How to clean a dildo?

Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame

What’s the first thing you want to do after hot, steamy, satisfying sex?

Cuddle? Roll over and go to sleep? Light a cigarette or a joint? Get something to eat?

Chances are good that “thoroughly cleaning the sex toys” isn’t on your list.

No one’s saying that taking your dildo or vibrator into the bathroom for a good wash should be the very first thing you do, immediately after it’s been put to very good use.

The problem is, though, that many people put aside their sex toys after a workout in bed. Then they forget all about the toys until the next time they’re needed.

That’s a real problem.

Dildos, vibrators or other sex toys which haven’t been cleaned can pose a much bigger risk to your health than that post-coital cigarette or pint of Chunky Monkey.

Here’s what you should know and what you should do with your dildo – after catching your breath, of course.

Why Dildos Need To Be Cleaned Regularly

For the rest of this article we’ll often be using “dildos” as an umbrella term for all sex toys including vibrators, butt plugs, strap-ons, cock rings and the like. There are a few details which distinguish dildos from some of the others when it comes to cleaning, though, and we’ll make sure to mention them as we go along.

The first reason to clean your dildo after each use is the obvious one: a sex toy loaded with crusted, dried lube and bodily fluids (and possibly some hair and lint from the nightstand drawer) isn’t very sexy. You, or your partner, may not be in the same amorous mood if you pull out a dildo that screams “clean me!”

There are more and potentially serious issues lurking underneath the dirt, though.

Old, gooey or crusty toys are the perfect places for fungi and bacteria to grow. Those are the culprits that cause candida infections, bacterial vaginosis (around one-quarter of vulva-havers have experienced that “pleasure”) and urinary tract infections (UTIs are even more common, with about half of vulva owners contracting them at some point). The millions of people who’ve been infected can tell you it ain’t fun – not to mention the fact that infections interfere with a healthy sex life.

Even worse, dirty dildos and vibes are notorious for transferring sexually-transmitted diseases and infections like HPV between the people who use them. That isn’t theory, it’s been proven by a major study which showed that people who share toys are much more likely to develop STIs and STDs.

Hopefully, that’s provided enough motivation for you to set up a cleaning routine for your dildos, vibes and sex toys.

Here’s a plan you can follow.

Getting Ready to Clean a Dildo (or Vibrator, or Sex Toy)

The cleaning process isn’t difficult, but regularity is the key: clean your dildo after you use it, every single time.

It’s easy to forget about cleaning, if you put your dildo aside after satisfying sex – or even worse, drop it into the drawer with other dirty or possibly-infected toys. Unless you’re willing to risk the yeast infections and STDs we’ve mentioned, make cleaning your sex toys an unbreakable routine. It’s worth the effort.

Know Your Material(s)

This may seem silly, but it’s really important.

Many dildos and toys are made from porous materials, making them soft and comfortable. Unfortunately, that also means lots of bacteria can penetrate the materials and stay there even after cleaning. Careful and thorough cleaning is critical, to keep these dildos safe for further use. One more thing: most of them are particularly sensitive to heat, and some are also prone to soap damage.

Toys made from non-porous materials are not only “safer” because they don’t retain bacteria, but they’re easier to clean. They can withstand a more vigorous washing, and many of them (like glass toys) can even be cleaned in boiling water as a foolproof sanitizing method.

How do you tell the difference between porous and non-porous?

Silicone, glass, pyrex, stainless steel, stone (yes, they make those) and ABS plastic sex toys are all non-porous materials. Most can undergo a rigorous cleaning without being damaged. Be careful with soda-lime glass dildos and ABS plastic dildos, though, since they’re heat-sensitive; wash them the same way you’d clean a porous toy.

Porous materials commonly used to make dildos and vibrators include latex, elastomer, vinyl, cyberskin, leather and jelly/rubber. These all need to be cleaned thoroughly and carefully with warm water, since most are sensitive to extreme temperatures. Unfortunately, even though cyberskin and elastomer toys may feel great on your skin, they’re easily damaged by soap. Go easy with the soap when cleaning them. (Avoid buying jelly/rubber toys if you can, because some cheap brands contain dangerous phthalates.)

One final important note concerns vibrators or other powered sex toys. Unless you know that a toy is waterproof, don’t submerge it even if you’ve removed the batteries. Water can permanently damage the electronics inside. (Water-resistant isn’t the same as waterproof.) You use a non-motorized dildo? No worries.

Use the Right Soap

Your first instinct might be to use the strongest soap you can find. That would be a mistake.

Dildos and other toys may still retain soap residue after they’re cleaned, and powerful soap can alter the pH balance of the vulva and vagina. That, in turn, can leave you more susceptible to infection. The same goes for scented soaps; their ingredients can also change pH levels.

Instead choose a mild soap, which should also be a fragrance-free soap. Avoid antibacterial soaps, because some brands contain hormone-altering Triclosan. The ones you regularly use to wash your hands or dishes will do just fine; they’re less likely to leave residue on your toys than stronger ones and will still get the job done.

What about those sanitizing sex toy cleaners you see in sex shops and on Amazon? They can’t hurt, but you shouldn’t rely on them as a replacement for washing. They’re fine to use right after you finish in bed and just can’t get up, even for a quick wash. Just do a full toy cleanup later on.

How To Clean a Dildo (or Vibrator, or Sex Toy)

Porous Dildos

Gently clean these toys with soapy, warm water. You can use a soapy washcloth or your hands. Don’t rush when you clean sex toys made from porous materials; try to clean inside as many pores and crevices as you can, and remove as much soap residue as possible. Don’t flush them with water, though, since these toys love to absorb water. Remove the soapy water with a clean, damp cloth instead. It can’t hurt to spray them with sex toy cleaner afterward, if you have it, to further sanitize them.

When done, let them air dry. Never put them away wet, because they can mildew.

Non-Porous Dildos

These toys can all (with the exception of ones made from hard plastic or soda-lime glass) be washed more vigorously with soap and warm – or hot – water. Non-vibrating stainless steel, Pyrex and silicone toys can also be cleaned by boiling them, as long as the silicone ones don’t have plastic parts which could melt.

Some experts say that it’s safe to wash Pyrex and silicone dildos in the top shelf of a dishwasher. Many dishwashers leave soap residue on the surface of the toys, though, so watch for that if you try going the easy route.

If you want to be absolutely sure no bacteria survive, and you have a dildo made from stainless steel or borosilicate glass, you can bleach it. Soak the toy in a solution of 10 parts water to one part bleach for 5-10 minutes, and be sure to wash it thoroughly afterward. You do not want to get bleach into your genital area. The same holds true if you use isopropyl alcohol wipes to sanitize your toys, or a rubbing alcohol solution to clean leather toys.

Electronic Toys

You should clean a vibrator or other powered sex toy the same way you would clean a porous toy, with warm soapy water. Just cover the controls and battery compartment first, so no water can get in.

Cleaning dildos can be boring. However, it’s a lot less boring than having to take a forced vacation from sex after being infected by a dirty or contaminated toy. Cleaning is a lot less painful, too.

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