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Sex Toy Hygiene: A Guide to Cleaning your Toys

8 min read
Sex Toy Hygiene: A Guide to Cleaning your Toys

If you’re looking to bring some extra excitement to the bedroom, sex toys can be a great option. However, it’s important that sex toys are always used responsibly, and part of this involves keeping them clean.

Sex toys can come into contact with both sexual partners’ genitals. This means that if they aren’t kept clean, there’s a risk bacteria may be transferred and infections may possibly spread between sexual partners.

Although it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, when the fun’s over it’s important to clean your sex toys after every use.

Whether you’re a sex toy veteran or have recently bought one, respecting the hygiene of your toys is non-negotiable. This article offers some insight on keeping your sex toys clean.

Cleaning levels by depth

A cross-sectional survey (consisting of 1435 participants) found that over 52% used sex toys. While most owners reported regular cleaning with soap and water, 21.7% reported sharing their sex toy with a partner. With such frequent sex toy use and sharing of toys, it’s clear that understanding how to clean a sex toy properly is a crucial aspect of owning one.


When it comes to sex toy hygiene, there are different levels of cleaning. Generally, the regular clean after each use won’t go into the same depth that deep cleaning techniques do. We’ve explored these in more detail below.

Cleaning (Surface cleaning)

Cleaning is something that should be done to your sex toy after every use. This will help you to remove some of the lingering bacteria that could still be on the toy. It’s also important that the sex toy is fresh for the next time you use it. After all, if you have a spontaneous sex life you never know when you might use one next.

Disinfecting / Sanitizing (Deep cleaning)

Whilst disinfecting may be done routinely, it’s likely to be done less frequently than standard cleaning. This is because disinfecting refers to more aggressive techniques for cleaning. Examples may include the use of bleach or high temperatures in order to kill germs. Think of surface cleaning as a routine way to fight bacteria, with deep cleaning as the nuclear option.

Main Cleaning Methods

Now that we’ve highlighted some of the different types of cleaning, let’s take a look at some of the techniques that you can use. Below we’ve explored some of the most popular sex toy cleaning methods.
Diagram of the Main Methods in Sex Toy Cleaning

1. Surface cleaning

Surface cleaning is a technique that should be performed after using a sex toy. Routine surface cleaning is part of responsible sex toy use and can be done using simple household items. The main components used in this technique include water, a mild soap, and a clean cloth (preferably one that doesn’t leave fiber residue).

2. Bleaching

Bleach is the generic name for a chemical product commonly used in cleaning disinfecting and sterilizing. Depending on the toy's suitability for it, some people may opt to use bleach when deep cleaning their sex toys. However, it’s important to note that bleach should not come into contact with skin, and any residue should be removed before use.

3. Boiling

Providing the toy is made of a suitable material, boiling may be used as a disinfection method following a regular surface clean. Typically the toy is placed in boiling water for a few minutes. Safety should be prioritized, so use tongs for handling the toy. Also, consider putting a cloth in the container to avoid damaging the toy (especially if it’s glass) and allowing time for the toy to cool before rinsing with cold water.

4. Dishwashing

You can clean certain non-electrical sex toys in the dishwasher, as long as you don’t use dishwasher soap during the cycle. Before doing so, you need to make sure that your toy is made of dishwasher-friendly material. Examples of these include non-porous toys made from materials such as stainless steel and borosilicate glass. Generally, using a dishwasher may not be as effective for removing bacteria as bleaching or boiling.

5. UV

Having emerged in recent years, using UV light technology for cleaning your sex toys is a slightly less well-known method. The downside to UV solutions is that while some people may find them convenient, they are the least cost-effective method of sex toy cleaning on this list. They also haven’t been around as long as some of the more tried and tested methods mentioned above.

How to choose a cleaning method based on your product

When it comes to cleaning sex toys It may feel like a minefield, especially if you’ve got a number of different toys.

Understanding which methods and cleaning products to use might seem overwhelming at first.

However, one easy way to establish a suitable cleaning technique is to understand which techniques are best for the materials used in the toy's construction.

Important: The information in the table below can only be considered general advice. If you are unsure about which method is suitable for cleaning your sex toy you should consult the manufacturer for guidance.

 MATERIAL SUITABLE CLEANING METHOD
Silicone (100%) Toys made entirely of silicone are generally more expensive due to their durability and are typically suitable for most cleaning techniques. Sex toys made of 100% silicone are considered non-porous (explained in the next section).
Borosilicate Glass Due to the glass make-up, these toys generally tolerate high temperatures very well. Their non-porous construction makes them suitable for cleaning via boiling or in the dishwasher, as well as the other methods above. Just be careful not to damage the glass.
Stainless Steel Stainless steel is known for being robust, and the sex toys are no different. A great option regardless of your cleaning preference as it’s suitable for all kinds of cleaning and is considered non-porous.
PVC Considered a porous material, PVC toys may not be suitable for deep cleaning methods such as boiling or bleaching. Cleaning these toys can be difficult which is why many people advise against using PVC sex toys.
Jelly Another porous material. Jelly may be unable to cope with high temperatures and other disinfection techniques. Jelly toys may be difficult to thoroughly clean and are not advisable for sex toy use.
Rubber Again, rubber is considered porous making it a material that’s not great for use with sex toys. Examples include latex rubber dildos, which may be cheaper alternatives compared to similar products made from non-porous materials.

Porous vs Non-Porous

Porous materials are generally considered an undesirable trait for a sex toy. This is because the material contains plenty of hard-to-clean areas and gaps that may allow bacteria to thrive. Non-porous sex toys are good because they have smooth surface areas that make them far easier to clean. Generally, sex toys made of non-porous materials tend to be more suitable for disinfecting under high temperatures or using chemicals and are more robust than porous toys.

Electric vs Non-Electric

There can be a substantial contrast between the cleaning techniques used amongst sex toys depending on whether they contain electrical components. For example, sex toys such as vibrating cock rings may contain batteries that need to be removed before you can submerge the toy in water. Other sex toys that have permanent electrical fixtures such as vibrators may never be suitable for submerging in water.

Other sex toy hygiene tips

Although most of the hygiene surrounding sex toys involves keeping them clean, there are some extra steps you can take. This section highlights some added precautions you can take to improve your chances of using your sex toys hygienically.

1. Immediately dry your sex toys after cleaning

After cleaning your sex toys, there’s likely to be water residue left on them. If you don’t dry them properly you risk the sex toys becoming damp and possibly smelling. It’s advisable to let them air dry on a clean cloth, or gently wipe them with something that won’t transfer fibers.

2. Store appropriately

Storing your sex toys appropriately will also help to ensure that the hygiene of the toys is maintained after you’ve cleaned and dried them. By storing your toys somewhere unsuitable where the toys may gather dust or other debris, you risk undoing your good cleaning work.

3. Consider using condoms

If sex toys are shared between partners, using condoms can be an effective way to reduce the chances of infection spreading. It’s important to note that even if you use condoms, you should still take regular cleaning precautions when using your sex toys.

Why should you clean your sex toys after every use

If you haven’t guessed by now, people don’t just need to keep sex toys clean so they smell fresh and look pretty. Ultimately, it comes down to keeping them hygienic and considering the sexual health of yourself and your partners. In this section of the article, we explore some of the reasons for keeping your sex toys clean in more depth.

Unclean Toys can harvest bacteria

If you don’t keep your sex toys clean, there’s a chance that they could carry bacteria which can be transferred between partners. This may lead to the spread of infection, or even STI transmission which brings us on to our next point.

STI transmission

Sexually transmitted infections are an undesirable by-product of sexual contact. Individuals take many precautions to avoid catching and spreading them. Some of these may include using condoms, getting STI checks, and even taking medicine. Research suggests that sex toys are capable of carrying STIs, putting further emphasis on the importance of keeping them clean.

Keeping your toys in good shape

If you like to look after your possessions, you may have arrived at the following conclusion naturally; keeping your sex toys clean may keep them in better shape, possibly making them last longer. Some sex toys can be expensive. However, regardless of the price of your sex toy, if longevity is important to you then keeping them clean may prolong their lifespan.

Avoid smells

Unfortunately, foul smells might develop if you don’t keep your sex toys clean. This is an undesirable trait for anything you own, but when it comes to toys associated with sex bad smells can be really off-putting. When the time comes for intimacy, you’ll want to make sure that your sex toys smell fresh and clean. Otherwise you may risk affecting your and your partner's sexual arousal.

Summary

The bottom line is that keeping your sex toys clean should be an utmost priority for the sexual health of yourself and your partners. There are a number of different techniques that you can use to keep your sex toys clean. This includes routine cleaning with soap and water or deep cleaning with boiling water or bleach.

The bottom line is that keeping your sex toys clean should be an utmost priority for the sexual health of yourself and your partners.

Keeping your sex toys won’t just help to protect you from bacteria, it may help to prevent the spread of STIs, keep the toys in good shape, and avoid foul off-putting smells developing. While the information in this article is intended to be informative, it cannot be considered a substitute for professional medical advice.

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