Sex toys: How to clean them and mistakes you should avoid

Sex education prepared us for much of adulthood. Sadly, the one thing we were left to discover on our own was how to clean and maintain our sex toys.

Everyone loves to eat, but no one wants to do the dishes; it’s just a fact of life. Just like you have to clean your plate to use it again, you need to wash your sex toys. But, unlike your dishes, you shouldn’t just stick your dildo’s in the dishwasher.

Whether it’s with a partner or completely solo, when that sex toy is in your hands, the last thing on your mind is the clean-up. But, if you want your devices to stand the test of time and not accidentally give you some kind of infection, then you need to clean them regularly and properly.

How to clean your sex toys

Cleaning your sex toys can be a simple and easy process; you just need to know what they’re made from.

Sex toys can be placed into two different categories, porous and non-porous. If your device is porous, that means it has tiny holes with the ability to harbour bacteria, dust and all kinds of gunk. Meanwhile, non-porous materials won’t have holes and will be much less likely to stow any unpleasantries.

Porous materials include a variety of rubbers such as:

  • Thermoplastic rubber (TPR)/ skin-safe rubber
  • Thermoplastic elastomer (TRE)/skin-safe rubber
  • Jelly Rubber
  • Some types of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) such as sensafirm, UR3 and latex

Non-porous materials commonly used in sex toys include:

  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • Borosilicate glass
  • Soda-lime glass
  • Silicone
  • Metals

How to clean non-porous sex toys

Even though non-porous sex toys are less likely to harbour bacteria, they should still be cleaned after each use to keep them as sanitary as possible.

The vagina hosts a range of bacteria and fungi that help to keep it healthy, and it’s not likely that these organisms will harm your microbiome if you forget to clean your toy one night. But, it also depends on the storage of the sex toy and how it has been used. If you have used your device when you have had an infection and forgotten to clean it, then you run the risk of re-infection or using your toy on someone else and infecting them.

The same goes for if your sex toy has come into contact with the anus and is unwashed. Bacteria like E.coli could potentially create a problem when it comes into contact with the vagina in the future.

Essentially, when using a non-porous sex toy, you probably won’t suffer if you forget to wash it once or twice, but when it comes to vaginal health - it’s best to be safe than sorry.

Hot, soapy water

Luckily, sex toys made with non-porous materials are very easy to clean. Just use hot water and a mild-unscented soap. If your toy vibrates, wipe it down with water and a soapy cloth.


If your toys are made from borosilicate glass, silicone or stainless steel and are non-vibrating, they can be sterilised by putting them in boiling water for about four minutes.


Borosilicate glass and stainless steel toys can also be soaked in a bleach solution. But, this is by no means necessary, and other cleaning methods should be sufficient. If you want to bleach your sex toys, soak them in a solution of one-part bleach to ten parts water. Leave your toys to soak for fifteen minutes, then make sure to wash them thoroughly with soap and water, as bleach is not a welcome guest in the body.

How to clean porous sex toys

Porous sex toys are just as easy to clean as their pore-less counterparts. Materials like elastomer (TPR, TRE and jelly rubber) and PVC (sensafirm, UR3 and latex) are all heat sensitive and can become warped when exposed to boiling water. Instead, wash these toys with warm soapy water. Again, use a cloth if they’re electronic, and if they’re non-vibrating or waterproof, then running water is also an option.

Lazy sex toy cleaning tips

If you’re caught up in the heat of the moment and forget to clean your sex toy, then using a sex toy cleaner can be enough to do the trick. However, this should not be a permanent solution, and regular deep cleans are still necessary.

Otherwise, depending on the shape and function of your sex toy, you can always use a new condom on it each time you use it. Again, deep cleans will still be needed, but you won’t have to carry your toys to the bathroom sink each time you have an ‘O’ moment.

Sex toy maintenance mistakes you should always avoid

Now you have the basics down, let’s get into the mistakes you should always avoid when cleaning your sex toy.

1. Not washing your toy when you first purchase it

You can never be sure if your sex toy was handled before packaging or if it came into contact with any irritating chemicals. The best way to ensure your safety is to give it a clean first.

2. Not drying your toys off completely

Always make sure that your sex toy is completely dry before storing it away. Residual dampness could cause porous toys to warp; even worse, they could become the home for mould and mildew.

3. Storing your sex toy in a drawer

Do you store your sex toys in that stuffy drawer on your bedside table? If so, you should consider placing them in a waterproof bag first. This is because drawers harbour all kinds of bacteria and dust that you don’t want getting into your toys.

Alternatively, you could store your toys in the box they came in or just leave them on your nightstand as a proud statement piece.

4. Not using mild, unscented soaps

Using scented soaps or harsh cleaning products on your sex toys can harm the pH levels and microbiomes in your vagina and anus, leading to irritation and infection.

Buying the perfect sex toy: What to look for and what to avoid Buying the perfect sex toy: What to look for and what to avoid