Ask a Scientist: Can an STD Live on a Sex Toy?

The Scientist: Leah S. Millheiser, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center

The Answer: Most STDs can’t survive outside the body for very long. That said, you should never assume that if you wait long enough, they’ll disappear. Everything from HPV to gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV can be transferred by sharing sex toys. Even bacterial vaginosis, which isn’t an STD but rather just an infection (that can cause serious itching) linked to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina, can be transferred on your toys. And if bodily fluids or blood are on the toy, syphilis and hepatitis C can be transferred. Scary stuff!The good news is, if you simply clean your gadgets after each use, you don’t ever have to worry about giving or getting something gross. Washing the good ol’ fashioned way, with soap and hot water, is all you really need to do. If the whole toy can’t be submerged in water (betteries will do that), simply remove and clean whatever parts come into contact with your skin and particularly your body fluids. Just make sure to be thorough, so that no tiny particles are left in any of the cracks and crevices. If the toy is made of silicone, you can even throw it in the dishwasher (if it doesn’t weird you out to have your vibrater chilling next to your coffee mug) or throw it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes.Toys that are inserted inside the vagina carry the greatest risk for transferring infections. To protect yourself better, put a condom over the toy that you can just throw out after. There’s no need to throw away your sex toys — not to mention, regularly replacing them would get expensive — as long as you keep them clean.

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  • amber

    So say you don’t have chlamydia but u don’t wash your sex toys hardly ever after use could u possibly get an STI like chlamydia?

    • amber

      Say my boy friend used it for anal play and then I use it vagaly but we both don’t have an sti could we get one that way?

      • YouBeauty

        Hi amber! To be safe, we recommend putting a condom on the toy and replacing it when you go from one body part to another. Different body parts have different bacteria.

        • amber

          I understand that but I am so confused on how I got chlymidea so was wondering if two ppl do not have chlamydia but bf uses toy for anal play and then I use vaganaly with never washing it is that a way to get chlymidea?

          • YouBeauty

            Outside of the other advice, we strongly advise you to speak with your doctor. Hope that helps!

          • amber

            I was asking threw here because it’s hard to ask this question to some one’s face or over the phone. Thanks for your comments

          • YouBeauty

            Totally! We hope you can find a doctor who you trust though.

          • Anon

            What if you have a Blowjob sex toy (where you put your penis into the masterbator) that you only use, can you still get a STD if not cleaned all the time?

          • Joseph Jensen

            You seriously stuck something in your vagina after someone put it up their ass? And you didn’t wash it first? Good God! Common sense people.

          • Gina

            Haha seriously!!

  • Derek

    If your toy is unshared, regularly cleaned before and after use with disinfectant, is there any chance of catching any kind of infection.

  • Josh

    Hi i was cleaning out an apartment and touched an old sex toy with my bare hands can i have caught something

  • Jessica

    The same day I got treated for chlymedia, that night I played with one of my toys but put condom on it, could i still have it cause they said no sex for 10 day?…

  • Sashaye

    I had and STI but I got cured but before I knew about the STI I was using my vibrator can the STI still be on the vibrator

  • Naughty Nickers

    I had bv and can’t remeber if I had it when my magic wand was fully inserted into my vagina. It’s been roughly a month and I’ve cleaned it twice. I’m scared to use it. How long can bv live on it?

  • Anon

    If you buy a sex toy of of wish and the package comes sealed and stuff should I still use it? Is it safe? Will I catch something?

  • Cheyenne Prestigiacomo

    Can you get herpes from a drawer in a nightstand? I’m scared… to the point of not sleeping…