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How To Clean and Recycle Your Sex Toys Guide

Sex involving toys can be incredible, there is a sex-toy out there to suit every gender, orientation, desire and preference! Buying a new toy can be an expensive investment though, so you want to ensure it’s going to have a long lifespan and be ready to go whenever you are. A functional toy is one thing, but did you know that poor toy maintenance can lead to infection?

Healthy sex is happy sex! So, I've put together this in-depth guide on everything you need to know about cleaning your sex toys.

Porous vs. non-porous cleaning

A bit of soap and water, job done right? Wrong.

It’s important to know what your sextoys are made of in order to clean them correctly. Most toys fall into two main categories: porous (material has tiny holes) and non-porous (material doesn’t have holes).

Porous Toys

Toys that are marketed as “real-feel” are often made from porous materials. These include  “skin-safe rubber” (varieties of elastomer such as thermoplastic rubber (TPR), thermoplastic elastomer (TRE) or jelly rubber) and Sensa-Firm or UR3 (variations of TRE used to make toys feel more like skin). Latex sextoys are also porous and, unlike condoms, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Toys made from wood, stone or crystal may be porous depending how the material has been finished and whether a sealing agent has been applied. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the materials used and the finish of the product to the retailer (or better yet, research the manufacturer and their reputability via their website).

Porous stones

If possible, it is advisable to steer clear of porous sex toys as the tiny holes can be a breeding ground for various bacteria, germs and fungus. While they are often cheaper than other toys, they are difficult to clean and will deteriorate when in contact with substances such as silicone-based lubricants, oils, and petroleum-based products.

If you do own any porous toys, use a water-based lubricant and protect with a condom during use. They often come with a powdery coating which needs to be thoroughly washed off before use and porus toys must be gently cleaned with an antibacterial soap before and after use - hard scrubbing can damage the material. Note that these toys cannot be sterilized so they are not ideal for partnered play.

Applying a small amount of cornstarch (not talcum powder) before storage can prevent the surface of the toy becoming too sticky. Store in an individual, clean, ziplock plastic bag, away from sunlight.

A word of caution: The sex toy industry is unregulated and companies often uses misleading terminology within their advertisements to make a product appear body safe when they are not. Beware of terms such as ‘silicone-blend’ and ‘silicone-rubber’ or similar trademarked names.

Non-Porous Toys

Unlike the above, non-porous toys are much safer to use and less likely to harvest bacteria.  When shopping for sex-toys look for ‘medical grade’ materials to ensure the best quality and safest. Some common nonporous materials include: Silicone, glass (Borosilicate glass or Soda-lime glass are both foodsafe and body safe), metal (such as stainless steel and gold) and ABS plastic (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a type of hard plastic). All our cages at House of Denial are made of non-porous materials, are safe to use and easy to clean!

A delicate environment: Choose a soap that is mild and unscented such as hand soap for washing your toys. The ingredients in scented soaps can disrupt the natural PH balance of the body, especially the vagina, making you prone to infection. It is also important to use a soap that is light and doesn’t leave any residue behind after washing - always rinse thoroughly!

Handing over a bar of soap
  • Chastity cages: Remove the device and separate out all the individual parts. Do not wash the lock for any device, this section should not be touching the body and water could result in rust or other lock failure. To clean any of our devices, use soap and warm water. A cloth or cotton-bud with mild antiseptic/specific sextoy cleaner can be useful to get into more intricate sections of the cage - as chastity devices are worn for prolonged periods it is essential to thoroughly clean and dry all parts before use and at least once a week. If you have an active lifestyle, I advise removing your cage for cleaning more frequently - pay attention to your body and communicate your hygiene needs with your partner. More on specific chastity hygiene can be found here.
  • Motorized toys: Use a mild antibacterial soap and a damp cloth to wipe clean. Ensure to unscrew and remove any battery compartments after washing and allow to thoroughly air dry. 
  • Waterproof/non-motorized toys: Wash with warm water and soap, or a specifically designed sex toy cleaner. Make sure to thoroughly clean all surfaces including the base and rinse off any soapy residue. If the toy does not contain a motor or any electrical parts, you can boil most non-porous materials for 3-4 minutes to sterilise (check the manufacturer instructions before doing so).

Can I throw it in the dishwasher?

The answer is yes, but ideally no. Putting certain nonporous, non-motorised dildos in a dishwasher can help to sterilise them but make sure not to use any detergent as it can leave a residue on your toys that may cause irritation. Boiling is often quicker, more environmentally friendly, and less likely to result in your housemate accidentally finding your toys! We do not recommend putting any of our chastity devices in the dishwasher.

When and how often?

Although most of us enjoy cuddling, eating pizza or falling asleep immediately after sex, it’s important to include toy cleaning in your sexy routine. Its safe practice to pee after sex (to reduce the risk of UTIs) and an appropriate time to take your toys with you to the bathroom for cleaning. Washing your toys doesn’t take long and I often leave them on the sink to fully dry off before putting them away the next day, but if that’s not something you can do then keeping some sex-toy-specific cleaning wipes in your bedside drawer can be an easy and discreet way to temporarily clean until you have a chance to be more thorough. Please don’t leave your toys more than 12 hours without proper cleaning.

Washing a vibrator under a tap

Washing your toys after use, between anal and vaginal play, and between partners is essential for safe sex, but it is also advisable to wash sex toys before use as well. Depending how your toys are stored, they can pick up dust, lint or other matter since you last used them and a quick wash can put your mind at ease and reassure your partner(s) that their health is important to you. Washing thoroughly before use is especially important when it comes to chastity as the device is likely be in place for a much longer duration than any other sex object.

If you’ve ever experienced a yeast infection or other genital disturbance you’ll know just how sensitive those areas can be. Some bacteria can last several weeks outside of the body and unhygienic toys could re-introduce a previous infection to yourself or your partner(s). As you can’t see whether there are any microorganisms living on your sex toys, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to cleaning!

A note on multi-function toys: Some sex toys can be wonderfully fun for all kinds of penetration; oral, vaginal, anal and shared between multiple partners. It’s important to remember that each orifice naturally has different bacteria that is dangerous to transfer (especially anal to vaginal penetration) and can cause serious health issues. Thorough cleaning is essential but condoms can be a great quick fix during play! Just make sure to use a new condom between each type of penetration and partner.

Storage

Once your toy is clean make sure it is completely dry before you store it (fungus, mildew and mold thrive in damp environments!). Use a lint-free towel to dry your toys or leave them somewhere safe to air dry before putting them away. I recommend keeping your toys in individual storage bags so there is no transference of colour or interference between materials, personally I use silk or satin drawstring bags and keep them neatly in a zip-up box under the bed. Alternatively, store them in their original packaging or in any other sealable bag (preferably washable) and out of sunlight.

Recycling

Did you know it takes silicone over 500 years to biodegrade? If you don’t dispose of your sex toys responsibly they will end up in a landfill where wildlife and human health could be harmed due to the hazardous substances corroding within the device.

Once your favourite toy no longer continues to give you the buzz it once did, knowing what to do with it can be confusing. There isn’t a great deal of information available on exactly what to do so i’ve broken it down into the below guide.

Recycling bin

How do I know if my toy is recyclable?

Electrical equipment that can be recycled will be marked with a crossed-out wheeled bin symbol on the box - it’s advisable to check this when deciding on a new toy to purchase! Any item with this symbol cannot go in your standard bin.

Don't put in a bin symbol

Lingerie and fabric based toys such as silky restraints can be taken to fabric recycling and are a little more discreet than other items, but most local recycling centres will take any small electrical devices for free and in the UK the Waste Electrical or Electronic Equipment (WEEE) usually has its own section. You can find your nearest centre by visiting the Recycle More website or checking the Recycle your electricals website.

If you feel hesitant about taking such personal items to a recycling facility there are a few companies that will do the recycling for you, but please note that most will only take motorised toys but not standard dildos/non-electrical toys. 

  • Lovehoney are UK based and accept all clean electrical toys. Simply package and send to: Lovehoney Recycling 100 Locksbrook Road Bath BA1 3EN
  • Sexisfaction is also a UK based company and will accept old toys for recycling if you buy a new electrical toy from them. Thoroughly cleaned items can be sent to:  F.A.O Recycling, Sexisfaction, 37 The Avenue, Bournemouth, BH9 2UW
  • Ann Summers is a UK based highstreet store with a similar policy: for each sex toy purchased from them, they will accept any equivalent used item for recycling.
  • Scarletgirl is based in Portland and will not only accept your unwanted vibrators but will also give you credit to use on your next order.
  • Come As You Are are a canadian based company that will recycle your used toys including non-electrical varieties! They will accept any ABS plastic or silicone toys and accept silicone menstrual cups too!
  • Eden Fantasies, located in Atlanta will recycle a wide range of vibrating and non-vibrating toys and have an easy guide on what and how to send. 

Here at House of Denial we pride ourselves on using the best quality materials for our cages, most of which can be easily disposed of at your local recycling centre, or via the links above. Our metal cages are the most eco-friendly and can be recycled the same as any other steel product.

White washing basin a black tap

Before sending off any sex toys for recycling please make sure to clean them thoroughly! As they will no longer be used, if you want to be extra cautious, you can soak anything without batteries in a 10% solution of bleach for 10 minutes and then let them air dry before packaging to send. Always remove any batteries - these can be recycled at most supermarkets.

Non-motorised silicone products can be particularly difficult to dispose of responsibly, so while it is a slightly more pricey option, Terracycle offer recycling for most hard-to-dispose-of items! My suggestion would be to order one of their ‘kitchen zero waste’ boxes and cut up any non-motorised silicone toys (such as our HoD600 range) and place the material alongside other silicone household products such as baking trays. If you are especially brave you could group together with friends to do one big “kitchen” recycle!

Responsible sex toy ownership starts at the point of pruchase. Shop wisely, use our guides to help you find the perfect product and make sure to keep on top of cleaning and storage to prolong the lifespan of your toys!

For more chastity specific tips, hygiene and cleaning guides please see my other post here.

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