How to Clean Sex Toys: The Ultimate Guide
How to Clean Sex Toys: The Ultimate Guide
We learn to clean all kinds of things by watching others do it, but that’s rarely true when it comes to sex toy hygiene. Some toys will have clear cleaning instructions included, but not all do.
Here’s how to clean what you have, and choose toys that you’ll know how to clean.
Why Is It Important to Clean Sex Toys?
Health Implications of Unclean Sex Toys
There are four main ways using toys that aren’t cleaned properly can affect your health and wellbeing.
- The toy itself might be less clean that it seems. For instance: A brand-new toy out of the package should still be cleaned. You won’t know how or if it was cleaned at the factory, and it got into its packaging somehow. So clean a new toy before use.
- The toy material’s chemical composition might affect you. If you get high-quality toys this is usually less likely, but those who are prone to sensitivities might find they react to the toy itself. Keeping it clean will be important, as may using a condom with it–and choosing something different next time.
- A toy that hasn’t been cleaned can carry bacteria or viruses. While body-to-body contact is often the most efficient way for the germs of the world to travel between us, a sex toy can also provide them that bridge.
- A toy that’s been used but not cleaned can harbor other microbes or just plain dirt. Even if there are no STIs involved, bacteria that live appropriately inside the body shouldn’t be outside it for a while and then reintroduced. Don’t let germs just party on your toys! Especially, don’t leave out food and beverages for them like dried-on lube. This can be a recipe for altered pH and more. Not to mention the cat hair! Wash all that off!
Maintaining the Longevity of Your Toys
While the substances you need to remove from your toys are not generally going to shorten the lifespan of non-porous toys, if you own something porous, you must be meticulous about cleaning (and perhaps condom usage on it) because materials won’t just stay on the surface of these toys and easily rinse off. They can permeate the toy itself–definitely shortening the time you can safely enjoy it. If you use something too harsh to clean your sex toy it may affect its longevity too–and possibly impact your health. More about this below.
As we’ll discuss below, it’s also important not to get water inside toys with motors or electronics. That can shorten the life of the toy as well. If your toy contains batteries, always remove them.
Cleaning Different Types of Sex Toys
How to Clean Silicone Sex Toys
Silicone toys come in two main types which might impact how you clean them: Those that have no motor, and those that do.
Silicone dildos, butt plugs, simple cock rings, and other non-vibrating and non-electronic toys can be washed easily; silicone is non-porous and simply washing in mild, unscented soap and warm or hot water will do the trick. Unless the directions say otherwise, you can even put them in the top rack of the dishwasher or boil them for a couple of minutes. (This would NOT be safe to do with a toy that has a motor.)
Silicone vibrators and related devices (like air suction, motorized thrusters or penis toys, etc.--anything containing a motor or operating via electronics) also come in two categories–waterproof, and non-waterproof. You can clean waterproof toys under warm running water with a mild, unscented soap, rinsing thoroughly. (If the toy is rechargeable with a port, you might wish to cover that port with your hand as you wash the toy just to keep it more dry–or dry it off right away.)
Toys that are not waterproof should be cleaned with care. You can use toy wipes, or a clean, wrung-out cloth with a mild, unscented soap. After that step, rinse the toy off with warm water, making sure to cover any part of the toy where water could enter (charging port, battery casing, etc.)--or rinse and wring out your cloth and wipe it down well in lieu of a water rinse. (The point here is to remove residue from the cleaning agent. Don’t leave soap or other substances on your toy–there is a chance those will cause a reaction next time you use it.)
If your toy came with manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean them, follow those.
Cleaning Plastic and Rubber Toys
Soft plastic (like TPE) and rubber (jelly style, or latex) toys come in two main types which might impact how you clean them: Those that have no motor, and those that do. The same is true of hard plastic, including Lucite.
Dildos, butt plugs, simple cock rings, and other non-vibrating and non-electronic toys made of soft and hard plastic and rubber can be washed using mild, unscented soap and warm water will do the trick. These cannot be put in the dishwasher or be boiled, so make sure you know what material your toy is made of.
Vibrators made of soft or hard plastic and rubber may or may not be waterproof. Make sure you know whether yours is. This is also true for devices like air suction, motorized thrusters or penis toys, etc.--anything containing a motor or operating via electronics. You can clean waterproof toys under warm running water with a mild, unscented soap, rinsing thoroughly. (If the toy is rechargeable with a port, you might wish to cover that port with your hand as you wash the toy just to keep it more dry–or dry it off right away.)
Motorized rubber or plastic toys that are not waterproof should be cleaned with care. You can use toy wipes, or a clean, wrung-out cloth with a mild, unscented soap. After that step, rinse the toy off with warm water, making sure to cover any part of the toy where water could enter (charging port, battery casing, etc.)--or rinse and wring out your cloth and wipe it down well in lieu of a water rinse. The point here is to remove residue from the cleaning agent. Don’t leave soap or other substances on your toy–there is a chance those will cause a reaction next time you use it. Soft materials may be porous and it is wise to dry them off right away.
Cleaning Glass, Metal, Stone, or Wooden Toys
For the most part, glass, metal, stone and wooden sex toys will not be motorized or electronic. This means that they can be washed using mild, unscented soap and warm water. These cannot be put in the dishwasher or be boiled unless manufacturer’s instructions say you can, so err on the safe side or make sure you have checked those directions. Additionally, metal, stone and wood toys should be immediately dried off after you’ve washed them. Stone and wooden toys have one more special issue that relates to cleaning and use: many types of stone, as well as wood, can be porous unless they are treated with a body-safe waterproof coating. So these should never be left to lie in water, nor should you leave them out or put them away wet–dry them right away. (If these materials have not been waterproofed, we recommend using a condom with them.)
Taking Care of Realistic Materials
"Realistic" materials are softer than other sex toy materials; they may be used for lifelike designs, but in any case their main characteristic is feeling more like human skin. The term includes toys made of PureSkin, SilaSkin, SoftSkin, and other trademarked material names that end with -skin or -skyn. These can be a little more fragile than other materials (the softness can leave them prone to nicks and such, so when you scrub them, use a soft cloth), and they should not be washed with harsh chemicals and can’t be boiled. Wash thoroughly with mild soap and warm water, rinse well, and let dry completely before storing; after washing, this material can feel a bit sticky–this is normal, so use a toy refreshing powder or cornstarch to dust them, then rinse that off before using it again. In the case of sleeves, you can turn them inside out to dry thoroughly; these can be dusted too.
The flesh-like texture of these materials can make them a welcome addition to the toychest, but we’d recommend using condoms on these toys if you share them with others.
Cleaning Electronic Toys
Electronic toys will often be made of silicone (or at least having a silicone skin that covers its internal functions) but could be made of other types of material as well. This type of toy can be app-enabled for long-distance use or gathering body metrics (like PC muscle strength or orgasm frequency). It may also use a computer chip to control patterns and vibration strength, among other functions. Many, but not all, vibrators are electronic.
Waterproof Electronic Toys
Vibrators and related devices operating via electronics (which could include air suction, thrusters, penis toys, biometric toys like electronic Kegel exercisers, etc.) are often, but not always, waterproof. You can clean waterproof toys under warm running water with a mild, unscented soap, rinsing thoroughly. (If the toy is rechargeable with a port, you might wish to cover that port with your hand as you wash the toy just to keep it more dry–or dry it off right away.)
Make sure to remember whether your toy is waterproof. If your toy came with manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean them, follow those.
Non-waterproof Electronic Toys
Vibrators and related devices operating via electronics (which could include air suction, thrusters, penis toys, biometric toys, etc.) are not always waterproof. Toys that are not waterproof should be cleaned with care.
You can use toy wipes, spray-on cleaner, or a clean, wrung-out cloth with a mild, unscented soap. After that step, rinse the toy off with warm water. If the toy is rechargeable with a port, cover that port with your hand as you wash the toy to prevent water from getting inside–and dry it off right away. You can also rinse and wring out your cloth and wipe it down well in lieu of a water rinse. (The point here is to remove residue from the cleaning agent. Don’t leave soap or other substances on your toy–there is a chance those will cause a reaction next time you use it.)
Remember that your non-waterproof toy has different cleaning needs. If your toy came with manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean them, follow those.
Disinfecting Your Sex Toys
Some toy users wish to disinfect their toys at least sometimes. Mild soap and water is sufficient in most cases, but for some, there is greater comfort in knowing you have cleaned your toy as well as possible. Don’t make the mistake, though, of using something too harsh for your toy–or for you. Don’t use household chemical cleaners on toys, especially if there is any chance at all the toy might be porous (see below for the exceptions to this rule). We also strongly recommend against using antibacterial soap–your body has its own healthy bacteria and it is not a plus to use cleaning agents that interfere with it.
Always rinse thoroughly (or wipe residue with a clean, damp cloth) if you have used any chemicals, including soap or wipes, on your toys.
Be especially careful using strong products on porous materials, since you don’t want that sort of chemical to be absorbed by your toy. Instead, use these toys with condoms.
Using Professional Sex Toy Cleaners
Many sex toy cleaners include ingredients that can disinfect; check ingredients and make sure you don’t have sensitivities to these. Avoid triclosan. If you aren’t familiar with some of the components, you can look them up on the Environmental Working Group SkinDeep database to learn more. Remember that some ingredients are generally safe but nevertheless, some people can be sensitive to them–if you have a reaction to ingredients in your sex toy cleaner, lube, or other intimate care products, stop using them and try a different type.
Remember to rinse or wipe off toys after using any cleaning or disinfecting agent on them.
DIY Methods for Disinfecting
Silicone and glass are non-porous and are especially easy to get thoroughly clean. Metal is similar, though you might want to avoid harsh oxidizers on some kinds of metal. However, these can all be washed in hot water, with any kind of soap. You can use dilute bleach solutions on silicone and glass–rinse this off very well though! Silicone without motors or electronics can be boiled or cleaned in the top rack of the dishwasher, and glass might be treatable this way too–but check manufacturer specifications.
We do not recommend antibacterial soap! But almost everyone else does. If you use it, make sure you remove its residue thoroughly. Introducing antibacterial soap or its residue into body orifices is not healthy.
UV light is not a substitute for wiping residue off toys, but it can be a sterilizing step that can kill microbes when used according to product directions. A favorite of ours is the UV sterilizer pouch, which is one type of UV sterilizing product.
Remember to rinse or wipe off toys after using any cleaning or disinfecting agent on them.
Drying and Storing Your Sex Toys
We spend lots of time talking about what to clean toys with, but the drying process is also extremely important.
Proper Drying Techniques
Non-porous dildos and other solid toys with no motors or electronics can be air-dried on a clean rack or towel. Other toys should be dried off as soon as they’re rinsed. If a toy can be turned inside out–like a penis sleeve, for instance–dry both sides. If you can’t turn it inside out but it has a cavity, insert something that won’t tear or nick the material, wrapped in a paper towel or clean cloth, and dry the inside of the toy. Once all excess moisture is off a toy, air-dry them until they’re no longer damp.
Ideal Storage Conditions
The best sex toy storage allows some air flow (or at least does not trap moisture), and also protects the toy from dust and dirt.
Cloth bags are a great option; many vibrators, in particular, come with a storage bag. Often you can throw these right in with the laundry. Cute stash bags for toys are often made of materials like silicone and vinyl–only completely dry toys in these, please! Ditto with latching cases. You might want to leave these materials unlatched or unzipped for a while after your toy has been cleaned.
What to Avoid When Storing Sex Toys
Toys should not be stored wet or damp in any context where they won’t fully dry. Do not give mold or mildew a chance to ruin your toys! Be cautious about storing toys in plastic bags; if you do, make sure they are entirely dry before they go in.
Toys should not be stored together in a way that might tangle any cords or result in nicks, tears, or being knocked around. Don’t store toys that have batteries for extended periods–if you aren’t using it regularly, remove the batteries and keep them nearby. Ditto for corded toys; keep them plugged in if using regularly, if you like, but unplug them if the toy will not be used for some time.
If your toy is rechargeable, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how to optimally charge it and keep it charged.
Regular Cleaning & Maintenance
Creating a Routine for Cleaning Your Sex Toys
Unless there’s a reason you just can’t clean your toy after use, make it a habit to do so. (Don’t spoil your afterglow, but get to it once you’re able to get up and do things.) If you fell asleep (orgasms are great for that!), clean it in the morning. (Put a reminder in your phone or post a note on your mirror. Put a small basket or box right under your bed to set it until you’ve had your coffee.) If your toy has been used by anyone else since you last used it, like a partner, swipe it with a wipe or wash it off before using it again.
When to Replace Your Sex Toys
A vibrator that gets water in its battery compartment and dies might have a second life as a dildo. But if it’s stopped vibrating, it’s time to get a new vibe! If a toy’s function changes (it no longer does what it used to, or doesn’t do it with much power), that’s a sign it might need to be replaced (after you read the instructions again and make sure you are charging it correctly). If the exterior of the toy starts looking damaged or different, if pieces come off it, if it smells “off” or musty–these are all signs that it might be time to replace your toy.
Recap on Cleaning and Maintaining Sex Toys
Toys will function best and last as long as possible if you treat them well–clean them and store them properly always. Get in the habit of caring for your sex toys. Many toys will come with information from the manufacturer–hold on to that in case you need a recap.
Ensuring Safe and Healthy Usage of Your Toys
Learn about your toy’s material type and its cleaning needs. Wash or wipe, rinse, and dry them, store them safely, use appropriate lube, and use condoms on them if they are porous or you need an extra layer of protection.
Safer sex is for toys as well as people, and it starts with awareness and good health habits around your toys!