How to clean a sex toy

Keep 'em clean, keep 'em mean – and, y'know, avoid putting horrible bacteria where it really shouldn't be

How to clean sex toys
(Image credit: IFONNX Toys / Unsplash)

If you've used a sex toy – whether it be one of the best sex toys, the best vibrators, the best dildos or something else entirely – it's going to end up warm and damp. It'll also be covered in bacteria which absolutely loves to thrive in that kind of environment. Depending on where and how you've used it, this might be a pretty extensive amount of gross stuff. Later, reintroducing that gunk to your most intimate areas is simply a bad idea.

Using a dirty toy could lead to a risk of fungal or bacterial infection, or a UTI – particularly if you're dealing with the sensitive chemistry of the vagina or if it may have been introduced to different areas on your previous go-around.

Guys aren't excused, either. Keeping clean is vital no matter what toy you're using; check out our guide on how to clean a Fleshlight to ensure your male-centric toy is sparkling after every use.

Here's everything you need to know about how to clean your sex toys.

Basic cleaning tips

After every toy session, or before switching from one place or person to another, wash your toys with a mild soap and warm water. You don't have to use antibacterial soap, but it may give you extra piece of mind.

Rinse the toy, then allow it to dry thoroughly in the air: place it on a towel while it initially dries, then keep it somewhere cool, dark and dry – a drawer, perhaps – to deal with the final drips.

That's really all you need to do to keep the majority of pure silicone, steel or glass toys clean, and it's quite possible to stop there, particularly if you're saving your toys for your own use. That said, you may want to take extra precautions, so let's break down other potential cleaning options – these may be helpful if you're particularly sensitive to infection.

UV Light

UV-C is a fantastic (and expensive) method for sterilizing toys. b-Vibe produces a UV Sterilizer Pouch for this very reason. Problem is, it's absolutely useless for actually cleaning them. Exposing a compatible toy to UV light will blast away any bacteria or infection vector, but you'll need to make sure it's fully clean first.


Putting toys on the top shelf of a dishwasher is a great way to kill bacteria in particular, but it may not be able to deal with viruses or fungi, even if you run your dishwasher on the sanitizing cycle. It's also not a universal solution: not everything is compatible. Some toys are fine to put in the dishwasher (pure silicone toys, for instance, shouldn't be affected by the high temperatures) but others really shouldn't go in there.

However, bear in mind that dishwasher soap is often much stronger than the soap you might use if washing by hand, so run the cycle without soap. Dishwashers can also sometimes leave a little residue on the toy; for this reason (and the fact that anything with batteries or electronics is likely to be destroyed in the dishwasher) we'd probably avoid this method.

Lovehoney Sex Toy Care Kit

An example of a Sex Toy Care Kit from Lovehoney

(Image credit: Lovehoney)

Toy cleaners

Sprays and tinctures for cleaning toys come in all forms, and they're generally a great idea as long as their formulation matches both your toy and your body. Read the ingredients carefully, because what you're putting on your toy is also going to be going in your body.

Toy wipes

Many toy manufacturers offer wipes, and these are largely fine for a quick refresh in the middle of a session, but we wouldn't recommend them as a one-and-done solution. Wash your toy manually after using it, even if you've thoroughly wiped it and, again, be careful that the chemistry of any wipes is compatible with that of your toys and body.

Deep cleaning

Sometimes, you'll want to really get in the corners for a deep clean. Again, the methods you use will depend on the makeup of the toy.

Those without any moving parts or electronics will likely be fine to be submerged in boiling water, which is the most effective way to kill just about anything that could be on the surface. Clean them by hand first, and place a cloth in the pan to protect glass or other fragile toys from breaking against the hard bottom. Pull them out with tongs, and let them cool and dry by themselves – running cold water over them may introduce a little more stress to the material than you'd like.

Electronic toys usually need a little more care: since you can't (or at least you shouldn't) usually submerge them, give them the most thorough surface cleaning you can, using a toothbrush to get in any crevices.

It's worth considering bleach for those toys that can't be boiled. Clean and dry your toy, then spray on a very dilute mix of bleach and water. Leave this for a little while, then thoroughly wash it off and dry the toy.

Alcohol is also effective for extra cleaning. Try to find at least a 75% mix, and spray it on as you would bleach. Allow it to dry (this won't take long) then wash once again. Bear in mind, though, that some materials (particularly shiny coatings) may not like alcohol, so it could dull the finish or accelerate deterioration.

How to clean sex toys

(Image credit: Anna Shvets / Pexels)

Beware porous toys

Not all toys are created equal. If your favourite toy is made of a hard plastic or jelly-like rubber material, it may well have a porous outer. This is an issue: anything which could potentially soak up water could also harbour bacteria, and these kinds of toys (usually from the cheaper end of the market) are very difficult to clean reliably.

In this case, consult the instructions that came with the toy for specific tips. In the absence of these, wash it with a mild antibacterial soap and warm water before – and this is the critical bit – storing it somewhere where it can become fully dry, away from other porous toys. That should be enough to keep the toy safe for personal use.

However, if you're likely to share with a partner, use it anally, or you're really susceptible to yeast infections, consider covering any porous toy with the best condom. This should stop anything untoward getting in into its surface, and all it takes is to switch that condom out, and you'll be good to put it somewhere else without worry.

When not to clean

There comes a point in every toy's life when there's no sense in carrying on. Cleaning can help to reduce stains or odours, but it can't stop cracks or material damage – in fact, when those things start to happen, a thorough cleaning could make them worse.

If your toy is starting to look tatty, that's a sign that you're really not going to be able to get it fully clean. It's absolutely time to retire it and get yourself an upgrade. Perhaps we can interest you in some of the best sex toys and the best sex toys for men as a replacement?

James is T3's sex toy and male wellness expert who's been exploring the topic of sexual happiness for a decade. He knows it's not what you've got, it's how you use it – and how clean you keep it.