Spring has sprung and that means spring cleaning! Sure, the dust bunnies under the bed could use some TLC, but why not put your efforts where they really count? The sex toy drawer!
For some, ‘tackling the sex toy drawer’ means going through a whole closet of toys and props and gear. For others there may be no ‘drawer’ to speak of. Even if all you need to do is check a few expiration dates, it’s a great idea to examine the ‘stuff’ of sex to ensure we’re having the happiest, healthiest, best sex we can. There are no regulations for manufacturers to follow when producing sex toys, so as consumers, we need to be aware of what we are using. Spring cleaning is the perfect excuse for tackling the clutter, making much needed upgrades, and investing in the sex you want to have.
Do an annual health check for your toys and sex-positive products
You may use them all the time, but when was the last time you stopped to really consider the condition of your most intimate playthings? You’d no doubt notice if your favorite vibe wasn’t working, but what about the toys at the back of the drawer that don’t get as much playtime? Give all your toys, devices, and intimate products a quick once over at least once a year.
- Toys (plugs, dildos, vibes, etc.)
- Charge cords and batteries
- Gear (rope, cuffs, etc.)
Check the expiration dates and condition of :
- Condoms and dams
- Toy cleaners, wipes, etc.
Things to look for
A broken sex toy is an unreliable sex toy. The last thing that you need in the throes of passion is an unexpected result or experience from a toy. Best case, it’s disappointing, worst case, it’s dangerous. Be on the lookout for any and all damage and dispose of:
- broken or frayed charging cords
- toys with unresponsive buttons or other controls
- motorized toys that produce unexpected heat or smoke
- torn or punctured silicone toys
- chipped or cracked ceramic or glass toys
When a toy or product changes, it’s time to evaluate its usefulness and safety. Low-quality toy materials can degrade in a matter of months, and lubes, lotions, and the like don’t last forever. Pay attention to expiration dates, but moreover, use your 5 senses when examining your stash of sex-stuff.
There is no reason your toys should smell unpleasant, either because of what they are made of, or how you take care of them. Avoid and discard toys that have a heavy chemical smell, ones that have a strangely sweet smell to them (a sure sign of toxic materials), or anything that doesn’t smell clean even if you’ve just washed it. With lubes, toy cleaners, etc. always check the expiration dates and toss anything that smells rancid or has changed from its original smell.
Examine products carefully. Look at seams, nooks and crannies to ensure they are getting cleaned properly. Discard lubes that have changed in texture or separated. Eliminate toys that have become discolored, or that have any physical damage to their surface.
Test the texture of lubes, etc. for change. Get rid of anything that has become dried out, sticky, or otherwise unpleasant. Some cheap toys will change in surface texture (especially jelly style rubber) and that’s an indication it’s time to upgrade.
Listen to your vibes! Have they gotten louder, is the motor straining? If it’s not working properly, let it go.
No, you don’t have to lick all your toys to assess them, but if you like flavored lubes, it’s worth noting whether or not they have gone off. Better to have a quick taste before you’re mid-play and gagging on a lube that’s sub-par.
Refresh and Restock
Spring cleaning is the perfect opportunity to refresh your condom/dam, lube, massage oil and toy cleaner supply. Make sure you check for torn or punctured condom wrappers, missing lids for lubes and cleaners, and dry, crusty, or otherwise degraded products. Likewise, that litre-sized bottle of lube may seem like a great deal but will you use it in time? Buy smaller bottles and enjoy more variety and use things within their optimum shelf life. You deserve fresh, high performance products!
Be good to yourself and the planet
What should you do with defunct or broken sex toys? It may be tempting to just bury them in the trash away from the prying eyes of neighbors and garbage collectors, but that’s not the best solution. Sadly, large-scale recycling for sex toys doesn’t really exist due to stigma, biohazard issues, and the fact that it’s simply not a priority. What this means is that there are literally millions of sex toys in landfills, doing the same sort of eco-damage as other electronics and chemical leaching plastics.
- You can treat your motorized sex toys like e-waste since many have the same lithium-ion batteries as a cellphone, or plug in like a small appliance. Call your local/municipal recycling authority to learn more about how to dispose of e-waste in your area.
- Always remove and separate disposable batteries for recycling/return. If you can safely separate the types of materials (ie: plastic from metal) before recycling, do so.
- Silicone toys don’t spontaneously break down which is great for your body but gives them a long life in the landfill. Luckily, well kept silicone toys can last a lifetime and they are recyclable.
- Glass toys are made of borosilicate glass, the same as your measuring cups and mixing bowls, making it very recyclable. Likewise, stainless steel can be recycled with ease.
Upgrade your toy materials
Not all sex toy materials last forever and not all sex toy materials are created equal. The most reliable and worry-free materials are non-porous (they don’t absorb anything) and/or inert (the material itself does not change with regular use). Materials like stainless steel, ceramic, glass and pure silicone, when properly cleaned and stored, can last years, if not a lifetime.
Avoid toys made from “jelly” materials – they are easy to recognize: very soft, very inexpensive, and they have a strong chemical smell and a sticky/tacky surface. Jelly toys are made of rubber, are highly porous (so they trap bacteria and easily transmit STIs between partners), and they break down quickly (most will degrade within 8-12 months). They can be tempting because they are inexpensive and often come in tantalizing candy-colors, but they should be avoided.
If you want to keep your sex toy drawer current, adopt a one-in-one-out rule: for every new item you add, one old item must go. This will help you keep things interesting
Declutter and organize for more convenient solo and partnered sessions
When you take the time to clear out your toy drawer, you not only make room for fun new items, you make it easier to find what you want and need, when you want and need it. Rifling through a bunch of junk when you’re in an amorous moment is not a great use of your time and can really kill the mood, whether you’re alone or with someone. Having everything at hand and ready to be used is a much sexier approach!
The more organized and accessible your toy stash, the better. Travel and sex writer, E.L. Byrne details her amazing system for organizing sex stuff in her article Dildos and Other Important Add-ons for Sex in the 2020s. She uses a three-drawer plan for different degrees of sexy play so she always knows where things are and she keeps the nightstand on the “guest” side of the bed well stocked as well so partners can help themselves to condoms, lube, etc.
Take personal inventory: assess and up-date your self care routines
As you’re cleaning out your literal toy drawer, have a peek in your metaphorical toy drawer too. Checking for expiration dates and worn out toys is all well and good, but not if you’re ignoring, negating or avoiding sexual self care. Take some time to consider if you’re having the solo and/or partnered sex that you want. How are you feeling about communicating those needs or taking action? Are you spending enough time focusing on pleasure? What does your sex life and your need more or less of?
Investing in a well stocked and well maintained sex toy stash is an excellent investment in yourself. Quality toys and supplies can help you achieve new experiences, explore fantasies, and grow within yourself and your relationships. Since pleasure is an essential part of being human, it’s worth remembering that sex is as much about the mind as it is the body, and that all aspects of your sexual self must be cared for. Happy spring cleaning!
Violet Fawkes (she/her) is a freelance writer and sex blogger focusing on pleasure education, erotic fiction, and the intersection of identity, kink and mental health. You can find all her work at violetfawkes.com