On most sex toys, cleaning directions are located directly on the packaging. So, as much as you want to throw the cardboard or plastic exterior away in a rabid scurry toward the prized possession, save it for some extra knowledge on how to nurture the longevity of your invested toy. Most cleaning directions are pretty basic: soap and water. But not every sex toy is cleaned the same way because they aren’t made the same way. For instance, the material a toy is made from, as well as whether or not it is motorized, plays a role in how to clean it.
Before you start going at it, let’s look at why cleaning your collection is more important than you think. STIs and general hygiene are the two main concerns, but keeping them in tip-top shape is another reason to wipe that sucker down after insertion or playtime.
Ah, STIs. They aren’t just limited to intercourse or oral; they do, in fact, thrive on toys, especially when used with a partner. Not cleaning the material thoroughly afterward can result in bacterial or yeast infections — even HPV was shown to have been passed almost immediately.
Seventy-nine million Americans are infected with HPV, which can lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus. Moreover, gonorrhea, chlamydia and various bacterial infections (think serious itching) can be transferred through shared toys. Remember to get tested often, between partners and during, since symptoms may not be visible or obvious.
Cleaning your toy is also just a good idea for general hygiene. Just like peeing after sex is a good idea, so is cleaning your toy. Make it a habit and don’t fall asleep right after the deed is done. You need to treat your body with the respect and love it deserves, treat your toy the same way. Also, don’t cross-contaminate. Your anal plug shouldn’t be going anywhere near your vagina. Keep things separate for a happy ending.
How do you clean your sex toy exactly? As I said above, look at the directions before handling it. But, here are a few quick tips if you aren’t 100 percent sure.
- Motorized and silicone, glass, stainless steel or wood: soap and a damp cloth.
- Not motorized and silicone, Pyrex, stainless steel or stone: Place it in boiling water for 10 minutes or place it in the dishwasher without soap.
- Hard plastic, elastomer, jelly rubber: These materials store bacteria, so using a condom is highly recommended. Just a tip: Make sure it’s non-lubricated because silicone lube and silicone toys are a no-no. The result is sticky and messy as silicone bonds to silicone. Read more about what condoms to use with what material here.
Aftercare includes drying off your toy and placing it in a silk bag or special box to keep it away from outside bacteria. If you choose to store your toys in a box all together, remember to keep them separated by material. Latex, silicone and rubber can cause toys to become misshapen.
Moreover, sex toy cleaners exist, and at a shop, representatives typically advise customers to purchase a cleaner as an addition. Remember to remove the batteries, spray the cleaner directly onto the toy, and rinse with warm water.
Another option is UVee, founded by mother-daughter team Carrie Martz and Brooke Martz O’Connor. UVee has a germicidal UV-C light system that claims to kill 99.9 percent of germs that may cause infections. It’s easy to use too: Wipe off your toy, place it in the chamber, close the lid, and UVee will clean your toy. According to its website, UVee has been scientifically proven to be two to five times more effective than using foams and gels.
How often should you be cleaning your toys? After every single use. You can’t skirt around this and make it a once a week thing. And there isn’t really a “how-to” section that answers this question like we have above. It’s just necessary. Make it a habit. Get it done.
To take care of your body and also the longevity of your toys, it only takes a few moments to ensure your toy will last through your next playtime. I know it isn’t incredibly sexy to jump out of bed and clean, but hey, in the long run, it matters. It doesn’t have to be 30 seconds after a climax, but before your next use, you’d better be cleaning that thing. It’s a deed that must be done, and you’re the only one who can do it.
A version of this story was published April 2018.