Education

Toy Cleaning and Maintenance

[Header Image Description: A light pink dildo, the Fun Factory Bouncer, under a stream of water.]

So, you’ve got yourself a new sex toy, and you want to keep it clean! A good dildo should theoretically last you a lifetime, so I would recommend looking after it properly to get the most use out of it. Even if you’ve bought a vibrator with a motor will eventually give out, you still want to make sure you don’t prematurely end your time with it. This cleaning and maintenance guide only applies to body-safe toys, because unsafe toys are more volatile and can’t be cleaned.

Cleaning

You might have read the toy safety guide already, but if not, I’ll recap. When reviewers talk about body-safe materials, we mean silicone, glass, glazed ceramics, stainless steel, aluminium, and medical grade finished wood. Some other materials are body-safe, such as some stones and some plastics, but I don’t know enough about these materials to give advice, and they are still relatively uncommon. Toys that aren’t body-safe, like TPR, Cyberskin, “Jelly”, and so on, can’t be cleaned and will always hold onto bacteria. Most of these cleaning methods will probably melt or destroy toys made from unsafe materials. Which is a blessing in disguise, honestly, because you probably shouldn’t put those toys on your genitals anyway.

When cleaning your toys, the most important distinction is between toys with electronic parts (vibrators, mostly) and toys without (be they silicone, glass, metal, etc.). Let’s start with the easiest: solid silicone.

Silicone: Non-vibrating

For a non-vibrating silicone dildo, butt plug, cock ring, and so on, you can keep it clean between uses with a bit of soap and water. You shouldn’t scrub with a rough brush, because it could damage the toy. I find a washcloth to be sufficient most of the time, but if your toy has a lot of crevices and texture, a soft toothbrush is a good idea. This just gets the gunk off the toy if you’re not intending to share it or use it in a different orifice.

If you want, you can use a toy cleaner between uses, but I am beginning to think that these products are a waste of money. There are cheaper and more thorough ways to clean your toys. I still use toy cleaner occasionally, because it eases my cleanliness/contamination OCD, but I don’t use it if I actually want to clean something.

If I want to share a toy with another partner, or use it in another orifice, or just feel like giving things a thorough scrub, you need to sanitise it. It is important to recognise that you are only sanitising the toy, not sterilising or disinfecting it. The toy is not going to transfer infection or bacteria, but it is not entirely free of viruses and bacteria – it is just a small enough amount to be negligible. Make sure to rinse the toys beforehand, to get all the dried lube, bodily fluids, and fluff off of the dildo.

A very popular method of toy cleaning is to put your dildos and such in the top rack of your dishwasher (without washing powder or detergent!) and put the dishwasher on a cycle that reaches 70C (155F) or more. Some machines have a specific “sanitise” or “health” setting, but mine doesn’t, so I prefer other methods for more security and peace of mind.

cleaning 2.jpg

[Image Description: A large metal pot, like the one you should use to boil dildos, on a granite bench.]

If you don’t have a dishwasher, or are a little bit scared of them like me, you can also boil your toys in a large pot. Just make sure that the pot is big enough to submerge the toy entirely. I like to put it in the boiling water for 3 minutes, but you don’t need to boil for longer than 5 minutes. It might seem obvious, but remember to take your toy out of the water with tongs, because it can get quite hot!

If you don’t want to take your dildos and anal beads into the kitchen every time you want to get them clean, pop over to the laundry room and put them in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water). I generally leave it sitting in the bleach solution for 5-10 minutes. Again, use tongs or gloves when taking the toys out of the bleach. Make sure to rinse well after this, because you don’t want ANY bleach getting on your genitals.

pure wand 3
Image Description: The njoy Pure Wand, a curved stainless steel dildo, in its pink satin-lined box.

Metal, glass, wood, ceramic: non-vibrating

You can clean metal toys using all these methods as well. Just be aware that they will be very hot after boiling!

If you want to clean your glass toys in boiling water or the dishwasher, make sure they are made of borosilicate glass, because other types of glass (like soda lime) can break if exposed to such high temperatures. Even with borosilicate glass, I would probably stay on the safe side and contact the manufacturer before boiling.

The same applies for ceramic and wood – not every mug you have is dishwasher safe, so why would every dildo be? With other non-standard materials, I would suggest that you check proper cleaning methods with the manufacturer as well. Putting them in the bleach solution is a good option if you aren’t sure how your toy will cope with heat, however.

Vibrating

If your toy has a motor, don’t expose it to heat, as this will ruin the electronic parts. Have you ever put a phone through the washing machine? It’s not the best idea.

Your vibrator should say whether it is waterproof or splashproof on the packaging or website. If it is waterproof, you can submerge it entirely in water to clean, but if it is only splashproof, don’t cover it with water. You can dunk a waterproof toy in soapy water for a basic clean, but I would generally steer clear of soaking it in water, even if the toy is advertised as totally waterproof. It’s best to wipe or spray vibrating toys with a 10% bleach solution, and rinse thoroughly.

Vibrators frequently have grooves or places where different materials meet (like a toy with a silicone-covered insertable portion, and a ABS plastic handle), so running over those places with a soft toothbrush is a good precaution.

Use

Most body-safe toys are compatible with any lubricant you want to use. Just make sure your lubricant is body-safe as well! This doesn’t affect how it plays with toys, but it keeps your genitals healthy and comfortable. Silicone lubricant can break down silicone toys, however. Apparently, some silicone toys can be used with certain silicone lubricants, like Tantus toys and pjur original silicone lube, according to the Tantus website. I tend to avoid mixing silicone lubricants and silicone toys, however, because it’s just easier than having a different lubricant for each different toy.

If you want to use a specific toy with 2+ partners or 2+ orifices in one session, you can cover it with a condom and switch condoms when the toy is used on a different person or in a different hole. However, most readily available condoms use a silicone lubricant. To protect your silicone toys, use unlubricated condoms if you can.

Storage

After you’ve cleaned all your toys, how do you store them? You actually don’t need to put all your toys in little silk bags – real silicone toys don’t melt into each other. The only reason I would put a toy in a separate bag is if I had sanitised that toy but hadn’t sanitised others in the drawer. It can also help to keep dust off of your toys – silicone is a notorious dust magnet.

Rechargeable vibrators should be recharged every time the battery runs out, or every 6 months if you don’t use them regularly. Battery operated vibrators should have their batteries removed between uses.

Generally, try to keep your silicone toys away from sharp materials so that they don’t get punctured or otherwise damaged. That means your Wartenberg wheel should be kept away from your butt plugs! To avoid breaking your glass toys, keep them closer to the ground or in a thicker bag. Glass toys are pretty hardy for the most part, but you don’t want to smash a significant investment on the floor.

That’s about everything I know about toy cleaning and maintenance! Now go out and have a raging good time.

Material Quick Wash Sanitise Lube Store
Silicone Soap & water Dishwasher

Boil

10% bleach

Water, Oil, unlubricated condoms With other toys, away from sharps
Medical-Grade Metal Soap & water Dishwasher

Boil

10% bleach

Water, Oil, Silicone, Hybrid With other toys
Glass & Ceramic Soap & water 10% bleach, only heat if manufacturer advised Water, Oil, Silicone, Hybrid With other toys, in the bottom drawer or in a soft pouch
Hard Plastic Soap & water (unless only splashproof) 10% bleach Water, Oil, Silicone, Hybrid With other toys
Vibrator – waterproof Soap & water 10% bleach Refer to material With other toys, refer to material
Vibrator – splashproof Wipe down 10% bleach – wipe only Refer to material With other toys, refer to material

 

29 thoughts on “Toy Cleaning and Maintenance”

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