Sex Toy Safety (Care and Maintenance)

author: Sunny rodgers
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARI SAPERSTEIN

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“It burns,” she whispered into my ear. “I used a brand-new sex toy and I don’t understand why my entire vulva is on fire.”

One of my good friends had encountered a product manufactured in China where gasoline was used as a cleaning solution. This is why I ALWAYS suggest thoroughly cleaning intimate pleasure products before AND after every use–including brand-new toys straight out of the package.

HARD FACTS:
According to the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), sex toys fall under therapeutic medical devices, but there is still little to no regulation for such intimate items. Most sex toy packaging have disclaimers stating the item is ‘Sold as a Novelty Only’ and there are often no instructions on how to use the product. Most consumers trust that a new product is clean and ready to use, which is not always the case.

WOULD YOU PUT GASOLINE ON YOUR BODY? 
In some factories, often in rural areas around the globe with unregulated working conditions, injection mold machines are used to create sophisticated designs without unsightly seams. Unfortunately, in many cases this machinery is cleaned with gasoline or other types of strong cleansers. Without removing the harsh cleanser residue, the next batch of massagers are run through the machinery. Frequently, your brand-new sex toy straight out of the package has come in contact with a topical agent that can cause harm to your intimate regions.

WHY USE INJECTION MOLD MACHINERY?
If we compare organic and regular vegetables next to each other, the organic vegetable isn’t always perfectly pretty. Consumers prefer vegetables with an appealing appearance, even if the less photogenic organic veggie is better for our health.

The same goes for sex toys created using injection molds, which allows for seamless designs and continuity. Injection mold machinery needs to be cleaned and maintained, that’s where solvents and strong chemicals come in.

There are also instances of factories using questionable fillers inside dildos and realistic sex toys. I have personally cut open a dildo to find rags and Styrofoam stuffed inside! This also arises with counterfeit products, which may have a recognized manufacturers name but is not from that actual manufacturer— often the case with low priced items sold on Amazon.

So what steps can we take to ensure we are purchasing safe sex toys? I recommend the following tips.

Sex Toy Safety Tips:

Tip #1
Purchase sex toys from a well-known manufacturer, preferably based in the U.S. where FDA, OSHA and other agencies are beginning regulation. Most larger sex toy manufacturers have quality control and quality assurance departments where products are tested and monitored for cleanliness and quality. Also, most large manufacturers have warranties on their merchandise. LELO, a large Swedish pleasure product manufacturer, has an online registration form and a 1-year worldwide warranty that covers their luxury brand products, and in countries that mandate a longer warranty time, LELO extends their warranty coverage.

Yes, Amazon is easy and offers great pricing – I understand that – but, they do not monitor their sellers or sellers’ merchandise. Counterfeit sex toys are sold on Amazon. Manufacturers are trying to combat this from occurring, but a solution has not been found. Again, I recommend purchasing sex toys from a reputable store or website, or when possible, from the manufacturer themselves.

Tip #2
Clean your sex toys! Before, after, and if needed, during sex play. When would you entertain cleaning a toy during sex play? When using an item in multiple orifices and cross-contamination is a possibility.

Tip #3
Condoms are a great way to create a safe exterior area with your sex toys. I often suggest using a condom on a massager or dildo to ensure a safe surface and for easy clean up.

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Safe Ways to Clean Your Sex Toys:

Silicone, glass and metal are the best materials for maintaining cleanliness with sex toys. For all three of these materials there are several ways to clean them. Heat, bleach or alcohol are best for killing bacteria on sex toys.

  • Use an actual sex toy cleaner made for this purpose. Most are designed to clean and disinfect toys safely. Rinse with warm water after using this cleansing solution.

  • Use a 10% bleach-bath solution. Use 1-2 capfuls of standard chlorine bleach solution per a sink-full of warm water. Toys only need to soak for 3-5 minutes for a full sanitizing effect. Please do not allow toys to soak for longer than 10 minutes. This method only works for waterproof toys, but water-resistant toys can be cleaned this way if the charging port isn’t submerged below the water. * Note —Bleach can cause skin irritation. If this method of cleaning is chosen for extra sanitation purposes, please rinse with soap and warm water after using this cleansing solution.

  • Toy surfaces can be rubbed with isopropyl alcohol to eliminate germs. Rinse with soap and warm water after using alcohol.

  • Use a UV-C light that will kill 99% of the germs. UV-C is an ultraviolet light used in restaurants, hospitals and tattoo businesses for germicidal disinfection. There are a few UV-C products on the market now designed for sanitizing intimate products. When using these products, it’s still necessary to clean toys with soap and water to remove residue prior to sanitation.

  • If non-vibrating, sex toys can be washed in the top rack of your dishwasher. Load them without detergent or other dishes, and if your dishwasher has a sanitize mode I recommend using it. Handwashing your toy with soap and water prior to washing in the dishwasher is recommended.

  • To properly clean your crystal pleasure products, I recommend common crystal care. Crystal pleasure products carry the same elements and benefits as other crystals so they should be cleansed gently in warm water with sea salt. It’s also a good idea to add a drop of lavender essential oil, which has natural antiseptic properties. Allow your crystal toy to soak overnight if possible. Then, place your crystal under running water to complete the cleansing process. Running water rinses and recharges crystals so if you wish to place an intention on your crystal, this is the perfect time to do so.

  • For other materials or vibrating sex toys, be sure to keep water away from the charging port on any rechargeable toys. Use an actual sex toy cleaner made for this purpose. Rinse with warm water after using this cleansing solution.

  • Wash with anti-bacterial soap and warm water.

To complete all sex toy cleaning sessions, I recommend allowing your intimate item to air dry completely prior to storage. For crystal intimate items, allow to air dry in sunlight and/or moonlight. Some crystals will fade in sunlight so those should be placed in moonlight only. The Sex Ed recommends this rose quartz Chakrub dildo and this jade yoni egg from The Local Rose for those wanting a sex toy made of natural materials.

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Battery Maintenance:

For alkaline batteries, remove batteries during storage or periods of non-use. This is especially important for tiny watch-size batteries found in mini vibrating bullets because the motor will drain these small batteries quickly if they remain inside the vibe.

For lithium ion batteries found in most rechargeable intimate products, it’s important to not let the charge run out completely for optimum performance and longer life. Do you live in a time zone where daylight savings time is practiced? It’s often recommended to change the batteries in your inside in-home smoke detector when you change the time on your clocks. If you take time to also recharge your sex toys every time change, or every six months, most lithium batteries will last a lifetime.

Storage:                 

There are boxes, satin storage bags and even pillows designed specifically for sex toy storage. But you can DIY! The healthiest way I suggest storing your intimate products is in clean, breathable cotton.

I recommend using a clean, white cotton sock turned inside-out to store your sex toy in. Every toy should be stored separately so that their materials don’t connect during storage. Some materials do not play nice together. And, cotton’s breathability helps deter bacteria from forming.                 

FAQ:

 WHAT IS A GOOD STARTER TOY?
The most commonly sold and most frequently enjoyed pleasure product is a small vibrating bullet. It is discreet, easy to store and travel with. As most are battery-operated, it has a smaller motor that offers less intense vibrations for beginners who may be sensitive to this new stimulation. Bullet vibes are also less expensive than other toys, which makes them more affordable to try. 

CAN YOU BECOME DESENSITIZED BY USING A VIBRATOR TOO OFTEN? 
This is a common myth. Using a vibrator regularly helps increase clitoral sensations, which in turn can help women improve their chance of experiencing an orgasm during self-love and partner-play sessions. There are different intensities of vibrating motors available and most pleasure products offer multiple speeds of vibration so every user can find the level of vibration that works best for them. I recommend starting at a low vibrational setting and exploring your body’s responses. 

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR ON THE PACKAGING TO MAKE SURE I AM BUYING A SAFE TOY?
The #1 thing to look for on packaging is that the product is phthalate-free. Phthalates are chemicals that make plastic more flexible and are sometimes used in less expensive sex toys. If you have sensitivities to latex, look to see if the product is latex-free. Check to see if the manufacturer’s name and contact information are included, as well as any warranty information on the product. The more transparent a company is, the safer their products tend to be.

HOW DO I INTRODUCE A SEX TOY WITH A PARTNER?
Finding a sex toy to use with your partner(s) should be a celebration. Make choosing a toy a bonding partnership event and have an open conversation about what each partner is looking for. While finding the perfect boutique may be fun for instant gratification, I recommend taking your time perusing the many options available in online stores – this makes for better communication as you’re discovering pleasure product options. Together, decide upon the perfect toy that’s right for both of you. When your package arrives, make sure you open it together while making plans to create a sexy date night.

HOW DO I USE A COCK RING?
Cock rings can also be called erection rings, love rings, c-rings, penis rings and shaft rings. Cock rings are worn around the penis, usually at the base, and are used to restrict blood flow from an erect penis in order to help maintain and extend erections. Once a man attains an erection or partial erection, the cock ring is placed around the base of the penis to help hold the blood in his penis for a longer period. If you’re new to using cock rings, be sure to choose one made from stretchy material so that it’s easy to put on.  And, to be on the safe side, I do not recommend using an erection ring for longer than 20 minutes at a time. To further enhance a cock ring experience, multiple cock rings can be used at the same time. Place one ring around the base of the penis and another ring around the testicles to further delay climax and extend pleasure. You can also use one cock ring to wrap around both your penis and testicles at the same time. Wearing a cock ring around the testicles is a technique that works well for men who specifically want to prolong their lovemaking sessions.