A survey has revealed that only 57 % of men clean their sex toys every time they use them, and more than a third never clean their sex toys at all.

The figures for those identifying as female are better, but still not ideal: 70 % clean their toys after every use, but 19 % take the ‘come as you are’ approach (i.e. they never even give them a wipe).

We thought this was kind of alarming, so below we hope to answer all your most basic *and* advanced sex toy cleaning questions (including, ‘can you put your sex toys in the dishwasher?’).

Why do you need to clean sex toys?

Sex toys go on and in parts of the body where the membranes are more delicate, more prone to irritation or infection, and more likely to break (allowing transfer of blood-borne infections) than other parts of the body. Sex toys lie around and gather dust and everyday bacteria, moulds and so on, which you don’t want to transfer to these parts of your body. If you cover a sex toy in your bodily fluids and don’t clean it, these fluids will be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which you’ll then transfer to your most delicate parts the next time you use the toy. And equally importantly, sex toys can pick up STIs when used, which can then be passed onto someone else if you share the toys.

Particularly dangerous is using an insertable sex toy anally and then in another orifice (especially the vagina) without cleaning the toy thoroughly in between. This is likely to cause serious infection.

Not only that, but your sex toys will last longer if you clean them regularly. The materials they’re made from are likely to break down quicker if left covered in bodily fluids and allowed to breed bacteria.

So to summarise, you need to clean your sex toys because: a) general hygiene; b) STIs; c) safety concerns for partners; d) they will last longer; e) it’s icky not to.

Are there any circumstances in which you can get away without cleaning sex toys?

If you use a disposable barrier like a condom or dental dam with a sex toy, then yes. You can use your sex toy without worrying about cleaning it afterwards – just throw the barrier away and you’re done.

Insertables and wands can easily have condoms put on them, and dental dams can be used to cover most surfaces (an easy homemade dental dam is a condom you’ve cut open, if the area that needs covering is small enough). Make sure they’re non-lubricated condoms, though, because the lube could react with the sex toy material.

If you’re sharing a sex toy with a person you’re not fluid-bonded with (i.e. you would use condoms for penetrative sex to avoid spread of STIs), then you should always use condoms when you share sex toys too.

Are there any sex toys that don’t need to be cleaned at all?

There are single-use, disposable sex toys, but they’re not good quality nor great for the environment. Otherwise, sorry, nope. While a sex toy that’s used externally is less of a concern than an insertable, you still risk infection if you never clean it.

Do you need to clean your sex toys after every use?

This is a good question. According to the experts in this great piece in Men’s Health, you really should (it also contains some alarming/hilarious anecdotes about adult store customers who return their sex toys). In fact, they recommend you give sex toys a rinse *before* you use them too, to get rid of any dust or bacteria they’ve picked up in storage.

Do you *really* need to clean your sex toys, though?

Yes. You do. Here’s what the NHS says.

I mean, will your knob/clit actually drop off if you don’t clean your sex toys? Or will you probably be OK?

We don’t have any actual scientific evidence of anyone’s genitals dropping off after they used a sex toy that they’d never washed. But we certainly couldn’t say that it definitely wouldn’t happen. Putting aside the worst case scenario, though, here’s that Men’s Health article again: “For men, using the same sex toys without washing the semen off afterwards can lead to skin and yeast infections. Men with uncircumcised penises may be more likely to get yeast infections because bacteria can get trapped under the foreskin. Over time, that bacteria grows and can travel into a man’s urethra, the part of the penis that carries semen.”

OK. How do you clean your sex toys?

We’re glad you asked. How you clean a toy depends on what material/s it’s made from and whether it has mechanical parts that could be damaged by water. A reputable sex toy company should give you information on how to clean its toys, so check this out before you buy. If you’ve already thrown the packaging away, you should be able to find out what materials the toys are made of on the manufacturer’s website.

You can wash them with soap and water, take them in the bath or shower with you, use a sex toy cleaner spray or even use alcohol (and the latter will sterilise them – i.e. destroy/remove all microorganisms). You can’t boil them or put them in the dishwasher, though, because the heat will damage the moving parts.

Porous materials

You should be aware that some toys are made from porous materials. Which means that bacteria, fungus and so on can get inside them and multiply there. Cleaning them won’t necessarily get at anything that’s trapped inside. To be completely safe, you should use a condom with this type of toy at all times. If you decide to risk it, do at least make sure you wash them very thoroughly with sex toy cleaner spray or soap and water straight after you use them, every single time. And never share them without a condom. Non-porous toys are also more likely to react to heat, so you can’t use hot water. Examples of porous materials are: hard plastic, cyber skin, jelly rubber, neoprene, but there are many more. Examples of non-porous materials are: silicone, glass, pyrex, stainless steel.

So basically there’s no one size fits all with sex toy cleaning, and some toys are harder to clean than others. For the most thorough info possible, check out Dangerous Lilly’s guide to cleaning different materials.

Can you clean sex toys in the bath or shower?

Some of them you can. But definitely not all! Again, it’s a case by case basis.

Or can you put your sex toys in the dishwasher?

Again, some sex toys you can. Dangerous Lilly has done a thorough guide to this here.

What about hiring someone to clean your sex toys?

You can probably do that, by arrangement. Definitely not something to just leave lying around for your regular cleaner, though.

Could you get a submissive to come over and clean your sex toys?

Fetlife exists (NSFW). So maybe. We wonder if the effort involved in finding the right person for this would outweigh just bloody well cleaning them yourself.

Can you make cleaning your sex toys part of a sex game?

Totally, and we recommend it! Some of the ways you can incorporate cleaning sex toys into partner sex play:

  • Have a masturbation race – the loser gets to clean all the toys used by both of you.
  • Enjoy some dominance and submission – clearly the sub gets to clean up all the sex wreckage afterwards.
  • Whoever cleans the sex toys first gets to choose the next sexy thing you do together.

Is it OK if your partner is the only person who ever cleans your sex toys?

No, mate, it isn’t*.

Is it OK to get your mum to clean your…

You know the answer to this.