How To Properly Clean Your Sex Toys

Nearly three years ago, I bought my first sex toy, and at the risk of sounding melodramatic, it kind of changed my life. It was a bullet vibrator, and the day I brought it home, I spent about two and a half hours having consecutive orgasms because of it. Ever since then, I’ve been a pretty big supporter of using sex toys. Sex toys can spice up sex between long-term partners, they’re useful to make sure you get off during partnered sex, and they’re also great for single people (like me) who are just too lazy to finger themselves. But if you’re into using sex toys — whether you use them strictly when you’re masturbating, or you use them during sex, too — it’s imperative that you learn how to properly clean your sex toys.

As I’m sure you already know, dirty vibrators and dildos can cause some pretty nasty vaginal infections. Also, if you generally share your sex toys with a partner, failing to properly clean your sex toys before and after use can actually result in them spreading STIs and STDs between you and your partner.

So, just to be safe, you might want to read the following six tips on how to properly clean your sex toys.

1. Know What Material Your Toy Is Made Out Of

According to Women’s Health, how you should clean your sex toy depends largely on what the toy is made of. Evidently, silicone sex toys are hard to beat, because they’re pretty soft, non-porous, and generally not irritating to sensitive skin. You should be able to tell what your sex toy is made of just by checking out the box and/or the manual it came with, but if you’ve already lost or pitched those things, you can look your toy up online, too. As you do so, keep in mind that many sex toys (particularly the jelly rubber kind) can contain toxic materials, like phthalates.

If your sex toy looks and feels like real skin, then it’s probably made of cyberskin. Since cyberskin (also called “softskin” or “ultraskin”) is super porous, it’s crucial to only use a little bit of mild soap and warm water to clean it. Additionally, if your toy is made of porous materials like cyberskin, jelly rubber, or hard plastic, then getting it 100% clean isn’t even possible, and you’ll want to make sure to wrap it in a condom if you’re sharing.

2. Make Sure You’re Using Small Amounts Of Mild, Fragrance-Free Soap To Wash Your Toys

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to use a harsh soap, or see lots of suds, in order for your sex toy to get properly cleaned. Actually, using too much soap or extremely harsh soap can damage sex toys that are made out of more sensitive materials (like cyberskin). You should probably also stick to only using fragrance-free soap on your toys, just so you can avoid any undo irritation to your vulva. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re washing any toys you may have that are made of porous materials.

Sex toy cleaning sprays and wipes are also an option to keep in mind, because they’re specifically formulated to clean sex toys without damaging them. They’re not too expensive, either. So whether you’ve put a lot of money into your sex toy collection, or you simply want to make your toys last as long as possible, consider investing in a sex toy cleaning spray.

3. Don’t Submerge Any Toy That’s Motorized

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You probably could have figured this one out for yourself, but I’m going to go ahead and cover it anyway. If your sex toy is motorized — whether that means you’re working with a battery-powered situation or your toy actually has a power cord of some sort — never submerge it in water. You’ll ruin it, and then it won’t matter how clean it is; because you’ll either have to go to a sex shop and buy one in your sexually frustrated state, or order a replacement online and wait patiently for it to be delivered. Instead, clean these toys with a dab of mild soap and a damp cloth.

4. Do Submerge Non-Motorized, Durable Toys In Boiling Water

If your sex toy is made out of a durable material (like silicone, pyrex, stainless steel, or stone) and it’s not motorized, then you should be submerging it in water to properly clean it. In fact, letting your toy sit in boiling water for a few minutes is your best bet for a deep clean.

You can also run your sex toys through the dishwasher to sanitize them, but make sure to pay attention to any cleaning instructions regarding water temperature (and be sure you don’t load your machine up with Cascade first).

5. Always Use Clean Towels To Dry Off Your Sex Toys After Washing Them

I know, I know, duh. But seriously, it’s important that you use either a super clean hand towel or a fresh paper towel to dry off your sex toys. Don’t think it’s ever safe to use the dingy hand towel hanging in your bathroom, either. Because unless you live alone and never have guests over, or you wash your bath towels daily, then that towel’s almost definitely holding some bacteria hostage.

No matter what you choose to use when you dry your sex toys off, though, make sure you dry them completely before storing them. Regardless of how sanitary your sex toy storage space is, even slightly damp sex toys are susceptible to mold and mildew growth. Not only will fungus likely ruin your toys, it’s obviously not something you want to rub on or inside of yourself.

6. Wash Your Toys Before & After You Use Them

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I know it’s a pain in the butt to wash your sex toys before and after you use them, especially if you’re in the middle of something sexy and fun. But if you assume your sex toy is safe to use in the morning just because you washed it the night before, you could end up putting yourself at risk for infections.

Of course, this depends largely on how you store your sex toys. If you put your toys in their own sanitized case or bag directly after washing them, then it’s not as likely that your toy rolled up against something germ-y overnight. However, since we’re talking about your body here, regardless of your sex toy storage methods, you should probably go ahead and wash your toys both before and after you use them. It’ll only take a minute, and knowing you’re not about to give yourself an infection can only work to make your whole experience hotter, right?

1. Dildos

While they might seem almost quaint in comparison to all the vibrating, high-tech, action-packed toys available now, dildos remain a classic that plenty of women and even more men are super into. “I’ve seen people move from secrecy, silence, and shame into an open, cool, and trendy attitude toward sex toys of all kinds, from dildos to anal beads,” says clinical sexologist Marlene Wasserman, DHS. “I like when people stretch their sexual boundaries to leave their comfort zones, which can turn into a wonderful feeling of personal success and newly discovered pleasures—or dislikes. Either way, you’re learning something about your body and your partner.”

If you’re looking for the feeling of penetration that’s closest to a real penis, dildos are the way to go. They come in a variety of shapes, lengths, and widths, so take those into account when you’re shopping (some women may find that slightly curved ones are better at getting them off, since they’ll give your clit and G-spot more direct action), and consider using them both vaginally and anally. “My ex liked to dabble with a dildo—for him, not me!” says Audrey, age 30, of Los Angeles. “I wasn’t that into it; I prefer real D or a vibrator while we’re going at it, but he seemed to like the novelty and forbidden feeling of the dildo.”

2. Butt Plugs

Consider butt plugs your introduction to anal play. “Anal toys are popular with women even though they have no prostate or nerves to directly cause orgasm within the anus, they can be a huge mental turn-on,” says Wasserman. “If you’re a beginner, start with a shower and get clean beforehand, and then have your partner stimulate you with his fingers—or tongue, if he’s adventurous—before inserting a plug, vibrator, or beads.” She also suggests using latex gloves or condoms on fingers for cleanliness and anal lube for comfort and glide.

“I’ve found the key to introducing toys, whether anal ones, clamps, or otherwise, is all about expectation-setting and preparation,” says Katie, age 30, of New York City. “I mean, butt plugs are honestly a bit scary looking—even if they’re pastel pink—and if your partner’s only knowledge about using them is from porn, the night probably won’t end well. I like to get in teacher mode to walk them through how it feels for me as we’re doing it. And it never hurts to get comfortable with the toy solo beforehand, to explore how your body reacts.”

3. Nipple Clamps

Attaching these guys to your nips hurts—but it’s supposed to. So much of BDSM play is about the hurts-so-good kind of pain that can be a super-hot sensation for many people, if for no reason other than the fact that it’s so different from what we feel on an everyday basis.

Says Sarah, 27, of London, “It’s when my boyfriend takes the clamps off that it hurts the most—and I love it. The blood comes racing back into my nipples after being cut off, and it feels incredible. But don’t leave them on for too long, or you can cut off circulation to your nipples!” Many clamps come with fancy features like adjustable pressure, a vibrating option, and waterproof coating, but Sarah says she’s heard that clothespins can be just as effective, if you don’t want to buy real ones.

4. Vibrators

These should be your go-to sex toy, for solo and couple’s play, says Wasserman. “I suggest that women have a variety of vibrators—different shapes, sizes, and types of stimulators to match their mood and whatever sensation they’re looking for at that moment. Sometimes you might want a big, vibrating dildo that you can thrust at your own tempo, and other times you might want to use a vibrating butt plug.” Don’t worry that using a vibrator regularly will overstimulate your clit or mess with your ability to come with a good, old-fashioned penis—“that’s a myth,” says Wasserman. “It’s women’s responsibility to find what does it for them and be sexually vulnerable. Sex toys tend to predictably bring women to orgasm, so go ahead and use them!”

“My boyfriend and I had a perfectly good sex life, but bringing my vibrator into the mix stepped things up a notch,” says Amy, 29, of New York City. “Sometimes it takes me a really long time to come from regular sex, whereas that’s rarely the case for him. When we don’t have the time or energy for an hours-long sesh, the vibrator comes to the rescue by getting me off faster and with less work on both our parts.”

5. Handcuffs

Handcuffs are more about the mental and emotional turn-on than the physical sensation, says Wasserman. “It can be very arousing to discuss the scene you’ll set up and get the necessary consent,” she says. “It’s fabulous fantasy play and gaining more popularity because of recent exposure and normalization in the media.”

Just be careful—if you’re going for a super-authentic prisoner fantasy that involves real metal cuffs, they can hurt. “Soft, cushy ones are a must,” says Jen, 30, of Rutland, Vermont. “I love feeling a little out of control when my partner cuffs me up—especially when every other part of my life requires effort and attention.”

6. Clitoral Massagers

For women who have a tough time coming from other sex toys (or partners, even) a vibrator that focuses purely on stimulating the most sensitive part of your vagina could be the silver bullet. Wasserman is a big fan of women advocating for their clits. “Distressingly, men don’t spend enough time on clitoral play, and women remain silent about their clitoral needs,” she says. “Use your clitoral massager while being thrusted; use it afterward when you’re swollen and he’s fallen asleep; let him or her see you using it so it becomes a couple activity,” she suggests.

“I used to think I wasn’t able to orgasm, because nothing seemed to work on my clit,” says Emily, 30, of Boston. “A clitoral stimulator—which I now own several of—changed that. They rock my world every time, and the rest of my sex toy collection goes pretty much unused now.” Sold yet?

7. Anal Beads

Slightly different from butt plugs in that they insert one individual bead at a time, rather than smoothly and gradually like a plug, anal beads provide a pop feeling with each larger size that goes in. And while any sort of anal toy and play will help prep you for actual anal sex, butt plugs might be a bit more similar to how that will feel.

“I’ve used both plugs and beads, and I like both, but I think it’s more important to invest in a high-quality set of beads if that’s what you’re into,” says Alyssa, age 26, of New York City. “The last thing you want is a cheap pair of beads breaking when they’re inside you! Oh, and with either one, make sure to use a ton of lube, otherwise it’ll be more pain than pleasure.” Good to know.

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