Your (Realistic) Guide to Sterilizing Sex Toys

Cleaning your sex toys is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your toys!

But, is simply cleaning them enough?

Don’t they need to be sterilized?

Well, that’s what I’m here to help with. I’m going to break down exactly what it means to sterilize your sex toys, explain if and when to do it, and explain exactly how it’s done.

Why Sterilize Sex Toys?

I’m gonna be real with you — you don’t have to be sterilizing your sex toys every time you use them. You don’t even have to be sterilizing them once a week, or even once a month!

You want to know the number of times I’ve sterilized my sex toys? Zero. Literally never.

That’s because I only ever buy and use sex toys made from 100% body-safe, non-porous materials.

I clean them thoroughly with soap and water every time I use them, and I store them in protective storage bags or boxes to stop them coming into contact with germs and dirt.

With all that being said, there are some situations where you may want to sterilize your sex toys. This could be if…

  • Multiple people are using a toy.
  • You’re concerned about STIs.
  • You haven’t used it in a very long time.
  • You didn’t buy it from a very trustworthy place and want to disinfect it before use.

Cleaning vs Sterilizing

So, what actually is the difference between cleaning sex toys and sterilizing them?

Sex toys can be easily cleaned with some water and mild soap, though how you do it depends on the toy. A simple dildo, for example, can be submerged in water and given a thorough cleaning. On the other hand, some toys are not waterproof, and wiping them down with a little soap on a damp cloth is a better option.

Sterilization is a deeper, more intense process. It actually disinfects your sex toys, making sure all bacteria and germs are killed by heating the toys to a high temperature.

It’s one way to make sure that your sex toys are 100% safe to use, but it’s also much more time-consuming and labor-intensive than just cleaning them. Plus, if you regularly clean your sex toys, you shouldn’t have to disinfect them with every use.

Which Sex Toys Are Sterilizable?

Please, I beg you, don’t just throw any old sex toys in the dishwasher in the hopes of disinfecting them!

Disinfecting and sanitizing sex toys requires very high temperatures and water — not things that every sex toy can handle. Here’s how to tell if your sex toy can be sterilized…

What Type of Sex Toy Do You Have?

This may go without saying, but you can’t boil sex toys with electrical parts in them. That means vibrators, thrusting dildos, automatic masturbators and anything else that can be charged, plugged in or uses batteries. There is one exception to this rule though: if you can remove the electrical element. Some sex toys have bullet vibrators that can be removed, leaving just the non-electrical parts.

You also won’t be able to sterilize very large or bulky sex toys, like sex dolls or sex machines. Some of these kinds of products do come with parts that are removable for cleaning, but not all.

If you’re in doubt, check the instruction manual or website of your sex toy — there’s often guidance on whether or not it can be deep cleaned in this way.

What is Your Sex Toy Made From?

Most of the time, we divide sex toy materials into two categories: porous and non-porous.

Porous materials are, in general, something to be avoided where possible. They contain microscopic holes that can harbour bad stuff like bacteria, fungi and more, which should stay far away from your body. These holes also make them incredibly difficult to properly clean, and as they hold onto germs and will break down with high temperatures. Non-porous materials, on the other hand, don’t have these holes, and are totally body-safe.

However, when it comes to sterilizing sex toys, it’s not quite so simple as “boil non-porous toys and don’t boil porous ones!”. There are some non-porous materials, like hard plastic (ABS), are body-safe but will simply melt in the high temperatures needed to sterilize them.

Here’s a guide to which sex toy materials can and can’t be sterilized:

100% SiliconeABS Plastic
Stainless SteelPVC
Borosilicate GlassTPE/TPR*
Silicone ‘Blends’
* (including proprietary materials like Superskin and Fanta Flesh)

Sex toys that are made from crystal, stone or wood can be a bit iffy when it comes to sterilization. Some are sealed with a material that makes them non-porous, but it’s often hard to be 100% sure. I would recommend erring on the side of caution and not boiling these materials.

So, How Do I Sterilize My Sex Toys?

Once you’ve figured out which of your sex toys are safe to be sterilized, you can go ahead with the process. There are two main ways to sterilize sex toys that are safe and effective when done correctly.

Boil Them

Take a large, clean pot of water and allow it to boil. You don’t need to add any soap or other additives — just hot water will do the trick. Once it’s boiling, submerge your sterilization-safe sex toys for 1-3 minutes. If you’re boiling toys made from glass or metal, place them in a mesh laundry bag or add a washcloth to the pot first to protect them as they bounce around.

Stick Them in the Dishwasher

Sterilizing your sex toys in the dishwasher may seem a little intimidating, but it’s pretty simple. Place them on the top rack of your otherwise empty dishwasher, and use a cycle that lasts for 5-10 minutes (and not any longer, they don’t need it!) and reaches at least 150ºF. If your dishwasher has a ‘sanitize’ function, you can select that. Also, don’t add any detergent or soap, as it can leave a residue and harm your genitals.

How NOT to Sterilize Sex Toys

There’s lots of bad (and straight-up dangerous) guidance out there on how you can sterilize your sex toys! As a general rule, I would avoid any other techniques other than the two above.

Keep in mind that whatever you put on your sex toy will likely end up inside you. Even if you rinse off the surface, it’s hard to truly remove every residue — and some substances can cause damage even in very small amounts.

While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some ways NOT to disinfect your sex toys:

  • Bleach (or a bleach solution)
  • Alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Windex

What About UV Sanitizers?

You may have heard the growing hype around sex toy storage cases that use UV light to kill germs and sterilize your toys. While these products certainly seem cool, there are some downsides.

First off, it’s unlikely that they’re really able to sanitize every part of your sex toys, since they can only clean areas where the light can reach. Plus, they’re expensive, and very niche. A thorough clean with water and mild soap, and storing your toy in a protective pouch or box is perfectly adequate.

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