Sex Toy Care and Cleaning 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.
*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.
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:
1. Wipe Down Method – A quick and easy way to disinfect/sanitize and clean. You can use a clean, soft cloth and a 10% bleach solution; if you have any wipes handy that are called “sanitizing” or “anti-bacterial” you can use those; a clean soft cloth soaked with a soapy water solution of antibacterial soap (the soap must be left on the toy for a few minutes to actually get the anti-bacterial properties) will also work; you can also sparingly use a little rubbing alcohol. IMPORTANT: Please rinse your toy off with a clean water-only cloth after these cleaning methods – you don’t want many of these cleaning solutions to come in contact with the sensitive membrane of your genitalia. When you use this method, you need to be certain to use extra care on toys that have a texture like ridges or a toy that (like many Lelo vibes) has a seam where one material meets another, or any other type of seam. Soft, used/old toothbrushes can help get these areas.
2. Boiling Method - Certain non-porous materials can be gently put in boiling water for 2-3 minutes for a thorough sanitizing. Remove all organic matter from the toy first as best you can. It is highly recommended that you use a vegetable steamer basket so that the toys don’t touch the bottom of the pot, which actually can burn the materials.
3. Top Rack Dishwasher Method – Certain dildos and buttplugs can be run through a water-only cycle by themselves in the dishwasher. Don’t add any cleaning agents; ones meant for the dishwasher are too abrasive for toys, and ones not meant for a dishwasher can have unwanted suds accidents. Please note that only dishwashers with a “sanitize” option can actually get hot enough to sanitize the toy – and you must select that option. Remove all organic matter from the toy first as best you can.
4. Rinse and Powder – Some of the Realistic materials (this includes cleaning a Fleshlight) can’t even tolerate soap, so just a thorough rinsing with warm water will get off any fluids (be sure to do this soon after use – when fluids dry on they are much more difficult to remove). These materials also should be powdered with cornstarch (Never talc powder!!!) or the powder that came with the toy. These toys though are very porous and can never be sanitized, so no sharing unless you don the toy with a condom. This goes for toys that you might like to use both anally and vaginally – condom condom condom!
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.
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 isn’t 100% accurate, but it can separate things out. Items that are clear, look like jelly (or candy) and are very squishy and pliable are nearly never going to be 100% true pure silicone. 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 likely 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.
The following terms are meant to confuse and bring about a false sense of security; the terms are not accurate, and sometimes are completely made up by the manufacturer or retailer: TPR-Silicone, SEBS, 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.
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. 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. 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. To find out everything about wood sex toys, check out this guide.
To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t expose ceramic or wood 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.
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. 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.
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.
No boiling here! Use the wipe-down method. This material can be considered non-porous and phthalates-free. To see some reviews of plastic sex toys, click here.
Plastic and lube:
Any type of lube is safe for these.
These sex toys can have a range of material safety – usually all are phthalates-free, but not all are non-porous. I’d probably not advise boiling, but my SinFive Pikilo survived the dishwasher just fine – it’s a hard TPR though. Soft TPR like cock rings and “jelly like” softer vibes & dildos shouldn’t be boiled. If you’re unsure though just stick with the Wipe Down Method. All thermoplastics once started out as a hard plastic, and have to be softened. For some reason, thermoplastics are more likely to be softened with mineral oil than anything containing phthalates from what I’ve seen. 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 sex toys that are not silicone, as they likely nowadays contain mineral oil.
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.
Thermoplastic Rubber. 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. Strong, will last a long time.Phthalates-free.
TPR Silicone/CyberSilicone/SEBS/Silicone-Elastomer Blend:
These are all terms meant to confuse you, and are likely 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. This material categorization is like cafeteria mystery meat, and hopefully Dildology.org will soon figure out the true nature. 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 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. 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. This is a form of jelly rubber, and should not be considered safe for everyone. 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.
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.
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. 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 likely mineral oil. Those with an allergy to mineral oil can see an allergic reaction to a mineral-oil-softened sex toy.
Sex Toy Storage:
The safest way to keep your sex toys safe is to put each one in its own little bag – whether it’s to keep the cheaper materials from degrading faster, or to keep your silicone lint-free. Plastic bags can work fine, but “tacky” materials like some silicone and jelly rubber will have too much material friction against plastic to go in smoothly. I’ve always liked using organza bags. Partially sheer so you can see what toy is in the bag, keeps a barrier between the toys, 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. ForYourNymphomation cases are hard to buy online anymore, and have not proven to be sturdy for the long haul. Devine makes mostly small storage options- their larger options are not made well. 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). Despite being passed around like a bad game of telephone, there is no reason to keep 100% pure true silicone toys from touching each other. I like to store things in bags to keep them from gathering dust and fur, because silicone is a magnet for these usually. 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.
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.