Like doing laundry and loading the dishwasher correctly, cleaning sex toys is a necessary skill to learn, and one that most could stand to exercise more often. After all, the devices get extra-intimate with the genital region (an area definitely worth keeping clean), and many mistakes can be made in the process of sanitizing them. Since these mistakes can lead to a decidedly yeasty ordeal, it’s important to make sure you’re clear on the best methods to go about it. And that begins with truly committing to cleaning your sex toys.
“You should clean your sex toy after each use to prevent bacteria from collecting,” says Rebecca Alvarez Story, sexologist and founder of Bloomi. “Sex toys made with 100 percent medical grade silicone, stainless steel, or glass can be washed with hot water and mild, unscented soap. It’s best to let them air dry on a clean surface and then store them in a waterproof bag or clean nightstand counter. Remember to wash your toy before and after each use.”
But those rules are just basic 101-level components to commit to memory when it comes to cleaning sex toys. In order to extend their lifetime, prevent damage, and keep your genitals safe, find what exactly you should keep in mind when cleaning sex toys, and, crucially, the common mistakes to avoid.
Below, 6 mistakes to avoid making when cleaning sex toys
1. Not cleaning your toy when it first arrives
Because maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, well, I don’t need to wash it, it’s totally untouched so it must be safe!” Well, I thought the same thing about a Bart Simpson sweater I bought last February…and then I broke out into full-body hives after wearing it one time. I just thank my lucky stars that sweater only affected my external skin. With a sex toy? So much can’t be guaranteed.
“Just like new underwear, a sex toy should be cleaned thoroughly with mild soap and hot water after you take it out of the packaging and let it air dry on a clean surface,” Story says. “Sex toys are not sterile, so it’s reasonable to expect that they have dust or bacteria, even if brand new.”
2. Not checking whether your toy is waterproof or water-resistant before you clean it
The good news is that many sex toys are waterproof. But, before bringing a toy in the tub with you as a bath-time companion, always confirm that it is safe for submerging.
“If it’s not, there could be openings through which water will leak and cause electrical and battery damage. Make sure to review the product information so you don’t ruin your toy,” says Sadie Allison, PhD, sex educator and co-founder of GoLove CBD lubricant.
3. Not drying your toys off properly
“Not drying off your toy fully before storing could lead to damage issues, so make sure to really wipe it down before placing it back in its respective nook,” says sexologist, CEO of Dame Products CEO, and Well+Good Changemaker Alexandra Fine, who suggests avoiding towels that leave any kind of debris, which could leave irritating particles on the toy.
4. Using scented soaps, household cleaning products, or bleach
“Remember, these toys are presumably going back into contact with either your vagina or anus—both very absorbent parts of your body,” says Fine. “Scents can cause irritation and problems like yeast infections, so avoid just throwing any old household scented soap onto these.”
Dr. Allison adds that using household cleaning products that aren’t meant for sex toys can damage them. “It’s best to stick with warm water and anti-bacterial soap and/or sex-toy cleaners,” she says.
5. Cleaning a porous toy the way you would a hard toy
If you’re dealing with a porous material like jelly, latex, rubber, or realistic-skin material, cleaning it as you would a hard, non-porous sex toy is a bad idea. That’s because porous toys can trap bacteria, so they’re not ideal to play with recklessly. But if you’re really committed to your toy, the best way to play is with protection.
“If you have a porous toy, the safest thing to do is to use a condom on it every time,” says Dr. Allison. “This will keep it clean and you safe.”
6. Throwing it in your musty old goody drawer
That’s because your drawers are a powerful location for allowing bacteria to build up. Furthermore, why hide your pleasure? “I encourage people to leave their favorite sex toys on their nightstand, front and center. It sends a statement that you prioritize pleasure and also serves as a reminder to have sex,” Story says. And if you must keep them in a messy drawer? “Make sure you place your toy in a waterproof wet bag first,” she says.
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