How to Clean Sex Toys
Written by: Denise John, PhD
Published on: November 4, 2022
Cleaning your sex toys comes down to thoroughly washing them with soap and water after you use them and then drying them completely. And if you can’t wash your vibrator right away, then just do it as soon as you can before you use it again.
Why is it important to clean your sex toys? What goes on your vulva or inside your vagina (including sex toys) can affect your health. As pleasurable as sex toys can be, if left unwashed, they can become a petri dish for bacteria to grow, which can lead to vaginal irritation and infections when using them over time. To continue to get pleasure out of your sex toys without the unwanted irritation, washing them is key.
How you clean your sex toys will depend on what they’re made of (i.e., porous or nonporous materials), whether they are waterproof, and potentially other features they may have. Ahead, some best practices for cleaning, drying, and storing all kinds of vibrators and sex toys.
Wash it with soap and water. Experts recommend that you wash your vibrator with soap and warm water after each use to reduce the risk of infections. Use gentle, clean soap without harsh chemicals that could potentially cause irritation to the vulva or vagina—they’re both porous and can absorb chemicals and other substances. And absolutely “no bleach, no Lysol, no OxiClean,” says Susan Kellogg-Spadt, PhD, CRNP, the director of female sexual medicine at the Center for Pelvic Medicine in Pennsylvania, whose patients have asked about these products in the past.
“Washing should be done for at least 20 seconds, like how you wash your hands—you can sing the happy birthday song,” says Kellogg-Spadt. And make sure that you rinse the soap off thoroughly to minimize the chance of any residue being left on the vibrator.
Consider the material of your sex toy. The material affects how easily (and thoroughly) you can wash it. Sex toys made of nonporous materials like pure silicone, glass, stainless steel, or hard plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic) are the easiest to clean, which is why experts recommend using sex toys made with these materials. Bacteria and residue stay on the surface of these materials, instead of penetrating, and can be effortlessly washed away.
Porous sex toys tend to be less expensive, but Kellogg-Spadt tells her patients to “spend a little bit more to get a better toy.” If your vibrator is made of porous materials like latex, silicone blends (not pure silicone), or rubber, it can be more difficult to clean because bacteria and residue can absorb into the toy as they would into a sponge, making them difficult to remove. Experts advise against these types of toys. If you have a favorite rubber sex toy that you just can’t let go of, you could in theory cover it with a condom while using it to minimize the risk of infection.
You’ll also want to consider whether your sex toy is waterproof. You can generally submerge a waterproof sex toy under water while cleaning it. If it’s not waterproof, running water is typically okay.
Get into the grooves. If your sex toy has any crevices, get in there—bacteria can linger. You can gently brush it with a soft toothbrush or whatever you have on hand that’s tough enough to clean but gentle enough to maintain the integrity of the sex toy’s material. (You don’t want to introduce microscopic holes in your sex toy where bacteria can later grow; this can turn your nonporous sex toy into a porous one.)
Clean it after use. Cleaning your sex toy right after you use it is best. Residue can be removed more easily and less bacterial growth occurs. “You don’t have to clean it the minute it comes off or out of you, but it does need to be cleaned in a timely fashion,” says Kellogg-Spadt.
Dry it completely. Moisture left on your sex toy can encourage lingering bacteria to grow, so ensuring it’s dry before storing is key. Air-drying is best to limit lint or fuzzies.
Store it in a clean bag or box. This is to prevent dust and debris from settling on your sex toy (and its needing to be cleaned again before you can use it).
Coco de Mer
Pleasure Renewed Toy Cleaner
goop, $45SHOP NOW
goop’s Toy Cleaner Pick
For those times when you can’t get to the sink right away, a sex toy spray can help tame bacteria growth for the moment. Just spray Coco de Mer’s Pleasure Renewed Toy Cleaner onto your toy, let it sit for five seconds, and wipe clean with a lint-free cloth.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.