Sex Toy Cleaning Guide / Material Information Guide
© Dangerous Lilly*
It’s here! A one-stop spot for all the information you need on the care and cleaning of vibrators, dildos, masturbators, buttplugs 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 safely shared (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.
This page will tell you everything about care and cleaning of your sex toys. If you’re looking for sex toy advice, detailed posts about sex toy materials, beginner’s guides to various types of sex toys and of course to see my entire list of reviews, please check out the Toy Box page. It’s packed with info! Looking to see quickly what I think are the best sex toys? I break it all down here from vibrators with intensity to the best g-spot dildos.
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!
*Please note that this content is written by me and is under copyright. You may link to it but please do not copy my guide word for word onto your site. Just putting in a source link does not make it ok. I worked hard on these words and want them to be shared…..but not used and abused. Thank you.
Introduction: Sex Toy Cleaning Methods
Sex Toy Material Safety/Information, Care & Lube Compatibility: Vibrators | Silicone | Glass, Ceramic, Wood | Metal
| Hard Plastic | Thermoplastics | Realistic | PVC, Jelly, Rubber, Latex
Addendum: Sex Toy General Care & Maintenance: General Toy Storage | Vibrator Storage
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. For a more in-depth look at silicone sex toys, you can read more here. Not sure if your sex toy is truly silicone? You can read about my in-depth look at flame testing silicone sex toys and see how various toys perform. The flame test can be hard to decipher and some results may be confusing depending on the method you used and the type of silicone, but I’ve found that it’s been reliable for me once we learned that certain silicones can catch fire, disintegrate and get stick (super elastic types that where the item is small/thin). 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. You can find a list of reputable manufacturers here who, until proven otherwise by lab testing, all appear to be honest and are producing true silicone sex toys.
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.
The following terms are meant to confuse and bring about a false sense of security; the terms are not accurate, and are completely made up by the manufacturer or retailer: TPR-Silicone, Silicone-Elastomer Blend, Cyber-Silicone, Sil-A-Gel. The last term is actually not a material, it is an additive that Doc Johnson puts in some of their highly porous sex toys (particularly the PVC ones) which is supposed to act like an anti-microbial substance. The accuracy of that statement has, of course, never been proved by a lab so proceed with caution. It does not imply “silicone” and Doc Johnson will outright say that, but unknowing consumers can see “Sil” and jump to the “silicone” conclusion.
Also note that if you see a retailer listing a Screaming O cock ring as “SEBS” or “Silicone Elastomer Blend” or even just listing their clear, jelly-like cock rings as silicone: They’re wrong. Screaming O has said that SEBS does NOT stand for “Silicone Elastomer Blend” and in fact contains no silicone. Screaming O does make some silicone vibrating rings, though. These are usually blue, black or pink and visually very different from their SEBS products.
Click here to start browsing the archives of my reviews on various silicone sex toys.
Silicone toys and lube:
Most people and stores will stress that you must always use water-based lube with true silicone sex toys. It has been discussed on my site in an interview with Metis Black of Tantus that 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. I’ve found that Fun Factory’s Body Fluid works well, but please do a patch test first on a portion of the dildo that won’t be entering your body. 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. I have also used Wet’s Synergy – a water and silicone hybrid which therefore doesn’t have much silicone present – with much success. If you don’t want to risk trying a silicone lube, and want to use your silicone toys in the water/bath/shower, try using coconut oil as a natural lubricant. It’s safe to use with silicone.
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! If you see a blogger or reviewer spreading this myth, educate them! Direct them to me!
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. To read more about glass toys, check out this guide. To find out the differences between the cheap glass dildos and the expensive glass toys, read this post. To find out everything about wood sex toys, check out this guide.
How to Clean Your Wood Sex Toy:
Most wood sex toys are finished in a polyurethane or lacquer that is body-safe, but some smaller crafters only rub in a few coats of wax or oil. In these cases, your dildo is on temporarily waterproof and non-porous. You should carefully examine it before and after every use, and check with the crafter to find out how you should care for it. “Natural finish” usually means oil or wax, and this will wear off after some usage between body fluids and giving it a quick wash. Dildos from professional companies like Nobessence have a permanent finish that will not wear off. Clean your wood sex toys with a soft cloth, and do not use abrasive cleaners. Currently Nobessence is the only company making wooden sex toys with a medical-grade finish that can tolerate diluted bleach washes / rubbing alcohol for sanitization in between partners.
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 for my Pure Wand. 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. Please be sure to buy your metal sex toys from a reputable store (NOT Amazon or Ebay) as knock-offs are prevalent. 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. Pipedream’s Metalworx line is listed as stainless steel but is not – I scratched the surface only to reveal copper and have been assured that no stainless steel formulation would have copper. Please be aware that your chances of getting a counterfeit Njoy 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 Shevibe.
Important Note: Directly from the mouth of Njoy I’ve been informed of two things to keep in mind if you choose to sanitize with bleach. The first is never to heat the bleach (which is bad for YOU, too) because it will ruin the stainless steel (bleach is corrosive, heating it makes it extremely corrosive). The second is that you can do a 3-minute soak in a 10% bleach solution in cold water but you must wash the piece in a mild soap and water after that to remove any traces of bleach. Do NOT let it air-dry from the bleach solution without washing right after. Similarly, no bleach wipes without the wash.
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, as seen in my melted jar of sex toys. 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.
From what I can see, only SinFive is using this material type. It’s usually used to manufacture other toys, not the kind you masturbate with! It’s non-porous and has anti-bacterial properties. No smell, no taste.
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.
TPR Silicone/CyberSilicone/Silicone-Elastomer Blend:
These are all terms meant to confuse you, and are not real. What would be the point in adding in some (much more expensive) silicone to a cheap and porous material? It won’t suddenly make it non-porous. It won’t actually provide any benefit. Sex toy companies started to learn that many people want silicone, so they started to come up with clever ways to make it seem like they’re giving you something special, when they’re not. I’ve been told that a TPR-Silicone blend just isn’t possible or likely. It should also be noted that sex toy retailers copy from each other, and that they don’t quickly update their information – so if a manufacturer was once using the false “blend” term, and then stopped, the retailer likely won’t change. I have seen a lot of sex toys on EdenFantasys labeled as “TPR Silicone” and when you look at the manufacturer’s site, they usually refer to it as “TPR”.
Changing that one little letter from elastomeR to elastomeD changes everything…supposedly. Elastomed toys are labeled non-porous, odorless and phthalates-free. However, sex toy companies can lie, so I’m not sure I would trust this.
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. Please read this article I wrote about the dangers of jelly rubber sex toys. Realistics also once started out as a hard plastic. The softer the material, the more “softener” had to be added. As you can see from the tests that BadVibes ran, there is more softener content than rubber. If the softener is not phthalates, then it is likely mineral oil, which some people are also allergic to. Due to being so heavily softened, the material is then extremely porous and very unstable. It will degrade soon, especially if it touches other toys of the same material. A really good alternative to these materials is a dual-density silicone toy – Tantus O2 and Vixen Vixskin are two of the best. If you absolutely must own a realistic material toy that is porous, please cover it with a polyurethane condom for a small amount of protection (this is not a guarantee of protection from the chemicals in the material, or the bacteria living in the pores) and replace it every 4-6 months. Inspect it before every use for discoloration, odd new smells and black spots (this means mildew is growing in the pores) – if you see anything off, toss the sucker immediately. 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.
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.
Certain Tenga products (the 3D sleeves) are infused with anti-microbial silver which has a limited life span but can ward off bacteria and molds from making a home in your sleeve. Other Tenga products, like the Flip Hole line, are made from a different material than Fleshlight, and looks to be a TPE/TPR type. As with Fleshlight, it’s non-toxic but highly porous so examine for odd smells and black spots. Tenga products should just be cleaned using soap and water.
Realistic Materials and Lube:
Use only water-based with these. Silicone and oil-based lubes will break the material down.
Again, more porous materials. These also have a high risk of containing phthalates (despite dodgy manufacturers now constantly listing them as “phthalates-free” there are still a high amount of plastic softeners and other chemicals that can irritate skin and there are no regulatory laws – so they can claim it’s phthalates-free when it is not) and many other chemicals than can cause skin burns or rashes, so condom use is recommended even if you don’t intend to share your toy. These toys cannot be sanitized, so 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. Doc Johnson’s PVC will usually be sold containing something they dubbed sil-a-gel which they claim acts as an anti-microbial. The theory is that since the PVC is very porous and can harbor bacteria and molds, an anti-microbial would prevent that from happening. Many people experience a severe reaction to the sil-a-gel additive, plus it stinks so it is high in VOCs. Lab tests run on a Doc Johnson PVC w sil-a-gel added didn’t really show anything other than PVC and a plasticizer, so the jury is out on what is really going on with their material. I highly recommend AVOIDING all sex toys made from these materials. Please read this article to educate yourself on this sex toy material. Jelly sex toys can be dangerous.
PVC/Jelly/Rubber/Latex and Lube:
No oil-based, I can’t find a reason not to use silicone-based. Water-based is always safe. You can’t use oil-based because the toy is heavily comprised of an oil-based softener. If it’s not phthalates-based, it is possibly mineral oil although there are other weird chemicals being used, too. Those with an allergy to mineral oil can see an allergic reaction to a mineral-oil-softened sex toy.
Sex Toy Storage:
If your sex toys are all silicone and shiny ABS plastic, I see no reason to store them in a special way. I’ve personally had them all living together in drawers and boxes for months with no ill effects. Both I, and Tantus, have shown a photo of a whole bunch of silicone sex toys touching, stored in a drawer, with no ill-effects. If you do experience bad results, then it is not pure silicone. This photo evidence can be see here, where I have a jar of melted, degraded sex toys that were latex/jelly/pvc/TPR and then a photo of Tantus silicone dildos which are fine. I’ve only encountered dye transfer to the light-colored soft Tantus O2 material once, and I’ve had a light-colored shiny ABS plastic toy get stained from a highly-pigment PU-coat plastic sex toy. Also, shiny silicone (this is usually gonna be the hand-poured stuff) tends to attract dust and fur like you wouldn’t believe so for these I’ve always liked using organza bags. Partially sheer so you can see what toy is in the bag, can be washed, allows for some air flow in case your toy isn’t 100% dry and looks nice. If you need something to store everything in, take a look at my reviews on sex toy storage items. You are probably best off buying satin/organza/cotton drawstring bags (pick something a bit more plush or padded for the metal/ceramic/glass toys) and then using whatever storage method works for you – be it a small suitcase, bag or drawer. Super-soft or porous materials might pick up dyes from fabrics – it’s best to store these items inside a plastic bag (or undyed muslin/cotton).
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.
Batteries: Battery-operated vibes should be stored without the batteries inside, unless it is a toy you use daily (meaning, you’re going to be draining the life out of the batteries before there’s any chance of corrosion – hello, bullet vibe, thankyouCostcobatteries). Otherwise, the batteries have a chance of slowly draining dead, leaking battery acid, or the toy gets bumped and turned on. When traveling with sex toys, ALWAYS remove the batteries. While it may seem cost-effective to buy and use rechargeable batteries in a battery operated sex toy, it is not. In fact, some toy makers will specifically tell you not to use these, as they are less powerful. You will not see the proper power level of your sex toy by using rechargeable batteries.