This post is also available in: Nederlands English (Engels)
Being open-minded probably makes us more open to exploring, sharing, and swapping — not just our bodies but even our sex toys. But if you do that without thinking, you could be sharing more than just the fun in the heat of the moment!
PERCEPTION vs. REALITY
When we wanted to make a marketplace for buying and selling second-hand sex toys, we needed to know if the toy could possibly carry sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on them. We discovered that there’s a lot of talk about this online, and there’s also a lot of misinformation out there too.
Most information is also about sharing a toy during a sex session, not about buying one that had been used before.
So we did the research — through medical, scientific, and government reports, in order to know the facts. In this article, we’ll cover the main STIs & UTIs you need to know about, tell you how long they can even last outside the body, and what to do to get rid of them on sex toys. It turns out that buying a used toy is way safer than sharing one in the heat of the moment.
We got a medical doctor (with a Ph.D. in these infectious diseases and over a decade in public healthcare) to review our research and the resulting hygiene process required for our own users on the Squeaky marketplace.
Knowing the facts means knowing the risks and also how to reduce or even eliminate them.
It also makes everything less scary… so we’re really keen to share this information with you, too!
STIs – What are They?
STIs are typically spread through direct sexual contact, where partners exchange bodily fluids (which contain the STI) such as vaginal fluids, semen, or pre-cum. By engaging in vaginal, anal, or oral sex, these bodily fluids can come directly into contact with mucous membranes, and this is when transmission is most likely to occur.
We can divide them into four main groups:
BACTERIAL: Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Shigella
VIRAL: HIV, HBV (aka Hep-B), HSV (genital herpes), HPV (aka genital warts, or Papillomavirus)
PARASITIC: Trichomoniasis (Trich)
NON-STI Infections: BV (bacterial vaginosis). BV isn’t actually an STI, but it’s more common in people who have multiple sexual partners.
Can They be Transmitted on a Sex Toy?
The likelihood of transmission occurring through indirect contact with a sex toy is possible — but regarded as slim, in the same way as contact when sharing utensils, clothes, toilet seats, or non-intimate physical contact with an infected person — but it’s not impossible, so there is still a risk factor here.
Transmission is most likely to occur if you insert them into your body (as opposed to not inserting the sex toy during use) since these infections normally spread when they come into direct contact with mucous membranes within the vagina, rectum, or urethra.
They are also more likely to spread if the sex toy is made from a highly porous material as bodily fluids are more likely to remain in the toy — so only use non-porous toys.
Finally, if you share your sex toys with a partner without cleaning them, that can also increase the risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to each other — so always clean them before and after use.
How to Minimize the Risks? 3 Key TIPS
It’s important to remember, though, that just because living pathogens can be found on surfaces doesn’t necessarily mean that transmission to humans can take place. The risk of transmission depends on a number of factors — the top 3 are:
First, make sure the toy is made of non-porous material so that the germs can be eliminated on the surface of the toy, as opposed to porous where the germs can hide away in the little pores of the material where cleaning processes may not be able to reach them. You can do deeper cleans on a non-porous toy, but applying heat to sterilize a porous toy would also likely deform the material, not to mention that chemicals would get stuck in the pores too, so they couldn’t be rinsed away and are then able to come into contact with your skin. Don’t even attempt to fully sterilize these porous materials — instead, if you have to use porous, just buy a fresh new one more often. You can read more about porous materials (TPE, TPR, latex, etc.) and the bad toy materials (toxic ones you shouldn’t even use when fresh and new) on the Squeaky blog if you click our banner at the end of this article.
Good toys that are made of non-porous materials are:
100% silicone made by a good brand (not a supposed mass-produced cheap silicone toy),
Good metals like stainless steel, aluminum, titanium
Good glass, such as borosilicate glass
Hard plastic like ABS
and sometimes, perhaps, sealed wood (or stone or crystal or ceramic)
Secondly, the longer you can leave a toy between uses, the better. Let’s look at how long these pathogens can last on an object.
BACTERIAL infections can only survive briefly outside the body. From a matter of seconds for some to 2–3 hours for others if the conditions are humid. Check out our blog post with the details; you can find our site by clicking our banner at the end of this article.
VIRAL infection HIV loses most of its ability to infect in a matter of hours, or, if all the conditions are just right, it could last for days. Hep B can last a week or more! Herpes can last from a few hours up to several weeks. HPV is less known how long it can actually last, but it has been shown to last up to 7 days.
PARASITIC infections can last for several hours.
BV isn’t completely understood by scientists, so it isn’t known how long it can last outside the body. We did find out how to get rid of it, though! So that will do. 🙂
Simply cleaning the toy may not even be enough to protect you, even from yourself! Cleaning will only get rid of surface germs, and alcohol cleaners will only get rid of some STIs, so you need to go deeper with heat, specific chemicals, or UV-C rays to get rid of more.
Here’s the nub of it…
- There are four levels of hygiene according to the medical profession: cleaning, sanitizing, disinfection (low, medium, high), and sterilizing. We all tend to bandy these terms about to mean something different in different countries. So, we’re pretty clear on the Squeaky hygiene guide about what they mean and when and how to use them. All of our users sign up to follow these guides (the seller before they sell and the buyer after they buy it and before they use it).
- Generally, everyone should clean their toys before and after every use — using a neutral soap and water or a recommended toy cleaner for your toy. It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of 70% ethyl alcohol in the cupboard for sanitizing (i.e., light disinfection with alcohol solution or wipes) if your toy will allow it, as this will get rid of some STIs, but for others… you need to go all the way and do a High-Level Disinfection (HLD), or sterilization.
Deep cleaning the toy to the right hygiene level required to get rid of the infection is the final key. We researched the hygiene processes that would get rid of them!
- The process is just as important as the products you use to do it — you can’t just use any old household cleaner. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your toy, and don’t use products or processes they say to avoid! Washing the toy is always required first in order to get rid of any surface dust and dirt. The length of contact time and which actual products to use are important factors. How you perform the process also depends on the design of your toy — for example, if it has a motor or battery, don’t heat it! If it isn’t waterproof, don’t submerge it — there are other ways to make sure you reach all the vital parts. Try to get into all the little nooks and grooves, and also clean removable parts separately (e.g., suction toy caps). Make sure you know how to sterilize it, then rinse really well if you’re using any chemicals. Rinsing and drying properly are also equally important.
You can find the full guide on the Squeaky Clean Toys marketplace. You can also see the seller examples in our hygiene guide or on our YouTube channel (there’s a particularly good one from the Netherlands at the moment!).
BUYING a second-hand sterilized toy is way different from sharing one because you can do all three key things to reduce the risks: toy material, how clean it is, and how long it has been since it was last used. We’re deliberately over-careful at Squeaky Clean Toys so that all three key elements can be ticked off.
- We only allow the sale of premier brands, and if opened or used (even once), they are non-porous and body-safe.
- Time will usually have passed by the time it was listed, and you find it and buy it… and then it takes time to get shipped to you.
- The hygiene level should be just right because your seller has to clean and sterilize it anyway, and, more importantly, you’re going to do it, too, before you use it.
SHARING a toy in the heat of the moment means you can only safely tick off No. 1 — by quickly checking the toy material — and don’t use it if it’s a spongy, porous one or a cheap Chinese toy.
Time is only on your side if you are the first to use it after it’s just been cleaned and sterilized! Apart from that, unless you know for sure that your partners are also infection-free and have been cleaning their toys to the right level before you start, then you now know the risks you’re taking.
The BEST solution in the heat of the moment is to pop a fresh condom on top.
Remember, you’re only as germ-free as the last person, or TOY, that you had sex with! If you usually use a condom because you don’t know your partner well enough, then you should be doing the same with a sex toy.
We hope you found that super informative. Everything is so much easier, don’t you think, when you know how it works? So now you can get to that toy box and start de-cluttering!
Click the banner below, “add a listing,” and submit it, then look out for our chat in the comments below the listing to help you get it approved and get that sex toy sold! (And have a cheeky peek at what other sellers are getting rid of — it might just tickle your fancy, too.)