Using sex toys can be a fun way to enhance the pleasure you experience during sexual activity. As enjoyable as sex toys can be, using them hygienically should always be your priority. In order to achieve this, you need to know how to keep them clean.
Intimacy often occurs ‘during the moment’ but when the moment ends, it’s time to clean up. This means cleaning your sex toys too. If you fail to do this, you risk compromising the hygiene of your toys and potentially harming the sexual health of yourself and your partner.
Using unhygienic sex toys may increase the chances of infections spreading, so it’s vital that you know how to keep them clean. In this article, we’ll be offering some advice and guidance on how to clean sex toys and covering some of the different cleaning methods used for sex toy hygiene.
Why is it important to clean sex toys after use?
Sex toys need to be cleaned to reduce the chances of spreading infections when using them. Sex toys may come into contact with various parts of the human anatomy, and can be used individually or shared between numerous sexual partners. STIs can be spread by various forms of sexual contact, including oral, anal and vaginal. Often, sex toys come into contact with these areas and may lead to the spread of infections between partners.
Infection transmission through sex toys: A HPV study
A 2014 study explored the transfer of the STI ‘human papillomavirus’ (HPV) through the use of vaginally inserted sex toys. The study included women who had male and female sexual partners. ****Two vibrators were used, one of which was made from thermoplastic elastomer (vibrator 1) with the other made of silicone (vibrator 2).
As part of the study, twelve women provided self-collected vaginal and vibrator samples. Samples were gathered at different intervals, which included right after use, after being cleaned with a commercial cleaner, and 24 hours after cleaning.
For vibrator 1, HPV was found in 75% of the vaginal samples. 89% of the shaft swabs were HPV positive prior to cleaning, with 56% positive right after they had been cleaned and 40% still HPV positive after 24 hours. Findings for vibrator 2 were that 67% of samples were HPV positive before it had been cleaned, 44% positive straight after cleaning, with no positive samples after 24 hours.
Given that HPV could be detected over 24 hours after standard cleaning, the study concluded that the findings support the possible transmission of HPV through shared sex toy use. The highest rates of HPV detection seemed to be before any cleaning had taken place. This could suggest that while cleaning doesn’t completely eradicate the risk of transmission, it may reduce the chances.
A clinical reference guide on sexual devices for obstetrician-gynecologists may offer some additional insights. Firstly, it acknowledges the wide-scale use of sexual devices, stating that half of women in the US have used a vibrator, and a third of women have used dildos. It goes on to acknowledge the possible uses for such sex toys, which include reduced libido and erectile dysfunction among their partners.
The guide identifies infection as one of the most common risks of using such sexual devices, acknowledging that proper disinfection can help lower but not remove the risk of transmitting viral and bacterial STIs. It mentions that non-porous materials have the best ease of cleaning and are generally the safest. Stating porous constructions pose a risk of physical breakdown, and posing possible issues for disinfection.
Other reasons for keeping sex toys clean
Although reducing the risk of infection is perhaps the most prominent reason for cleaning your sex toys, there are other benefits to cleaning them. These may include:
Looking after your product
You want your sex toys to last a long time, after all, they can be expensive. Keeping your sex toys clean is a good way to ensure that you’re looking after them.
By keeping sex toys clean you are giving them due care and attention that may even extend the lifetime of your toys.
Keeps them smelling fresh
If you don’t keep your sex toys clean they may start to develop foul smells over time. When the time comes for intimacy, the last thing you need is a mood-killing stench.
Keeping your sex toys clean ensures that they stay smelling fresh so they can be enjoyed during use.
Make sure they look appealing
If your sex toys aren’t visibly clean, it could prevent you or your sexual partners from using them. For example, if there is visible residue on your sex toy it could be a real turn-off.
By keeping your sex toys clean, you help to ensure that they look fresh when the time comes to use them.
What is needed for cleaning your toys
Before we explore how to clean sex toys, let’s take a look at the items you may need. These will vary depending on the type of cleaning you want to do (e.g. surface clean vs. deep clean).
We should start by mentioning that when it comes to cleaning products you have two types of choices; sex toy cleaners and general cleaning products. We’ve highlighted some of the pros and cons of each option below:
Pros and Cons of Sex Toy Cleaners
Designed specifically for cleansing sex toys (i.e created with the use/material in mind)
May be less accessible than general cleaning products (i.e order online or in specialist stores).
Pros and Cons of General Cleaning Products
May be more accessible (e.g. already own them or find in convenience stores)
Not all generalist cleaning products are designed for coming into contact with skin.
NOTE: If you’re interested in cleaners designed for sex toys, you can check out our range of sex toy cleaners.
For surface cleaning
Surface cleaning involves the general cleaning that takes place after using a sex toy. It refers to cleansing the surfaces of the sex toy that may have come into contact during use.
Cleaning the surface of your sex toy is good practice after every use, it helps to kill the bacteria left on the toy.
As we’ve gathered from the earlier research, cleaning may reduce the chances of spreading infections.
Surface cleaning can be carried out using a dishcloth and a mild unscented antibacterial soap. You may also consider using a purpose-built sex toy cleaner for your specific product.
For deep cleaning
Deep cleaning is an intense cleaning technique. It aims to target all areas of your sex toy, not just those where dirt is visible. This type of cleaning may use different techniques that can help target parts of the sex toy that are harder to reach.
While deep cleaning might not be done every time your sex toys are used, it should be done regularly enough to ensure that no area of the sex toy is neglected.
For deep cleans, you may consider using a dishwasher or boiling water (if your toy is suitable - more on that later). You should also ensure that you have completed a surface clean prior to deep cleaning.
Sex Toy Cleaning Methods
The cleaning methods you use will be dependent on the construction of your sex toy. For example, toys with electrical components such as built-in vibrators should not be submerged in water. Furthermore, techniques that involve high temperatures (e.g. boiling) may not be suitable for all sex toys.
Always check your product's suitability for a given cleaning method before using it. With that said, here are some examples of ways you can clean your sex toy.
The transmission of bacteria can be a risk when using sex toys. Disinfecting is a technique that involves cleaning them with a chemical substance in order to kill the bacteria and germs. Disinfecting your sex toy should be done after every use. You can use a mild antibacterial soap along with a dishcloth or a sex toy cleaner.
Boiling sex toys should only be done for sex toys that are made of a suitable material. Examples of these may include 100% silicone, borosilicate glass, and stainless steel. Prior to boiling, be sure to carry out a standard surface clean. Most recommendations suggest boiling your sex toy in water for up to 3 minutes.
- Note: Don’t boil your sex toy if it has electrical components or is unsuitable for high heat. If unsure, seek guidance from your manufacturer.
Like boiling, dishwashing is a technique that involves submerging sex toys in water. Dishwasher soap is unsuitable for sex toys so you should run the dishwasher without it. Also, ensure that the items are secured properly before starting the dishwasher.
- Note: Again, toys with electrical components or unsuitable materials should not be used. Check your product cleaning guidelines to find out if yours is dishwasher-friendly.
How to clean sex toys based on the type and material
What works for one toy might not work for another. The best cleaning method for your sex toy will depend on its construction. The materials used for sex toys are typically known as ‘porous’ and ‘non-porous’. Before we explore how to clean each type, let’s take a look at the differences between them.
Porous vs. non-porous materials
Porous materials are defined as having minute spaces or holes that allow water or air to pass through. While non-porous materials don’t have these gaps and are generally a more solid construction.
When it comes to porous vs non-porous sex toys, porous toys are considered less desirable. As highlighted by earlier research, there may be issues cleaning porous sex toys, as they can be difficult to properly disinfect.
Comparing how sex toys may be cleaned based on material
The table below highlights a number of materials used within sex toys and gives an overview of how these may be cleaned.
EXAMPLES OF MATERIALS
Jelly, rubber, elastomer PVC, latex, leather, realistic/cyber skin
Porous materials can be more difficult to clean, they may not cope well with high temperatures so boiling them is not an option.
Furthermore, many porous sex toys may not be dishwasher friendly. Cleaning is typically done with soap and cold or room temperature water.
ABS plastic, borosilicate glass, nylon, 100% silicone, stainless steel
Non-porous materials are generally suited to numerous cleaning methods.
For example, they are often (but not always) suitable for general cleaning with soap and water, as well as being boiled or put in the dishwasher.
NOTE: The table constitutes general advice, always check your manufacturer's recommended cleaning methods.
Tips for Effectively Cleaning Sex Toys
Whether you are new to sex toy hygiene or just want a little more information, this section highlights a few tips you can implement when cleaning your toys.
Spend some time doing the cleaningPatience is important when cleaning a sex toy. While it may be tempting to rush, you need to spend enough time cleaning it to ensure you’ve done a thorough job. Refer to your manufacturer's guidelines or reach out to them if you’re unsure how much time you should spend cleaning a sex toy.
Dry them completelyOnce a sex toy has been cleaned, it needs to be given time to dry before being put away. Drying sex toys with a cloth or tissue may result in the transfer of fibers between the cloth and your toy. A preferable option is to let your toy air dry on a clean towel.
After cleaning, store them appropriatelyA good storage method is one that ensures your sex toy remains clean while it’s not in use. Examples may include (depending on your toy) dedicated sex toy bags or storage boxes. Remember, before storing your sex toy it needs to have been cleaned and allowed to fully dry.
Wait a while before reusingBased on the study we explored on sex toys and HPV transmission, waiting between cleaning the sex toy and reusing it may reduce your chances of spreading infection. The study found the two vibrators used experienced 16% and 44% reductions in HPV positivity after 24 hours, compared to straight after cleaning.
Keeping your sex toys clean is a vital part of using them responsibly. Failure to do so may increase the risk of spreading infections. It also allows you to ensure that your sex toys are kept smelling and looking fresh for longer. You can clean sex toys using a dishcloth and a mild antibacterial soap. Alternatively, you can seek out a purpose-built sex toy cleaner.
A surface clean should be done after every use, with further deep cleaning a good way to target the hard-to-reach areas.
A number of cleaning techniques exist such as disinfecting, boiling, and dishwashing. The technique that you use will depend on the construction of your sex toy and you should always consult your manufacturer's guidelines for guidance. 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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