“When it comes to your vagina, you don’t get to be lazy,” OB-GYN and author of ‘The Complete A-Z of Your V’ explains to Health.com. This quote is by far one of the best ones I’ve come across during my research for this article. The story is the same, regardless of how you identify: when it comes to sexual health, you don’t get to be lazy.
You need to clean your sex toys.
According to this survey, 19% of women and 36% of men have said they have never cleaned their sex toys and I’m sorry, I never want to be the one to judge, but ARE YOU CRAZY!?
You absolutely need to be cleaning your sex toys. While some of us are guilty of neglecting them or falling asleep after a good wank before we get the chance to properly clean them, cleaning your toys is super important.
In that same survey, 70% of women and 57% of men claim they clean their sex toys after every single use (which is what should be happening), and 11% of women and 7% of men claim to do a good cleaning after every few uses (which is also not ideal, but way better than never cleaning them).
Maintaining a safe, healthy, and thriving masturbation or sex life is a large part of sexual wellness and happiness. And that includes properly maintaining all those naughty toys in your night-stand.
Now, before you get started cleaning out your naughty drawer to sanitize your toys, you will need to figure out a few things...
Knowing what kind of material your toy is made of is very important.
Throughout this article, there are subsections that cover most of the common materials that sex toys are made of. Pay close attention to this, because what kind of material it is will heavily influence how you clean the toy and what products (if any) you can use to disinfect them.
Understanding the difference between porous and nonporous materials.
If a toy is porous, this means the material has tiny holes that can often hold bacteria. If the toy is nonporous, it doesn’t have these holes which means that bacteria and germs are a bit less likely to stick around. Determining if your toy is porous or nonporous will tell you just how often you should clean it.
Porous materials include things like:
Non-porous sex toy materials are things like:
Much of the time, the instruction manual or box will explain what kind of material(s) your toy is made of, which can be really helpful in understanding how and when to clean them.
Consider: does it have a motor/batteries/is it electric?
Of course, while some of these types of toys are considered “water-resistant” or even “waterproof”, you don’t want to be submerging an expensive, motorized toy into a vat of soapy water.
Although the toy may be able to stand a bit of water in the shower while you’re using it or the spray of cum that flows down your leg after a good time using the toy, most motorized toys are not designed to be fully submerged in water. If your toy is electric, you are going to want to consider a different cleaning approach than you would while cleaning, for example, a rubber dildo.
When in doubt, opt for mild, fragrance free-soap with a bit of warm water.
When it comes to sex toys, you want to choose a soap that has as little additives as possible. While it’s nice to have a vibe that smells like roses, the products added to that soap that produces the fragrance could cause damage to the toy. Many toys can be cleaned this way and it’s a good “default” if you’re unsure of how that particular toy should be cleaned.
Important to note, though, is that many user-manuals will have cleaning instructions for the toy - so be sure to check that.
Consider buying a sex toy cleaner product when you purchase your toys.
If you’re an avid online sex toy shopper like myself, you’ll notice that when you go to check out of practically any online sex toy retailer with your cart full of goodies, you will most likely be presented with the option of adding things like lube or toy cleaners. I suggest doing both.
The kinds of lubes they suggest will pair well with the toy you’re purchasing (after all, some lubes don’t match with certain materials) and they will also offer you a kind of sanitizer or toy cleaner that is safe to use on the toy you’re buying.
Do not submerge electric toys. Just don’t risk it.
Anything electric (even if it’s ‘waterproof’) shouldn’t be completely submerged in water. Although waterproof toys may be able to withstand this, many can’t, and there are many other ways you can sanitize your silicone electric toys without taking the chance of breaking them.
With motorized toys, you can never go wrong with a bit of antibacterial soap and a damp cloth.
To clean your toy before use, use a bit of non-scented soap and a damp cloth to wipe the toy down, ensuring you’re getting all the hooks and crevices of the toy.
To do a deep clean of your toy, you could consider purchasing the specialty toy cleaning product that the brand recommends. Much of the time, there are instructions for cleaning (along with recommendations for products) on the instruction manual of your toy.
Be sure to switch to a clean cloth to dry your toy.
While it may be tempting to use the cloth that’s at the ready, hanging on your bathroom wall - opt for a fresh, clean cloth or towel to cleanse and dry your toy. You never know what kind of bacteria and germs can be on a towel that’s been used even just once.
Sanitary wipes or toy cleaner spray with a cloth is a quick and easy way to clean silicone toys.
A good routine to get into would be to spray clean and dry your toy before using and then deep clean with mild soap after using. This way, you’re making sure the silicone is safe going into your body and then getting a deep clean after being used.
Silicone can be boiled, in the right circumstances.
When it comes to silicone toys that aren’t motorized, you have a few more options. Silicone is a material that can be put into boiling water for sanitization, but you should do this for no longer than 5 minutes maximum. Silicone toys without mechanical features can also be rn through the dishwasher on your warm (not hot) setting or washed in the sink with a bit of antibacterial soap. If you’re ever unsure, opt for the simple mild soap and cloth routine.
Knowing the difference in what kind of glass your toy is made of will determine how you clean it.
Soda-lime glass can be extremely sensitive to temperature (which is, in part, why it can be so fun during sexual play). As these toys are waterproof (being made of glass), you can run the toy under warm (but not hot) water and clean with a soapy washcloth. Then, use a separate (clean) cloth to dry the toy.
Borosilicate glass (commonly referred to as Pyrex), on the other hand, is more durable and can withstand higher temperature extremes without cracking. These toys can be washed in warmer water (but still not super hot) and also wiped down with a soapy washcloth. Most toys made of Pyrex are able to actually go through your dishwasher (provided the temperature settings are not too high), which makes them super easy to clean.
Metal toys (especially ones made of stainless or surgical steel) are sturdy, extremely durable, and can actually be completely sterilized quite easily. For steel toys, you can boil them in hot water - this is a super quick, easy, and affordable way to clean them. It takes about 10 minutes for metal toys to become sterilized in boiling water. You don’t even have to add any products or soaps - simply boiling the toy will keep it nice and clean.
Of course, if you’re choosing to sterilize the toy before and after use, you may not exactly have time to boil in the middle of foreplay (talk about a mood-killer) - in this instance, sanitary wipes or an antibacterial soap rinse will do the trick. Just be sure to boil after use.
Cyberskin sex toys are extremely common because of how real they feel. They are used in Fleshlights, dildos, and vibrators of all kinds. Knowing how to clean these life-like toys is super important.
Cyberskin toys are susceptible to damage because of how life-like they feel.
Cyberskin toys are often made from thin material to feel more real, but this also means they aren’t quite as durable as some other, thicker materials. Keep this in mind when cleaning and drying your Cyberskin toys.
A small amount of soap, cloth, and gentle hands are required.
Using the same mild-soap and cloth recipe for cleaning Cyberskin toys is simple, but be sure to handle these types of toys with a bit of extra care, not wiping them too roughly as to damage the material.
Fleshlight cleaning is an entirely different (and extremely important) thing.
Perhaps one of the most common Cyberskin toys around is the male sex toy called the Fleshlight. And cleaning these can be...difficult. And annoying.
But there are tons of pointers that can help you ensure your toy is as clean and safe to use as it can be. Your Fleshlight sleeve can grow moldy if you don’t clean it properly, which can also lead to really bad odors. And I can guarantee that you won’t want to stick your penis into that.
Lovehoney has released a video detailing just how to clean your Fleshlight, you can find that below if you’re interested.
These toys are all porous, which means they are a bit trickier to clean (and get to stay clean) so they may require a bit of extra care. These types of toys can trap bacteria really easily, so it’s important to pay attention to how well (and how often) you’re cleaning these types of toys.
Wash with mild soap and dry before storing it in your naughty drawer.
Of course - soap with water. Really, I’m telling you - this is the “better safe than sorry”, “this is probably how you do it” method of cleaning sex toys. You really can’t go too wrong with it. Give your plastic, elastomer or rubber toy a wipe down with a soapy washcloth and then dry with a separate cloth.
Spray cleaning products or sanitary wipes work really well on plastic, elastomer, and rubber toys.
Sanitary wipes are perhaps a super simple way to clean your toy before you use it, and then you can resort to a deeper soap and cloth cleaning method once the fun is done. This is how I clean most of my plastic toys and it’s very simple.
If you’re in a pinch, skin-friendly wipes (such as baby wipes or adult bathroom wipes) can also be used to clean your toys, but products like Clorox disinfectant wipes (or anything that would be used to clean surfaces in your kitchen or car, for example) shouldn’t be used.
Consider updating your toy collection if you have toys that are made of jelly rubber.
Jelly rubber toys were all the rage not too long ago, but it’s been discovered that a lot of these toys can contain potentially harmful materials, so lots of reputable sex toy retailers won’t even sell these types of toys anymore.
Jelly rubber toys are, most of the time, things you buy that are cheap and often used for novelty or gag-gift ideas. These toys may contain “phthalates”, which are used to soften the material of the toy but are not very safe for the human body.
While some materials like silicone and glass are very easy to clean, other materials like nylon or rope for bondage toys are quite difficult.
Cleaning nylon ropes, harnesses, and restraints.
For nylon ropes or restraints, you can hand or machine wash in cold water and then leave flat or hang to air dry. This is the best way to keep them in good condition and should be done after every use (or every other use, if the play is light).
Cleaning hemp ropes, harnesses, and restraints.
Many bondage ropes are made from hemp. Washing hemp ropes is generally not recommended as it can actually damage the integrity of the material. Putting your dry rope in a plastic bag and placing it in the freezer for 2-3 days will kill most bacteria, according to this article.
Cleaning jute ropes, harnesses, and restraints.
Jute is a softer, less coarse material that is similar to twine. You see jute ropes in many of those artistic bondage photos online. Jute ropes can be cleaned with a damp cloth and left to air dry. The cloth shouldn’t be too wet, as these ropes are not water-resistant. You can also treat these ropes with a certain kind of oil to keep them in good condition.
Cleaning cotton ropes, harnesses, and restraints.
Cotton is a natural fiber that doesn’t rub or chafe, making it a great bondage material. Cleaning cotton ropes is as simple as cleaning cotton clothing - you can run it through the wash on a cold cycle and leave to air-dry - but be careful, the core of the rope can retain moisture, which can lead to bacteria growth.
Whips, floggers and paddles can be used for oh-so-many fun things in the bedroom - and (depending on how rough you like it), there is even a chance of drawing blood (at least more so than when you’re using a rabbit vibrator). This means your leather toys need some special tending to in order to stay hygienic and sanitary.
Real leather needs to be cleaned much differently than faux leather.
Real leather can dry out, crack, fade, and become damaged due to neglect. If you have real leather sex toys or accessories, consider purchasing a leather cleaner product and following instructions on the user manual to a T to ensure your toy lasts and looks good for the long haul. You can also use an IPA (isopropyl rubbing alcohol) product to clean leather toys.
Do not soak or submerge anything made of leather or faux leather.
Even if your paddle isn’t made of real leather, submerging this type of material in water will leave the toy looking faded, not to mention it can take a long time to dry. Soaking or submerging your leather or faux leather toy in water can leave the stitching or creases on the toy wet, which can actually lead to mildew or mold. Yikes.
A damp cloth with a bit of antibacterial soap to the rescue (again).
There seems to be one rule of cleaning sex toys: when in doubt, use a damp cloth and a teeny bit of non-scented soap. The same can be said for leather accessories. Both real leather and faux leather can be wiped down with warm water cloth and mild soap for regular cleanings.
Do not use a hairdryer to dry your leather toy.
While this should be said for many toys, don’t dry them with a hairdryer. Wipe down or air dry, in some cases, is the best solution. Hairdryers can blow bacteria and germs directly onto the toy, making your cleaning process virtually useless in the process. The best thing to do after wiping your leather toy or accessory is to let it air dry on a clean surface.
For in-depth leather cleaning tips, visit this Lovense article.
Non-motorized, durable toys (made of things like silicone, pyrex, stainless steel, glass, or stone) can be submerged in boiling water for a deep clean.
If you’re wondering which of your toys can withstand a long soak in boiling water to cleanse them, consult the instructions - it will definitely tell you the material of the toy and will likely contain instructions on how to clean it. Some toys even have labels that say “dishwasher safe”, in case you want to really get the job done.
Use a CLEAN towel to dry your toys after washing them.
You wouldn’t use a dirty hand towel to clean your newly washed dishes right after cleaning them, so don’t use a towel that’s already been used (even just to dry your hands) on your newly-cleaned sex toys. Opt for a new, fresh, and clean towel and gently dry your toys after washing.
How often should I clean my toys? Well, you should actually wash your toys before AND after using them.
While it may be a bit of a mood killer to pause the action to wipe down your toy, they can collect dust, germs, and bacteria while sitting in your naughty drawer between uses. I suggest getting a “spray cleaner” product or sanitary wipes specifically designed for sex toys (these are available on many online sex retailer shops when you purchase your toys) to use before and then do a deeper clean with mild soap or water after you use them.
It is possible (though rare) to contract STIs from sex toys.
If you use a sex toy with a partner who has an STI, the risk of contracting the STI (although small) does still exist. Along with that, there is a risk of contracting a vaginal infection (like bacterial vaginosis) due to buildups of bacteria on your toys. This is why it’s important to clean before and after each use, and if you’re using the toys with multiple partners, to ensure everyone is being safe.
You should clean your new toy after you take it out of the box.
Unboxing a new sex toy can be really exciting (trust me, I’ve ordered a bunch during the crazy first few months of 2020) and it may be tempting to dive right in - but cleaning your sex toys right after you get them isn’t the worst idea around. You never know what the boxing process of this toy was like and you may want to cleanse the toy of any strange “new product smells” before you use it.
How you store your toy collection matters.
Of course, you should always clean your sex toys after using them and before storing them back in their rightful place in your naughty drawer, but did you know where you store your toys can also impact their integrity and how clean they are? If your toy is left out or shoved in a bin with other toys, that’s a whole lot of mixing and mingling of germs and bacteria going on in there.
Consider organizing your toys so they are not touching each other and each in their own container. You’re going to have to “Marie Kondo” your sex toy collection on a regular basis. Keep things organized, maintained, and minimalistic. If it doesn’t bring you joy, toss it. Otherwise, organize and put your sex toy drawer in order.
Sex toy cleaning product information - know what’s in the product you’re buying to clean your toys. Most of the time, products that you buy that are designed specifically for sex toy cleaning consist of a cleanser (which takes away bacteria), a bacteria fighter ingredient (which works to keep the toy clean and preserved), an emulsifier (which helps those two liquids mix together) and sometimes a foaming agent, which allows you to get into all the nooks and crannies of your toy. I highly suggest reading this Lovense toy cleaner breakdown, as it’s incredibly easy to read and really helpful.