Sex is a beautiful thing. It relieves stress, boosts self-esteem, and, if done well, provides a decent amount of exercise. Yet, sex can become repetitive, whether with a partner or yourself, and sex toys are a great way to spice things up.
However, sex toys must be used and cleaned properly to ensure your downstairs stays healthy. Sex toys can pick up the natural bacteria and fungi present in your reproductive system. These generally don’t pose a threat to you, but transfer between different people or using a toy in other areas of the body may cause infection.
In addition, if you or your partner happen to have an STD or infection, such as a yeast infection or a UTI, those germs can live in the porous materials used in the production of many sex toys. Later, those same germs can be transferred or reintroduced to your healed body if you’re indulging alone. Because of this, regular cleaning of your sex toys is as important as practicing safe sex. We know that thinking about how to clean sex toys is the last thing you want to do after an epic orgasm, but it will keep you healthier down there in the long run.
To get a pro’s perspective, we sat down with Bellesa CEO and sexpert Michelle Shnaidman to talk about sex toy sanitization, including the deets on the best way to clean sex toys based on materials, how often you should clean your toys, and proper etiquette on sharing toys.
Shnaidman says, “Like everything, sex toys collect germs. If left unclean, this can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, which can cause infection. Proper sex toy maintenance will also help preserve your toy. Although there are tons of great sex toy cleansers like The Bellesa cleanser, you can use soap and warm water for your regular cleaning as an easy DIY swap. Make sure to wash for at least 20 seconds, as you would your hands!”
How To Clean Sex Toys According to Material
The first step in learning how to clean sex toys is determining whether they are made from porous or non-porous materials. The latter have microscopic holes that allow microorganisms, including fungi, bacteria, and other dirt, to live in your toys even after they’ve been wiped down. Put simply; this means you’ll need to give toys made from porous materials a more thorough cleaning.
A few examples of porous materials include elastomer (rubber), latex, and Cyberskin. Non-porous materials from which sex toys are frequently made include borosilicate glass (like Pyrex), silicone, ABS plastic, and metals.
Regarding non-porous materials, Shnaidman shares: “For the most part, it is a one size fits all solution: warm water and soap and/or a toy-safe cleanser. As long as you are using non-porous, body-safe materials, this is really it.”
Non-motorized vs. motorized toys should also be handled differently. While some waterproofed motorized toys can be submerged, Michelle notes, “If you’re looking to disinfect your toy through boiling, baking, or in the dishwasher, make sure it does not have a motor and that the material is suitable for the method (i.e., don’t bake silicone!). Also, do not fully submerge anything that isn’t waterproof. If it has batteries, we recommend taking them out before cleaning.”
On suction toys and sleeves, she adds, “Same as non-suction toys, use warm water and soap and/or a toy safe cleanser to clean. Make sure your toy is completely dry after cleaning and then store in a cool, dry place away from heat and sunlight.”
Make sure to really get into the nooks and crannies of toys like sleeves and air simulators, which are less straightforward than dildos and your average vibe. Since most of these toys have an orifice of some sort, allow your toy dry face down on a towel after you’re done cleaning them.
Materials to Avoid
Along with the good materials, we must mention the red flags to avoid while educating you on how to clean sex toys. Always look for toys that contain a transparent list of materials listed on the packaging or the toy itself. If there appears to be a lack of info or it’s only advertised for novelty use, it may not be body-safe.
Certain manufacturers do try to find loopholes around disclosure practices for intimate toys, so be sure to always look for the words “medical grade” on toys you buy, if possible.
No label to be found? Search the product name online or contact a retailer who carries it for further info.
In terms of cheaper toys vs. more expensive toys and overall quality, Michelle shares, “Higher quality toys that are made with high quality, body-safe materials are really important for hygiene and safety. Porous products (think: jelly toys) leave room for bacteria to grow inside. Lower-quality products are often made with chemicals (Phthalates) that are toxic to humans. Do your research and make sure anything you’re purchasing is “body-safe” (not skin-safe), especially when it’s for internal use. “
How Often Should Sex Toys Be Cleaned?
No matter the material your sex toys are made from, you should wash them and dry them after each and every use. Doing this will prevent any germs from lingering on the surface and extend the life of your toys.
In addition, you may consider cleaning your toy before each use as well. Depending on your storage situation, your toys may pick up dust and dirt from sitting around your bedroom, necessitating a quick cleaning before use. While wipes and sprays are great for day-to-day cleaning or keeping things hygienic while traveling, you’ll want to ensure at least a weekly wash with soap and water if you’re using toys regularly.
What’s the Deal With Sharing Sex Toys?
If you live a polyamorous lifestyle or share toys with a partner, extra cleaning measures may be needed. However, transparency with all partners is also absolutely essential, as Shnaidman reports.
“The number one precaution when sharing toys is consent! If you intend to use a toy on another person, let them know that it’s a shared toy, as not everyone is comfortable with that.
STIs can spread through sex toys if not cleaned properly. If you are sharing sex toys, you should disinfect between partners. Make sure your toys are made from non-porous, body-safe materials. Condoms can also be put on shared dildos for an extra layer of protection.”
How to Store Toys at Home & When Traveling
Our Bellesa expert tells us: “Make sure your toy is completely dry after cleaning and then store in a cool, dry place away from heat and sunlight. Keep silicone toys separated from each other. If it has a storage case, store it there.
When it comes to storing toys when traveling, make sure to store your sex toy in a case or designated bag. If you don’t have a travel-size toy cleanser to bring with you, then you can keep it clean with soap and warm water.”
If for whatever reason, you don’t want to use a liquid toy cleaner or can’t find a travel-sized one in time, in addition to using warm water and soap per Michelle’s recommendation, you can use cleaning wipes or baby wipes. Figuring out how to clean sex toys with wipes is easy as can be (do a thorough wipe-down) One of my top picks is this packet of Lovehoney cleaning wipes, which can be used on both toys and intimate areas when you’re on the go.
Keeping your toy in a hard or fabric case can help keep it clean. If you’re worried about TSA thinking your toy is a weapon or embarrassing you in front of the whole line, you can always place them in a checked bag or pack smaller and more discreet toys like a bullet vibe.
For at-home storage, we already rounded up the best sex toy storage options on the internet, so you can head over there to peruse options. Whether you’re looking for a classy sex chest or a hard case with internal mesh pockets and elastic straps to keep everything separated and hold toys in place, we’ve got your back. My personal favorite is this hard black case from Lovehoney, which is also a fantastic home for your toy cleaners and cleansing wipes.
1. For Motorized Silicone, Borosilicate Glass and Stainless Steel
Sex toys made from silicone, borosilicate glass, or stainless steel are the most common non-porous sex toys. These can be cleaned using a gentle antibacterial soap that you wouldn’t be afraid to use on your skin. This Dettol Antibacterial pH-Balanced Body Wash is a good choice. Gently rub the soap onto the toy, and then clean it with a damp cloth. Be careful not to get the motor wet, as water can damage sensitive electronics.
2. For Non-Motorized Silicone, Borosilicate Glass and Stainless Steel
Any toy that is completely encased in silicone, borosilicate glass (Pyrex), or stainless steel and doesn’t have a motor should be cleaned in high temperatures. One of the most popular ways to clean such sex toys is to run them through the dishwasher without soap. Alternatively, you can boil them for eight to 10 minutes in a saucepan, like the one linked below. Just be careful not to clean toys with metal plating so that the metal can come off or become damaged by steam.
3. For Elastomer, Latex, and Soda-Lime Glass
Elastomer and latex are both porous materials. Soda-lime glass isn’t, but all three can be easily damaged or ruined by exposure to high heat. For that reason, it’s best to clean these toys using only lukewarm water. If the toy is motorized, soak a washcloth in warm, soapy water and ring it out before wiping down your toy. If the toy is not motorized, rinse it off under running warm water before cleaning it down with a soap-filled washcloth.
Read More: Best Men’s Sex Toys
4. For Cyberskin and Vinyl
Cyberskin is a soft and porous material often used in dildos and Fleshlights. The material allows for life-like play, but it’s hard to keep clean as many soaps can damage it. Wipe down both Cyberskin and vinyl toys with a clean cloth soaked in warm water. Then, let them air dry before sprinkling them with a bit of cornstarch. Cyberskin tends to get sticky without the cornstarch step, making for unpleasant play the next time you try to use that particular toy.
5. For Leather
Like leather shoes or your leather couch, leather sex toys require a particular finesse when cleaned. You never want to soak leather toys in water as it will ultimately damage the material. Instead, wipe them down with a damp and slightly soapy cloth or use a leather cleaner, like this one from Chemical Guys. Leather cleaners will care for any lingering germs while simultaneously conditioning your toys, keeping them in tip-top shape for as long as possible.
6. For Hard Plastic, TPR, and Jelly Rubber
These are some of the most porous materials from which sex toys are made. Because of this, stiff, rigid plastic, TPR, and jelly rubber toys can still contain germs even after they are cleaned with antibacterial soap and warm water. The best practice is to cover these toys in a condom during use, especially if you and your partner will both be using the toys. Condoms can also be used with most other sex toys if you want to be extra safe about bacteria spread.
7. Alternatively, Use a Built-For-Purpose Cleaner
If you’re feeling lazy or prefer not to head straight to the bathroom after playtime, consider investing in a built-for-purpose sex toy cleaner. While such cleaners don’t offer as thorough a clean as some of the other methods mentioned above, they will usually dispense any harmful germs. The Bellesa Toy Cleaner is a favorite among the sexy retailer’s customers. Simply spray the cleaner on your toy and then wipe it off after a few seconds.
8. Store Your Toys Properly
After you’ve taken the time to clean your sex toys properly, you don’t want to throw them in your dirty bedroom drawer without protection. Most sex toys come with a designated storage bag or case, which you can keep for saving them in between uses. Alternatively, purchase a lockable compartment online, like the Bomber Case. Such cases are usually slim enough to fit in your bedside table’s drawers yet still offer the protection of a clean environment and a combination lock. A personal favorite, as mentioned above, is this Lovehoney black storage case with internal pockets and breathable mesh.
9. When in Doubt, Wipe
These 100% biodegradable wipes can be used on skin and all kinds of toys. The addition of aloe extract adds to a soothing experience that’s suitable even for sensitive skin. They’re ideal for traveling since they come in a resealable pack that keeps wipes moist. As one shopper puts it, “We all have moments where we either can’t safely bring a toy to the bathroom to scrub clean or (if we’re lucky) we’re just plain too exhausted to move after a rigorous playtime. In those moments, these wipes are a godsend.”
10. Find a Toy Cleaner & Hand Sanitizer in One
We love a multifunctional product here at SPY — why shouldn’t your toy cleaner also keep your hands germ-free on the go? This compact bottle has hardly any smell, and the cleanser itself has a lightweight feel that’s completely residue-free and absorbs quickly. This formula uses hydrating ingredients and a naturally derived orange scent. It’s a rinse-free alternative to submerging your toy, making it perfect for travel.