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Toy Care

This artice was pulled directly from SELF:

How to Clean Your Sex Toys So You Can Use Them SafelySafe sex with yourself is a thing.
By Lindsey Lanquist
Being an adult comes with many responsibilities, like paying your bills, tidying your home, and washing your dishes. It also means cleaning your sex toys, which is fortunately pretty easy as far as chores go.

I get it: Sex, whether solo or with a partner, is your time to let the stresses of daily life melt away. But if you want sex toys to be a part of that clear-your-mind time—and if you want those sex toys to have good life spans—you’re going to have to clean them properly and regularly. Plus, there’s a chance that poor sex toy hygiene can actually cause infections; so, yes, safe solo sex is also a thing to consider. Here’s the right way to clean those toys.
The first step in cleaning a sex toy is figuring out whether it’s made with a porous or nonporous material.If the material is porous, it has tiny holes that can harbor bacteria, fungi, and general gunk, Lisa Finn, a sex educator at the sex toy boutique Babeland, tells SELF. If it’s nonporous, it doesn’t have those holes, so various microorganisms are less likely to stick around.

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According to Finn, porous materials include:

  • Elastomer (rubber) varieties, like:

  • Thermoplastic rubber, or TPR for short. This is sometimes called “skin-safe rubber.”

  • Thermoplastic elastomer, aka TRE, which is also sometimes called “skin-safe rubber.”

  • Jelly rubber. This is a kind of rubber that sometimes (not always) contains phthalates, a group of chemicals that have come under fire for their potential to affect human health. The scientific jury is still out.

  • Materials like Sensafirm and UR3, which can help toys feel like skin

  • Latex, which isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in sex toys the way it is in condoms

​And here are common nonporous sex-toy materials:

  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic (a kind of hard plastic)

  • Borosilicate glass (as in Pyrex and similar varieties)

  • Soda-lime glass (like the kind used for drinking glasses)

  • Silicone

  • Metals like stainless steel and gold

To find out what kind of material your toy is made of, check the box or look it up online.
Regardless of your toy’s material, you should wash and dry it after each use so it’s as clean as possible.Though porous toys are more likely to harbor bacteria or other microorganisms than nonporous one, it’s a good idea to clean any toy you’ve used right after you’ve used it. I know, I know: What a buzzkill. But incorporating this crucial step into your routine will keep your toys as sanitary as possible.
Your vagina is home to myriad bacteria and fungi that help to keep it healthy. When you use a sex toy, odds are some of these microorganisms will come along for the ride. Most of the time, this won’t be harmful, Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. Your vagina is already used to dealing with these microorganisms, so they don’t really pose a threat.

That’s not always the case, though. Let’s say you have a sexually transmitted infection or a vaginal infection, and you decide to masturbate using a toy. It’s possible that some of the pathogens causing the infection will remain on the toy’s surface (if it’s nonporous) or get inside the tiny holes (if it’s porous) and continue to live there, Peter Leone, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the UNC School of Medicine, tells SELF. If you don’t clean the toy before sharing it with a partner, it’s theoretically possible for you to spread the infection to them, he explains. You may even be able to reintroduce the microorganism in question into your system after you’ve already cleared an infection.
Similar concerns exist with gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria, Dr. Leone says. The rectum is home to all kinds of bacteria your vagina isn’t used to, like E. coli, and some of this bacteria could get transferred to a toy you use anally. If that bacteria comes in contact with your (or your partner’s) urinary tract, it could cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).

To clarify, you probably won’t get an infection every time you slack on thorough sex toy cleaning, but it’s important to know that this can happen depending on the type of bacteria or virus and the situation in which you’re using the toy. “It really depends on which organism you’re talking about,” Meghan A. May, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at the University of New England College of Medicine, tells SELF.
Bacteria, for instance, generally can’t survive for long in or on a nonporous sex toy because they thrive in damp environments, Dr. Leone says. Once your sex toy dries off, any bacteria on or in it are likely to die. How quickly this happens varies on the bacteria in question, May says.
May estimates that something like Gardnerella vaginalis, an agent of the infection bacterial vaginosis, typically won’t live on a hard surface longer than a day or two. Similarly, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which spreads gonorrhea, may last up to 24 hours on hard surfaces, she says. These numbers likely drop to just a few hours for Chlamydia trachomatis, which can cause chlamydia.

Fungi like Candida albicans, which causes yeast infections, can last longer than bacteria, possibly for weeks depending on the circumstances involved, Dr. Leone says. “This is the one you could really worry about in terms of things that can hang around for quite some time,” May says, explaining that a sex toy could possibly reintroduce excess yeast into your vagina after you’ve already gotten rid of a yeast infection.
Some viruses usually die within hours when out in the open air, Dr. Leone explains. “HIV and herpes viruses aren’t awesome at living on surfaces for a long time, because they’re very susceptible to drying,” May says. Human papillomavirus, however, may survive longer, Dr. Leone says.

Keep in mind that these are generally estimates for hard surfaces, not for how long these pathogens can live in bodily fluids on hard surfaces, which may be longer. Even more problems arise if the toy is porous, because those little holes can trap moisture that allows pathogens to live longer, May explains. “Even if you’re only talking about a matter of hours, you’re extending that life span, which isn’t ideal,” she says.
Ultimately, you can’t really tell whether these microorganisms are still on or in your sex toys, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to cleaning.

You might also want to wash your toy before every use, too.Even if you’ve done an awesome job cleaning your toy, it might come into contact with lint, dirt, and other matter before you use it again. If you don’t want to expose your vagina to that stuff (who does?), you should consider washing your toy quickly before every use.

If you want to skip this step, you can; cleaning toys after every use is a must, whereas cleaning them beforehand is a suggestion, Finn says.
Here’s exactly how to clean all of your sex toys before and after you use them.Cleaning each of your sex toys properly is just as important as cleaning them regularly. If you don’t, you risk eroding a toy’s material, warping its shape, or breaking any battery-operated functions it may have.

First things first: You’ll want to find the right soap. Finn recommends a mild hand or dish soap—as long as it’s unscented (scent can disrupt your vagina’s pH balance, making you more susceptible to infections) and is light enough not to leave a residue on your toys.

Now that we’ve established that, things are about to get pretty specific.

Here are Finn’s guidelines for cleaning your sex toys:
Is your toy made of elastomer or latex?
These porous materials are more sensitive to temperature than nonporous toys, meaning they might get warped if they’re exposed to too much heat. If your toy vibrates, wipe it down with a warm, damp, soapy washcloth. If it doesn’t vibrate (or vibrates but is waterproof), run the toy under warm water and clean it with a soapy washcloth.

Is your elastomer toy specifically made of a skin-like blend?
Do the same thing you’d do for the toys listed above, but don’t expose it to too much soap. This can damage the material, leaving it without the nice skin-like texture it’s known for.

Is your toy made of ABS plastic?
Just like an elastomer or latex toy, you can wipe it down with a damp cloth and mild soap if it vibrates, or wash it with water and mild soap if it doesn’t. (Or if it vibrates but happens to be waterproof.)

Is your toy made of soda-lime glass?
This kind of glass can be sensitive to temperature (which is part of why it can be so much fun during sexual play). Wash a soda-lime glass toy the same way you’d wash a latex or elastomer toy.

Is your toy made of borosilicate glass, silicone, or a metal?
You can clean these toys using mild soap and warm water, or a damp, soapy washcloth, much like the toys above. As an added bonus, if your borosilicate glass, silicone, or stainless steel toys don’t vibrate, you can boil them for 3 to 4 minutes to fully disinfect them. Finn doesn't suggest boiling sex toys made of gold, since many of them are only gold-plated and may contain other materials. Also, though some people recommend you wash these toys in the dishwasher, Finn advises against it, because it can leave residue behind.

Borosilicate glass and stainless steel toys are the only ones safe for bleaching, Finn says, but you really don’t have to take this extra step. Washing as directed above is absolutely enough. If you do decide to bleach a sex toy, though, you want a weak solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water, Finn says. Let the toy soak for 10 to 15 minutes, rinse it off thoroughly, then wash it with mild soap and water. Bleach is persona non grata for your vagina and related parts. You need to make sure there’s not a trace left before using the toy.

No matter how you wash your toy, double-check that it’s dry before storing it. “Porous or not, you don’t want to have anything that could build mildew or mold, or make your toys smell weird,” Finn says. Ensuring that your toy is fully dry also lessens the likelihood that any pathogens can cling on for dear life.

If you’re feeling lazy, you can (occasionally) get away with using a sex toy cleaner. You can also just use condoms.You can keep a sex toy cleaner like the Babeland Toy Cleaner on hand. It’s a quick and discreet option that you can use to disinfect your toy without harming its material, Finn says, but it’s not for everyday use. “The cleaner is more like dry shampoo,” Finn says. “It’s better than nothing, but it can’t replace giving your hair a full wash.” If you have an orgasm so earth-shattering you simply cannot motivate yourself to move afterward, you can wipe your toy down with the cleaner and give it a deeper wash once you’re ready to get up.

Another option: Put a new condom on your sex toy every time you use it, depending on the toy’s shape. This can eliminate the need for cleaning altogether. You’ll just want to make sure any lube you use won’t erode the condom (like oil-based lubes can).

And yes, how you store your sex toys matters.Don’t just toss them in your bedside drawer, where there’s likely all kinds of dust and lint you don’t want inside of you. Instead, you can keep your toys in the small bags or boxes they came in to protect them from the elements.
If you don’t have this packaging—or if you just want to upgrade your situation—you can purchase a storage box, like the UVee from Clean Light Laboratories. The UVee is a box where you can safely store and charge compatible sex toys while exposing them to UV-C light. According to Dr. Leone, this light can kill bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens, though it should be used in addition to traditional cleaning methods, not in place of them. This is basically if you want to go the extra sex-toy-cleaning mile.
The UVee light costs $120-$180, which might be more than you’re willing to spend on a glorified sex toy storage box. Fittingly, Dr. Streicher calls the UVee the “gift for the person who has everything.”
If you don’t have a toy’s original packaging or the cash to drop on a UVee, Finn suggests purchasing a small plastic container or a small silk or satin bag. This may sound like a lot of care to undertake for an inanimate object, but doing so makes it more likely that you and your sex toys can have a long, happy life together.

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