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Raise your hand if you’ve ever tossed a sex toy back into your goodie drawer after a job well done so you could roll over and enjoy the afterglow.
Disinfecting and properly storing your sexccesories may be the last thing on your mind after getting off, but not taking the time to do it could mess with your health and your toy’s shelf life.
We hit up a couple of experts for tips to help keep your sex gear — and your tender parts — in tiptop shape.
We believe pleasure is a fundamental aspect of a safe and healthy sex life. That’s why we rely on experienced writers, educators, and other experts to share their suggestions on everything from the technique you use to the sex toy you buy.
We only recommend something that we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched — if you know what we mean. Wink.
Anything related to sexual play — not just the usual top-drawer suspects — need to be properly cleaned and stored.
Different materials require different care. This handy little chart tells you how to look after your toys depending on what they’re made from.
If your item is made of a mix of materials, each material should be accounted for while cleaning.
For example, never submerge your motorized or battery-operated vibe in water. The same goes for your silicone ball gag: Don’t boil it if the strap isn’t also silicone.
|Material||Porosity||How to clean||Where to store|
|ABS plastic||nonporous||warm water and soap or sex toy cleaner||in a lint-free fabric bag|
|cotton||porous||cold water and soap||any clean container or drawer|
|crystal, stone, wood*||nonporous||warm water and soap||lint-free fabric bag or padded container|
|glass, Pyrex, silicone, stainless steel||nonporous||motorized: warm water and soap or sex toy cleaner |
nonmotorized: can also use boiling water or sanitize in dishwasher
|glass and Pyrex: lint-free fabric bag or padded container |
silicone or stainless steel: any clean container
|jelly rubber, elastomer, latex, cyberskin||porous||room temperature water and a soapy washcloth||individually in a lint-free fabric bag or nonplastic container|
|leather||porous||spot clean with a damp, soapy cloth||store in a cool, dry place and avoid storing in plastic|
|PVC and vinyl||porous||warm water and a soapy washcloth||lint-free fabric bag|
|nylon||nonporous||machine or handwash with soap||any clean container or drawer|
*Crystal, stone, and wood can be porous or nonporous, depending on the type or the coating used. If it’s porous, clean with room temperature water and a soapy washcloth.
Playing with an unclean sex toy that’s been stored incorrectly is kind of like eating a loose mint that’s been rolling around in the bottom of a purse or gym bag for a while — sticky and covered in lint.
Ick factor aside, improper cleaning and storage of sex toys could have health consequences, explains Searah Deysach, sex educator and owner of feminist sex shop Early to Bed.
“You want to clean your sex toys every time you use them because dirty (used) toys can introduce bacteria and possibly cause infections,” she says. “They can also collect lint, dust, and other debris that you want to keep out of your bits.”
FYI: If you have pets, that “other debris” will likely include pet hair, and that gets on everything.
Depending on what the toy’s exposed to and whether or not you’ve shared it with others, you could be opening yourself up — sometimes literally — to bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
After and before every use, TBH.
That might seem excessive, but when it comes to your health, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
If you’re going to get lax about it, your sex toys and related items should — at the very least — be washed immediately after use, and before and after sharing.
Materials should be listed on the packaging of any toy. If not, consider it a red flag that it may not be body safe.
Same if the package says it’s “for novelty use only,” says Joshua Gonzalez, MD, a board certified urologist and sexual health adviser for ASTROGLIDE.
“This usually indicates that the manufacturer may be trying to get around certain standards of disclosure for personal products,” he says. “Seeking out toys designated ‘medical grade’ ensures the highest quality and safety.”
If you don’t have the OG packaging, you should be able to find details online by searching the product name or by visiting the retailer or manufacturer’s website.
You may also be able to figure out what it’s made from based on certain features like flexibility, texture, and even smell.
For example, latex and rubber have distinct odors, ABS plastic is hard, and jelly toys look — and shake — like, well, jelly.
“Porous materials can be cleaned with soap and water or a toy cleaner. A gentle liquid soap, like you would use for your hands, is a fine choice for most toys,” Deysach says.
“Toy cleaners can also get your toys sparkling in a snap,” she says. “Sliquid Shine is my go-to cleaner. After you’ve washed your toy, let it air dry before putting it away.”
Keep in mind that porous toys are a lot like your skin in that they have tiny holes — or pores — that can harbor bacteria even after cleaning.
As for other kinky gear, “Leather accessories like dildo harnesses and BDSM equipment should be spot cleaned with gentle soap and water,” Deysach says.
“Note that leather is very porous, so be cautious of sharing these items with others if you aren’t fluid bonded.”
“100 percent silicone, glass, and steel toys can also be cleaned with liquid soap or a toy cleaner and then air dried,” Deysach says.
“If you’d like to give them a quick clean without leaving your bed, Afterglow Toy Cleaning Tissues are body safe (so you don’t have to rinse) and work great at keeping nonporous toys clean.”
The beauty of nonporous toys is that, as long as they’re not motorized, can even be boiled or run through the dishwasher.
“If you have nonvibrating silicone toys (like dildos or butt plugs) you can take an added step and boil them in water for up to 3 minutes to sanitize them thoroughly,” Deysach explains.
“Be sure to not boil soft porous toys or anything that turns on,” she says. “I find a washcloth makes it easy to clean nonwaterproof toys safely.”
As for motorized toys, remember to take the batteries out before giving it a good clean.
“Then close the toy back up and take care to keep water out of the battery compartment,” she says. “After the toy is rinsed, open it up again and let it dry with the battery compartment open.”
There are some handy-dandy sex toy storage containers you can buy, but chances are you have something lying around the house that’ll work just fine, like:
- a lint-free fabric bag
- a makeup case
- a sock
- a different nonplastic container
Got a gaggle of sex toys and gear? Get creative, suggests Deysach.
“I’ve seen people use over-the-door shoe hangers, file drawers, or locking tool boxes,” she says. “A lot depends on how handy you need them to be and how much you have to hide them from prying eyes.”
When storing your toys, keeping them separate is a good idea, especially when it comes to certain materials, according to Deysach.
“If you have jelly or other soft, nonsilicone toys, you want to be sure they are each stored separately, as they can melt together if they’re touching while stored,” she says.
Some final advice from Deysach about storing your sex toys: For the sake of longevity, store any battery-operated toys with the batteries outside the toy. Batteries can drain or corrode if left in toys too long.
If you have rechargeable toys, make sure you charge them periodically to keep them working best.
And always keep your toy’s manual. You never know when you may need it.
Putting in a little effort to properly clean and store your sex toys helps keep you and your partner(s) safe and your sex toys in tiptop shape.
Sticking with toys made from quality materials can help, too.
If in doubt, throw a condom over the toy before use, and wash it after with a warm, soapy washcloth.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.