Sex Toy Cleaning & Material Information Guide July 25 2016
It’s here! A one-stop spot for all the information you need on the care and cleaning of vibrators, dildos, masturbators, butt plugs and other sex toys. All sex toy materials are not created equal, so your care for them shouldn’t be either. Cleaning a sex toy properly is very important for your health and safety, as well as the longevity of your items. Please also be aware that when it comes to the safety of non-fluid-bonded partners, you should only ever share sex toys that can be sanitized OR if not, sex toys that are covered in a condom. In the sex toy material guide below, you’ll see a lot of mentions of porous vs. non-porous. Non-porous sex toys are the only ones that can be safelyshared (without the need for a condom barrier). There are some issues floating around with being able to kill off / sanitize items when one user is sharing with a partner and they are infected with Hepatitis.
A note on using a condom with a sex toy: Make sure to buy non-lubricated condoms, or condoms that specifically say that they use water-based lube. Most condoms that are lubricated use a silicone lube, and it is usually a cheap one. These will most likely have a reaction with a silicone toy. For silicone or hard materials, you can use a latex condom if you don’t have latex allergies. For porous materials it is probably best to use polyurethane condoms – many porous materials have oil in the material as a softener, and oil is not compatible with latex!
Prior to Use:
Before you dive in, take a minute to visually inspect the toy. Make sure there’s no cracks that could injure delicate tissue or harbor bacteria. Turn it on and make sure the batteries are strong or the charge is recent – there’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a jerk-off session to have your favorite vibrator die out. Make sure there’s no visible stains or pet fur. Sniff it, lick it if it is not 100% pure silicone – if something seems off, you’ll know, and I would recommend that you get rid of the sex toy.
I’ll go through each type of toy/material to let you know which method can be used, but here’s the detailed run-down:
Sanitizing: You can only sanitize a non-porous material. I don’t care what the Passion Parties or Pure Romance person told you, that over-priced bottle of “antibacterial toy cleaner” is worthless. The only time you would really need something like that is if you’re at a play party and sharing sex toys, and you need to sanitize a non-porous toy in between people. You can also just cover it with a condom for that purpose. Often, these antibacterial toy cleaner sprays are sold to make the cheap, porous materials seem okay. But there is absolutely no way to kill the bacteria and fungus that can quickly make a home in the pores of the sex toy. You can clean the outside of the toy but you’re never able to fully clean past the absolute surface. However for materials like silicone, ABS plastic, metal, ceramic and wood you can always use a quick dip in 10% bleach solution. Rinse it well after! Some glass, metal and silicone plugs/dildos can be boiled for 3-5 minutes, or run through the dishwasher *by themselves* with no detergent or other dishes on the Sanitize cycle (if you don’t have a Sanitize setting on the dishwasher, then it’s pointless). On metal, plastic, glass, wood and most silicone (check with manufacturer to be certain) you can wipe it down with rubbing alcohol.
Quick Clean: If you’ve got non-porous toys and you do not currently have a yeast infection or bacterial infection then a quick wash with regular hand soap and water to clean lube and fluids off the toy is fine if you’re not sharing the toy. Butt toys should get some time with boiling water just to keep butt-scent at bay.
Water rinse only: This only applies to Fleshlight masturbators
Cleaning a vibrator is pretty basic – you use the wipe down method. Obviously since it has a motor you shouldn’t do any boiling/dishwasher methods (no matter what Cosmo erroneously tells you). A lot of vibrators are going to have cracks & crevices either where different materials meet (say it’s part plastic and part silicone) or where two parts of the toy meet (battery cover, charging ports) OR just because it’s a “texture thing”. These crevices and ridges and similar spots require special attention to detail when you are cleaning. I recommend using a really old and soft toothbrush – or your fingernail used in conjunction with a toy wipe. Silicone and ABS plastic vibrators are non-porous and can be sanitized. Vibrators made from all other soft materials are porous and can never truly be clean – refer to the material specifics below for more details.
Pure silicone can be fully sanitized and is non-porous. You can use any cleaning method you wish. Items that are clear and look like jelly (or candy) are never going to be silicone. Clear silicone is usually a cloudy-clear, never crystal clear. Manufacturers rely on consumers taking their word for it, and will use the term silicone when there may not even be any silicone present. They will use terms that imply a “blend“, sometimes, which is a false statement.
How to Clean your Silicone Sex Toy:
You have a lot of options here. Just how thorough you clean depends on the item. If it’s meant for anal play, consider giving it a good boil every few uses if possible. While silicone is considered non-porous, it’s actually microporous and can hang on to odors. If it’s a vibrator and not covered 100% by a silicone skin, then you need to pay special attention to the groove between the silicone portion and the plastic portion, around the buttons, etc. Really examine the design. If fluids can get trapped, then bacteria can grow on the surface. If you share your toys, then you’ll want to consider the cleaning options that sanitize, like boiling for dildos and plugs or 10% bleach solution rinse or alcohol wipe down (unless the manufacturer prohibits it). Vixen, maker of awesome dildos and creator of dual-density Vixskin, kindly tested their items for me with rubbing alcohol. Even a day-long soak in the rubbing alcohol didn’t do a thing to the material. However I have seen other manufacturers specifically warn against it, these are usually the type of silicone vibrators that have a silky-soft feeling and don’t attract dust and fur. Always make sure to read the box/user manual before you clean your sex toy!
A simple soap-and-water wash up in the sink can really be good enough for many people, many toys. It’s really all I do, and all I need to do.
Silicone toys and lube:
Most people and stores will stress that you must always use water-based lube with true silicone sex toys. For the most part when it comes to mass-produced silicone sex toys and lower quality silicone lubricants you should probably avoid mixing the two. Ultra-premium / platinum silicone can be combined with certain high-quality silicone lubricants. If there is going to be an interaction, it will occur quickly – the lube and the surface of the toy will get gummy/sticky. Doing a patch test with a small amount will allow you to scrape of the gummied lube with your fingernail. Since like silicone bonds with like, try to get a silicone lube with as few ingredients (and therefore, types of silicone) as possible.
Please also note that it is a MYTH that you cannot store silicone sex toys near/touching each other, or they will “melt”. This myth stems from the time when manufacturers were more likely to use the word silicone but the toy was anything but–likely TPR/TPE/Jelly. Those toys WILL melt when they touch in storage, as the material breaks down and releases the softening oils. I personally have a drawer-full of sex toys (all silicone, glass, wood) jumbled together and nothing bad has happened. I even created a controlled environment similar to my toxic jar, and had silicone sex toy pieces live in a jar in a hot room for months. Nothing happened!
Glass, Ceramic, Wood:
These are generally considered to be non-porous, so you would use the wipe-down method for most circumstances. Glass and ceramic toys should be examined every time you use them for cracks or chips; if found, replace the toy immediately.
How to Clean Your Glass Dildo or Plug:
To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t expose ceramic or glass to the high temps of boiling water or a dishwasher – you just never know and you’d be really sad to ruin a good toy. Most glass toys would be fine in boiling water or the dishwasher, but please keep in mind that the glass used in sex toys holds onto temperature really well, so it will be extremely hot for a little while. Best practice for boiling would be to include a small hand towel in the pot to prevent the glass dildo from cracking up against the side of the pot. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions, though, before putting these though the extreme temps of boiling water or dishwasher. While borosillicate glass is better at withstanding temperature changes and the high heat of a dishwasher or boiling water, soda lime glass may not be. A 10% bleach rinse should be fine for these, as would a simple soap and water wash if you have no reason to sanitize.
Glass, Ceramic, Wood and lube:
Glass and Ceramic: Use water- or silicone-based or even oil if you like, but you’ll likely find out you don’t need as much as you would with a silicone toy. Wood: Smaller crafters who use untested sealants, especially natural ones, don’t often know what lubricants are/are not compatible. Tread with caution, and ask them first! If they agree something is compatible and it is not, it would be easier to get them to re-finish the dildo then.
Yet another non-porous material, so you can use any cleaning method. I’d say feel free to boil (place a dishtowel in the pot with it, metal against metal in a rolling boil could cause damage to the surface) and dishwasher top rack. I’ve done the dishwasher trick. Just uh…..be careful, yeah? Metal has amazing temperature-retaining properties. Let it cool down! Never use anything abrasive to clean your toy and when traveling be sure to keep it in a storage pouch. You should only use medical grade Stainless Steel, or aluminum. Njoy brand is a true medical/surgical grade stainless steel. Quality Stainless Steel shouldn’t have any pits or rough patches on the surface, won’t have a perfect mirror-like finish like chrome does, and is usually not magnetic. Please be aware that your chances of getting a counterfeit sex toy from places like Amazon and Ebay is very high. If you want this brand, and you want to be sure you’re getting a toy made of quality, medical grade stainless steel with no safety concerns, then buy it from a trusted website like Forbidden Luxury.
Metal and lube:
Use water- or silicone-based or even oil, but you’ll likely find out you don’t need as much as you would with a silicone toy.
ABS plastic is non-toxic and non-porous. It’s used a lot in sex toys for the handle or even the entire object. Sometimes you will see it listed as having a PU coat – this means polyurethane. So far I have not seen the PU coat peel or chip. No boiling here! Use the wipe-down method or soap and water. Shiny ABS plastic can handle rubbing alcohol, PU coated might not. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions if they have any. The only problematic hard plastic toys are those coated in a metallic paint – this will chip off!
Plastic and lube:
Any type of lube is safe for these.
These sex toys live in a weird zone of sex toy safety – they’ve all proven to be phthalates-free and non-toxic, but mostly they are porous. All thermoplastics once started out as a hard plastic, and have to be softened. Many thermoplastics seem to use mineral oil or a similar substance as the plasticizer (plastic softening agent). This is still a very unstable material, and will break down over time. If you have an allergy to mineral oil, you very well might have a reaction to TPR type sex toys.
How to Clean TPR:
I can’t stress this enough: unless labeled otherwise, TPR is porous. Porous toys can give you yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, expose your vagina/anus to harsh chemicals or mold, and more. There is no cleaning method that will ever sanitize these or make them safe. Since these toys cannot be sanitized, a simple soap and water wash is the best you can do. Products sold as anti-bacterial sex toy cleaner will not help you here – these products can only ever clean the surface but bacteria, mildew and more is making a home in the pores. Despite what some sex toy shops and home sex toy party companies will tell you, sex toy cleaner is largely a gimmick when used on porous materials like these. Condoms can be used if you must, but they are not a promise. Only use polyurethane type condoms (since there are oils in these materials, and oil degrades latex, theory is that latex condoms would be kinda useless). The condom should cover 100% of the toy, ideally, to be useful as a barrier against what’s hiding in the pores.
Non-porous TPR or TPE:
As the name implies, this is the “medical grade” version of TPR and is non-porous. Not all TPR though is non-porous – if a dodgy company such as CalExotics or Doc Johnson claim that all their TPR toys are non-porous, I’d approach with caution and assume that they’re not. I simply don’t have faith that those companies are being truthful (and they’re not the only ones, I’d add Pipedream, Topco and a few others to the list) so better safe than sorry. Some manufacturers will use “food-grade non-porous TPE” (like Nomi Tang) which is usually a harder material. The more solid a TPR/TPE is, the less porous it will be.
Thermoplastic Rubber or Thermoplastic Elastomer. This version IS porous, but it’s still a better material to choose over jelly/rubber as it usually has less or no chemical smell to it and is a somewhat higher quality material than jelly/rubber. I don’t recommend keeping these sex toys longer than 6 months if used for insertion. Make sure they are 100% dry before storing them in a dark drawer. Keep a very close eye on the toy for color changes, black spots (indicates mold/mildew) and foul odors. If any of that is found, toss and replace. TPR sex toys cannot be sanitized and can only be cleaned on the surface – the pores will hang on to bacteria, mildew, and harsh chemicals from cleaning agents. Sex toy cleaning sprays, washes and wipes are useless because these only clean the surface! If you ever experience itching or burning while using the toy or after using a toy, get rid of it immediately and replace it with silicone.
Thermoplastics and Lube:
Oil lubes are a VERY bad idea with these, but water-based, silicone/water bybrids and silicone-based should all be fine.
These are made to feel like real skin, but also usually have a terrible odor. They can go by names such as CyberskinTM, UR3, FuturoticTM, NeoSkin®, Soft TouchTM, UltraSkin, and FauxskinTM and are frequently used for both male toys such as cock rings and masturbation sleeves, and dildos/vibrators. This material is really porous and shouldn’t be shared unless the toy is donned with a condom (polyurethane condoms only). Cleaning is best left to a simple, gentle soap and water method followed by a dusting with cornstarch. Make sure these are 100% dry before you store them, as they can mildew. DO NOT clean these sex toys with harsh chemicals – the chemicals can stay in the pores of the material and will then be in contact with the delicate tissue of the vagina or anus – not good!! This class of “material” isn’t really a material but more of a description, and should not be considered safe for everyone. I’ve seen them made from PVC, TPR, Rubber, and so on. Many realistic toys also use paint to add color to veins and heads and it does come off…another red flag in toy safety.
It’s a realistic material as well but Fleshlight states on their site and in their manuals to never, ever use soap. Just the rinse method please! Make sure these are 100% dry before you store them, as they can mildew. If you need something stronger than water then you can use rubbing alcohol to clean your Fleshlight, but if a lingering odor remains then you should consider replacing it for your health. Also inspect the inside and outside of your Fleshlight material for black spots which means mildew – this can only be cleaned from the surface, but the fungal spores still lives in the pores. It’s no longer safe to use and should be replaced.
Realistic Materials and Lube:
Use only water-based with these. Silicone and oil-based lubes will break the material down.
Rechargeable vibrators that have the ability to “lock” should always be locked. I can’t tell you how many times a vibrator has turned on because something else bumped the switch and I pull out a dead toy.