How to clean sex toys

Given the rise in popularity of sex toys over the past decade – and the fact that sex toys are usually used on or in people’s genitals or anus - it’s not surprising that so many women and men have questions about how to clean sex toys. Because sex toy materials vary widely, there are different cleaning methods that are appropriate for different types of toys. As such, I recommend that people ask the person who sold them the toy how to clean it, just in case you’re not certain what type of material your toy is made of. However, some general guidelines about cleaning sex toys are as follows:

1. Glass dildos and hard plastic dildos (that do NOT vibrate) can typically be cleaned under the faucet with soap and water, then left to air dry. You can usually towel-dry glass dildos as well as they are less likely (compared to Jelly toys, for example) to pick up towel lint in the process. These toys can also often be cleaned in the dishwasher or with rubbing alcohol pads.

2. Vibrating sex toys (whether made of silicone or jelly) that are NOT water-proof should be cleaned very carefully, lest you accidentally ruin the battery compartment or motor. Many people  find that they are most comfortable cleaning their vibrator with rubbing alcohol pads OR by spraying sex toy cleaner on the vibrator (away from the battery compartment or motor) then dabbing it with a wet towel.

3. Hardwood dildos can often be cleaned with soap and water.

4. Water-proof vibrators, silicone dildos (non-vibrating), and silicone or Jelly anal beads can usually be cleaned under a faucet of running water, with rubbing alcohol pads or by spraying sex toy cleaner on the toy then dabbing it with a wet towel.

Some people who are particularly concerned about hygiene issues find that they are most comfortable covering their sex toy with a condom before using it on their own body or on or in a partner’s body. That way they can remove the condom after use, leaving less to clean. Also, people vary in their cleaning habits – some clean their toys before use, others clean after use, and some clean both before and after every use. Try to get in a routine that works best for your life. If you want to be more regular about cleaning your sex toy, but your routine is that you normally use it at night before sleep, keep some cleaning pads on or in your nightstand so that you don’t have to get up to clean it.

Remember: the above list reflects just a sampling of sex toy materials. There are quite a few sex toys made of other materials that may require different cleaning strategies. Check with the person or company who sold you the toy for specific instructions.

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About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.