Can sex toys cause vaginal infections?
Did you know you can get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from using sex toys? Let’s talk about sex toys and how they can affect your vaginal health if not cleaned properly.
What to know about sex toys and infections
Sex toys and STIs
Okay, fear not — this isn’t as dire as it sounds. Sex toys don’t cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but act as vectors for STIs. Which makes sense. If you have peanut butter on the knife and stick it in the jelly jar sometimes little bits of peanut butter residue get left behind in the jelly remains. I hope I didn’t ruin your lunch.
Basically, STIs that spread from skin to skin or genital to genital contact can be spread through a sex toy. This means sex toys can transmit and spread STIs if someone with an STI previously used the sex toy and there is still a presence of their semen, blood, pre-cum, vaginal secretions, and other bodily fluids. Proper cleaning, which we will cover later, can mitigate this spread.
STIs that can be transmitted vis a vis a sex toy are: chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and shigella (stool infection).
Sex toys and other vaginal infections
It’s not just STIs that can be transmitted by sex toys, bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also spread this way. In some cases, it’s similar transmission as with STIs, with the sex toy acting as a vector. I.e., if someone with any of these infections previously used the sex toy and you use it before it’s properly cleaned, you may become infected too.
But, unfortunately, even if someone without infections like BV, yeast infections and UTIs uses a sex toy before, and you use it before it’s properly cleaned, you can get one of these infections just because of the potential change in your vaginal pH. The new bacteria left behind on the sex toy can cause you to go off balance, and result in BV, a yeast infection, or UTIs.
This is more likely if you use your sex toy for anal stimulation, and then reengage the vagina and vulva with the same sex toy. Even though it’s all your body, you’re moving around bacteria from different parts of your body which could throw off your vaginal pH.
Sex toys and fecal matter
If you are using sex toys for anal sex, there is a very high chance of running into fecal matter. The following diseases and infections can be spread through fecal matter: hepatitis A, B, and C, some parasites, intestinal amoebas, and certain bacteria such as salmonella, shigella, and E.coli.
Cleaning your sex toys
It’s important to keep your sex toys clean, even if you’re only using your sex toys with yourself. Why? you may ask. Well, if you previously had an infection and used your sex toy, it can remain on your sex toy, even after you get treated for your infection. Yes, you can spread STIs, yeast infections, or UTIs back to yourself.
How to Clean sex toys
We like our sex toys to do a thorough job, so we must return the favor and give them a thorough cleaning.
Many sex toys come with instructions on how to clean them. It’s important to know what type of material your sex toy is, and if it is battery-powered or not. There are two main types of materials for sex toys: porous and nonporous.
How to clean porous sex toys
Porous materials include thermoplastic rubber, thermoplastic elastomer, latex, polyvinyl chloride, and jelly rubber. Porous materials have little holes, aka pores, that can hold onto dust or bacteria even after you clean them. Basically, soap and water are not enough to thoroughly clean porous materials.
It is recommended you use a condom on sex toys made with porous materials, or use a different porous sex toy with different partners. They can be cleaned with room temperature water and a soapy washcloth, but it is not thorough enough due to the pore-y nature of this material. Even if you plan on using these alone, it’s recommended to use a condom.
How to clean non porous sex toys
Sex toys made out of nonporous materials are easier to wash. Basically, non porous sex toys are made out of materials you can also find in your kitchen like silicone, pyrex, ABS plastic, glass, and stainless steel. These should be washed with warm-hot water and soap, depending on the type of material.