Tips for using sex toys & avoiding (vaginal) infections

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.


Safe sex toy materials/natural lubes

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.Sliquid Sunset

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.

*Products pictured: Mona 2, Atomic Rose Plug/Crystal Twist, Buck, Tango, Juice, Pure Wand, Comet Wand, Sliquid Oceanics & Sassy


53 thoughts on “Tips for using sex toys & avoiding (vaginal) infections”

  1. Lunabelle

    Quick point about bleach solution…it degrades quickly into salt water. Diluted bleach will leave only salt behind when it dries, so even if a trace is left behind it isn’t a big deal.

  2. Emma

    THANK YOU for posting this. It’s really important, and sadly something most physicians aren’t knowledgeable about, even gynecologists. And, I would hope that a lot of these things would be obvious, but it’s easy to forget that not everyone experimenting with toys or reading our blogs are educated about this stuff so it’s important to do posts like these- truly invaluable.

    1. Penny Post Author

      Thanks Emma! And yea, I hope it helps! I didn’t know about a lot of this when I started using toys–I wish someone had told me years ago!

    1. Penny Post Author

      Hi Dan,

      Like most sexual acts, rimming risks exposure to some STIs. Other than that, if you come into contact with fecal matter (which is less likely with rimming than penetration but still possible) you can potentially catch whatever is in someone’s gastrointestinal tract (parasites, worms, Hep A, etc.) –Information from Tristan Taormino’s book the Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women

      Ultimately it’s up to individual preference and comfort level on what acts are ok and what aren’t, of course.

  3. Marie Rebelle

    Absolutely brilliant, this post. I have a history of yeast infections (I was five when I had my first one!) and have to be so very careful with sex toys. And yes, sometimes even his semen gave me an infection.
    Glass toys, properly cleaned before use, works the best for me.

    Thanks for the tip on the lube!

    Rebel xox

  4. Molly

    I don’t think there is woman on the planet who has not experienced this from time to time. In my late 20’s I went through a short real phase of seeming to have it pretty much constantly but in hindsight I am fairly sure that was down to the contraceptive pill I was taking. However over the years I have had the odd one… sometimes just tiredness and stress can be enough to trigger it. One thing I would say though is that I have found that drinking alcohol, whilst not bringing it on, can certainly seem to make it worse and also might be worth mentioning that the worst thing you can put near your vagina is sugar. I have seen some lollipops shaped like cocks on the market, which might be fun for photographs or putting in your mouth they should never ever go inside your vagina… sugar and yeast infections are the very best of friends!!!!


    1. Penny Post Author

      Thanks for the input and suggestions Molly! I’ve updated the post and added the bit about avoiding the lollipop cocks and other sugar.

    2. Alex

      Molly does this mean I should avoid the sugar scrub exfoliants to keep away the ingrown hairs? It is a cocnut oil sugar scrub used for my bikini and the front of my pelvic area where I ised to get hair bumps. Is there something better (preferably diy) that I should use?

  5. Heaven

    What a very useful post, I made a mistake and did not wash one of my toys I use for camming and guess what I ended up with? A bacterial infection. Now I will remember to do what must be done when I am done using them. I had used it one night and forgot to wash it the next time I went on to cam and when I got checked out they told me. I was like damn it all never again.

  6. Beauty's Punishment

    I used to get yeast and bladder infections all the time when I was younger and married to my first husband, and I he washed his hands and bits up before and after sex, and I did as well. It might not be sexy to do all that before and after, but it beats going to the doctor all the time.

    Now that I’m older I find that it’s harder to find lubes and condoms that don’t make me itch and make my bits feel funny after using them. I believe we have Sliquid, and we always have Liquid Silk on hand since I never have trouble with it. If anyone has any good suggestions for condoms that won’t make me itch that would be great!

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