So you’ve invested in some sex toys, and now you want to preserve them so you can enjoy a long, fruitful life together. Proper wash care is paramount to keeping your toys safe to use, in good condition, and (if you like!) suitable for sharing with others.
Join me for all the tips and tricks you need to clean your sex toys safely and effectively!
When Should I Wash My Sex Toys?
Before we discuss how to clean your toys, let’s talk about when to do it.
When your toy arrives
I recommend washing every sex toy as soon as you unbox it. You may not plan to use it right away, but it’s good practice to give a new toy a thorough once-over to rid it of any bacteria or dust it may have picked up in transit or the manufacturing process.
Clean your toys before getting down to business. Even if you washed them when they arrived and you haven't used them since, remember: toys can collect dust, pet dander, and bacteria from the air or other objects that might be in your nightstand.
No need to wash your toys the moment you’re finished, but when you’re ready, give them a complete clean.
Whether you’re playing solo or with partners, it's important to wash your toys after every use. Otherwise, you risk the buildup of bacteria, bodily fluids, and lubricants that can degrade your toys, disrupt your pH balance, irritate your skin, or cause infections.
How Should I Wash My Sex Toys?
The way you clean your toys depends on what they're made from, so there isn’t a single rule that works for every pleasure product. Here's how to clean the most common sex toy materials:
Silicone is non-porous, making it both safe to use on your body and easy to clean. If your silicone toy is waterproof, you can wash it with mild soap and hot water or spray it down with toy cleaner.
Splashproof toys can be cleaned with the same methods, as long as you don't submerge them in water. If your silicone toy doesn't have a motor and is waterproof, you can run it through the dishwasher with no detergent.
To sterilize motor-free silicone toys like dildos and butt plugs, you can boil them in a pot on your stovetop. Just be sure they don't contain any batteries or electronic parts.
Learn more: What Is Body-Safe Silicone?
The same rules that apply to silicone apply to glass — except when it comes to boiling! A rolling boil has the potential to knock your toy around, causing small chips and cracks that would make it unusable.
When I'm cleaning a glass toy, I like to use a spray toy cleaner and a damp cloth and hold it over a folded towel in case I drop it. It is glass, after all, so handle with care!
Learn more: Why Your Next Toy Should Be Glass
As with silicone toys, you can wash stainless steel toys with mild soap and water, throw them in the top rack of the dishwasher (no detergent), spray them with toy cleaner, or boil them.
But be warned — stainless steel is a good conductor of heat, and will get very hot, very quickly. If you boil your steel toy, give it some time to cool before touching it.
Learn more: How To Use Stainless Steel Sex Toys
Clean your crystal toys such as butt plugs and dildos in warm water with a mild soap or toy cleaner. It’s best to avoid hot temperatures when cleaning this material, so don’t boil crystal toys or put them in the dishwasher.
Sex toys made from wood are sealed with a finish that makes them non-porous, waterproof, and easy to clean. A spray sex toy cleaner or mild soap and warm water work well with polished wood toys. Avoid extremely hot water, and don't boil these toys or wash them in the dishwasher.
ABS plastic is a non-porous, body-safe plastic that's durable and easy to clean. You can clean toys made from ABS plastic with toy cleaner or mild soap and warm water. ABS plastic toys should never be boiled, washed in the dishwasher, or run under very hot water.
Learn more: Are ABS Plastic Sex Toys Safe?
Never submerge non-waterproof toys in water or cleaners of any kind. Use a damp cloth, warm water, and mild detergent to clean them by hand, or spray them with toy spray and wipe them down with a clean towel.
Cleaning Sex Toys With UV Light
Looking for a faster, easier way to clean your toys? Got a toy that shouldn't come into contact with water? Enter the UV light sex toy cleaner.
These convenient gadgets use a type of UV-C light to zap bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens without the use of soap, water, or toy cleaners. UV-C light has been used in clinical and medical settings for decades thanks to its superior germicidal qualities.
UV-C light kills 99.9% of all bacterial and viral microorganisms, making it far more effective than soap and water or toy spray methods of cleaning.
Cleaning Porous Sex Toys
All the materials we've discussed so far are body-safe and non-porous. But what about toys made from porous materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and TPE (thermoplastic elastomer)? How can you clean them effectively?
Well, you can't. PVC and TPE are porous, which means they contain tiny holes that bacteria and other pathogens can penetrate. Once these pathogens are inside the toy, they're impossible to wash, scrub, or spray away.
Because of the bacteria and fungi they can harbor, porous toys often smell, break down, and change color. They are also a common source of infection, including UTIs and yeast infections.
PVC is not only porous, it may contain toxic chemicals like phthalates that can leach into your bloodstream through your skin and mucous membranes. TPE used in male strokers and other toys is less risky because it isn't used for anal or vaginal play, but can still absorb bacteria and degrade quickly.
Porous materials can also absorb tiny bits of lubricant and bodily fluid. In addition, if you or your partner have a STI, a porous toy can absorb the virus or bacteria and transmit it to one or both of you when you use it again.
I don't recommend buying or keeping toys made from PVC or TPE if you plan to use them for vaginal, clitoral, or anal play. TPE penis toys and strokers are often designed to be discarded after several weeks or months to help prevent odor or other changes to the material from bacterial build-up.
Learn more: Are TPE Sex Toys Safe?
How to clean a PVC sex toy
If you own a PVC or jelly rubber toy and need to clean it, you can use a spray toy cleaner or soap and water. But keep in mind that your toy will only look clean. Deep down, under the surface, your PVC toy is filled with bacteria and potentially toxic chemicals.
Note that PVC sex toys can't be boiled, washed in the dishwasher, or cleaned with anything that might break down the material such as body washes or dish detergent.
Learn more: Are PVC Sex Toys Safe?
How to clean a TPE sex toy
TPE sex toys can’t be cleaned internally, but should be washed after each use and dried thoroughly. Always follow the manufacturer's directions before you clean your toy.
For certain TPE toys, you can use mild soap and water or toy cleaner. Manufacturers of some TPE strokers recommend forgoing cleaners and washing their toys with water only, or their own branded toy cleaner. Other stroker users rinse their toys with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution and then let them dry.
When washing a TPE toy, stay away from dish detergent, oily soaps or body washes, or any heavily perfumed cleanser that could damage the material or cause a permanent odor.
Just as important as cleaning a TPE toy is drying it. A wet stroker is a breeding ground for mold and odors. Strokers and masturbators can be a challenge to dry because of their tube-like shape. Many strokers are also closed at one end.
To make them easier to dry, some strokers flip open, others turn inside out, and still others come with a drying stick to help keep them expanded while they dry. After cleaning your stroker or masturbator, make sure it’s completely dry before you store it. Storing a damp stroker will shorten its life and encourage mold and mildew growth.
Like PVC sex toys, TPE toys should not be boiled, washed in the dishwasher, or cleaned with harsh soaps or detergents.
Learn more: Why You Shouldn't Buy Sex Toys On Amazon
How Should I Store My Sex Toys?
Once you’ve given your toys a good clean, it’s time to store them in a safe spot. Otherwise, you might just be inviting bacteria into your freshly washed sex-essories (yes, that’s a combo of sex and accessories!).
How to store your toys properly?
Avoid direct sunlight
Sunlight won’t make your toy any less clean, but extended exposure could cause discoloration over time.
Don’t lump them together
It might be tempting to toss all your goodies in the same dresser drawer, but it's best to give your toys space for air to circulate. That’s partly why a good storage case is so important (we’ll get to that next!).
Invest in storage
Some sex toys come with their own storage case (which we love), but many do not. I heartily recommend investing in proper storage for your toys to keep them clean and protected. You can browse all toy storage options here!
Keep them dry
Damp, enclosed areas with poor ventilation can be a breeding ground for bacteria. I suggest you take your toys out to breathe once in a while, and keep them in a dry place (bathrooms are usually a no-go).
Can I Share My Sex Toys?
Yes, you can share sex toys if they're made from the right, body-safe material! However, there are some important guidelines to sharing as safely and ethically as possible.
Before using a shared toy with a partner, check in to see how they feel about it. Even if the toy is completely clean and sterilized, some folks simply won’t be comfortable sharing toys, and that’s okay! Respecting boundaries is an important part of sharing pleasure.
If your partners are willing to share, make sure the toys are non-porous. As I mentioned, porous toys absorb and retain bacteria that can never be fully eliminated. Even if you clean them, porous toys can spread infections and STIs. Don't buy them and don't share them!
Clean, clean, clean
Always (and I mean always) wash your toys ahead of time. Even if they’re body-safe and non-porous, they still need to be thoroughly cleaned before use, especially if you’re sharing them!
If you plan to share stainless steel toys or silicone toys without motors, consider boiling them for 3-5 minutes to fully sterilize them. You can also wash them in the top rack of the dishwasher on the sterilize setting, or use a UV light cleaner to destroy any pathogens that may remain on the surface after washing.
A UV light cleaner is also a great option for sterilizing silicone toys that do have motors, such as vibrators, vibrating butt plugs, and prostate massagers.
When Should I Retire My Sex Toys?
Proper maintenance can dramatically extend the life of your toys. We at Delicto recommend inspecting toys every few uses for cracks, chips, scratches, or anything else that could make your toy porous or unsafe to use (light surface scratches on stainless steel toys are generally okay!).
Additionally, if you notice that your motorized toy loses battery power faster than it once did, it may be reaching its expiration date.
The durability of toy materials is directly linked to their lifespan. Stainless steel, platinum-cured silicone, and glass can last for years, but every toy and manufacturer is different. To get a sense of your toy’s durability, take a look at the manufacturer's warranty. A generous warranty is usually a good indicator of durability.
Can I clean sex toys with wipes?
Wipes can work as a short-term option if you don't have access to toy cleaner or another, more thorough cleaning method. Try to avoid wipes that contain perfumes, moisturizers, lanolin, or other ingredients that could leave an unwanted film behind.
Can I use a dish soap like Dawn on my sex toys?
We don't recommend it. Dish soap — and Dawn in particular — contains preservatives, fragrances, and chemicals that can leave a residue on your toys and cause irritation or allergic reactions. The common dish soap preservative methylisothiazolinone is associated with contact dermatitis and severe skin reactions, and is not an ingredient we want on our vibrators, dildos, and strokers!
How do I clean lube or soap build-up off my sex toys?
Over time, lube and soap can leave residue on sex toys, particularly if they're made from silicone. If you have a stainless steel or body-safe silicone toy without a motor, you can try boiling it on the stovetop for 3-5 minutes or washing it in the top rack of the dishwasher (no detergent!) to clean away lingering residue.
If boiling and a round in the dishwasher don't do the trick, try a thorough wipedown with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution.
What's the best sex toy cleaner?
We're glad you asked! Here are a few of our personal favorites:
Sliquid Shine Organic Toy Cleaner This all-natural, non-foaming formula contains aloe and tea tree oil, which has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Lelo Antibacterial Spray This uber-powerful spray kills 99.9% of germs in 5 seconds, and is safe for all toy materials including plastic.
Dame Hand and Vibe Cleaner This cruelty-free spray does it all, cleaning up hands and toys of all stripes (including rubber and latex) in seconds. Bonus: it leaves behind the subtle, tantalizing scent of sweet orange.
b-Vibe UV Sterilizer Pouch and Case This powerful sterilizer's rapid sanitizing system kills 99.9% of pathogens using environmentally-safe UV light. We especially love it for anal toys and non-waterproof vibrators.
Wicked Foam 'n Fresh Foaming Toy Cleaner If you like working up a good lather, this is the cleaner for you! This alcohol-free formula contains natural antibacterials, including olive leaf, thyme, and lavender extracts.
Before you go, if you have questions about cleaning a toy or just want a personalized recommendation for the perfect pleasure product, feel free to reach out! Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on social media.