Are sex toys safe?

If you use sex toys, it’s important to do so responsibly and to keep them clean. Sex toys can pass on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne infections (infections passed on through the blood).

Avoiding STIs

If you use sex toys, you can help to avoid STIs by:

  • keeping sex toys clean: wash them after each use (see below) 
  • covering penetrative sex toys, such as vibrators, with a new condom before someone else uses them
  • not sharing sex toys or having a different set of sex toys for each partner

Sex toys can pass on STIs such as:

Read more information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There is also an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis in women who have sex with women, who give a history of sharing sex toys or whose partners have bacterial vaginosis.

Avoiding blood-borne infections

Do not share any sex toy that may draw blood from the skin because this type of sex toy can pass on blood-borne infections. If there are any cuts or sores around the vagina, anus or penis and blood is present, there’s an increased risk of passing on infections such as:

Cleaning sex toys

How you clean a sex toy depends on:

  • what the sex toy is made of
  • if the sex toy uses batteries and has parts that cannot be washed

Sex toys should come with advice about how to clean and store them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

For sex toys that can be washed, make sure you wash them thoroughly with warm water and soap after each use. Also wash them between use:

  • on different parts of the body, such as the mouth, vagina and anus
  • by one person and another

Check sex toys regularly for any scratches or breaks in the surface material where germs could be present and spread, increasing the risk of infection.

Getting advice

If you need advice or think you may have an infection, there are many healthcare professionals who can help, including:

  • your GP
  • your local sexual health clinic or genitourinary (GUM) clinic

Read more information about where you can get help and advice.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information:

 

STIs: who's got one?

You can't tell if someone's got an STI just by looking at them. Members of the public talk about using condoms.

Media last reviewed: 21/10/2013

Next review due: 21/10/2015

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2012

Next review due: 08/10/2014