Not knowing how to properly store sex props is a great way to undo any and all sanitation.
If you’re a beginner, turn to the manuals for advice and research silicone, glass, and other materials the products are made of. Most manufacturers will have instructions about the sex toy in question and how to properly clean and store it. Rummage around the internet and see what materials correspond to the best cleaning products – and which ones can destroy them permanently.
Cleaning and storing your sex toys in the right way will lead to not only an exciting sex life but a pretty long one too. After all, cleanliness is the next thing to godliness.
Robert Thomas is a sexologist, researcher, and writer who loves to explore and investigate everything that is related to bedroom action.
He strives to improve couples’ sex life by challenging the advice given in research papers, books, magazines, and on the internet in general.
Robert loves to write about sex exercises, as well as tips & tricks on how couples can introduce new sex toys to their relationship.
He has been proudly featured in Healthline, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Self, AskMen, MelMagazine, Kinkly, Jack&Jill Adult, and in many other publications. Learn more.