Some people might think of sex toys as being a little dirty. Dirty as in naughty, or racy ... or even taboo. That kind of dirty. Not dirty dirty. That's just gross. Unfortunately, the rules of sex toy sanitation aren't that simple thanks to the range of different products and materials now available. Want to keep your play dirty and your toys clean? Here are some tips on how to do it.

Why Clean Counts

Sex toys generally make for safe sex, but if they aren't kept clean and sanitized, they can also be a great way to introduce bacteria and other nasty things to your body. That's because bodily fluids - including semen, vaginal fluids and blood - can linger on the surfaces of your toys. If that doesn't gross you out, consider this: some pathogens, such as the hepatitis C virus, can survive for several hours or even days outside of the body. So can bacteria from the anus, which can be dangerous if introduced anywhere else, such as the vagina. (Learn more tips on how to have safe anal sex in What You Need to Know About Anal Sex.)

To keep yourself and your partners safe, medical professionals recommend cleaning your sex toys thoroughly after each use. There are a number of different ways to effectively clean your toys, but the method you choose is often determined by what your toy is made of - and how you use it. The following are some preferred methods for keeping your bedside stock squeaky clean.

Follow the Directions

You know how clothes always come with cleaning instructions? Well, so do sex toys. So, the best way to clean any sex toy is often to follow the directions on the packaging. These cleaning directions are created to not only effectively clean your toys, but also to keep them in tip-top shape.

Good For: All sex toys, or at least the ones you kept the packaging for ...

Soap and Hot Water

A good scrubbing with soap and hot water is usually sufficient for most sex toys. Lather up the toy with a little squirt of antibacterial soap and let the foam sit there for a few moments to kill bacteria and other germs. Use the hottest water you can stand to thoroughly rinse the toy to avoid leaving any soapy residue behind. If you're washing battery-operated toys that aren't waterproof, be sure to remove the batteries and avoid submerging them.

Good For: Most toys, including those made of plastic, silicone, rubber, metal and glass.

Warm Water

Plain warm water may be the best option to clean some toys. This is particularly true for sex toys made from porous materials, like rubber or vinyl, since these materials can trap and hold soaps and other chemicals. Some of the new life-like sex toy materials, like Cyberskin, must also be cleaned with just water or a little soap, since they are extremely porous. (This is why it's often recommended that you use a condom with these as well, especially when using them anally.) Once you've cleaned a Cyberskin sex toy, it should be allowed to air dry and dusted with cornstarch to prevent it from getting sticky.

Good For: Rubber, vinyl, and Cyberskin.

The Dishwasher

Believe it or not, your dishwasher can also be used as a sex toy washer. Whether you want to wash your dildos with you dishes is up to you. Either way, simply place them on the top rack, add a little dishwasher soap, and let 'er rip! Keep in mind that this method shouldn't be used for toys that have batteries, and some toys may not hold up to the extreme heat of the sanitization cycle.

Good For: Toys without batteries and toys made from heat-resistant non-porous materials, like silicone, glass and metal.

Mild Bleach Solution

Using bleach to clean sex toys is usually a bit of overkill, but if you're something of a germaphobe and want to make sure any and all germs are wiped out, it's a good option. Since chlorine bleach is a very potent chemical, though, it can damage your toy or irritate your skin, especially if used at full strength. Dilute one part bleach with 10 parts water, and soak your non-porous toys in this solution for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse the toys well in clean water after they've been soaked.

Good For: Non-porous materials, like silicone, glass, metal and hard plastic.

Boiling

As with bleaching your sex toys, boiling may be overkill, especially if you aren't sharing with multiple partners. If killing any and all germs is your aim, though, this will do the trick. Of course, this isn't an option for toys with batteries or for toys that may not be able to hold up to extreme heat. To boil your sex toys, simply bring a pot of water to a boil and let your toys soak in the water for a few minutes.

Good For: Tough toys made from materials like silicone, metal and glass.

Sex Toy Cleaners

Several companies make specially formulated sex toy cleaners designed to clean and disinfect sex toys. Although these cleaners are usually an unnecessary expense, they are nice to have on hand, and they are generally safe for a wide range of sex toys. Before using a sex toy cleaner, check the labeling to make sure it's safe to use on your toys.

Good For: Most sex toys.

Leather, Fetishes and Other Dirty Pleasures

Leather sex toys and fetish items, like whips and chastity belts, can be hard to keep clean, as leather is a very porous material. Saddle soap and warm water can usually be used safely on leather items, and diluted hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol solutions can be used to disinfect leather. Mink oil and leather conditioners may also be used to keep leather soft and supple, and prevent it from cracking. (If you need some help getting these things dirty, check out Why Bondage Can Be So Much Fun.)

Sharing sex toys is the surest way to share germs. Any time you share a sex toy between two or more individuals, it's always a good idea to wash it between uses. Condoms can be placed over penetrative toys and changed between uses for extra protection. Although most toys can be sufficiently cleaned and sanitized, some toys made from porous materials, like leather and rubber, can trap harmful pathogens. These toys should only be used by one person to prevent the spread of germs.

Keeping your sex toys clean between sessions is also important. Avoid just tossing them under the bed or in your underwear drawer - they'll pick up dust and lint that can be hard to remove, especially when it comes to silicone.

Keeping It Clean

If you like to think of your sex toys as your dirty little secret, more power to you, but that doesn't mean you can't keep them squeaky clean.

(Still confused about how to clean toys or about what's safe for which activities? Get some tips on finding a good sex shop for insight and advice in Why I'm a Sex Shop Snob and You Should Be Too.)