We heard an interesting statistic recently. According to a retailer we talked to, the average consumer spends $35 on a sex toy purchase. Now, if there’s anything worth working a day job for, we’d argue that it’s an orgasm. (A good one has all the benefits of a spa vacation, ya’ll.) But whether money’s tight and you’re investing in carefully chosen lower cost quality brands (Blush and PicoBong come to mind) or throwing around dollar bills like a sex toy gangster, there’s one thing we know for sure: when it comes to sex toys, quality counts. And by quality, we mean toys that are well made, work well and are made of materials that won’t leave a chemical burn on your junk. (Don’t believes us? Read The Importance of Choosing Body-Safe Materials.)
The Care and Cleaning of Quality Sex Toys
Plus, whether you’re spending $35 on a toy or $135, chances are you aren’t putting your money down for a one-time use. In fact, if you’re a smart sex toy consumer, you’ve probably done your research and chosen a toy you think will make you happy for many orgasms to come.
There’s only one catch: In order to keep the good times going, high-quality sex toys require proper care and cleaning. Don’t worry, this shit isn’t onerous, but it’s a good idea to do it right, both to ensure you remove any harmful bacteria from your toys and to ensure they give you all the pleasure you deserve.
Here's a comprehensive guide on how to clean and care for any and all sex toys and sex toy material types. The mission: To ensure you get the most orgasms for your money.
Cleaning vs. Sanitizing Your Sex Toys
First thing’s first: When it comes to sex toys, there’s clean and then there’s really frickin’ clean - and that means sanitized, ya'll. Now, in most cases, sex toys don’t need sanitation. A good wipe down with a sex toy cleaner or scrub with soap and water will do. After all, if you’re using that toy on yourself for the same purposes, you should be good to go. It’s your own bacteria, and not much of it will be left behind after cleaning anyway. There are, however, some cases where sanitizing sex toys is a good idea, such as:
- When you’ve used a toy anally and plan to use it orally or vaginally
- When you plan to share the toy with another person or partner
- When you’re dealing with an STI or yeast infeciton where re-introduction of any pathogens could be unwanted (or, again, if you're sharing the toy).
Got it? Good. So how do you sanitize a sex toy? First it’s important to know that only non-porous materials can be sanitized. That means silicone, metal, ABS plastic, ceramic, glass and specially treated wood. Porous materials, like the brightly colored jelly materials many cheap sex toys are made of, can trap bacteria that will be difficult to fully eliminate by any means. You have been warned!
The methods for sanitizing your toy include:
Running it through the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. This is only for non-motorized sex toys, and works best for silicone, glass and metal toys as they tend to not be sensitive to heat. And, um, don’t run them with the your dishes, OK?
Boiling in water for 3-4 minutes. Some glass, metal and silicone toys can be boiled for sterilization. If you’re unsure about whether a sex toy will hold up to this, though, be sure to check with the manufacturer.
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. (Just remember to rinse them carefully afterward. Bleach and genitals do not mix, and long-term exposure to bleach can damage some materials.)
Use a UV sanitizing system like Uvee. This one’s a bit more high-tech (and expensive), but it also makes sanitizing toys super simple. Give it a go if sanitation is a concern for you.
Whatever option you choose, be sure to rinse and dry your toys thoroughly as well. This also helps prevent bacteria, mold and other nasties from taking hold.
How to Clean Your Vibrators
How to clean a vibrator kind of depends on the vibrator. Many are now waterproof, which means you can toss them in the sink and scrub them up with soap and water. Depending on the toy, you may also want to keep a toothbrush around for cleaning out any cracks/crevices in the toy. These can get kind of um, gunky, so it’s a good idea to give them a scrub when you can. This type of cleaning will work just fine if you have a toy made of silicone or ABS plastic. It may also work for TPR/TPE toys (but be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.) Even toys that aren’t waterproof can typically take a splash in the sink. If you’re unsure, you can use an alcohol wipe or sex toy cleaning spray to wipe them down.
If you happen to have toys made of other materials like jelly rubber,or skin-like materials that are not pure silicone, they will be more difficult to clean. However, because these toys may also be porous and contain dangerous chemical such as phthalates, it is advised that you cover them with a condom during use. Even better advice, however, is to invest in something made of better materials to begin with. (For more insight, check out 10 Harmful Chemicals That Make a Sex Toy Toxic.)
|Soap & Water||✔||✔||✔|
Note that there's a wide range of skin-like materials (often used to make masturbators), so check with the manufacturer's directions to determine how best to clean them. Many of these materials are porous and somewhat delicate, which can make a thorough cleaning more difficult. If you opt for bleach or alcohol cleaning, be sure to rinse your toy thoroughly afterwards!
How to Clean Your Dildos
When it comes to cleaning, there tends to be more options for dildos because they typically don’t include electronic parts. This means the methods mentioned in the section about sterilization, including bleaching, boiling and the dishwasher, may be options. We recommend dildos made of non-porous materials like silicone, metal, wood, glass and ceramic. They clean up well, last well, are durable and are safe for your body.
|Soap & Water||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
Note that not all silicone products can be boiled. Many can be, but reach out to the toy's manufacturer if you aren't sure.
Cleaning Anal Sex Toys
When it comes to cleaning anal toys, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is that anal bacteria is dangerous everywhere except the anus. What that means is that if you put a dildo in your butt, you can’t put that dildo anywhere else before sanitizing it first. What that also means is that if you have toys you want to put into more than one orifice, you should make sure those toys are made of materials that can be sterilized.
The other problem with anal toys is that they can develop a bit of an odor, particularly when they’re made of silicone. In this case, some of the sterilization methods mentioned above can help. So can soaking your toy a solution of vinegar, or even exposing it to direct sunlight for a few days. We’ve also heard good things about soaking anal toys in baking soda and water. Otherwise, all the same rules for cleaning apply as for dildos, as long as your toy doesn't include a motor, in which case you should refer to the cleaning instructions for vibrators.
Maintaining Your Sex Toys By Using the Right Lube
Cleaning is an important aspect of caring for your sex toys (and your health), but there’s another factor you may not be aware of: lube. Essentially, some lubricants are not compatible with some sex toys. Here’s a bit of a breakdown:
|Silicone Lube||Water-Based Lube||Hybrid Lube||Oil-Based Lube|
Note that while hybrid lubes typically work fine on silicone sex toys (the amount of silicone isn’t high enough to cause an issue), you should still do a patch test on your toy to be sure. Pure silicone lubes can dissolve silicone sex toys. That said, silicone labeled "platinum cured" will typically hold up well to any kind of lube. If you're not sure, do a patch test!
Sex Toy Storage
As long as your toys are made of high quality materials, you should be able to store them however you like, although beware about putting latex, jelly or PVC toys together - they release chemicals that can cause them to melt (which, by the way, is the reason these materials are a bad idea in the first place.) For silicone toys, you may want to store them in a cloth bag (many manufacturers provide one) to prevent them from picking up lint.
If privacy is an issue for you (and you have kids in the house), you may want to put your toys in a lockable box or sex toy storage case.
When it comes to toys with replaceable batteries, most manufacturers recommend that you remove them before storage; keeping them in can reduce the life of the toy. Also be sure to turn off your toys and activate the travel lock, if you have one. This way, you won't pull out your favorite toy, only to find it has a dead battery.
Many Years to ... Come
We sometimes hear people complain about the cost of good sex toys. And, yes, for some budgets, they can be a sacrifice. But unlike many other things you might buy, orgasms never get old or go out of style. Take great care of your quality sex toys and you'll be able so use them for many years to come.
Tara Struyk is a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Kinkly.com. She’s a content creation and management executive with 15 years of experience working in online media. As a writer, her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Forbes, Glamour, MensHealth and Investopedia.
Tara is currently the VP of Content at Janalta.com, where she leads the editorial department and directs content production for a diverse portfolio of websites in niche verticals. She has launched several sites from the ground up, and has experience managing sites from pre-launch all the way to maturity. She has deep experience in online analytics, SEO optimization, content marketing and editorial direction.