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How to Clean and Care for Your Sex Toys at Home

Experts weigh in on the dos and don'ts of cleaning and caring for your bedside trinkets

A plethora of sex toys lay on a colorful floor
Collection of different types of sex toys on a blue and pink background. Sex toys for adults, dildos, vibrators, clitoral stimulators.

When you think of a “sex toy,” what comes to mind? A dildo? Maybe a butt plug? Whatever it may be, it’s most likely a penetrative sex toy that seems straightforward enough to clean. While penetrative sex toys may be the most popular, “sex toys” aren’t a solitary category. 

Non-penetrative sex toys alone can include external vibrators, meant just for clitoral stimulation (Magic Wand, Bullet, etc), to masturbation sleeves to nipple clamps, says Dr. Jenni Skyler, PhD, LMFT and CST, an AASECT certified sex therapist, sexologist and licensed marriage and family therapist for Adam & Eve, an adult retail company with locations in Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, and Monroe

Why It’s Important to Clean Your Sex Toys

No matter what kind of sex toy satisfies your needs, they should all be cleaned, Skyler insisted. She recommends thinking of cleaning sex toys the same way you might clean a fork or knife after use.

“Caring for sex toys really just takes a little bit of knowledge and effort,” added Kate McFadden, creator of Solitary Magic sex oil. That knowledge starts with the dangers associated with not cleaning your sex toys. 

Dirty toys create the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow and breed, increasing the risk of yeast infections, UTIs or even bacterial vaginosis, Skyler said. There is less risk for non-penetrative toys, but it’s still a possibility.

As excited as you may be to try out your newly bought toys, make sure to clean them when they arrive, just like you would a pair of underwear you buy brand new from a store, Skyler added.

How to Clean Your Sex Toys

Medical-grade silicone, stainless steel and glass are the best toy materials for cleanliness, Skyler told Queen City Nerve, because they are nonporous and less likely to breed harmful bacteria. 

Cleaning them is easy as well; just use mild soap and warm water and scrub for 20 seconds — the same as you would your hands. McFadden suggests Dr. Bronner’s Baby Castile Soap as a mild, unscented soap to clean your toys.

“Making sure to pay attention to all parts of your toys, such as the bases of dildos, is an important and often overlooked step,” she said. 

If you want that super extra clean, Skyler suggested boiling the toys in water for three minutes, but only if they are dishwasher safe, as cheaper plastics might melt. “Definitely don’t boil anything with a motor inside,” she added. 

You can boil your non-motorized toys based on the frequency of use, but once a month is a good rule of thumb, said McFadden. (A monthly boil would go along with a thorough soap-and-water cleaning after each use, not in place of it.) 

The top rack of the dishwasher can sanitize multiple sex toys at once — many toys are dishwasher safe and will say so on the packaging — but should be run without soap or rinse agents, said McFadden. 

What Products to Use to Clean Your Sex Toy

Just because a cleaning product may sanitize your toy doesn’t mean it’s safe for your body. Skyler and McFadden warned against using household cleaning products or harsh disinfectants on sex toys. They emphasized that folks should stay away from scented soaps, dish soaps, bleach, rubbing alcohol and perfume. 

“Remember that these items are in contact with your genitals or inside your body, so mild soaps and sex toy spray cleaners are best,” said Skyler.

Adam & Eve’s cleaning spray acts as a sanitizer for sex toys (this is not a paid advertisement, just an example of the sort of product that’s available), but while the fancy sex toy cleaners are easy to use, Skyler insisted that the classic soap-and-water combo is all you really need.

A woman's hands holding a sex toy under running water in a sink
Simple soap and water are the best ingredients for how to clean your sex toy. (AdobeStock)

Skyler also mentioned that non-penetrative toys are not as essential to keep clean as penetrative ones, but there is still the possibility of bacterial transfer, so it’s always a good idea to clean it after use.

Porous toys can be cleaned and sanitized the same way as nonporous toys when used for solo play, says McFadden. Because of their porosity, they tend to harbor more bacteria than non porous toys and are therefore not recommended for multi-partner use.

If you opt for a porous sex toy that’s harder to clean and is used by more than one person, McFadden suggests putting a condom on the toy during use to lessen the chance of spreading infection. 

However, if you think you can get away with not cleaning your toy because you’re only using it for solo play, think again. Skyler and McFadden agreed there’s no difference in cleaning methods whether you’re using the toy with yourself or with others.

Another note that may seem obvious but is important nonetheless: If you’re cleaning a motorized toy or a toy with batteries, use care while cleaning around the battery packs or charging connections, McFadden urged.

How to Care for Your Sex Toy Once Cleaned

Once they’re cleaned and dried — emphasis on the importance of completely drying a sex toy before storage — store your sex toys in their own bag or container so they don’t attract bacteria from whatever other items live in your bedside drawer, Skyler said.

“Some people have a toy box and never clean their toys, letting their dildos lay around with their anal toys, spreading bacteria amongst the whole toy box,” she said. Don’t be one of those people. 

McFadden gave similar advice for cleaning toys between bodily contact points. “Seems obvious, but many infections are caused when switching between vaginal and anal play.”

Skyler and McFadden also shared some general upkeep tips with Queen City Nerve on how to care for sex toys and keep them as healthy as possible.

McFadden said that, while you should use plenty of lube on your toys to avoid injury — injury that can lead to infection — you should never use oil-based lubes or cleansers with latex toys, as it deteriorates them over time.

For battery-operated toys, Skyler recommends taking the batteries out when not in use so as to avoid burning them out prematurely. 

More important, do not make the mistake of hopping in the bath with a non-waterproof, motorized toy, Skyler said. Double check that the toy you’re submerging in water is safe and waterproof.

The little bit of knowledge and effort you put into cleaning and caring for your sex toys can go a long way, but if you walk away with anything, let it be this simple tip from Skyler: “Clean a toy after each use. Period.”

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