Sex toys and products

The Care and Cleaning of Quality Sex Toys

Published: SEPTEMBER 28, 2023
Orgasms never get old or go out of style, which is why it pays to buy quality sex toys - and take good care of them.
You've put down the money for a sex toy. Whether that's $45 or $245, that's money you've spent to buy a sex toy for years of pleasure.

But ... how the heck do you clean this thing? Is it like your favorite plate after pasta night? Or is it more like how we'd clean between our own legs?

Turns out, most of us weren't taught how to clean sex toys like we were for the majority of objects we encounter on a daily basis. Considering some of us only come across the magic of sex toys later in life, this can be downright confusing!

You want to make sure your toy is cleaned properly, but sometimes, you genuinely don't know how.

We applaud that attention to detail. Proper cleaning of your sex toy can add years to your toy's lifespan and reduce the risk of bacterial infections. It can also reduce the risk of mold and other not-so-great adventures you don't want to explore.



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Proper cleaning of your sex toy can add years to your toy's lifespan and reduce the risk of bacterial infections.

So, let's get into it: how do you clean a sex toy? Does it matter what type it is? Is there a difference between cleaning and sanitizing, and what does waterproof capabilities have to do with any of it?

By the time you're done, you'll be a sex toy expert. If you aren't, don't worry: you can reference this article anytime you want!


A Clean Sex Toy vs a Sanitized Sex Toy

Did you know that it's possible for an object to not be fully cleaned? Even if you just scrubbed it down with soap and water, your toy may not to be entirely cleaned.

We call that the difference between cleaning and sanitization.

Most of the time, there's nothing wrong with simply "cleaning" your sex toys. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but very few things you handle or ingest in life are sanitized - no matter how much we wish they might be.

But there are a few reasons you might want to play with a sanitized sex toy:
  • Your body is sensitive to infections.
  • You traveled with the toy, and it came in contact with some odd substances.
  • You've used a toy anally before, and you want to use it orally or vaginally.
  • You've shared your sex toys with other people - especially people you aren't fluid bonded with.
  • You simply like the idea of your toy being as clean as humanly possible before play!

Cleaning vs sanitizing can also really matter when it comes to sex toy material choices. The reason some toys can't be sanitized is because of the material. No matter how hard you try to clean them, you simply won't be able to sanitize certain toys because of what they are made of.

We call those material designations "non-porous" and "porous." In other words, does your toy have microscopic pores for gunk to hide in (porous) OR is it free of large microscopic pores (non-porous.)

Sanitizing your sex toy goes beyond a standard cleaning. There's nothing wrong with going above and beyond (and in some cases it's recommended) , but be aware it can take more time and effort.

How to Sanitize a Sex Toy

Methods for sanitizing your toy include:



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  • Place your sex toy in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. A few non-motorized, waterproof toys can't hold up to this, so make sure to check with the manufacturer if you're unsure. Be careful when removing your toy from the water; they can be dangerously hot!
  • Give your toy a dip in bleach solution. Place a capful or two of bleach in a small bucket of water and let your toys soak in there for a few minutes. Use a tall drinking glass for toys with control panels (to allow the control panel to stick out of the water). Make sure to thoroughly rinse your toy, multiple times, after using bleach before using it on your body again.
  • Place your sex toys in the top shelf of the dishwasher if your dishwasher has a "sanitize" cycle. This can only be done for non-motorized toys (think dildos!), and it shouldn't be done with any toys that might be damaged by high pressure water (like wooden dildos). Do NOT use any dishwasher soap with it, and make sure the dishwasher is free of any dishes. Ensure your dildos won't slide off the shelf and into the heat element of the dishwasher; you can melt a dildo!
  • Use a UV sanitizing system like the B-Vibe Sterilizer Pouch. While not the most affordable option, this is certainly the easiest one. Just place your toy in the pouch, hit a button, and you're done!

Cleaning Waterproof and Non-Waterproof Sex Toys

Along with sanitizing and cleaning, understanding the difference between waterproof, splashproof and no water protection can make a drastic difference in the success of your sex toy cleaning. That is, the toy's level of water resistance can aid you in getting a thorough, easy clean - but it can also make it more difficult.

If your toy is waterproof, you can swish it in a bath of soapy water or hold it underneath the faucet to get water exactly where it needs to go.

If your toy is splashproof, you shouldn't submerge it or hold it under water, but you can clean it with wet hands or a damp washcloth without being worried.

If your toy offers zero water protection, you'll need to use a damp washcloth, taking special care to avoid any buttons, charging ports, battery ports, or seams. This will likely take two or three washcloths to apply your soapy cleanser, do both rinses and dry it. Make sure you find a dry place for your toy to dry too.

Keep in mind: some manufacturers, especially of cheap toys, may overstate their toy's waterproof capabilities. If you don't trust your toy to be fully waterproof, don't treat it like it is. Warranty policies are usually voided if there's water damage, so you'll be out a sex toy.


How to Clean Your Sex Toy: Tips and Tricks

There are a few tips that can help you get a sex toy clean, no matter what sex toy you're cleaning:


  • Always reference the manufacturer's instructions. If your sex toy comes with an instruction manual or instructions on the box, always take those as law. The general instructions in this article will usually apply, but the company that made your sex toy will always know better than general advice.
  • Use toothbrushes and toothpicks. If your sex toy has crevices or intricate textures, it can be hard to get a full clean. Keeping a toothbrush or toothpicks next to the sink can allow you to pick out some of the gunk from these hard-to-clean spots.
  • You can use a condom. Cleaning stuff sucks sometimes. If you're in that camp, feel free to cover your sex toy with a condom before using it. If you do, your sex toy will probably only need a light rinse after you're done. This can be especially helpful if you want to go from anal play to vaginal/oral play mid-session. You just have to strip off the condom!
Now that we've covered all of the basics that apply to all sex toys, let's talk about cleaning common sex toy types.

How to Clean Your Vibrators

Since vibrators have moving internal parts, we'll want to be careful with how we clean them. For example, while many dildos can be boiled, you definitely don't want to try that with a vibrator!

Vibrators will probably be the most-likely culprit for needing toothpicks or toothbrushes. Since most vibrators include control panels and buttons, there are more seams on vibes than other types of toys. Ensure you get those spots cleaned, though - especially if they came in contact with bodily fluids. (We promise; those spots can look gross after a few uses if you don't clean your toy thoroughly!)

After you're done cleaning your vibrator, make sure to do a light towel dry before laying it out to dry. Because moisture is the death of any electrical components, ensure your vibrator dries in a non-humid place with air flow before putting it back into storage.

Remember: Even if the outside of the vibrator is free of water droplets, you may not be able to see the water that was drying between buttons or crevices. When it doubt, allow the vibrator to sit out longer than you think is necessary to ensure it's fully dry.

Vibrator Cleaning According to Materials

When it comes to sex toy cleaning, materials matter. Here's a checklist to help you determine the best way to clean your vibrators according to what they're made of.


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Silicone
ABS
TPE/TPR
Skin-Like
Soap & Water




Rinse Only




Toy Cleaner




Bleach Solution




Alcohol Wipe





This advice applies to all vibrators meant for any orifice whether that's a penis vibrator, g-spot vibrator, or couple's vibrator.


How to Clean Your Dildos

Dildos tend to be the easiest sex toy you'll ever clean. That's because they tend to be non-motorized, waterproof and smooth.

To clean a waterproof dildo, simply wash it under running water like you would wash your hands, using a material-safe soap. Get the toy wet, add soap, stroke off the dildo to get it coated in soap and rinse it clean.

Allow the dildo to lay down (or sit up!) to dry. Suction cup dildos can make this part particularly fun.

If your dildo has complicated textures, use a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean around all of the textures. You definitely want to make sure to remove any lube and fluids from those tight spaces!

Especially when your dildo is hot (from hot water!), softer materials may be prone to scratching or indenting. Make sure to keep your fingernails far away from the material while cleaning. High-quality, lifelike, dual-density dildos are especially prone to damage when hot water softens their outermost layer.

Many dildo materials are lint and pet hair magnets, so try to keep them in a ventilated area (away from floating particulate!) for the cleanest dildo when you're done. There's no shame in doing a quick rinse of your toys before every use, though. In fact, we'd recommend it!

Dildo Cleaning According to Materials

Some dildos take cleaning much better than others. Here's a handy checklist to help you decide the best way to clean yours.


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Silicone
Metal
TPE/TPR
Skin-Like
Wood
Glass
Ceramic
Soap & Water







Rinse Only







Toy Cleaner







Bleach Solution







Alcohol Wipe







Boiling







Dishwasher








How to Clean Your Thrusting Dildos

Unlike other types of toys on this list, many thrusting vibrators and dildos have creases in the material where the toy compresses to do its next thrust.

That means you'll need to make sure those spots are clean too!

If necessary, turn on the thrusting vibrator and extend it to its full length before turning it back off. This can make it easier to clean between those crevices.

When you're done cleaning, don't forget to fully dry those creases too! Especially if the thrusting dildo sits, at rest, with those creases folded up, it can be easy for mold to grow there during storage. Use a paper towel or washcloth to dry out those crevices before placing your thrusting sex toy back in storage.

How to Clean Your Penis Strokers

Penis strokers are probably the most unique sex toy you'll have to clean.

After all, the usable surface of a penis stroker is inside the toy; you can't really say that about any of the other sex toy categories on this list! This presents unique (and let's be real: sorta frustrating) cleaning challenges.

That is, unless your penis stroker flips inside out or opens up (and a few do!), it can be hard to ensure you've cleaned every inch of the texture since you can't see inside.

That simply means that you have to clean very, very thoroughly in the hope of cleaning every inch of your sex toy.

As long as your penis stroker is waterproof, all you have to do is hold it under the faucet, using your fingers to "scoop out" any ejaculate or lube and clean all of the interior texture of your toy. The ability to hold your stroker open under running water can help drastically, as the water helps dislodge some of the messes for you.

CAUTION: Some manufacturers specifically state to NOT use hot water on your penis stroker. Make sure to read the instructions before cleaning your new sex toy as most of us default to warm and hot water when cleaning something.

If your stroker's manufacturer states it's OK, after doing the initial rinse, add soap into the equation. Some people like to submerge their stroker into a bowl of soapy water, allowing the soapy water to swish through the internal chamber as they hold the penis stroker open.

Note that many manufacturers caution against using soap on penis strokers. Since penis strokers are the most likely type of toy to be made from proprietary, skin-like material that can degrade with cleansers, make SURE your stroker allows soap before using it. If not, it may only be able to be cleaned with room temperature water. (This is what's driving some of the change to swapping to silicone penis strokers like the Firefly Yoni or the Arcwave Voy. Penis owners like to know their sex toys are fully cleaned too!)

Once you've done your soapy bath, hold the stroker under running water again until you're sure all of the soap has been removed from the internal chamber.

After you've rinsed out all of the soap, you'll need to let your stroker dry. This is key. Since the spot you just cleaned is all inside a tunnel, it can be hard for air to get in there.

Some strokers (like the Tenga Spinner, Arcwave Ion or Tenga GEO) offer stands that allow airflow inside of the tunnel. For most penis strokers, though, you'll need to try to stand them up or lay them out as best as possible to allow the inside to dry out.

This may require picking up the stroker and shaking out the water, on occasion, as you reposition it to dry in a new way.

Depending on your stroker and airflow, this may look like a few days of dry time as you occasionally repeat the process. Remember: putting a penis stroker away wet can cause bacteria growth and mold. I promise, you do not want to put your penis into mold!


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Stroker Cleaning According to Materials

Note that many strokers are made with proprietary materials. In this case, always default to the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning.


Silicone
TPE/TPR
Elastomer
Fleshskin
Skin-Like
Soap & Water





Rinse Only





Toy Cleaner





Bleach Solution





Alcohol Wipe





Boiling





Dishwasher






How to Clean Your Air Suction Toys

When it comes to air suction toys, the tip of the toy is what makes the most contact with bodily fluids, so that's where we're going to focus our cleaning. Luckily for us, many air suction toys feature removable tips, which makes for ultra-quick cleaning. Simply take the air suction tip into the sink, and clean it according to the dildo material chart, seen above. Since the tip itself should be a non-motorized material, you can use as much hot, soapy water as you need to get it super clean.

Because air suction vibrators are still new to the market and their complicated machinery may not play well with water, many air suction vibrators are not waterproof.


Since the base of the air suction vibe still probably touched fluids while enjoying the tip, you'll want to use a damp, soapy washcloth to clean the plastic/silicone toy near where you removed the tip. Avoid getting any water near the buttons or charging port to protect your toy's lifespan.


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How to Clean Your Anal Sex Toys

Anal sex toys are used in the butt, which means they might come in contact with fecal bacteria. That bacteria is a risk everywhere except where it came from.

That means your anal sex toys must be cleaned directly after use - and if you set it down somewhere between using it and cleaning it, you need to sanitize that surface too. To avoid adding unnecessary cleaning, placing mid-use anal toys on a towel or sex blanket you plan on cleaning in hot water afterwards can be a great middle ground.

Even if your anal toy doesn't have any visible poop on it, simply treat it like it always does after use, and you'll reduce the spread of anal bacterial around your household.

This anal bacteria also means that your anal toys need to be cleaned with an attention to detail. Make sure you use soap and hot water, as allowed by the manufacturer's specifications, to clean every surface of your toy. Since your hands may have touched the base after touching your anally-lubed toy, we highly recommend cleaning the entirety of your anal toy - even the parts that didn't necessarily get inserted.

If you plan on using this anal toy in other holes, take the time to do the sanitizing procedures we talked about at the top of this article. While "clean" is great, some anal bacteria might slip through a standard household soap treatment, and you want to ensure you don't accidentally spread anal bacteria. Having anal bacteria in the mouth or vagina can lead to some very unpleasant problems (think vaginal infections or stomach trouble.)

Unique to anal toys, your anal toy might smell a bit like, well, the anus, especially after all-day play (like wearing a Snug Plug all day). There's nothing wrong with this - it can even happen with non-porous materials like silicone!

To help get rid of the scent, use some of the sanitizing methods recommended above. If your toy is waterproof, simply allowing it to soak in plain water (or baking soda with water) for a few hours can reduce or eliminate the scent.


Anal Toy Cleaning According to Materials

Anal toys require special care. Clean them to the highest standard according to the chart below.


Silicone
Metal
TPE/TPR
Rubber
Wood
Glass
Ceramic
Soap & Water







Rinse Only







Toy Cleaner







Bleach Solution







Alcohol Wipe







Boiling







Dishwasher







How to Clean Your Sex Furniture

Sex tends to result in bodily fluids and lube, right? And when you have sex on sex furniture, that tends to get all over that specialized bolster.

Luckily for us, they're usually pretty simple to clean.

The most popular sex furniture manufacturer, Liberator, creates specialty covers for their sex furniture. For most of their products, you simply unzip the outermost cover and toss it into the washing machine. (Gentle cycle on cold or tap cold!)

When it's done, you allow it to hang dry (for the longest lifespan), and you rezip the cover back onto the sex furniture shape when you're done.

Depending on the sex furniture shape, this might be a two person job as the sex furniture covers have a snug fit. Small shapes, like the Liberator Wedge or Liberator Jaz, can be zipped on by a single person, but if you're trying to get your Liberator Equus Wave or Liberator Black Label Esse Chaise back into service, you might want a second set of hands.

If your sex furniture does not have a removable cover, it's probably made of a synthetic leather designed for easy cleaning. In that case, use your standard methods to clean synthetic leather, like a slightly damp washcloth and disinfecting wipes. You can see this type of furniture in action with the XR Brands Queening Chair and the XR Brands Extreme Sling.

What about sex toy cleaners?

Specialty sex toy cleaners can be helpful, but most sex experts agree that they aren't necessary for most people. Standard, mild, hand soaps (free of lotions and "skin softening" ingredients) will work well to clean most sex toys.

Avoid dish soaps, soaps with bleach, or soaps that irritate your skin. Preferably, go for unscented hand soaps for even safer results.

A few health and safety organizations are noting the potential danger of Benzalkonium chloride on vaginal health, so if you want to further minimize health concerns, you may want to do further research and choose hand soaps without this chemical.

Now, that's not to say that you shouldn't use sex toy cleaners. Sex toy cleaners can be really helpful in some instances. They:

  • They're easy. If your post-orgasm brain is likely to try to use your lotion-infused hand soap on your sex toys, having a separate bottle of sex toy cleaner can be really helpful.
  • They're travel-friendly. Hotel bar soap may not make the best sex toy wash - and you can't control what ingredients are in the soap when you visit friends or one-night-stands. Travel-sized bottles of sex toy cleaners can ensure you don't destroy your $200 dildos.
  • They're convenient. Let's be real: sometimes you don't have easy access to a sink or soap after sex. That's OK. The spray-on versions of sex toy cleaners can be a great half-way point of sex toy cleaning. They can tide you over until you're able to reach a sink and do a thorough clean of your sex toy.
  • The manufacturer recommends them. If your sex toy is made from a proprietary, unique material, picking up the manufacturer's cleanser can genuinely be the best way to take care of the material. If the instructions specifically state to never use a cleanser on your sex toy, you might have one of those specialized toys. Non-silicone, "flesh-like" materials tend to be the biggest culprit of this.

Maintaining Your Sex Toys By Using the Right Lube

While cleaning is vital to the health of your sex toy, how you use your sex toy can be just as important. That is, you need to use the right lube.

Some sex lubricants are not compatible with some sex toy materials. In fact, if the two meet, it can destroy the material of your favorite sex toy, making it gunky, tacky and impossible to fully clean. Ewww.

So which lube should you use? When you want an easy answer, choose a water-based lube. Water-based lubes are compatible with all types of sex toys and sex acts. (Now it has its own downsides, too, but that's a quandary for another article)

If you need a longer-lasting lube or just prefer a different lube type, here's a handy chart that'll help you sort out whether it's compatible with your sex toy's material.


Silicone Lube
Water-Based Lube
Hybrid Lube
Oil-Based Lube
Silicone




TPR/TPE




Wood




Metal




ABS Plastic




Skin-Like Materials




Jelly





Cleaning Makes a Difference

We get it: post-orgasm laziness is a real thing, and cleaning your sex toys can seem like so much work!

But we promise: properly cleaning your sex toys can make a huge difference. Not only will you be able to keep your sex toy longer, but it'll be less likely to give you an infection - and that's something we can all get behind.

Plus, there's something awfully satisfying about a squeaky-clean sex toy. It just looks more inviting.

Happy cleaning!
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Kinkly Staff

Sex is a bit like a secret society; everyone's doing it, it's just that no one talks about it. Kinkly's mission is to start that conversation, answer your questions and help you discover new and exciting things about sex, love and your body. We guarantee it'll be illuminating, enlightening, fun ... and a little kinky. And that's OK with us.No innuendos, no judgments and no apologies, just fearless, straight-up talk about sex.

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