Can you get an STI from a used sex toy ?
Do you mean when sharing a toy during sex, or when buying a used toy ?
Buying vs. Sharing
Buying a sex toy second hand is quite a new thing, so most of the current answers you read online are all about the risks of sharing a toy in the heat of the moment during a sex session, not about buying one second-hand – one that has been cleaned first, disinfected or sterilized, and then packaged up, and sent by post to you.
1. Good news - TIME can be on your side - when you´re buying a used one.
¨…most pathogens that cause STDs cannot live outside of the human body for very long without deteriorating. Once bacteria and viruses start to break down, they are no longer able to infect human beings…¨
2. The toy material plays a huge role - so only buy non-porous toys.
Porous materials cannot be cleaned to the same level as non-porous ones, so more germs can remain in the pores of these materials ( for example, the toxic Jelly or PVC ones, even in the better porous materials TPE, TPR.)
Also, non-porous materials cannot withstand the most intense disinfections or sterilization methods you can carry out to cleanse non-porous materials.
This is why we ONLY accept non-porous materials on the Squeaky Clean Toys marketplace – silicone, glass, metal, ABS etc.
A study to determine the potential of HPV transmission via shared sex toys, and whether cleaning practices implemented by the study participants were effective, shows exactly this. 12 women were recruited where HPV was detected in the vaginal samples of 9.
Vibrator 1 shafts were made of the porous TPE.
“HPV positive – before cleaning in 89%, immediately after cleaning in 56%, and 24 h after cleaning in 40% (2/5) of those that were HPV positive immediately after cleaning. “
Vibrator 2 was made of silicone.
“HPV positive – before cleaning in 67%, immediately after cleaning in 44% , and 24 h after cleaning in none.”
3. Cleaning your toys makes a difference!
But aren’t we good already!
A Canadian anonymous survey on the extent to which individuals are sharing, cleaning and covering their sex toys showed that…
“Almost all the participants (n=690, 96.0%) cleaned their sex toys. Most participants cleaned their toys either after every use, or before every use (or both) (n=527, 71.5%). Of those who cleaned their sex toys, the most commonly used method of cleaning was regular soap and water (n=481, 69.7%), followed by antibacterial soap and water (n=249, 36.4%), water only (n=137, 19.9%), a special cleaner for sex toys (n=133, 19.4%) and other types of cleaning methods (n=37, 5.0%)”
“Most participants reported that they did not share their sex toys with someone else (n=567, 78.3%), while approximately one fifth indicated that they did share their toys with another person
… Of those who reported that they shared their sex toys with someone else, the majority indicated that they did not use a disposable cover on their toy(s) (n=138, 88.5%).”
but there’s room for improvement…
If you’re one of the minority that shares your toy, you need to start popping a condom over the top of your toy, even in the heat of the moment!
Myth vs. Fact
In the great echo chamber that is the internet, some detail gets lost, and a general opinion just hangs around with no real purpose. And we´re left asking – are the risks actually real any more, or just perceived ? When discussing this very subject, verywellhealth.com states the difference for us.
¨A perceived (or theoretical) risk is one that is based on belief rather than fact and persists despite the unlikeliness of the event ever occurring. By contrast, a documented (or actual) risk is based on statistical evidence of something actually occurring. Where a perceived risk is about theory, a documented risk is about the fact.¨
Everyone has an opinion, or an agenda.
If you ask everyone, you´ll get answers all the way from a yes depending to a no depending. And still, you´re none the wiser, really. Believe me, we have circled the internet and asked around – everyone has an opinion, or an agenda!
And are you even asking the right questions ? This article is about buying a used sex toy, and we´ve used the officials and experts to provide the answers, but if you want to know what they say about the risks of sharing one during sex, jump to the answer here. We have a couple of blog posts that might be useful – What makes a sex toy body-safe, and an FAQ covering some of the more common questions.
Ask the right questions…Listen to the experts…Get the full story
If we´re all grown-up enough to play with sex toys, we need to get practical about this really important subject.
We all take risks with germs every day, and more when we go to public places, to hospitals, or have any invasive procedures. So the medical community have this covered, and are monitoring it all the time. Like a dog with a bone, we were determined to get to the facts. We´ll get right down to the nitty-gritty, with some really specific questions, to see what the medical specialists, the official government or health organisations say about this. (We’ve even gone as far as having this post reviewed by an MD with a Ph.D in infectious Diseases and over a decade of experience in healthcare research.)
This answer tells us first, that if you´re buying one, use TIME to be on the safe side.
Question: How Long Can STD Viruses or Bacteria Survive Outside the Body?
Answer: ¨Most STDs cannot survive for very long outside of the human body. Let’s look through some common sexually transmitted diseases and take note of how long each can survive without a human host.
Chlamydia: This STD can only survive outside of a human body for two or three hours. Since it requires particularly humid conditions and can’t live for long without a host, it’s unlikely that chlamydia could spread via contact with clothing or other surfaces.
Gonorrhea: The gonorrheal bacteria can only survive for a few minutes without a human host, so it’s extremely unlikely for gonorrhea to spread through contact with affected surfaces or shared clothing.
Hepatitis B: The Hep B virus can survive for as long as a week without a human host. During this time, a non-infected person can contract this disease.
Hepatitis C: The Hep C virus can actually live for up to three weeks without a human host, as long as the environment is hospitable to it (around room temperature). This disease is among the easiest to contract without the need for sexual contact between an infected and non-infected person.
HIV: The HIV virus cannot survive very long without a human host and the ability to reproduce. After minutes or hours, HIV will die on an inanimate surface.
Syphilis: This disease can only survive for very brief periods of time outside of the human body. Syphilis most commonly spreads through direct sexual contact.
HPV: Human papillomavirus cannot survive for very long outside of a host, so it’s nearly impossible to contract this disease from contact with a toilet seat or similar surface.
Let´s go deeper – take any risk away – make it clean and sterile
Why ? Because the right cleaning, disinfecting or sterilizing can get rid of any possible germs too. So, even we´ve looked at sexually transmitted infections / diseases, and how the experts say you can kill them off surfaces. Remember always clean first, then sanitize, then disinfect, then sterilize. Also, remember that toys made of non-porous materials ( e.g. silicone, glass, metal ) will be easier to clean thoroughly. You can jump to our HOW TO CLEAN A USED SEX TOY post for more details.
Shop simply | Search easily | Buy securely | Delivered discreetly
and grab yourself a bargain !
How to avoid getting germs from a sex toy.
1. Know the possible STIs. Face it, even if the risk is tiny.
2. Learn how long they last outside the human body.
3. Discover what kills them ( if time has not already done the job for you ).
What are the STIs / STDs ?
The two terms tend to be used interchangeably but one stands for ´sexually transmitted infection´ and the other stands for ´sexually transmitted disease´. Let´s name them.
¨STDs can include bacterial, viral and parasitic infection. Bacterial STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis. Viral STDs include HIV, genital herpes, genital warts (HPV), and hepatitis B. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite.
The germs that cause STDs hide in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes saliva. Most of the organisms are spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but some, such as those that cause genital herpes and genital warts, may be spread through skin contact. One can get hepatitis B by sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors, with someone who has it.¨Source: doctorxdentist.com
So it is possible too that you can get an infection from a sex toy if someone that has an infection takes it out of their vagina for example and you put it straight into yours then there is a high chance you will get it! This means that if you are the one with the infection, and you haven’t cleaned your toy to the right level then you can give it back to yourself!
NHS (UK) give advice on STIs in general, and also state here that “sex toys may pass on infections such as :chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, bacterial vaginosis, shigella”. We’ve gone further and looked at known viruses, parasites too, and researched data online that state how how long they can last outside the body, and the cleaning methods required how to get rid of them on inanimate objects.
This type of germ lasts the shortest time, but washing your sex toys with warm water and unscented soap, or with a specific sex toy cleaner, then rinsed and air dried is good practice to keep your toy clean here.
How long it can last outside the body.
¨It can survive on surfaces for 2-3 hours under humid conditions.¨
SOURCE: Govt of Canada (Pathogen Safety Data Sheets: Infectious Substances: Chlamydia trachomatis)
Gonorrhoea (the clap)
How long it can last outside the body.
¨It cannot live outside the body for more than a few seconds or minutes.¨
How long it can last outside the body.
¨It can survive only briefly outside of the body; thus, transmission almost always requires direct contact with the infectious lesions.¨
Source: Intechopen book on the STI fundamentals
This type of germ can last longer so level 2 or preferably a level 3 disinfectants or sterilization like bleach seems to be the way to get rid of these. Read on for the detail and references.
HOW LONG IT LASTS OUTSIDE THE BODY
¨In general, the virus doesn’t live long once it’s outside of a human body. Studies show that HIV grown in the lab, when placed on a surface, loses most of its ability to infect — 90% to 99% — within several hours.¨
¨Under specific conditions, HIV can survive outside of the body for hours or even days if the temperature, humidity, UV exposure, and pH balance are all just right. It is a very unusual set of conditions but one that is, in fact, possible. ¨
¨Unless all of these conditions are satisfied, an HIV infection simply cannot occur¨
HOW TO GET RID OF IT ON A SEX TOY
Use a level 2 (intermediate) or 3 (high level) disinfectant.
¨EPA-registered tuberculocidal disinfectants are best for cleaning surfaces contaminated with blood.
Disinfectants that kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis can also kill HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses.¨
( Note: there are 3 levels of disinfectants – the one referred to here are level 2 / intermediate level.)
“The EPA has a web site listing all EPA-registered tuberculocides and disinfectants that are effective against HIV and HBV.”
We prefer to go with level 3 disinfectant (household bleach) as a result of this NCBI article on ‘The Effectiveness of Bleach as a Disinfectant of Injection Drug Equipment.’
“…the use of bleach to clean and disinfect previously used needles and syringes has been encouraged by outreach workers in an attempt to improve the safety of the inherently unsafe practice of sharing needles and syringes among injection drug users. This chapter reviews the scientific literature on the efficacy of bleach as a disinfectant and the effectiveness of bleach distribution programs on reducing the potential harmful effects associated with injection drug use—risk behaviors and HIV transmission.”
Also known as Hep-B
HOW LONG IT LASTS OUTSIDE THE BODY
¨Can vibrators and sex toys spread hepatitis? That’s possible, because the hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for a week or more. Immersing the vibrator in boiling water may reduce the risk.19 Jun 2020
HOW TO GET RID OF IT ON A SEX TOY
¨Bleach is a wonderful disinfectant, and effectively kills HBV, and other pathogens.¨
(Note: This source also goes on to tell you exactly how to perform the bleaching operation !)
¨EPA-registered tuberculocidal disinfectants are best for cleaning surfaces contaminated with blood.5Disinfectants that kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis can also kill HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses.¨
¨The CDC recommendation for high-level disinfection of HBV-, HCV-, HIV- or TB-contaminated devices is appropriate because experiments have demonstrated the effectiveness of high-level disinfectants to inactivate these and other pathogens that might contaminate semicritical devices.¨
Also known as genital herpes.
HOW LONG HSV LASTS OUTSIDE THE BODY
¨SURVIVAL OUTSIDE HOST: HSV virus survives for short periods of time outside the host 3. It can survive on dry inanimate surfaces (survival ranges from few hours to 8 weeks). They survive longer at lower humidity 14¨
Source: Canada public health services
HOW TO GET RID OF HSV ON A SEX TOY
Ethyl alcohol, at concentrations of 60%–80%, is a potent virucidal agent inactivating all of the lipophilic viruses (e.g., herpes, vaccinia, and influenza virus).
Also known as genital warts, or Papillomavirus.
How long HPV lasts outside the body
“While one study found that the use of insertive toys was not associated with the presence of HPV (Marrazzo et al., 1998), more recent research indicated that HPV could be detected on vaginally-inserted sex toys, both immediately and 24 hours after standard cleaning occurred (Anderson et al., 2014).”
Source: A Canadian survey on the use of sex toys & hygiene behaviours
¨HPV is resistant to heat and drying, and is able to survive on inanimate objects, such as clothing and laboratory equipment, that have come into contact with infected patients. The precise survival time is unknown, however. HPV has been shown to retain infectivity even after dehydration for 7 days (Roden et al., 1997).Sep 29, 2016¨
Source: An article about waterpathogens ( how HPV is found outside sexual activity – in waste water for example.
How to get rid of HPV on a sex toy
The final 3rd reference here say that the first two are not sufficient, and that bleach or autoclaving is actually required to do the job.
1. ” It is resistant to drying and heat and able to survive on clothing and laboratory equipment although exact survival time is unknown. HPV is susceptible to a variety of disinfectants including “… 90% ethanol for at least 1 minute, 2% glutaraldehyde, 30% Savlon [chlorhexidine gluconate and cetrimide], and/or 1% sodium hypochlorite can disinfect the pathogen….”
2. ¨ A follow up study showed that high concentration sonicated hydrogen peroxide was an effective disinfection to deactivate HPV on ultrasound probes
3. “Unless bleach or autoclaving is used in the hospital setting, human papillomavirus is not being killed,” said Craig Meyers.
Source: news.psu.edu research article
Full quote: “Chemical disinfectants used in the hospitals and other healthcare settings have absolutely no effect on killing human papillomavirus,” Meyers said. “So unless bleach or autoclaving is used in the hospital setting, human papillomavirus is not being killed and there is a potential spread of HPV through hospital acquired or instrument or tool infection.”
UV-C will also do the job.
(Note: UVC radiation at 253.7nm was used)
“Hypochlorite was included as a positive control for viral deactivation.”
“While HPV is highly resistant to OPA, high-level UVC radiation offers an effective disinfection practice for ultrasound probes.” article
“While HPV is highly resistant to OPA, high-level UVC radiation offers an effective disinfection practice for ultrasound probes. Our results suggest that healthcare facilities using endocavitary ultrasound probes need to strongly consider disinfection methods that are effective against HPV.”
Source:Researchgate.net article and National Library of Medicine article: UVC radiation as an effective disinfectant method to inactivate human papillomaviruses
What about boiling water?
This study shows that pasteurization is effective against HPV, so does that mean that pasteurization method of putting your sex toy in a rolling boiling water for 20mins will also be effective? “Conclusions: The results presented here indicate that the Holder pasteurization is an efficient procedure to inactivate high-risk and low-risk HPV thus preventing the potential risk of their transmission through human donor milk.”
Yes – we think so, since pasteurization normally takes place at less than boiling point!
“Trichomoniasis is the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the world. Most people call the condition trich. Its name comes from the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis that causes the disease.” Quote from source: Clevelandclinic.org
Trichomoniasis ( Trich )
HOW LONG IT LASTS
Trichomoniasis parasites are very sensitive to drying, but can survive for several hours in various body fluids or on moist objects such as sponges or towels. Source: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/dhsp/Trich.htm
Further information if you get infected…
Symptoms can come and go, but without treatment the infection can last for months or even years according to CDC.gov. Once you’re infected, you can give trich to someone else through intercourse, anal or oral sex and even genital touching (skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation).
¨In rare cases, it may also be possible to get trich from contact with personal items, such as a wet towel, that a person with trich has just used. The trich parasite cannot live on objects for long, so it isn’t usually spread this way.¨
HOW TO GET RID OF TRICH
In rare cases, it can go away on it’s own but this isn’t ‘normal’ so it’s best to get it treated.
It’s usually treated quickly and easily with specific antibiotics that can kill the parasite off. NHS UK has a good article on it here.
Other infections :
In addition, it’s important to add that other infections that are not categorized as STIs should also be taken into consideration. Other bacterial, or yeast infections and UTIs could also be transmitted. Hygiene is extremely important here as you can keep infecting yourself with your own toy if you haven’t been cleaning it properly at home.
We will look at the most prevalent here.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
3 opinions relating to sexual activity
1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common cause of unusual vaginal discharge. BV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but it can increase your risk of getting an STI such as chlamydia.
“Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI, even though it can be triggered by sex. A woman can pass it to another woman during sex. You’re more likely to get an STI if you have bacterial vaginosis. This may be because it makes your vagina less acidic and reduces your natural defences against infection.”
Source: NHS UK
2. “Can you get BV from surfaces?
BV develops when there is an increase in harmful bacteria. It is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development of BV. Women do not get BV from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or from touching objects around them. Women who have never had sexual intercourse may also be affected.”
Soucre: CDC factsheet pdf on health.maryland. gov
3. “Sexual activity is the main risk factor for BV. Although BV is not yet considered a sexually transmitted infection, it is more common in people who have multiple sex partners, in people whose sex partner also has BV, and in people who do not use condoms. BV can be spread through sharing of sex toys, oral-genital contact, and fingers. Other risk factors for BV include douching and cigarette smoking.
Options to reduce the risk of BV include regularly using condoms, washing sex toys after every use, and using hormonal contraception (if appropriate).
How long can it last on a sex toy / surface?
We haven’t yet found any research on this, but we did find some information on what level of cleaning is required.
HOW TO GET RID OF BV
It can clear up on it’s own, but it’s common for it to come backTreatment is usually a course of antibiotics.
“At times, BV will go away without treatment. However, treatment can help avoid the increased chance of some serious health risks associated with BV “
How to get rid of it on a sex toy?
Most sites mentioned cleaning your sex toy so that you didn’t re-infect yourself. However one did go further so we will go with this one.
BV is not completely understood by scientists, and the best ways to prevent it are unknown. However, it is known that BV is associated with having a new sex partner or having multiple sex partners. It is seldom found in women who have never had intercourse.
The following basic prevention steps can help reduce the risk of upsetting the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and developing bacterial vaginosis:
Be abstinent or limit your number of sex partners
Use condoms during intercourse
Do not douche or wash the vagina excessively
Clean sex toys with a dilute (1:10) bleach solution after use, or use a new condom each time.
Use all of the medicine prescribed for treatment of BV, even if the signs and symptoms go away.”
“Shigella can pass from stool or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another person, including during sexual activity.”
Shigellosis is an infection of the intestines caused by a bacterium called Shigella
HOW LONG IT LASTS
The only significant source of infection is other people, as Shigella does not infect animals and does not survive very long outside of the human body. However, flies can carry the bacteria on their legs and contaminate uncovered food. Infections can occur when people ingest food or water freshly contaminated with faeces.
Source: Govt. of South Australia- SA Health
HOW TO GET RID OF SHIGELLA
Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is effective in killing Shigella germs.
Or by pasteurization – in water at a temperature of 60 °C (140 °F)
|Microbe||Killed Rapidly At|
|Worms, Protozoa cysts (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba)||55 °C (131 °F)|
|Bacteria (V. cholerae, E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella typhi), Rotavirus||60 °C (140 °F)|
|Hepatitis A virus||65 °C (149 °F)|
|(Significant inactivation of these microbes actually starts at about 5 °C (41 °F) below these temperatures, although it may take a couple of minutes at the lower temperature to obtain 90 percent inactivation.)|
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