Why It's Important to Wash Your Sex Toys
By Emma McGowan
Look, we’ve all been there. You have a rocking session with your favorite sex toy and it’s so good that you pass out right away when you’re done. Then, when you wake up, you totally forget to clean off your mechanical friend. It goes back in the drawer without a second thought.
Until it feels like you have Sriracha in your urine, that is.
Sorry to get so graphic, but that’s the possible reality of using a dirty sex toy. Bacteria can build up on a sex toy that’s been used in a vagina or anus. Using that sex toy then spreads the bacteria into your body and can lead to nasty infections, including urinary tract infections (UTIs), fungal infections, and bacterial vaginosis. If you’re using your toy with a partner who currently has an STI, you can also pass that STI on to yourself or to new partners.
Oops! Suddenly your bedroom BFF is your worst enemy — and no one wants that. So let’s get serious about sex toy hygiene, shall we?
How often should you clean your sex toys?
First things first: How often do your sex toys really need to be cleaned? Like, we know that the dentist says to brush our teeth twice a day, but we all know we can get away with it once. (JK; please brush your teeth twice a day!)
When it comes to sex toys, you really have to clean them after every use — and, yes, that includes external vibrators. But, luckily, the most important thing is actually that you clean them before the next use. That means if you pass out after a play session, it’s okay to wash it when you wake up.
Or even to wash it the next morning in the shower! The important thing is that it gets squeaky clean before going anywhere near your sensitive parts again.
The one caveat to the “okay to be lazy and wash it later” recommendation is anal toys. Because your butt has a higher concentration of bacteria like e. coli and shigella (nasty stuff, trust us), you want to make sure your anal toys are cleaned and dried ASAP.
How do you clean your sex toys?
Each toy should come with recommendations on how to best clean it, so that’s the best place to start. But there are also some general rules on how to clean your sex toys. For example, it’s generally a good idea to use unscented soap, wash for 20 seconds (you should know how to go through the happy birthday song by now), and to use warm water. You can also use cleaners that have been developed specifically for sex toys, but unscented, mild soap should do the trick most of the time.
But let’s take a look at the main types of toys and the specifics on how to clean them.
Silicone is probably the most common sex toy material, especially when you’re buying higher end sex toys. (Look for products that say they’re made from “body-safe silicone.”
Silicone toys that don’t include a motor can be surface cleaned by washing them with non-scented soap and then disinfected by placing them for three minutes in boiling water. (You can also put them in the dishwasher, but that’s often more of a PIA than its worth and could lead to damage.) Silicone toys that do include motors can be washed with warm, soapy water and then patted dry with a clean towel.
Glass toys are super easy to clean. Just surface clean them with warm, soapy water and a clean cloth, then pop them into boiling water for three minutes. Done!
Jelly, plastic, and rubber
These three materials are all porous, which means you need to be extra careful about making sure you’re cleaning them well with warm, soapy water. If there are any dips, crevices, or divots, get in there with a designated cleaning toothbrush to ensure that all the bacteria is out.
Leather toys should only be used externally, because leather is super porous and hard to clean. But just because it’s an external toy doesn’t mean you’re not going to get bodily fluids on it! When that happens, use a damp, soapy washcloth to clean it off and then let it air dry. Don’t use leather cleaner that you’d use on your boots, however, as those chemicals aren’t meant for sensitive spots like the vagina and anus.
Cyberskin is a newer material that’s used for things like realistic-feeling dildos and masturbation sleeves. Because it’s porous, you’ll want to wash with warm, soapy water and then coat with cornstarch, which protects it from degradation. (Of the material kind. We’re not here to judge your role play with your sex toys.)
Metal sex toys, like glass sex toys, can be surface cleaned and then boiled, assuming they have no motorized parts.
Sex toys are awesome — and we want them to keep being awesome for as long as you want to enjoy them. So do yourself a favor and make sure you’re cleaning between sessions. Your urethra will thank you later.