Are You Cleaning Your Sex Toys the Right Way (and Often Enough)?
Sex toy pros weigh in on the dos and don’ts of cleaning your beloved gadgets.
When we love something, we do everything we can to protect it—and that’s exactly what we should do with our sex toys.
Perhaps you, like me, have given your favourite sex toy–whether it be a vibrator, dildo, butt plug, fleshlight, or cock ring– its very own name and keep it in its very own drawer. Or maybe you’re entirely new to the world of sex toys and want to protect your newfound love. Whatever your reason, here’s what experts recommend for keeping your sex toys in tip-top shape.
Should all sex toys be cleaned? Are there any exceptions?
Not everything can be sanitized—like elastomer-based material (e.g. CyberSkin, which has a texture similar to skin, and is what fleshlights and stroker sleeves are made of), or thermoplastic elastomers (TPR or TPE) and rubberized material, says Rachele Manett (whose pronouns are they/their), education coordinator at Halifax-based sex shop Venus Envy.
“Not only can elastomer-based material not be sanitized, but it harbours bacteria over time,” they say. “It is meant to be thrown out eventually.” A good way of detecting if your toy has met its expiry date is, much like rotten food, give it a quick sniff. If it smells a bit funky, it’s time to replace it.
Manett suggests when possible, choose a 100 percent silicone toy, which can have a long life if taken care of properly.
(Related: Can Cannabis Help Kick-Start My Sex Drive?)
What’s the best way to wash your sex toys?
There are a few different ways.
Soap and water
A good rule of thumb is to wash your sex toys the way you wash your face—with soap and water.
“We recommend using a soap you know you’re not allergic to,” says Jack Lamon, owner of Toronto-based sex shop Come As You Are. Among his favourites is Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap because “few people react to it.” After washing, Lamon recommends letting your toy air dry. “The combination of soap, water and air-drying will take care of all of the potential STIs that people might be worried about.”
Cleaning your toys can also help prevent yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Manett sterilizes their silicone dildos by adding them to a pot of boiling water for five to 10 minutes. Note: Boiling is an effective sterilizing option for only non-vibrating silicone or stainless steel toys.
“If you are someone who shares sex toys widely, or if you are a bit neurotic about hygiene and cleaning, a UV sterilizer can bring some psychological relief,” says Lamon, though he also adds that it isn’t essential. A UV sterilizer is essentially a pouch that coats your toy in UV light to sterilize it.
Expert tip: If you’re sharing a toy that can’t be sterilized (like a vibrator) with multiple partners, Manett recommends using a condom.
Can’t I just throw my sex toys in the dishwasher?
It’s often been considered the tried and true sex toy tip but, actually, dishwashing your toys isn’t recommended by the experts.
Lamon says you wouldn’t wash your body with dishwasher detergent—which isn’t designed to be body-safe—so you shouldn’t wash your sex toys with it either.
If you’re adamant about using a dishwasher to clean your toys, Manett warns against putting motorized toys and those that are not 100 percent silicone in the dishwasher. The heat can kill the motor or even melt the toy—plus, who wants to know their dishes were washed next to a butt plug?
What about those sex toy cleaners?
Sex toy cleaners can be a quick and easy way to sanitize your gadgets, but Lamon says these products aren’t as good as just soap and water. They often contain antibacterial agents that shouldn’t be in or around your body, he says.
What’s the best way to store sex toys?
Toys are often sold with a pouch or case, which you should continue to use and clean, as they can also protect your toys from getting nicked, which is important because cracks can be quite hospitable to germs. Don’t have the pouch anymore? Manett recommends cutting up an old cotton t-shirt and wrapping the sex toy in it.
Have more than one sex toy? Keep them separate—whether that’s in their respective pouches or Ziploc bags. Why? “People aren’t always aware of what their sex toys are made of, and different materials can react to each other,” says Lamon. “So if you have, let’s say, a high-end silicone rechargeable vibrator and you store it with a fleshlight, that material can interact with your silicone toy and ruin the finish, making it less non-porous.”
Anything else I should know?
Don’t forget to give your sex toys a wash not only after but also before you use them, as they’re likely to catch dust or debris. After all, unlike a book you’ve left on a shelf, a gentle blow rarely does the trick. Well, you know, in this case.