Ask Amy #9 – “How Do I Clean My Sex Toys?”

I’ve been meaning to write about how to clean your sex toys FOREVER. But, like many topics I keep meaning to get to, it kept slipping down my list. However, a lovely reader slid into my DMs this week with a question about this very topic. I’m taking it as a sign.

A silver boiling pot full of water on a stove, for a post on how to clean your sex toys
Yup – “boil your sex toys” really is as simple as it sounds!

She writes…

Hi Amy,

I know that you should sterilise sex toys after use, and you can do this to silicone dildos and butt plugs (for example) by boiling them in hot water. I’ve bought a pan for my dildo sterilising adventures, but do I just… heat them up like I’m boiling potatoes?

How do you boil sex toys to sterilise them, plus do you have any tips for storage to keep your toys clean between uses?

Ms Dildos-For-Dinner

Hi Ms. D-for-D,

I love this question! I think, as a veteran sex geek, I’m making too many assumptions that people will know what I’m talking about when I say “boil your sex toys”. So thank you for reminding me I need to give more specific instructions to ensure my lovely readers are staying safe.

The short answer to your first question is yep. Just put the toys in a big pan of water, bring it to a rolling boil, and keep it bubbling away for 10 – 15 minutes. You can do this with any pure silicone or stainless steel toy, and also with high quality borosilicate (Pyrex) glass toys. Once you’re done, dump the water out, dry your toys thoroughly, and put them away.

Remember: you cannot boil-sterilise any toys with motors. So this method is great for dildos, butt plugs etc., but no good for vibrating toys.

When it comes to toys with motors, check the instructions from the manufacturer. If your toy is waterproof, wipe it down with a body-safe sterile wipe (I buy mine in bulk from a medical supplies store such as Medisave, one pack lasts months) to kill any bacteria, then dunk it in a bowl of warm water and very gentle soap. Wash, rinse it thoroughly, and you’re done. You can also follow this process for waterproof ABS (hard) plastic toys, which also cannot be boiled regardless of whether they have a motor or not.

The other option for waterproof toys with motors is to soak them in a 10% bleach solution (that is, 1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for a few minutes. Be sure to rinse REALLY thoroughly if you do this.

If your toy has a motor and is not waterproof, it’s a little trickier but you can still get it clean. Again, wipe it thoroughly with a medical wipe. Then clean it all over with a damp cloth dunked in clean warm water.

Remember, if your toy has any tricky grooves or ridges or nozzles, bacteria can gather here so take extra care to clean these areas really thoroughly.

As far as storing your toys between uses, there’s a couple of options:

  1. Just throw ’em all in a big bag or box (this is what I do, mostly). That thing about silicone toys melting together in storage? It’s 100% not true. Silicone doesn’t work that way! Check out Dangerous Lilly’s experiment to prove this myth false. If you do this, I recommend giving your toy a quick wipe down before you use it, just to get rid of any dust or lint that may have settled on it.
  2. Get some individual bags for them. Lovehoney do really cute drawstring sex toy bags, or you can probably buy similar from a craft store or online. I have a few of the Lovehoney ones and they keep my toys sparkling clean between uses! (Remember: a lot of higher end toys now come with their own bag or pouch).

For the purposes of safer sex, I always recommend using a barrier if you’re going to share a toy with a non fluid-bonded partner[1] and that toy cannot be boil sterilised or properly washed. My personal policy is barriers on shared vaginal toys unless I am fluid bonded with that partner, and condoms on shared anal toys ALWAYS. It’s a bit less risky for penis toys because the outer skin of the penis isn’t technically a mucus membrane.

Real talk: STI transmission risk through toys is very low, and becomes even more miniscule if you follow the simple tips outlined here. The bigger concern if toys aren’t properly cleaned are thrush, yeast infections and similar complaints rather than STI transmission (though the latter is still possible). I’m a risk-averse person with safer sex so tend towards caution and will recommend the same, but your acceptable risk parameters may vary.

[1] I’m aware that fluid bonding is a controversial term (technically kissing is fluid bonding!). But for the purposes of this post, I’m using it to mean having manual, oral, penetrative or toy sex without a barrier.

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