How To Clean Your Sex Toys — Because, Yes, You Have To Do That

Photographed by Megan Madden.
As a kid, you probably guarded your Polly Pocket dolls with your dear life, treated your Beanie Babies to a weekly bath, and always made sure your Furby had fresh batteries. Now that you're grown, your sex toys deserve the same TLC, particularly when it comes to keeping them clean.
Regularly cleaning your sex toys will keep the material and motors in shape, so that they last longer, says Claire Cavanah, co-founder of Babeland, a sex shop in New York City. Not to mention, your sex toys navigate sensitive terrain. While there's nothing "dirty" about genitals, bacteria can build up on your toys and spread, so it's important to clean them regularly, she says.
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According to Cavanah, you really should be washing your sex toys after every single use, and possibly before, too. When you buy a sex toy, there should be cleaning instructions somewhere on it. But if you've tossed the packaging, or just don't remember, ahead are some tips from Cavanah. Whether you're using a vibrator, dildo, strap-on, leather handcuffs, or anything else, here's how an expert says you should clean your sex toys.
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While you might be tempted to use your fancy scented hand soap to make your sex toys smell chic, just don't, Cavanah says. It's best to avoid using perfumed soaps, because they can leave a residue on the toy that can irritate your genitals when you use it again, she says. You should also avoid using anti-bacterial soaps for the same reason, and just stick to something mild.
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Toys made from porous materials (like jelly rubber) can trap bacteria, Cavanah says. That means that the toys can't be completely disinfected, so she recommends using a condom over your toy for an added layer of protection. Also, jelly rubber is a somewhat outdated material that you should avoid, because it can contain potentially harmful materials, like phthalates, she says. For that reason, Babeland doesn't even stock those types of toys.
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The way that you clean your sex toy often depends on the material that it's made out of, Cavanah says. Non-porous materials, like silicone, hard plastic, elastomer, metal, or glass, are generally easier to clean, she says. For those, you can wash with a mild, non-irritating soap and water, and don't have to do any special disinfecting.
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After you use a sex toy, you should always clean it before you store it, Cavanah says. "You don't want body fluids drying on it, and then sitting in a drawer," she says. And depending where you store your toys, you might want to also rinse them off before you use them. "If your vibrator or dildo is left out or in contact with other objects, it can collect lint, pet hair, or dust, and will benefit from a quick wash before use."
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When you're washing, be careful about submerging your toys completely in water — unless of course they're waterproof, Cavanah says. "Waterproof toys can be dropped in a sink of soapy water, but that will damage the motor of others," she says. If your toy isn't waterproof, you should hold it under the faucet or just use a cloth to wipe it down, she suggests.
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Buying a special spray for your toys might seem like overkill, but it can be really handy to have. Babeland makes one that can be sprayed on and rinsed off, or you could try the Lelo Cleaning Spray, which works the same way. Shibari also makes a toy spray that can be safely used on latex, rubber, and silicone. Cavanah says sprays are convenient to have if you need discretion, are traveling, or don't like to get out of bed for a while after sex.
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You remember the scene from Broad City when Abby put her neighbor's strap-on in the dishwasher and it melted? That could really happen, so it's best not to throw a toy in the dishwasher, unless you know it's dishwasher-safe, Cavanah says. Technically, pyrex toys could probably go on the top rack of a dishwasher and be fine, but other glass toys shouldn't be exposed to high temperatures, she says. And anything with a motor, like a vibrator, should only be hand-washed, she says.
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appearance by Laura Delarato.
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