How to clean and sterilize a used sex toy

Notes for both buyers and sellers of used adult toys

It is important to clean/sanitize (or even disinfect) all sex toys before you sell, and after you buy. For any insertable / penetrable type toys (into any orifice) , or toys are used on intimate areas, it is also required that the buyer and the seller must sterilize them too. In this article we cover all the methods we have found for home sterilization (there are machines like auto-claves that are used, but we don’t imagine our users will have one of these so we don’t cover them here!)

Since the only used toys that are approved to list on the Squeaky Clean Toys marketplace have to be body-safe, this means that, for the type of toys where sterilization is a requirement, the toys must be made of a non-porous material that can withstand the required full level of sterilization.

All toys now need to be sterilized before listing, rather than just before shipping. Sellers have to tick the appropriate listing boxes to make the buyers aware of the current condition of the toy. We also require buyers to carry out the same procedure after they receive the goods.

(Please check the manufacturer’s instructions BEFORE you just ‘have a go’ !)

Clean & Sanitize – Sterilize – Rinse – Dry – Store

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CLEAN

Washing, or wiping with a mild non-irritating soap and warm water will remove all dirt and dust.

Don´t forget to do this immediately, after every time you use a toy. And, before you do any deeper cleaning or disinfecting you always need to clean it first.

Sanitizing is a higher level of cleaning and could be done with toy cleaners, antibacterial soap, alcohol or bleach wipes.

Depending on the product you use, the level of sanitization will vary all the way from cleaning to disinfecting.

The weakest is usually toy cleaner so at Squeaky, we see this as more of a cleaning alternative. The strongest is usually a disinfection that will kill a certain level of germs from surfaces. It can be done with a 70% (or higher) isopropyl rubbing alcohol. 

Always make sure you rinse the soap or chemicals off after.

Sanitization is sufficient for many bacteria and is good for toys that have not been used, or some sex machine parts. 

However, all of this is still not full sterilization –  which is what we require for any used toys.

 

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Sterilize

Boiling is the best easiest solution if your toy material and design can stand it – and you need to be bubbling for a constant 20 mins in a pan. Just make sure the toy material can take this type of sterilizing.

We have seen articles showing toys cleaned on top rack of your dishwasher – on the hottest setting, with no detergent, but equally, there are articles debating whether this is enough. So, until we know more, and since we are asking our sellers to do this for someone else, we do not recommend it. 

Bleach is a good alternative, but you need to do it safely and properly.  you can use a 10% bleach / 90% cold water solution to soak non-porous toys. (Bleach can ruin porous toys and also it would stay in the little pores and make it too unsafe to re-use again – we do not accept porous toys on the marketplace.)

Never mix alcohol products or hot water with bleach.
Make sure you leave the solution in contact with the toy for 10-15 minutes. Ten minutes minimum is essential for the bleach to work here. Also, make sure your bleach is within the use by date otherwise it will have degraded.

Equally important is the thorough rinsing to ensure that no bleach remains on the toy before it is used again, and, a long drying period afterwards to get rid of any bleach smells. 

The easiest, but more expensive method,  for any type of toy could be to use a UV-C light sterilizer specifically made for sex toys ( e.g.  B-Vibe and UVEE Clean). The only issue with these is that only the areas that the UV light has reached are actually sterilized so you need to make sure this is possible. 

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RINSE

Rinsing thoroughly is just as important as cleaning.

You need to make sure you are not leaving any chemicals ( e.g. soap, toy cleaner, bleach ) still on a toy that will be touching any part of your body !

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DRY

Again, drying fully is important for both cleanliness and fresh smelling.

Blot dry, air dry, leave it in a well-ventilated place for 24hrs, or in sunlight if that is ok for the material. You want to make it as fresh as possible. 

 

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STORE

Make sure your item is nice and fresh, clean and sterile before storing away – otherwise you could trap any stale or perfumed smells with it.

Then store it away neatly and safely, for example in a clean silk or satin bag or box so that they stay sterile.

 

1. Sellers

Please give your unwanted adult toys an especially thorough clean – why not do it twice ! Then sanitize with a disinfectant wipe and then, if it has been used, even only once –  sterilize it fully. If your toy has any grooves or ridges, germs can gather here so take extra care to clean these areas really thoroughly. (We’ve seen good advice to buy a toothbrush or nailbrush to dedicate only to the cleaning of your toys. ) Take nozzles off and clean them separately. Rinse and dry well before putting anything back together.

It´s important that all sellers make every effort to pass on their unwanted adult toys in a spotless condition – just the same condition that you would like to receive them yourself.

Don’t forget to provide at least one photo of the sterilization in progress.
The buyer’s don’t want to just trust it is done. They want to see it!
Help them press that BUY button !

If you have items with buttons, caps, ridges etc. we strongly advise you to provide close-up pictures of these areas. Pay special attention to these areas when cleaning and also when rinsing and drying and make sure no cleaning solution gets lefts in the grooves.  

With all cleaning, sanitizing and sterilizing, please follow the manufacturer´s instructions. Your toy may have a coating for aesthetic or allergenic purposes, so be extra careful to ensure your cleaning does not remove this. As we find instructions offered by the manufacturers for specific toys, we will post them at the bottom of this page for you ( starting with how to clean and sterilize a Realcock2 ).

2. Buyers

 

Despite your new purchase appearing to be perfectly clean, you also need to thoroughly clean and sanitize or disinfect, and even sterilize it  yourself once it arrives. To clean and sanitize it, wash it twice in soapy water, then use an alcohol solution / toy cleaning spray if appropriate for the material, dry it thoroughly, and store it in a clean box or bag. To sterilize it, follow the guidance above and below. (We only allow toys for sale on the site that meet our body-safe criteria.

How to clean THE different types of sex toys

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Non-porous waterproof toys

pure silicone, borosilicate glass, stainless steel

e.g. vibrators that specifically say 100% waterproof, Bad Dragon, Mr Hankey, SquarePeg dildos.

100% waterproof can be submerged in water, but still make sure the seal is tight around the battery compartment. Waterproof toys usually have an IPX7 rating. 

To clean & sanitize, carefully wipe clean with a soap & warm water solution. Check with manufacturer´s instructions about the use of antibacterial soap or toy cleaners. Wipe with warm water to rinse.

To sterilize, UV-C machine, or boiling is good but check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure it won’t deform your toy! You need to do it for 15 to 20mins in a pan. Toughened glass is generally fine to boil, but not soda glass. We’ve seen it advised to put a cloth in the pan also if you are boiling a glass dildo for example – to protect it when the boiling makes it jiggle – makes sense! 

If you are unsure about boiling, you can use a 10% bleach / 90% cold water solution to soak the toy for 10-15mins, followed by a thorough rinse with soap & warm water.
N.B. Wear protective gear when dealing with bleach, and, NEVER use hot or boiling water with any level of bleach solution- it releases a poisonous gas.

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Non-porous toys with motors

mains powered or battery-powered silicone or ABS plastic

e.g. body wands, masturbator holders, thrusters, vibrators.

 

If they are waterproof, it will say they can be put in the bath and usually have an IPX7 waterproof rating. If you are not sure if they are waterproof, you shouldn’t submerge them in water or a water /bleach solution.

To clean & sanitize, carefully wipe clean with a soap & warm water solution. Check with manufacturer´s instructions about the use of antibacterial soap or toy cleaners. (If your toy is has a PU coating for example, it could react to a disinfectant wipe – so check first.) Finish by wiping with warm water to rinse.

To disinfect, using at least 70% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol as a wipe or a disinfectant spray will take you far, but not all the way to sterilization because it cannot kill all the viruses. Check the manufacturer’s instructions ( especially with plastic toys or PU toys) to see if you can even use alcohol at all on the toy material or coating material. If you are ever using alcohol, make sure you do not go from using alcohol on your to then immediately using bleach. Bleach and alcohol are a toxic mix – always make sure you wash, rinse and dry your toy thoroughly after using alcohol.

To sterilize, boiling is usually out of the question, but this was an interesting point made in allure.com article on how to clean your toys without damaging them.With some motorized silicone toys, such as a strap-on dildo that comes with an insertable bullet vibrator, you can just take out that part and let the hot water do its work.” 

Check the manufacturer’s instructions ( especially with plastic toys) to see if they are waterproof enough for you to soak them in a 10% bleach solution (that is, 1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for a 10 minutes – then rinse really really well. Then clean again with soap and water and give it a thorough rInsing and a good long ( 24hrs) air drying – this is so important to make sure there is no bleach chemical residue or smell.

We have also seen a picture of this type of toy being cleverly sterilized by leaving it in a tall narrow container like a glass  – where the motorized part is sitting outside the liquid!

The best method for these toys may be to use a UV-C machine and if you get the highly recommended UVEE product just use the code SQUEAKY to get 5% off.

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Non-porous splashproof toys and ABS plastic toys

Splashproof toys cannot usually be submerged in water for a length of time. Plastic toys are not recommended to be boiled at all. 

To clean, carefully wipe clean with a soap & warm water solution. Check with manufacturer´s instructions about the use of antibacterial soap or toy cleaners. Wipe with warm water to rinse.

To sterilize,  you can’t boil splashproof toys or ABS plastic. Check with your manufacturer about bleaching your plastic toys – we don’t believe bleach and plastic are a good mix. So the best solution here is to use a UV-C machine-  if you can reach all the parts with it.

If you can’t immerse your toy, check if you can use a spray bottle and spray the bleach solution completely over the toy ( follow this procedure) then as the article says, the second time leave it in contact with the bleach solution for at 10-15mins.  Then wash and rinse using a fresh clean cloth and air dry.

The best method for these toys may be to use a UV-C machine and if you get the highly recommended UVEE product just use the code SQUEAKY to get 5% off.

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Porous toys - especially realistic type, TPE, TPR, cyberskin, flesh-like toys

e.g. Most masturbator sleeves, jelly cocks, rubber toys, leather, unvarnished wood, PVC etc

We do not accept used porous toys on the marketplace but we still want to advise here because people still submit porous toys for listing and often they will say that they have sterilized them in a way which we believe is harmful to the user or the toy. So we want to just give our thoughts here to avoid you doing that.

We do accept porous acceccories – like leather whips, cuffs or spank sticks for example. But 

To clean & sanitize, carefully wipe clean with a soap & warm water solution. Check with manufacturer´s instructions about the use of antibacterial soap or toy cleaners. Wipe with warm water to rinse.

To sterilize, you cannot usually fully sterilize these toys because you cannot boil them without ruining them, and if you only wipe clean with a disinfectant spray / solution, you´re effectively sterilizing the surface but it isn´t possible to completely sterilize into each and every pore of a porous item, and this is where germs may also remain for days.

If you use a full 10% bleach/90% water solution it may dissolve the material at worst, or at best you risk getting bleach in the pores which would be harmful to any future body contact.

If your toy is porous this could cause a chemical to go into the pores of any porous material, so it is not advised at all for these items if they have been unused. 

A  UV-C sterilization might appear to be the most complete peace of mind solution here if the light can get be directed through every pore ( transparant toys are best for this) , and B-Vibe and UVEE Clean have created solutions specifically for sex toy sterilization. However we´re currently investigating how effective they are for these materials – just email us for up to date information.

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Porous toys

We only accept some porous accessories such as leather whips, cuffs or spank sticks for example.

We do not accept porous insertable type toys

e.g. realistic type, TPE, TPR, cyberskin, flesh-like toys, rabbits with soft transparent tops e.g. most masturbator sleeves, jelly cocks, rubber toys, leather, unvarnished wood, PVC, etc.

However, we still want to offer some information here because people still submit porous toys for listing and often they will say that they have sterilized them in a way that we believe is harmful to the user or the toy. So we want to just give our thoughts here to avoid you doing that.

 

To clean & sanitize, carefully wipe clean with a soap & warm water solution. Check with manufacturer´s instructions about the use of antibacterial soap or toy cleaners. Wipe with warm water to rinse.

To partially sterilize. You cannot usually fully sterilize porous toys because you cannot usually boil them without ruining them, and if you only wipe clean with a disinfectant spray / solution, you´re effectively sterilizing only the surface but it isn´t possible to completely sterilize into each and every pore of a porous item, and this is where germs may also remain for days.

If you use a full 10% bleach/90% water solution it may dissolve the material at worst, or at best you risk getting bleach in the pores which would be harmful to any future body contact.

If your toy is porous this could cause a chemical to go into the pores of any porous material, so it is not advised at all for these items if they have been unused. 

A  UV-C sterilization might appear to be the most complete peace of mind solution here if the light can get be directed through every pore ( transparant toys are best for this) , and B-Vibe and UVEE Clean have created solutions specifically for sex toy sterilization. However we´re currently investigating how effective they are for these materials – just email us for up to date information.

What is the difference between Cleaning, Sanitizing, Disinfecting, and Sterilizing

( and everything in between )

 

We ask all sellers to state whether they have cleaned or sterilized their used sex toy when it is for sale. There are lots of details in our How it Works guide. You’ll often see the following 4 terms frequently used, so here´s what they all mean.

 

The order of events !

As part of the general maintenance and good hygiene practice you should always be cleaning your own toys before and after use anyway. Always rinse and dry well too.

Cleaning is then also essential step to do before you highly disinfect, or, sterilize.

1. CLEANING means removes dirt, dust and other soils from surfaces. It usually involves soap and water.

The simplest method of cleaning your toys after each use is to use a mild non scented soap plus warm water, careful cleaning, and the occasional sanitization or sterile disinfection will make these so easy to sell on.
(Ref: webmd )

Sanitizing them with appropriate wipes or toy cleaners can be a form of cleaning, or mild disinfection.

2. SANITIZING is simply a term that could mean cleaning or disinfecting or both.

It removes bacteria from surfaces, so it takes germs to a low level.
It can also be a diluted form of disinfecting- using soap and water, a sanitizing (disinfectant) wipe, or the dishwasher for example.

3. DISINFECTING means using chemical disinfectants (chemicals) to kill harmful bacteria and viruses from surfaces.

It doesn´t necessarily remove the germs, you still need to clean the toy to remove them.

Disinfect with rubbing alcohol (usually 70% +), or with a 5-10% maximum bleach solutions. Always use hand and eye protection when using strong chemicals and only use them in a well ventilated room.
3 other things to note here.
1. Vodka and other liquors are not strong enough to disinfect – as they are only around 40% alcohol.
2. Any dilution of these will mean you´re sanitising, not disinfecting.
3. Give them a good clean and rinse afterwards because you also don´t want to leave chemicals on your toys, and blot them dry with a clean paper towel perhaps but make sure they are well dried afterwards, you shouldn´t leave them moist and ready to collect any germs, so air drying and exposure to sunlight is much better for them.

The EPA also provides a list here, of all EPA-registered tuberculocides and disinfectants that are effective against HIV and HBV so you could check with the suppliers about using these and rinsing off for use on a sex toy.

We will explore the use of natural alternatives like Natural alternatives to bleach but we believe this is the time to use a strong product like bleach at least just this once. Even though it´s a weak solution of bleach you use ( 10% bleach, 90% cool water), you will be leaving it in the solution for 10-15 minutes so it´s really important to also make sure you rinse it well after, and also give it a final thorough clean with a non scented soap and water solution afterwards to remove any bleach residue.

4. STERILIZING is often used synonymously with disinfecting as they can achieve the same result. It means killing all microorganisms from surfaces, not just bacteria and viruses.

So sterilization is a term more often used in a medical environment for the sterilization of tools for example, can be done using heat ( wet steam, or dry) , chemicals, or radiation (specific UV for example).

Steaming and boiling ( at the correct temperature and contact time) are methods of sterilization, and we´ve all seen UV-C sterilizers for mobile phones, toothbrushes, or baby bottles, but the first ones specifically holding sex toys are now available too.

Autoclaves are used in medical environments to clean tools with pressurized steam, and you can now even buy small ones ( they look like pressure cookers) on Amazon !

So, on top of your cleaning the toy, for a completely hands off sterilization you should be able to use products such as the B-Vibe pouch, or the Uvee safely on all motorized or non motorized toys.

other important factors to consider 

 

TOY MATERIAL

Non porous toys are the easiest to sterilize. It´s much easier to clean non porous toys than porous ones ( where the dirt and germs can get stuck in the pores and effectively hide from some sterilization methods).

100% silicone is by far the best mainstream toy material to have to buy and sell. The more expensive borosilicate glass and stainless steel are the optimum. Soda glass is an altogether different kind of glass and is much more fragile. So, know your toy and what the manufacturer said you can do with it.

For leather items, you should generally wipe them down with soap & water after each use. Make sure they dry properly. Use a leather cleaner periodically to keep them in good condition. Also, you can disinfect them by using a 70% (or higher) isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

SHOP-BOUGHT TOY CLEANERS

You can also buy one of the many toy cleaner products on the market – they aren´t necessarily the product to use as the sole method of cleaning, but generally, they are anti-bacterial, and non-irritating. We still recommend a final rinse in water to remove any possible residue though.

CLEAN-SMELLING TOYS

As well as rinsing any chemical odors after sterilizing, be sure that any other possible odors have been removed  e.g. cigarette smoke, or body odours on clothes or toys. If you´re bleaching it anyway with a 10% solution this will probably do the trick anyway, or baking soda and lemon.

In general, airing and exposing a cleaned toy to sunlight really helps here. You might have to leave it in sunlight for a few days but it´s worth it surely.

If you are sterilizing by boiling – do it for a lot longer – up to 30 mins to get rid of odors. If the toy is 100% silicone, you could also add just a little vinegar to the water when boiling it. Adding a little vinegar to the water when washing clothes always helps take away odors !

As long as the material allows, you could also try the usual household solution of baking soda and water solution that gets rid of odors.

Thinking of more natural solutions, coconut oil as a lube on silicone really helps.  Rub the coconut oil into and leave it for a few hours, then clean it with unscented soap and water as usual. Not a bad thing to do after every use of a butt toy I´d say.

PROTECT YOURSELF

Take appropriate care and wear protective gear when using bleach, boiling water, or UV-C lights.

Never mix boiling water and bleach! 

Rinsing is more important than you might think.

And so is air drying.

Germs, Covid 19, and sex toys

there’s a sentence we never thought we would be writing!

 

Bacteria, viruses or other pathogens.

There is a lot of information online ( which we will also share below ) about the possibility of bacteria and viruses on sex toys. It´s important to note that these risks are usually written to cover situations such as sharing toys during sex time, or using someone else´s toy without knowing when they last used it, or how they cleaned it ( if at all). When friends share, they´re usually too embarrassed to ask these all-important questions. And if you´re in a heated sexy session, and start sharing toys with one, or more than one person, the risks do increase because you don´t tend to kill the moment by getting up to wash and sterilize between use.
So, even though the risk is very small, this is why we´re pretty upfront about this on Squeaky Clean Toys. So that you can be too. We all owe it to each other.

Thankfully, Covid-19 has led to a lot more investigation about viruses on surfaces, so use that information with respect to your mail packages, your supermarket trolley handle, and yes, your second hand toys and clothes delivered in the post. It´s incredible that with the caution that everyone is already taking in this last year, there has not been even one case of influenza world-wide. We´ve all finally woken up to the fact that a little care, and preventative measures, go a long way.

Time is a significant factor. We constantly see ´72 hours maximum´ for viruses like Covid-19 on plastic surfaces, less (48hrs ) for steel, and even less (24hrs) for cardboard. So by the time a sanitized toy has been left unused, cleaned, then packaged up, and mailed, and delivered to you, the chances of catching anything are very unlikely. This is the one time you shouldn´t be in a rush to get the mail ! For more information on sexually transmitted viruses and how long they last, see our new blog post on ´Can you get an STI from a used sex toy?´

Sell your toy on the live marketplace now

SUMMARY

Don´t forget. For any insertable / penetrable type toys (into any orifice) , or toys are used on intimate areas, it is also required that the buyer and the seller must sterilize them fully too. If your item is used – even once – you will need to sterilize it like this. Check the categories above for what to do depending on whether your toy has a motor, is waterproof, only splashproof, etc. etc.

This nytimes/wirecutter disinfecting guide has some great visuals (even though they only go as far as sanitizing) to show you how to do it and what kind of pictures buyers will want to see like this on your listing.

You can see how you need to clean toys like a womanizer with a brush too to get it really clean.
If your toy has any tricky grooves or ridges, germs can gather here so take extra care to clean these areas really thoroughly. Take nozzles off and clean them separately. Rinse and dry well before putting anything back together.

Just remember that in that article, although they do boil and bleach, they only go as far as sanitizing and for the purpose of buying and selling the toys here you need to go further in order to FULLY sterilize the item – so this usually means a stronger bleach solution (see below) and a much longer boiling time. 

**This page is just a summary of all the advice we can find online for you. You are responsible for doing this correctly,  and remember that you are doing this at your own risk (so be protected) and your toy’s risk (make sure it can withstand the full sterilization).**

BOILING

Boiling is best if your item can be wholly boiled ( ie no battery compartment !)  In fact, if it vibrates it probably has batteries or a power pin so we don’t recommend that these be boiled. If you are able to boil to sterilize, your boiling water needs to be bubbling for a constant 20 mins in a pan. Check with the manufacturer if you can do this.

or BLEACHING

If your item is not a porous material at all, check with the manufacturer if your item can withstand bleach. It may be too sensitive,  may change colour or the make-up of the material may change. If you can use bleach, then you can use a 10% bleach / 90% cold water solution to soak the toy. But you have to make sure you leave the solution in contact with the toy for 10-15 minutes in order to get a full sterilization. Then follow a rigorous rinsing and drying process. 

or UV

The easiest method is UV-C sterilization if your toy is a simple shape that allows the UV-C light to reach all the parts of it that could house germs.  These UV-C light sterilizers are specifically made for sex toys (  B-Vibe and UVEE Clean). However, we are still investigating whether the UV  can fully sterilize all types of materials – can they reach into every pore of a porous item for example?) Until then, every listing is approved manually so that we can check each case separately.

With all cleaning, please follow the manufacturer´s instructions. Your toy may have a coating for aesthetic or allergenic purposes, so be extra careful to ensure your cleaning does not remove this. If you damage it, your only option might be to recycle it – check out our guide

Manufacturer’s advice

With all cleaning, please follow the manufacturer´s instructions. The following examples are offered incase you have these exact toys!

 

Realcock – how to clean an RC2

One of our marketplace sellers spoke to the makers of Dirk in regards to cleaning and sterilization and this was their response:

“Please only clean your Realcock 2 models with antibacterial soap or 99% alcohol. Do not use anything that has oils or silicon in it, since it can damage the outer layer of the Realcock 2 models.”

Fleshlight – none of the sleeves can be sterilized

We don’t list Fleshlight sleeves even if they have NOT been used – just to protect everyone as far as we can. You can’t fully sterilize porous materials like this, even if only used once. But we did wonder if there could be an exception for the clear/transparent sleeves since it would appear that UV-C could do the job there. So we asked them. Sadly the answer was no. Here’s what their customer support said.

“I don’t believe it’s ever been tested and I would be worried that it would ruin the integrity of the material.”

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