How to clean sex toys
Written by: Denise John, Ph.D
Published on: November 4, 2022
Cleaning your sex toy involves washing it thoroughly with soap and water after using it and then drying it completely. And if you can’t wash your vibrator right away, just do it as soon as you can before using it again.
Why is it important to clean your sex toys? What goes on your vulva or inside your vagina (including sex toys) can affect your health. As comfortable as sex toys can be, if left unwashed, they can become a petri dish for bacteria to grow, which can lead to vaginal irritation and infections when you use them over time. To continue to enjoy your sex toys without the unwanted irritation, it is important to wash them.
How you clean your sex toys depends on what they are made of (i.e. porous or non-porous materials), whether they are waterproof, and potentially other features they may have. Ahead, some best practices for cleaning, drying, and storing all kinds of vibrators and sex toys.
Wash it with soap and water. Experts recommend that you wash your vibrator with soap and warm water after each use to reduce the risk of infections. Use gentle, clean soap without harsh chemicals that could potentially irritate the vulva or vagina – both are porous and can absorb chemicals and other substances. And absolutely “no bleach, no Lysol, no OxiClean,” says Susan Kellogg-Spadt, PhD, CRNP, director of female sexual medicine at the Center for Pelvic Medicine in Pennsylvania, whose patients have asked about these products in the past.
“Washing should be done for at least 20 seconds, just like how you wash your hands—you can sing the birthday song,” says Kellogg-Spadt. And make sure you rinse off the soap thoroughly to minimize the risk of residue being left on the vibrator.
Consider the material of your sex toy. The material affects how easily (and thoroughly) you can wash it. Sex toys made of non-porous materials such as pure silicone, glass, stainless steel or hard plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic) are the easiest to clean, so experts recommend using sex toys made with these materials. Bacteria and residues remain on the surface of these materials, instead of penetrating, and can be easily washed away.
Porous sex toys tend to be cheaper, but Kellogg-Spadt tells her patients to “spend a little more to get a better toy.” If your vibrator is made of porous materials such as latex, silicone compounds (not pure silicone), or rubber, it can be more difficult to clean because bacteria and debris can be absorbed into the toy like they would a sponge, making them difficult to remove . . Experts advise against these types of toys. If you have a favorite rubber sex toy that you just can’t let go of, you could in theory cover it with a condom while using it to minimize the risk of infection.
You should also consider whether your sex toy is waterproof. You can generally submerge a waterproof sex toy under water while cleaning it. If it’s not waterproof, running water is typically okay.
Get into the grooves. If your sex toy has cracks, get in there – bacteria can linger. You can gently brush it with a soft toothbrush or whatever you have on hand that is hard enough to clean but gentle enough to maintain the integrity of the sex toy’s material. (You don’t want to introduce microscopic holes into your sex toy where bacteria can later grow; this can turn your non-porous sex toy into a porous one.)
Clean it after use. It is best to clean your sex toy right after you use it. Residues can be removed more easily, and there is less bacterial growth. “You don’t need to clean it the moment it comes off or out of you, but it needs to be cleaned in a timely manner,” says Kellogg-Spadt.
Dry it completely. Moisture left on your sex toy can encourage lingering bacteria to grow, so it’s important to make sure it’s dry before storing. Air drying is best to limit fluff or fuzziness.
Store it in a clean bag or box. This is to prevent dust and dirt from settling on your sex toy (and it needs to be cleaned again before you can use it).
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This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it contains medical and medical advice. This article is not, and is not intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.