By Lead writer: Nick Burns
September 09, 2008

Depending on how sex toys are used, they can come in contact with vaginal fluids, blood, or feces. And because each of these things can carry diseases, it's a bad idea to share sex toys—that is, to use the same toy on two different people—without taking proper precautions. In addition, some toys can crack or develop holes over time where dangerous bacteria can easily hide out.

How to reduce risk
Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle, says the best way to be safe with sex toys is to use condoms and change the condom each time the toy changes partners or moves from one area of the body to another (especially after being used on the anus). "And make sure you clean it very well," she says.

More about sexual health

Salespeople at sex-toy shops can help you figure out proper cleaning methods. Cleaning often involves soap and water, or even a run through the dishwasher. Submersion in boiling water might also be a good idea, depending on the material the toy is made of and the type of toy it is (such as whether it has moving or electric parts). Sex-toy emporium Babeland offers a comprehensive guide to toy cleaning and care.

STDs are not the only safety issue surrounding sex toys; some users make a point of avoiding products made with compounds called phthalates for fear they may be toxic. The science is not conclusive, but shoppers may want to look for toys made with other materials instead, such as silicone.