It’s 2020 and there still seems to be a lot of confusion around STIs and how they get transmitted. One of the ways they get transmitted, is through sex toys! We know very little about how often this actually occurs thanks to limited research, but it is certainly possible and it’s important to be aware of that! And given the fact that the vast majority of Spectrum’s products happen to be sex toys, I’d like to take a moment to explain exactly how these types of transmission go down, and why cleaning is so important. Read on for answers to a bunch of questions that come my way pretty regularly—hopefully this will make things less confusing and give you some solid precautions to take when sharing your toys!
Any time sexual fluids are being swapped, there is a possibility for viral, bacterial, and fungal infections to spread. While there isn’t a whole lot of research on the matter, some sex toys have microscopic pores that can harbor particles and be spread if used. While all sex toys can be cleaned, and some can be “sanitized”, we can’t always “sterilize” a previously used sex toy.
If you are already fluid bonded (swapping fluids) with someone, then there’s no need to condom your shared toys. If you aren’t swapping fluids with someone, you have a toy without a motor or electrical components like a dildo, and you know your toy is a non-porous material like pyrex, stainless steel, or silicone, you can boil it for 10 minutes in a pot of boiling water. This is the same way we disinfect silicone menstrual cups, too, for instance. However, because sex toys are classified as “novelties” there are many companies that can get away with lying about their materials. Many toys that claim to be silicone are not silicone, so it’s important to know where you’re getting your toy from and that you can trust the brand you buy from. This is always why buying toys from sites like Amazon is risky and not recommended.
Non-porous toys not only last longer, they're simply better for your body.
Pores in porous materials are microscopic and cannot be seen with the human eye. Even if the surface of a toy appears clean, porous materials essentially have pockets where matter can be collected. And since bacteria loves crevasses, it sticks around. Non-porous toys not only last longer, they’re simply better for your body. Even if you have no infections and use your toy alone, the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in the body can hang out and give you an infection. It’s particularly important to avoid porous materials in anal toys for obvious reasons!
Silicone and stainless steel can be boiled, and tempered glass like pyrex can be boiled. If it’s motorized, warm water and a mild antibacterial soap will do just fine. Just avoid highly concentrated soaps and dish soaps, or any soap with oil. Beware that non-tempered glass will shatter if boiled, and that MANY metal toys are chrome plated and not body safe—stainless steel is body safe however. You can put non-motorized toys made of silicone, glass, or metal in a dishwasher, but don’t use dishwashing soap.
Let’s be real, most of us are usually too lazy (or blissed out) to clean a toy before AND after use. BUT, washing a toy after use not only keeps the toy clean, it will also keep your storage area clean. Even if a toy has already been washed, toys (especially silicone ones) can collect dust or hair and it’s always a good idea to give it another cleaning before playtime.
When in doubt, condom a toy!
While there are ways to disinfect and clean sex toys, many people have feels about sharing a sex toy with someone else. Many people have special toys (like a special harness & dildo) that are just for them. Even if partners have other play partners, it’s sometimes just a way of making people feel comfortable. As always, just discuss it with your partner! When in doubt, condom a toy! Keep in mind that if you cannot machine wash a harness (like a leather one) it shouldn’t be used with more than one partner.
If you do think an STI transmission has occurred, go get tested, mention which STI you were exposed to, and request a full panel of tests if you have the means. Get tested again in 2-3 weeks or however long the doctor tells you since STIs cannot be tested for immediately after exposure. This is a great article about how to not stress the wait time!
And while we love our sex toy cleaners for those times you need to get a toy extra clean, even the mild, chemical-free toy cleaners need to be rinsed off before using the toy again.
Let us know if there are any questions we might have missed here or if there are other topics related to STIs you’d like to read more about!