Clean Up On Aisle Four: Taking Care Of Sex Toys

Q. Could you talk about the different cleansers for sex toys and stuff? I usually just use safe anti-bacterial soap, but a partner of mine is picky about clean up around sex – he even has us shower every time. Since we are going to introduce my toys into couple’s play, I figured I should ask. 

A. Can I just say how very happy I am to see this question? As much as I love talking about the benefits and and wowzo affects of a great sex toy, one of the crucial aspects of keeping that wowzo going is good sex toy maintenance. Sex toys can transmit bacteria like nobody’s business if left to stew with all our lovely juices and fluids. This can both degrade the quality of your sex toy and make its life much shorter. What’s more, your once enjoyable sex toy becomes a harbinger of transferrable bacteria that can cause anything from bacterial vaginosis to UTIs to yeast infections. Gross.

a plastic tub filled with assorted sex toys
Clean Yer Toys!

Fortunately, taking care of your sex toys might be one of the quickest few minutes of preventable action that you might ever experience in your life. Proper care includes both proper washing and rinsing of your toys post-sex and making sure the sex toys you bought are of only the top notch quality. First off, is the sex toy you have one that you know won’t give you an allergic reaction? Is your sex toy tear free? Any cracks? Are there any weird spots of discoloration or irregular funkiness? Does it have that vague sex toy smell or does it perchance smell a bit more…pungent? If it takes batteries, test it out – check for any strange rusting or other marks in the general battery area. Most of the time, you are going to walk away knowing you have got a grade A sex toy, but because we live in an imperfect world, there will always be the “Shit Happens” oddball toy that just might not be up to snuff, whether new, a month old, or a few years old. Don’t use it. Seriously. Don’t use it. It might seem tempting, being that it seems like such a teeny, tiny, minute little thing, but kittens, those teeny, tiny, minute little things are usually the bearer’s of hidden bacteria. Play it safe.

Which brings us to a slipperier matter – lube. I swear by lube, I worship at the alter of lube, I have promised my first born to the lube god. Lube makes sticking anything, anywhere, so much easier, and safer. Friction in your mucus membranes? That causes tears. Fingers, penises, toys – they all carry a certain amount of bacteria that can be harmful in a highly absorbable, easily torn area. Lube kids, lube.

But wait, there’s more.

While lubing your toy to hell and high water, have you thought about what you are coating your toys with? Yes, this matters. Certain lubes can eat away at your toys and cause little porous openings, which are just ripe for bacteria to come hang out in and rear its ugly head. So let’s go over the three main type of lubes and what they are best used for:

1. Water-Based Lubricant: The most common, the easiest to wash off, and the most sex toy-friendly. Water based lubes are best used with silicone or jelly toys, so most vibrators, dildos, and yes, fleshlights. It is also condom-friendly, if you are planning on using a condom over your sex toy. Water-based lube is most often body-friendly, but try and score one that is glycerin-free (just in case your inner bits are sensitive to it). Also, if you are into, you know, earthy awesomeness, there are vegan/earth-friendly/natural lubes that fall underneath this category.

2. Silicone-Based Lubricants: If you like taking your sex toys to the shower, silicone lube is the way to go. Silicone lube is water-resistant, though harder to clean. It requires a longer, soapier cleaning and, it can only be used with certain toys. No silicone lube on a silicone or jelly toy, and definitely no condoms – it’s the quickest way to degrade your sex toy or your latex. Did you know that silicone bonds to silicone? This happens because it is made out of microscopic glass balls. This causes the silicone to break down, causing a gummy breeding ground for bacteria. Of course, there are a few compatible silicone lubes that can go with certain grade silicone toys, like some of these bad boys.

3. Oil-Based Lubricant: Oil is tricky because anything petroleum based should really only be used for external masturbation or strictly anal play only. These lubes should be used with non-jelly, non-plastic, non-silicone toys (so basically stainless steel), and it definitely shouldn’t be used with latex. If you thought silicone broke things down, oil will blow your mind by basically eating through your toys AND on top of that, it messes up the pH of your lovely vagina, causing an environment that is ripe for bacterial infection. Seriously, oil-based lube is the ideal lube for anal play with a stainless steel toy.

Now, one of the great things about sex toys is that they most always come with a handy-dandy how-to guide. This should give you an idea of not only how to use your brand new toy, but what your toy is made of and how best to take care of it for the long term. But okay, real talk: how many of us here have torn open our sex toy boxes like a rabid five-year-old on Christmas morn, only to throw away all those helpful little how-tos that the nice sex toy people are always kind enough to include? Yes, I see the hands, and I am right there with you. But kittens, that’s okay. We live. We learn. We can make do.

Since there are multiple types of sex toys, we can go through each, giving a more comprehensive how-to guide on the clean up needed. But most sex toys, different as they are, fall in line as far as the standard procedure for cleaning. For the most part, a nice lukewarm wash with a mild antibacterial soap, and be sure to go fragrance-free my dears. If your toy takes batteries, make sure to take the batteries out (this ensures a long battery life, too) and make sure not to expose the battery area to water. But online sex advice lady, how long do I wash my toys for? Good question dear made-up person here to help me get to my next point! I always say that washing your sex toys should be like brushing your teeth – 2 to 3 minutes, not too harsh, and just enough to make sure everything is sparkly and clean as a whistle.

Now! Onto those specifics.

A dishwasher filled with dildos
Washing toys has never been so fun. Image copyright, Claire Fontaine : “Dildo Washer” at Sorry We’re Closed.

1. Silicone Toys: (Non-porous). God bless, silicone toys are like the Honda of the sex toy world. Clean up is usually nothing more than a quick wash with a mild, fragrance-free soap in lukewarm water. Pat dry with a towel, and store sans batteries if they have them. A few camps argue that you can boil silicone sex toys on a low boil for ten minutes, but since most come with batteries and boiling is also argued to break down silicone, I say stick with a wash.

2. Jelly Toys: (Porous) Compared to their silicone sisters, jelly toys are a bit more problematic and require a thorough cleaning, mostly due to the fact that they are so, so, so porous and can’t be completely disinfected. Give it a warm wash with soap, and to be on a safer side, try a sex toy cleaner that can give it that extra-clean oomph. Personally speaking, I think jelly toys should be avoided due to the fact that what’s in them is often more harmful than the stuff that ends up on the outside of them (but you know, the combo of the two ain’t great).

3. Glass Toys: (Non-porous). Wash with lukewarm water and mild soap. Pat dry.

4. Soft vinyl/rubber/latex/hard plastic: (porous). Again, a warm wash with soap, and a recommended sex toy cleaner. Make sure to get every trace of soap off because these toys can absorb the soap and not only degrade the toy, but cause future irritation to any mucus membrane, especially if you are choosing to not use condoms on your toys.

5. Pyrex: (non-porous). Pyrex is great because it can be cleaned multiple ways – you can wash it with the soapy water method or you can actually boil it. Hell, you can put it in the dishwasher with your wine glasses and spaghetti pots. Delicious.

6. Cyberskin: (porous). Cyberskin toys are a little bit more off the beaten path, but they are gaining in popularity. However, like jelly toys, they are extremely porous, and can’t ever be disinfected. There is also the same claim that like jelly, they are made of chemicals that are not safe for exposure to your mucus membranes. Nonetheless, use soapy water, a sex toy cleaner, and air dry. Some folks recommend using cornstarch powder as a way to keep them from getting sticky, but you have to make that call. FYI – please do not use talcum powder if you plan on putting it back up in you.

7. Stainless Steel: (non-porous). Like pyrex, stainless steel can be cleaned multiple ways. Wash it , boil it, dishwasher it, hell you can even soak it. Stainless steel offers an array of cleaning options.

Last bits of advice? Careful how you share your toys! If you are using a toy in the anus, before inserting into the vagina or mouth, please cleanse that baby. If you want to go one step further, you can use a condom when using the toy anally. Clean your toys as soon as you possibly can, especially if you are using a porous toy. Make sure to take batteries out each time, so that your toy won’t wear down the batteries (yes, the charge is still used while in your vibrator) or worse, they leak, corrode, or do some other ungodly thing that batteries sometimes do. After you clean your babies, store them in a cool, dry place, preferably wrapped up in a cotton t-shirt or piece of fabric. When you take them out for your next round of use, make sure to give them a quick rinse, just in case any fuzzies or crap have gotten caught on them.

Otherwise kitten, have fun! While clean-up can seem daunting, post-orgasm, look at what you are getting in return with your perfect little friend. So wash, rinse, and repeat – and may your good times roll, my love.

Got a ques­tion to ask, sub­ject you’d like us to dis­cuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? Keep “˜em com­ing ! You can send us an anony­mous mes­sage via the Ask Us! fea­ture here. We love seeing a full inbox of sexy sex and not so sexy sex questions.

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