Got a symptom but not sure what's causing it? Use our award-winning symptom checker to find out – it's free!

×
12th February, 20214 min read

How should you clean sex toys?

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Ana Mosciuk
Last reviewed: 09/02/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Sex toys, such as vibrators, dildos and anal toys, are objects used to increase pleasure during sex. There are many different types available and they can be used on your own or with a partner.

But whether you're thinking about trying a sex toy or you’ve already bought one, it’s important to know how to clean it, so you can enjoy it safely. Read on to learn the facts.

Why cleaning sex toys is important

It’s a good idea to know how to clean your sex toys, even if you’re only using them on your own. But it’s especially important if you’re using them with other people. This is because sex toys can spread sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and infections that are passed on through blood (blood-borne infections).

If someone with an STI uses a sex toy then gives it to you, their body fluids on the toy can spread the infection to you. STIs that sex toys can spread include:

  • herpes
  • chlamydia
  • syphilis
  • shigella

Also, while bacterial vaginosis isn’t an STI, people with vaginas who share sex toys may have an increased risk of getting it.

As blood-borne infections can also be passed on by sex toys, you should avoid sharing any toys that could cause bleeding. And take extra care if anyone has cuts or sores around their vagina, anus or penis, as this increases the risk of spreading blood-borne infections, including:

  • hepatitis B
  • hepatitis C
  • HIV

How to properly clean sex toys

If you’ve just been shopping, how to clean a new sex toy depends both on the material it’s made from and if it contains batteries or other parts that can’t be washed. There should be care instructions from the manufacturer on the packaging, and it’s important to follow these.

Generally, though, you can wash sex toys with mild soap and warm water, and you should do this every time you use them. Use unperfumed soaps, as scented soaps may cause itchiness and soreness. If you’re sharing a sex toy, it’s particularly important to wash it before using it on or giving it to someone else.

You should also wash your sex toy between using it on different parts of the body, such as the vagina, mouth and anus.

Using a condom on a sex toy is another way to help keep it clean and avoid passing on STIs – just make sure you put on a new condom before it touches someone else’s genitals or another part of the body.

It’s also important to note that sex toys can be made of two types of materials – porous and non-porous. The main difference is that porous materials may absorb germs that can cause infections, even if you wash them.

So, if you’re putting a sex toy made of a porous material inside your body (mouth, vagina or anus), it’s a good idea to use a condom on it, to keep out any germs. Porous materials used to make sex toys include:

  • silicone blends
  • jelly rubber
  • PVC
  • vinyl
  • TPR and TPE
  • elastomer
  • other rubbery plastics

Sex toys made from non-porous materials won’t absorb germs, meaning they’re safe to use inside your body. They’re easier to keep clean, too. Non-porous materials used to make sex toys include:

  • 100% silicone
  • hard plastic
  • stainless steel
  • aluminium
  • break-resistant glass

How to store sex toys hygienically

To make sure your sex toy stays clean after washing, it’s important to follow the storage instructions that came with it.

Generally, it’s best to store it somewhere out of direct sunlight, such as in a drawer, to keep it protected. Also make sure you dry it after washing it before putting it away. Some toys come with a storage pouch or protective case, which will help to keep them safe. However, it’s always worth giving your sex toy a wash before using it, too.

Key points

  • sex toys are safe, as long as you keep them clean and use them responsibly
  • it’s important to clean sex toys to prevent the spread of STIs and blood-borne infections
  • you should clean a sex toy after each use and before using it on another person’s genitals
  • follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean and store your sex toys
  • you can wash most sex toys with warm water and unscented soap
Was this article helpful?

We include references at the end of every article, so you know where we get our facts. We only ever take evidence from medically-recognised sources, approved by the UK National Health Service's The Information Standard, or certified by Health On the Net (HON). When we talk about popular health trends or claims, we'll always tell you if there's very little or no evidence to back them up. Our medical team also checks our sources, making sure they're appropriate and that we've interpreted the science correctly.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.