Question: Have you been taking advantage of your vibrator recently? Because I know a lot of pleasure-seekers who fell hard for a sex toy (or three) this year, but, as is the case with any relationship, pleasure tools can be taken for granted. For example, the other day I realized that I charge all my vibrators on my filthy floor immediately before using them. Gross, right? It made me wonder: What other sex toy hygiene mistakes do people commonly make?
We all get lazy sometimes—my self-sanitizing vibrator is proof of that—but that’s no reason to stop prioritizing your sexual health. It’s why below, Taylor Sparks, sex educator and founder of online intimacy shop Organic Loven, shares what you should and shouldn’t do to make sure your sex toy hygiene routine is as clean as possible.
4 common sex toy hygiene mistakes to avoid making, according to a sex educator
1. Using chemical-based toy cleaners
The entire point of cleaning your sex toys properly is to make sure your body is continuously treated like royalty, even after orgasm. For Sparks, that means avoiding chemical and antibacterial-based toy cleaners, especially those that have the anti-microbial triclosan. “It’s an antibacterial chemical that may leave a film on your toys, which can then be absorbed into your bloodstream through your vagina or anus,” says Sparks. “Triclosan has been linked to liver toxicity and thyroid disruption, even in low levels.”
Instead, she recommends seeking out sex-toy cleaners that contain all-natural and/or organic ingredients—not just “some” organic ingredients. One recommendation is the Intimate Earth Green Foaming Toy Cleaner ($15), a foaming cleanser with natural antibacterial properties that are gentle on toys yet provide a powerful clean. And for covertly lazy folks, she recommends Sensuva Think Clean Thoughts Toy Cleaner ($8), a quick antibacterial spray that cleans toys without mess. And if you have a large collection of toys (ahem) and cash to burn, you might want to invest in a sanitizer called Uvee ($200). “It’s a UVC light system that can kill up to 99 percent of all germs in 10 minutes,” Sparks adds.
2. Storing toys together, without protection
According to Sparks, some non-medical-grade silicone toys may stick to each other, and porous toys can cross-contaminate each other. Luckily, you can avoid that by keeping everything separate.
“Most toys come with their own cloth bags so that you can store them individually,” says Sparks. “You can always invest in a lockable toy case or a lockable toy bag and put them in their individual bags and then add them to the larger toy storage case or bag.”
3. Using your toys straight out of the box
Even fresh toys can have weird stuff on them, folks. “Toys may contain chemicals on their surface from the packaging they are stored in,” says Sparks. “Always wash the toys with a chemical-free, organic, and natural wash before using it for the first time.”
4. Sharing toys with partners unsafely
“Even though bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease, sometimes the bacteria in one’s mouth or vagina doesn’t mix with the bacteria of another and can trigger vaginosis,” says Sparks, who notes that this spread can happen via sex toys. Likewise, sex toys can transmit STIs. For example, take one super-small 2014 study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, which had participants with human papillomavirus (HPV) insert a toy vaginally and then compared the results between toys made from silicone versus thermoplastic elastomer (a jelly-esque porous material). Even after cleaning both toys, 56 percent of the thermoplastic toys and 44 percent of the silicone toys had traces of HPV on them.
So, even though that study was small, suffice it to say, it’s best practice to use the same care standards with penetrative toys as you would with your own genitals. “When sharing toys, use a new condom between each exchange,” Sparks says. “Wash toys before and after each use.”
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