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Keeping It Clean: Top Tips for Sex Toy Care & Safety

Most of us in the BDSM or D/s lifestyle love our toys. Some of us have chests, trunks and even entire rooms dedicated to our tools and toys. Making sure they are clean and well maintained should be a priority job, since toys were designed to bring pleasure and not disease or discomfort, we should learn some basics about the care and cleaning of them. If you follow some simple guidelines you will be able to keep them safe and extend their life expectancy.

Why Clean Counts?

Sex toys generally make for safe sex, but if they aren't kept clean and sanitized, they can also be a great way to introduce bacteria and other nasty things to your body. That's because bodily fluids - including semen, vaginal fluids and blood - can linger on the surfaces of your toys. If that doesn't gross you out, consider this: some pathogens, such as the hepatitis C virus, can survive for several hours or even days outside of the body. So can bacteria from the anus, which can be dangerous if introduced anywhere else, such as the vagina.

To keep yourself and your partners safe, medical professionals recommend cleaning your sex toys thoroughly after each use. There are a number of different ways to effectively clean your toys, but the method you choose is often determined by what your toy is made of - and how you use it.
The following are some preferred methods for keeping your bedside stock squeaky clean.

Vinyl, rubber, silicone, glass, metal, and plastic:
    • Wash the toy with a damp cloth and an anti-bacterial soap as soon after use as possible. This will prevent body secretions and lubricants from drying on the surface and making them much harder to remove later.
    • Once playtime is over, a more careful cleaning should be done. Thoroughly wash the toy in warm water and an anti-bacterial soap. (There are many on the market and most do a very good job.) Use a soft brush and gently wash the surface, paying close attention to all the nooks and crannies. Use special care on silicone or jelly-rubber toys so that you do not nick the surface with your nails or too vigorous of a scrubbing. (Nicks cause these types of toys to tear and you might end up with your favorite toy in pieces. These nicks and cracks also give microbes with a place to hide and grow.)
    • Carefully dry the toy when cleaning is completed. Most bacteria need a moist place to live and grow and cannot survive on a clean, dry surface. Exposure to the air and light is recommended when possible.
    • Most vinyl, silicone and glass toys, and attachments, without metal parts, can safely be washed in the top shelf of your dishwasher. This method is one of the best ways to sanitize these types of toys.

    All insertables should be considered personal toys and not shared if possible. If sharing can not be avoided then use condoms and other barriers and disinfect them immediately.


    Special care should be taken with items made of leather. The leather will lose its suppleness quickly and dry and crack if subjected to long periods of exposure to soap and water. Even small amounts of water may discolor some leather finishes.

    • Wiping the surface of the leather with a cloth damped with anti-bacterial soap and water will remove most traces of blood or body fluids, but not all. It's nearly impossible to clean soft, unfinished leather such as suede or chamois so special care should be used to prevent them from being soiled with any body fluids.
    • Air dry leather toys for as long as possible. Exposure to the air will help destroy many harmful microbes. Exposing them to sunlight is also beneficial but be careful not to overdo this and cause the leather to become "weathered". Using a disinfectant spray, such as Lysol Spray, may be beneficial also, but again, this could cause the leather to stain or discolor.

    It is my own personal opinion that leather toys should not be shared. They are much too difficult to clean and disinfect so reserving that expensive flogger for that one special "bottom" is the best option.

    Electrical toys:
    Remember electricity and water do not mix well, so never submerge any electrical toy in water. This can ruin the motor by causing corrosion and be dangerous the next time you want to use it.

    • Once the toy is unplugged, wash its surface with a cloth damped with water and a good anti-bacterial soap. Pay close attention to those nooks and crannies. (Removable parts can be cleaned according to the instructions above.)
    • Carefully dry the surface of the toy and allow it to continue to air dry for as long as possible.
    • Battery-operated toys should never be cleaned or stored with the batteries in them. Clean and store them separately.

    Wood (Paddles, canes, etc.)

    • Wooden toys should be treated much the same as leather ones unless they have a sealed finish.
    • If the finish is sealed (lacquered, painted, varnished) it should be washed thoroughly with water and an anti-bacterial soap. Do not soak them in water. This could damage the finish and cause the item to warp.
    • Dry with a soft cloth and air dry for as long as possible.
    • Soft buffing will restore the finish and be sure to check the item for splinters and other damage.

    Metal toys:

    • Wash metal items like clamps, clips, and studs in warm soapy water.
    • After washing, they may be soaked in alcohol for 20 minutes and then removed and allowed to air dry. Alcohol will kill almost any known microbe within 10 minutes so this should be a very effective way to sanitize most metal toys.

    How should I store clean toys?

    There are a few things to keep in mind when storing your clean toys. Maintaining their cleanliness is the primary concern and it's not a difficult thing to do. I doubt that most of us will be too concerned with "long-term" storage.

    • Make sure the toys are completely dry. Storing damp toys in a closed container, such as Tupperware®, is somewhat like making an incubator for bacteria.
    • Wrap silicone (jelly type rubber) toys in a piece of soft cloth, like terry cloth, to prevent it from being nicked by other toys.
    • Make sure all batteries are removed from battery operated toys. Do not store the batteries in the same place as the toys. A leaking battery can do a lot of damage to the toys and to tender flesh if it's not detected before use.
    • Any covered container or "bag" that keeps them dust-free will do. A container that breathes is the better choice than an airtight one and a nice leather bag or wooden chest can be an attractive method of storage. (If you have children or frequent visitors, you might consider using one that can be locked.)
    • Wrap floggers and horse hair whips in a soft clean cloth to prevent tangling and protect the fibers.
    • Small metal toys, like clamps, can be stored in a small cloth pouch to protect them from damage or loss.


    • Never use an oil based lubricant on any toy that contains latex. Oil eats latex (a natural rubber product) and will destroy things like condoms, gloves, dams, cots and diaphragms. Most toys will hold up better with a water based lubricant.
    • Never use silicone-based lube with silicone based toys.
    • Never use an oil/petroleum-based lubricant on anything that will be inserted into the vagina. This can cause yeast infections and other bacterial problems.
    • Oil/petroleum-based lubricants include Vaseline, hand creams, lotions, body oils, baby oil and many creams. Check the list of ingredients on the label for any mention of oil or petroleum products.

    The use of Nonoxynol-9, a spermicide common used to lubricate condoms, can possibly reduce your chances of contracting some sexually transmitted diseases. However, this has never been proven and should not be depended upon to prevent disease or pregnancy. What You Need to Know about Nonoxynol-9 will teach you more about the common spermicide. Some people are sensitive to this product and develop an irritation from Nonoxynol-9. If this should occur, stop using the product immediately.

    Anal sex:

    • A toy that has been used anally should never be inserted into the vagina. The bacteria that is normal and healthy in the anus in not healthy for the vagina.
    • Sharing toys between these two areas can cause PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease). This is a dangerous and sometimes deadly disease.
    • A condom can be used on a toy that is going to be used both anally and vaginally or shared with another partner. Change it when changing areas or partners.

    Play safe!

    These simple tips can keep you and your partner safe and healthy. If you must share your toys, be aware of the risks and use good hygiene. Play safe and make sure the only thing your toys give are pleasure and not a disease.