There are two categories of sex toy materials: porous and non-porous. The general rule is that porous materials are harder to get truly clean because the pores create little homes for dirt and pathogens. Non-porous materials may have less nooks and crannies for germs to hide in, but still need to be diligently cleaned and cared for.
If you’re sharing sex toys with others, it’s generally a good idea to clean between users or use condoms to prevent bacterial or viral infections. It’s recommended to use a condom (even solo) with some toys for two reasons. First, porous materials allow germs to hide even after cleaning, so it’s important to protect yourself and your partners with a fresh rubber. Second, some materials may contain harmful chemicals called phthalates, which condoms can protect from.
Clean most toys by removing the batteries (if there are any) and wiping down with warm, soapy water or a sex toy-cleaning product. Obvs, don’t submerge electrical parts. When using antibacterial soap, allow the suds sit for a good two minutes to let the soap really work. To get a deeper clean that's more specific to your toy material, check out the recommendations below.
Rubber, Jelly, and Soft Plastic:
These materials are among the most porous. Wash with warm water and soap and let dry before storing in a cool, dry place. Because these are difficult to truly sanitize, and these compositions are notorious for containing phthalates (chemicals that may be harmful) it’s recommended to cover these with a condom every time they are used, even if you’re the only person in their love life.
Elastomer (Like the Iconic Ring!):
Elastomer is a more hypoallergenic alternative to rubber or jelly, and phthalate free for your peace of mind. Keep it clean with warm water and soap. However, it has a range of porous content where pathogens can live. Use a condom if it’s a penetration toy, even if you’re going solo.
For your fine leather goods (treat yo’ self!), wipe clean with a damp, soapy cloth or use leather cleaner. It’s also safe to use a leather conditioner. Let it dry completely before resuming playtime. Don’t soak these toys and accessories–they can become cracked and damaged.
Unlike your sweet record collection, vinyl toys can be cleaned with warm soapy water or even rubbing alcohol. Vinyl has lower chemicals than jelly or rubber, but it’s still porous, so mind the condom guidelines to protect from germs.
Follow the same old soap and water procedure. However, if it makes sense, you can also throw Nylon in the washing machine!
Cyberskin (also called Softskin, or Ultraskin):
Wash with warm soapy water, but it can become sticky after drying. Dust with a little cornstarch and let it dry before storing. DON’T USE OTHER POWDERS like talc or baby powder. Cornstarch is safest.
Non-porous materials don’t require condoms for solo play, but they do need to be kept clean. Some of these materials can withstand a tougher cleaning, as well.
Silicone is one of the new frontiers in sex toy materials. Many of the Unbound toys, like the Jimmyjane Hello Touch, Minna Limon, and Luna Beads are made of silicone. Clean by wiping down with soap and water, or use a sex toy cleaner product.
Toys that are 100% silicone and not a blend of other materials are hypoallergenic and phthalate free. If your toy is a blend of silicone and jelly or rubber, it is somewhat porous and could contain phthalates. If yours is blended, follow the precautions for cleaning and using jelly and rubber toys.
Silicone toys can be enjoyed solo without condoms since there are no phthalates or sneaky bacteria strongholds after cleaning. Silicone toys can be shared with partners after disinfecting, since there aren’t pores where pathogens can hide. But if you’re swapping quickly with no time to disinfect, go ahead and use a rubber,
If your 100% silicone sweetie doesn’t have electric or vibrator parts, you can disinfect by boiling for five minutes or even running through the dishwasher on the top rack. Don’t boil or dishwash silicone toys with vibrators. Even if they’re waterproof, they can’t handle the heat, so keep them out of the kitchen.
Glass toys can be fun to enjoy, like the Glas Toys G-Spot Tickler or Glas Calisto Dildo. They can be cleaned with soap and water, and even sterilized with rubbing alcohol. Always check for cracks or chips. Do not continue to use glass toys if they are cracked or chipped. Pyrex (borosilicate glass) can be run through the dishwasher, just like its sibling bakeware! If your glassware has painted designs, use a condom.
Wood toys are generally sealed like kitchen cutting boards, so wash with soap and water, but no soaking or using the dishwasher. Like your wooden spoons, soaking and using the dishwasher softens the wood, breaks the chemical seal, and allows for splintering and bacteria. Although the seal should keep wood less porous, yours may not be 100%. Use condoms and caution when sharing. (Try the Beneligni Wooden Dildo!)
Hard Plastic and Pure Latex:
These toys might be labeled with different acronyms, but they’re all cleaned with warm water and soap or a toy cleaning product. These may not be 100% non-porous, so check your packaging.
Not just for kitchen appliances anymore, stainless steel toys are becoming more popular. Steel is phthalate-free, and wont rust like other metals. Still, be sure to let your toy dry completely before storing. If there are no electric parts, you can boil or put in the dishwasher. Wash with soap and water, or even a 50/50 bleach/water solution. These are fine for sharing after disinfecting. People have been lovin' the Njoy Pure Wand!
Ashley Shew hails from Paris, Texas. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, with a focus on Human Sexuality. She is currently completing her Master's in Applied Women's Studies and Public Policy so she can fight the bad guys with sex-positivity. She likes teaching people about family planning in Los Angeles, country line dancing, and spotting celebrities.