For people with a lot of dildos and butt plugs, there’s a really fast way to sanitize your sex toys: The dishwasher. But this cleaning method isn’t as straightforward as it seems! There are some rules and tips that must be followed, but first I want to talk about something important: sanitizing versus sterilizing and how your dishwasher fits into it. Sterilizing means that you are killing ALL living organisms, whereas sanitizing is killing “most” – enough to make things safe for public consumption. When we are talking about cleaning, there’s cleaning (removing dirt and fluids and cat hair), then sanitizing, then disinfecting, then sterilizing. To understand more about this, read this article on sanitizing and disinfecting, and this article on disinfecting vs sterilizing.
Not All Materials Can Handle It
You want to stick with sex toy materials that can handle the heat – silicone, metal, and borosillicate glass (not soda lime!!). You shouldn’t put the more delicate (porous) materials like softened PVC, TPR, “jelly”, rubber, or other similar materials into the dishwasher, as they wouldn’t be able to withstand the heat from the sanitize cycle (not that I believe it would work, anyways, because I don’t believe those materials can ever be sanitized). Which brings us to the next important point…
It’s Not About Cleaning, It’s About Sanitizing – Which isn’t Sterilizing or Disinfecting
If your toys are covered in dried lube, bodily fluids, etc then give them a quick wash with mild soap and water, first. Next, load your sex toys into the top rack. Finally, make sure you choose the “sanitize” setting on the dishwasher. Don’t have a sanitize cycle? Then don’t bother using the dishwasher. If your dishwasher has a sanitizing setting then it uses an extended hot-water rinse to kill bacteria only – it will not kill viruses or fungi. The National Sanitation Foundation has a standard named NSF/ANSI Standard 184; this means that dishwashers with this certification kill 99.99% of bacteria on this “sanitize” setting. This certification states that the dishwasher’s “sanitize” setting also must reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit during that final rinse. I expected it to be higher, so this means that boiling can potentially kill more things. Even if your dishwasher has a “sanitize” setting, if it isn’t certified then it probably doesn’t reach 150 degrees. Using the dishwasher is primarily to sanitize in larger quantities, rather than just cleaning. If you’re using the toys solo and aren’t currently battling an outbreak, a mild soap and water wash in your kitchen sink or bathtub will do the job just fine in my opinion. Let’s also consider this point: using the “sanitize” setting on the dishwasher uses a lot more energy than a normal dishwasher cycle.
Never Use Detergent
Dishwasher detergent is abrasive and you really don’t want it mingling with your sex toys. This means that the sex toys don’t get tossed in with your dirty dishes, either. One reader asked me about adding a bit of bleach to the cycle, instead: I don’t recommend this. It’s not needed plus many dishwashers advise against it – heated bleach, even if it’s not heated to boiling, is pretty caustic.
Vibrators Stand Alone
Sorry vibes, you can’t join this party. The heat of the sanitize cycle will probably damage the electronics, even if the vibrator is sealed in silicone and is labeled “waterproof”. It’s just not a risk I’m comfortable telling you to take.