Whether you have a battery-operated vibrator or a metal wand, here's everything you need to know.

Jul 24, 2020 @ 3:15 pm
Credit: Getty Images

Let's be honest: You wouldn’t use dirty towels over and over again without washing them. Nor would you use filthy makeup brushes and sponges without giving them a rinse-down. The same should be true of your sex toys—only you should wash them even more frequently.  

While we think it’s pretty self-explanatory as to why sex toys need to be regularly cleaned, we understand that knowing how to properly clean a sex toy is a little less straightforward. That’s where we come in! We chatted with a few sexperts not only about the why but also the how. Ahead, learn how to clean silicone sex toys, anal sex toys, rubber sex toys—the whole shebang! Your V (and A) will thank you! 

Why You Need to Clean Your Sex Toys 

Before digging into the nitty-gritty of cleanly sex toy practices, let’s take a moment to really uncover the reason why it’s necessary in the first place. As Gigi Engle—certified sex coach, sexologist, sex educator, and Womanizer sex expert—points out, if you don’t clean your sex toys, you will almost surely wind up with a bacterial or yeast infection. “Leaving yours or a partner's fluids on a toy is unsanitary,” she explains. And, keep in mind, these germs can go beyond just bodily fluids if any sort of STD is in the mix. “Diseases and viruses can live on toy surfaces, particularly silicone toys, for days even after cleaning,” says Caitlin V., M.P.H., the clinical sexologist for Royal, a vegan-friendly condom and lubricant company. “So if you plan to use your toys on multiple partners, make sure to take extra care by covering them in a body-safe barrier.” Even if you use condoms, however, you still need to wash your toys after every use. 

And after rinsing them off, Alicia Sinclair, pleasure-focused certified sex educator and CEO of luxury Sex Tech brands Le Wand, b-Vibe, and The Cowgirl, says to make sure to let them dry off before putting them away. After all, storing them wet can lead to mold and bacteria growth, not to mention the deterioration of your toys (depending on what they’re made of). 

Now that you know why you need to clean your sex toys, let's dive into the how

How to Properly Clean a Non-Porous Sex Toy 

CalExotics resident sexologist Dr. Jill McDevitt says that the first thing to know is that there’s a big difference between non-porous and porous materials. “Sex toys made with non-porous materials like silicone, metal, and glass last longer and are easier to clean because there are no microscopic pores to get filled with microbes, lube, and other particles over time,” she explains. 

The best way to clean a non-porous sex toy is with mild soap and warm water. Though, if you want to be hyper-diligent (as is highly recommended with anal toys or toys shared between multiple partners), you can boil them for three minutes to ensure they’re fully sanitized. The one exception to this rule is if the toy has batteries or a motor.  

“I recommend that, for battery-operated toys, you take the batteries out, put the toy back together, and wash it with a soapy washcloth followed by a quick rinse, keeping your hand over the battery compartment,” says Searah Deysach, a sex educator and owner of pleasure products company Early to Bed. “Then open the toy back up and let it air-dry with the battery compartment open. Store your batteries outside of your toy so they do not drain the motor or corrode inside the toy.” 

How to Clean a Porous Sex Toy  

The major difference between cleaning a porous sex toy (one made with cyberskin, jelly, or elastomer) and a non-porous sex toy is that porous sex toys can harbor bacteria, so it’s especially important that you give them time to dry before storing them.  

The Top Tips for Cleaning Any Sex Toy 

The best way to care for your sex toys is to know everything there is to know about them. For that reason, Engle says to keep the below tips in mind. 

Whatever toy you’re using, read the directions beforehand. “You wouldn’t try to mount your new television, build a dresser, or use an at-home UTI screening kit without reading the directions—and the same is true for sex toys,” Engle says. 

At this point, you know that sex toys can be made with porous and nonporous materials: jelly, silicone, glass, stainless steel, and even crystals. “While materials will vary, silicone and hard plastic are definitely the most common,” Engle says, noting to only use vibrators made from medical-grade or body-safe silicone or ABS hard plastic. “These are the safest and most non-porous materials. We also love glass and stainless steel, but these materials are usually used only for non-vibrating toys.” 

“A mild soap and water [solution] is compatible for all sex toys—which makes it the safest option,” Engle says. “You can also use a sex toy cleaning spray [or wipe—like the Afterglow Toy Tissues, $7] for fast cleanups as well.” Whatever you use, just remember: Toys should be cleaned between every use.  

Unless the directions say you can, of course. Instead, use a mild soap paired with a warm washcloth to gently cleanse the toy without actually soaking it.