Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I don’t have any medical training. I am someone with a vagina who uses lots of sex toys and used to have a problem with yeast infections, speaking from my own experience as well as things I’ve learned over the years from reading about sex toys and vaginal health and talking to others about it. The tips I’ve laid out are for prevention, not treatment, so go to the doctor if you need to!
There are what seems like about a million factors than can contribute to getting a vaginal infection. The vagina has a delicate pH balance, and anything that upsets that can cause an overgrowth of yeast or bad bacteria. You’re more likely to get yeast infections around menstruation, if you use hormonal birth control, if you wear tight clothing/non-cotton underwear, among other things. Add sex toys to the mix, and you can potentially open yourself to the possibility of infection. Don’t worry though–you can use sex toys safely if you take some precautions. Most of these tips are focused around the vagina, but #1 & 2 apply to butts/mouths as well.
1. Avoid using porous sex toys (especially in orifices.)
There are a lot of unsafe sex toys on the market that are incredibly porous, meaning they have tiny holes in their material that can harbor harmful bacteria and potentially spread infections and STIs. These sex toys will never be truly clean, even after what seems like a thorough washing. In addition to potentially harboring bacteria or mold, porous toys often leach out phthalates and other harmful chemicals over time, which can cause itching, burning, and other bad reactions that you don’t want to subject your genitals to.
Although it’s best to avoid these materials completely, it’s especially important for internal use toys. While they still can’t be sterilized and could present issues, using porous toys for external use, such as penis masturbators, cock rings, or clitoral vibes might not be as big a deal for some people. Still, proceed with caution. You can use condoms or other barriers to prevent spreading bacteria, but it’s unclear whether barriers will really protect you from phthalates and harmful chemicals. Porous toys should not be shared with partners who aren’t fluid bonded, as they can spread infections. Avoid jelly sex toys like the plague, and also stay away from PVC, rubber, TPR, TPE, elastomer, or basically anything that isn’t listed in the following paragraph whenever possible, especially for internal use.
Are you starting to fear for your safety now? Don’t worry, there are lots of safe, non-porous sex toy options: glass, stainless steel, 100% silicone, sealed wood, ceramic, and hard plastic. When these toy are cleaned thoroughly, they are truly clean. Just be sure to wash them properly (see #2.) If you want to learn more about toxic/unsafe toys, there’s tons of info on this page.
2. Wash Your Toys Properly
If you’re using a non-porous toy, then once you give it a good cleaning, it’s truly clean and safe to use again and potentially even share. There are a few different options for toy cleaning. You can wipe down/wash your toy with soap and warm water or use a 10% bleach/90%water solution. If you’re washing a toy with a lot of texture or a vibrator with buttons etc., use an old toothbrush to get in all of the crevices of the toy. If your toy doesn’t have an attached motor and is made of silicone, you can also boil it it or run it through your dishwasher cycle (no detergent.) You can potentially boil/dish-wash glass or metal too, but take care as both retain temperature and can also scratch or chip if not handled carefully.
Wash your toys before you use them, and make sure you rinse them thoroughly. You should also wash your toys after you use them when possible, and it’s a good idea to do it as soon as you can, so that lube and body fluids don’t get crusted to your toys.
3. Use the Right Lube
Even if you’re using safe, non-porous toy materials, you can still potentially get yeast infections if you’re using the wrong lube. A lot of drugstore, “mainstream” lubricants contain glycerin, which is irritating to a lot of people. Look for lubes that say glycerin free, and check the ingredients. There are also other ingredients in a lot of lubes than can be irritating, so if you’re sensitive, I recommend using a natural, hypoallergenic lube with few ingredients–my favorite brand is Sliquid.
4. Keep Butt Germs Away from Your Vagina
Anal play is awesome, but anuses have bacteria that can be harmful to the vulva/vagina and can cause vaginal or urinary tract infections. If you’re using a toy and want to switch from butt to vulva or vaginal stimulation, put a condom over it. Or, have a condom on the toy when you’re using it anally, and then take it off when you switch to vaginal. This goes for fingers/hands/tongues/pensises as well (use gloves, condoms, or dental damns, etc.)
5. Practice Good Vaginal Health
While using the wrong sex toys/lube can cause yeast infections, they may be caused by many other factors as well. There are a lot of other things you can do for good general vaginal health.Wearing cotton panties and loose clothing is a good idea, especially if you tend to have problems with yeast infections. I’ve also personally found probiotics to be helpful. Other things you can do for vaginal health: stay hydrated, eat healthy foods, make sure your/other people’s hands are clean before they go near your vagina, pee after sex, practice safer sex, and go in for check-ups and STI tests. Also, don’t douche or use feminine sprays or deodorants. Douching is not only unnecessary, it’s very harsh and can throw off the vagina’s natural bacterial balance and pH level. An external rinse is really all you need, and you can use a hypoallergenic, low pH soap externally if you want. In addition to avoiding lubricants and other products with glycerin, anything with sugar should not be introduced to the vagina–as Molly mentioned in her comment, lollipops shaped like cocks can be fun for photos etc. but should never be inserted, and this goes for other candy/syrups etc.
As I said before, I’m not a doctor or health professional. All of these tips are for prevention, not treatment, and this isn’t all encompassing. Did you know you that semen can actually through off your vaginal pH balance as well? So can certain medications and underlying health problems. If you already have an infection or reoccurring infections, go see to a doctor.