I suppose I don’t need to put a fine point on the timing of this subject matter. I believe my colleague and personal hero Tercius has more than made things clear.
Okay so! Here’s the thing: Regularly cleaning sex toys is an important part of caring for your sexual health, regardless of whether you use them strictly solo or with a partner. If you share toys with a non-exclusive partner, it’s especially critical to keep toys clean, as they can transmit diseases.
There are a few basic things to know about cleaning sex toys:
- Sex toys come in a wide variety of materials—silicone and hard plastic and jelly rubber and elastomer!—and it’s important to know what material a toy is made of so that you can clean it properly
- Some materials, namely hard plastic, jelly rubber, elastomer or thermoplastic elastomer (TPR) are porous and therefore, even when clean, can pass STDs to a partner. If you share these types of toys with a partner, you may want to use a condom and if you share them with a non-exclusive partner, you must use a condom in order to practice safe sex toy
- Toy cleaners and toy wipes are GREAT products to know about! They are especially convenient for stashing in a bedside table drawer for easy access and are also great for travel. (Not that many of us are doing much travel these days.)
Toy cleaners tend to come in three delivery systems: Spray pump, spray nozzle or foaming. Much like hand soap (liquid, foaming, bar), the type of formula you choose is entirely up to what feels easiest for you to use — which is to say, they’re all good and will work equally well.
Here are some toy cleaners to choose from.
*Note: Some of these are primarily marketed for other types of personal cleaning, but they can be used for toys! Also, adult bathroom wipes and baby wipes work too.
Also, we have so little joy these days so PLEASE feel free to giggle at the names of these things. They’re hilarious and if you find hilariously named toy cleaners you have an obligation to tell us about them in the comments. We need laughter!
You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the proper cleaning of a toy, which is a thing to do right when you acquire it, since you should always (always, always, always) clean a toy before its first use. But here is a quick guide to cleaning sex toys based on their material type.
Motorized silicone or stainless steel: Wipe the toy clean using a small amount of mild soap (hand soap, castile soap, a free and clear dish soap, etc.) applied to a damp cloth. Rinse the cloth with clean water and wipe the toy again to remove soap residue. Dry completely before storing. Unless clearly stated that it’s waterproof, never submerge a motorized toy in water.
Non-motorized silicone or stainless steel: For regular cleaning, you can use the same method described for cleaning motorized toys. If a deeper cleaning is required, non-motorized toys can be submerged in boiling water for 10 minutes. Non-motorized silicone or stainless steel toys can also be cleaned in the top rack of the dishwasher by running the ‘sanitize’ cycle without soap.
These instructions also apply to cleaning non-motorized sex toys made from less commonly found (but still out there!) materials like glass, Pyrex, wood, or stone.
Cyberskin (Fleshlight, etc): Cyberskin is quite sensitive and the material can easily become abraded, so it’s important to be gentle when cleaning it. To do so, wash it using your hands and a small amount of mild soap and warm water. Dry gently with a soft cloth like an old t-shirt or a flour sack towel to avoid damaging the material.
Hard plastic, jelly rubber, elastomer, or thermoplastic elastomer (TPR): Wash with mild soap and water, and dry well before storing. Reminder! These materials are porous, so even after cleaning they can still harbor bacteria and STDs so if you use them with a non-exclusive partner you’ll need some condoms.