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Spring cleaning 101: sanitizing your sex toys

By Jayne Renault

Change is in the air. Spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere. Aries season has begun. It’s a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. We’re tossing what doesn’t work anymore, charging up what still does, and making space to welcome in the new. 

Enter: spring cleaning.

Cleaning may not be everyone’s favorite pastime but the spring shakeup is an important ritual for our physical and mental health. And it’s not just your house that deserves a deep cleanse. When was the last time you gave your sex toy box some love? 

Whether you’re a first time sex toy owner or a black belt in pleasure products, it’s important to get into the habit of periodically organizing and cleaning your sex toys and accessories. And what better time than the change of seasons to take stock and take care of your most intimate items.

To make it a littler easier, we’ve put together this guide to this year’s sex toy spring cleaning for you.

1. Check for wear and tear

Give your toys a once-over to check for any changes in appearance since you brought them home. 

Softer materials like TPE and silicone may stress or tear with use or from poor storage conditions. In the same way, cracks might happen in harder materials like glass toys from being jostled around. Any little openings on the surface of the toy is a place where bacteria can gather. Even with regular cleaning, you’d run a greater risk of infection. 

Any unnatural change in the toy’s shape or color suggests that the material has been compromised and may no longer be body-safe. Also watch out for any strange smells or if it feels sticky, oily, or tacky to the touch. Well maintained sex toys made with high quality materials should not do that, but if your toy was made with potentially toxic materials or exposed to stressful conditions, it can happen.

Since these toys are being used in and around your most intimate spaces, you don’t want to take the risk with your health. If you notice any change in your toy’s look or feel, it’s time to replace it.

2. Charge and test your vibrators

How and when you charge your rechargeable sex toy can help maintain it. We tend to keep close tabs on the sex toys we use all the time. But the ones that are for special occasions or just not our favorite right now can get lost in the shuffle. Take the time now to charge them all up again and make sure they still work the way they’re supposed to.

Follow these vibrator charging best practices:

- Fully charge a new toy before using it.

- Wait until the toy’s power is low or dead before recharging.

- Ensure the toy is powered off before charging or storing.

- Don’t leave your toy on the charger for long periods of time. An overnight charge is fine, but leaving a toy plugged in for days could negatively affect it.

- Charge the toy periodically if it’s not in regular use.

3. Check the batteries

If you have any battery-powered toys, give them a once over to see if they look good inside and out. Because it’s possible that batteries can corrode and leak acid, it’s best to remove the batteries between uses. If you notice any battery leaks, proceed with caution and dispose of them according to your local recycling center’s rules.

If you’re frequently flying with your battery-powered toy, you may not remember to remove the batteries every time and that’s okay. We do recommend removing batteries from toys that aren’t in your regular rotation to prevent leaks and damage to your toy.

4. Dispose of out-of-circulation toys

Unfortunately, it can happen to any sex toy. Motors can die. Water damage can happen. A battery can leak. (Check the date on your purchase. If you grabbed the Product Protection on your toy when you bought it, you might be covered for your replacement!) Or maybe you’re just ready to upgrade and move on.

Whatever the reason, there comes a time when you might have to get rid of a toy and should do so as responsibly as possible. Like other electronics, old vibrators should not be thrown in the trash. However, many recycling centers do not yet have a system in place to properly handle these devices. Check with your local recycling and e-waste disposal facilities to see what their stance is on sex toy disposal. 

5. Clean all your toys

Now that you’ve gone through and determined which toys you’re keeping around for another season, it’s time to give them the full treatment. You should be cleaning your sex toys properly before and after every use, but this step is for the toys you use frequently as well as the occasional ones.

Properly cleaning and sanitizing your sex toys not only help prevent infections but preserves your toy. Different toys require different cleaning care based on their materials, so check for any specific care instructions for your toys. Make sure your toy is unplugged or batteries are removed before cleaning.

Most of the time, hot water and mild, unscented antibacterial soap works great. Using a sex toy-safe cleanser or antibacterial wipes can make the clean-up processeven breezier. Just make sure to check the ingredients to make sure it’s compatible with both your toy and your body.

Regardless of the method, let your toy air dry on a clean surface or pat down with a clean cloth to make sure it is dry before charging or storing it.

6. For an Even Deeper Sex Toy Clean

After the regular clean, you can follow up with isopropyl alcohol or a 10% bleach solution with standard household bleach and water for greater sanitization. If you do, just make sure to rinse really well again after with water to prevent irritating the skin on your next use. 

If your toy is made of glass or metal, or silicone and doesn’t have a motor inside, you can opt for boiling it in hot water.

7. Check your Lubes and Oils

We sure hope that you’ve got at least one bottle of lubricant open and in use. Depending on how much and how often you use lube, and how many varieties you have on hand, it’s possible you’ll encounter an expired lube one day.

Typically, lubes last 1 to 3 years, though some hold up unopened for up to 7 years. Most are marked on their packaging with a sell-by date, so check the label for an idea of how old yours is. Just note that the lube’s ingredients can affect its lifespan, with silicone lubes lasting longer than water-based ones. Once opened, that bottle of lube will last about a year. 

Indicators that your lube might be expired:

- Consistency: A fresh lube is slippery whereas an expired may will be thicker, more viscous, tacky, or sticky. 

- Color: A change in color or opacity can indicate expiration.

- Smell: This will vary from product to product, but if it smells “off” in any way or different from what you remember, it’s probably expired. Massage oils will smell rancid the same way any other oils in your pantry might when left too long.

The best rule to go by here is: when in doubt, throw it out. When we’re talking about products that are going inside your body, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

To help your products last longer, store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid the bathroom because heat and humidity can affect these pleasure products. Dark drawers, in a closet, or a container under the bed are all better options for storage spaces.

8. Check Condom Expiration Dates

Condoms typically have a shelf life of one to five years. Some materials last longer than others, with polyurethane and latex condoms lasting the longest. Condoms containing spermicide or made with polyisoprene have a lifespan of about three years. 

How you store your condoms will affect their lifespan as well. Like your toys and lubes, condoms should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark space, away from any excessive heat, direct sunlight, or moisture which can wear them down over time.

Every condom is marked with an expiry date that indicates when they will be less effective and more likely to break down. If you have any condoms who are past their date, get rid of them. It’s not worth the risk.

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