by Anna Borges
Takeaway: Scrub it before you buzz it.
Sex toys are awesome and an excellent addition to your sex life, both solo and with a partner.
But sex toys also become a lot less awesome if you don’t care for them properly.
Not washing your toy, using the wrong lube, or storing it incorrectly can all lead to problems, whether that’s a shorter life span or distortion of your toy or a risk of an infection for you. Which, no thanks. BuzzFeed Life talked to Claire Cavanah, co-founder of Babeland and co-author of Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex, for her best tips for keeping your sex toys safe, in good shape, and running as long as possible.
A quick note: Many sex toys come with cleaning instructions, so make sure to look out for anything unique to your toy that these tips might not cover.
1 – Wash your toys after every use
Yep, even if you’re only using it on yourself and not sharing with a partner. Toys that are washed every time last longer. If you don’t, the material can degrade or become discolored, says Cavanah. That, and if an unwashed toy is stored with other toys, it can contaminate them with bacteria.
2 – If you want to be really safe, wash your toys before every use, too.
“They can come in contact with lint, pet hair, or other bacteria while they’re stored and then if you insert them, that goes into your body,” says Cavanah. But if you store your toys correctly (which is covered later in this post), this is just a precaution you can choose to take.
3 – Choose the right soap.
Cavanah suggests using a mild, unscented hand or dish soap — and no need to go with the antibacterial option. “It might seem like a good precaution, but they can leave a residue,” she says.
If you want a more discreet option (like if you live with roommates and don’t want to haul your sex toys to the bathroom every time you use them), you can also go for a toy cleaner, like Before & After Toy Cleaner. “It’s a liquid formula that you spray on the toy and wipe off that neutralizes bacteria and won’t harm the material,” says Cavanah.
4 – Don’t submerge any battery-operated toys in water to wash.
If your toy has batteries, plugs into the wall, or buzzes in any way, you have to take extra precautions. Wiping it down with a warm, soap washcloth is all you need to do.
5 – OK, now figure out what material your sex toy is.
Obviously, the world of sex toys is vast and varied, so this article is concentrating mostly on vibrators, dildos, plugs, beads…basically anything that can go inside you.
These toys come in a ton of different materials, but can be divided into two categories: porous and nonporous.
Nonporous toys are ones that can be safely shared because their surfaces are impenetrable by bacteria — common nonporous materials are glass, Pyrex, silicone, and stainless steel.
Porous toys, on the other hand, are made from materials like hard plastic, cyberskin, elastomer, jelly rubber, nylon, and neoprene, and are more absorbent.
No need to guess what material your toy is. It should say right on the package (or if you’ve already tossed that, on the manufacturer’s website).
6 -Here’s how to clean your nonporous toys.
Silicone: Wash with soap and water or place it in the top rack of your dishwasher. You can also put it in boiling water for 10 minutes to disinfect it.
Glass: Wash with soap and water, and don’t expose it to extreme temperatures (like in the dishwasher), to avoid warping.
Pyrex: Pyrex is basically heat-resistant glass, so it can be boiled, put in the dishwasher, or washed by hand.
Stainless steel: Boil for 10 minutes, soak in bleach and water (then make sure to RINSE THOROUGHLY), or wash in the dishwasher.
7 – Here’s how to clean your porous toys.
Porous materials are more sensitive to temperature and prone to warping, so most should be washed the same way: with soap and warm water, either in the sink or with a soapy washcloth. Nylon toys are the exception, which can be machine washed.
Again, porous materials are hard plastic, cyberskin, nylon, neoprene, jelly rubber, vinyl and soft vinyl, acrylic, elastomer, and leather.
8 – Make sure you’re using the right lube.
Don’t use silicone- or oil-based lubes with silicone toys, says Cavanah, because it will stick to the material and break down the surface of your toy. Go with water-based or hybrid lube instead — but still always make sure to wash it off afterward (but you’re already doing that anyway, right?)
9 – Use a condom with your porous toys.
Some porous toys can’t be completely disinfected, so you should always use a condom when using it with a partner, says Cavanah. If you’re only using your toy on yourself, you should be fine as long as you wash it after every use.
10 – Always check to make sure your waterproof vibrators are still safe to use.
If the little rubber plug or O-ring that covers the battery compartment of your toy is missing, loose, or broken, no more shower fun for you. Sorry! That thing is no longer waterproof.
11 – Look out for any irregularities that might signal it’s time to throw out your toy.
Sadly, even the best sex toys don’t last forever. “If the motor gets louder, it’s a sign that the toy is getting to the end or if the charge isn’t lasting as long,” says Cavanah. Also look out for seams coming apart or pockmarks in your silicone toys, since that means it’s no longer nonporous. RIP.
12 – Don’t just toss them in your bedside drawer and call it a day.
Who knows what dust, food crumbs, and other junk is lurking in there? Cavanah suggests storing your toys wrapped in cloth or in a cloth bag (luckily, many toys come with their own dust bags, so don’t throw them out). Once you do that, your drawer is totally fine (and definitely preferable to somewhere like under your bed, says Cavanah).
You do want to avoid using Tupperware or plastic bags, though. “Chemicals can leach into the toy over an extended period of time,” she says.
13 – Take the batteries out of your vibrator when you’re not using it.
Leaving the batteries in can actually corrode the toy and drain the battery life, since they’re conducting at a low charge when in the toy. And there’s nothing sadder than the halfhearted buzz of a vibrator on low batteries.
Happy (and safe) sex toy adventures, everyone!
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