When is a toy actually clean? Philosophical discussions of cleanliness aside, there are multiple ways to ensure your toys are ready for play--whether the play is solo, partnered, or multi-partnered.

When cleaning your sex toys, there are two levels of hygiene to look at: surface cleaning and sterilizing. The type of cleaning and methods you use are highly dependent on the material of your toys and it is important to know what your toys are made of. Before we get into the cleaning methods, keep in mind that non-porous toys are the best option if you have chronic vaginitis, use toys anally, or share your toys with partners. Here’s why...and how. 

Clear all the Germs!!

If you are sharing toys between partners or orifices, you want to make sure you are sterilizing your toys. To sterilize means to make something completely free from bacteria, microbes, and viruses. Sterilizing a sex toy requires a few things. First, the toy needs to be nonporous -- likely made from silicone, glass, most metals, ABS plastic, or medical grade plastic. Second, you need an agent that will kill all of the microbes: heat, bleach, or alcohol

For solid silicone, metal, or elastomed (medical grade plastic) toys without motors, you can boil your toys in large pot. Some people recommend putting a dishcloth or hand towel in the bottom of the pot to keep the toys from coming into direct contact with pot. This is not absolutely necessary, but provides peace of mind about your expensive toys bumping up against hot metal. Boil your toys for between 3-5 minutes (no longer than 10), and be careful when you remove the toys because they will be hot.

If your dishwasher has a sanitize setting, you can load your motorless toys in the top rack and run them without detergent or dishes. It is still recommended that you do a hand washing before sanitizing in the dishwasher.

Finally, for your non-porous toys with motors, you can use a 10% bleach solution to soak your toys for about 10 minutes. A 10% solution is essentially 1-2 capfuls of standard chlorine bleach per sinkful of warm water. This can work for waterproof toys and water resistant toys--as long as you are very careful not to submerge the charging port. If the toy is not waterproof (or you would prefer not to use bleach) rubbing down the surface with isopropyl alcohol will take care of the germs for you.

Always wash your toys with soap and water after their bleach bath and take special care of your stainless steel toys if you are using this method. If left soaking for too long, bleach can degrade the surface of stainless steel, ruining its shiny finish and status as a non-porous toy.

You may also hear about sanitizing sex toys as well. Sanitization is removing all of the possible bacteria and microbes from a porous toy. This means toys made from elastomer, some TPR, and that involve stings and seams. If you are prone to infection or using the toys anally or on more than one body, use a condom over the toy to safeguard against bacterial contact.

Sex Toy Bathtime

For most toys made with body safe materials that you are using only on your body and not anally, washing with antibacterial soap and warm water is the best way to clean toys before and after each use. Washing toys with soap and water prior to use removes surface bacteria and particulates (like dust and cat hair) from anything that is going to come into contact with your genitals. After play, soap and water clear body fluids and lube. Once the toy has been washed, you can leave it out to dry or use a soft cloth to dry them.

Sex Toy Cleaners

Times when you should take the extra time to sanitize include if you have a vaginal or urethral infection, you have used a toy anally, or if the toy comes into contact with more than one body. Generally, when talking about how to care for your sex toys, toy cleaning products come up as an option. While commercial toy cleaners (and baby wipes) can be great for quick condom switches or after play quick clean up if you travel with your toys, think of it like hand sanitizer. It can be great for limited use when you are in a pinch, but you don’t necessarily want to use it for the jobs that require heavy clean up. If bringing your dildos to the sink isn’t an immediate option, toy cleaner can be a good stop gap measure to increase your safety.

The Takeaway

Cleaning your sex toys is a critical part of maintaining both their function and use as well as your overall sexual health--contaminated toys can mean contaminated bodies. Take the time to match your needs for materials and cleaning methods with your personal toy uses.