sharing sex toys poly relationship

Sharing Sex Toys With Your Partners: What’s Safe & What’s Not

Do you share sex toys with a partner? Owning and using sex toys is definitely popular – 52.5% of women and 44.8% of men have used sex toys at least once before. 

While sex toys used to be a thing to use only solo, more and more people are not shying away from using them with their partners. That’s great news because using sex toys during partnered sex has many benefits, especially for women. 

If you are in an ethical non-monogamous relationship, then sharing sex toys is probably a no-brainer – buying separate sex toys for each partner(s) can be a challenge for some people. 

The popular saying is “sharing is caring,” and it works with everything, from food to sex toys. But the question is – is it safe to share sex toys with your partner(s)? Let’s find out.

Your guide to sharing sex toys safely

The health risks of sharing sex toys 

If you tend to share sex toys with your partner, or you have multiple partners with whom you use the same sex toys, it’s important to understand the health risks that come with it. 

Research shows that sharing sex toys between partners without the barrier method (internal or external condoms, dental dams, etc.) is associated with the presence of HPV, bacterial vaginosis (BV), and candida (i.e., yeast) infections in women. There is also an increased chance for UTIs. 

One study surveyed 326 women who have sex with women and found that 25% of participants had bacterial vaginosis (BV). Researchers believe that it might be due to never or only sometimes cleaning an insertive toy between uses with a partner. 

Another study from 2014, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases studied whether human papillomavirus (HPV) can live and survive on vaginally inserted sex toys. Researchers compared sex toys made from silicone, which is a non-porous material, and thermoplastic elastomer (or TPE), which is a porous material. 

Immediately after using and cleaning the toys, 56% of the TPE toys and 44% of the silicone toys had traces of HPV on them. The traces of HPV remained on the toys for 24 hours after using and cleaning them. 

So, as you can see, there are some serious health risks related to sharing sex toys with your partner(s), even if you sanitize and clean your sex toys. 

Here’s how to share sex toys safely

Just because there are some health risks related to sharing sex toys, it doesn’t mean that you have to buy new toys for each partner or have a separate stash for every one of your partners if you are in an ethically non-monogamous relationship. 

While some people in poly relationships choose to separate their toys and use different ones with each partner, there are ways to increase the safety of using the same sex toys.

Foster honest communication

Of course, honest communication with your partner(s) about the use and sharing of sex toys is essential. Make sure to discuss your boundaries and what you and your partner(s) are comfortable with when it comes to sex toy use. 

Everyone will have different preferences, and some might not be into the idea of sharing insertable sex toys while sharing other toys like whips or restraints is okay for them. Be honest and straightforward, and ask your partner(s) to reciprocate. 

It’s also good to discuss the STI tests and results. If you are in a non-monogamous relationship with multiple partners, it’s essential that you all practice safe sex. If you are not comfortable with someone not using a barrier method with one of their partners, then make sure your partner(s) know it. 

Choose the right toy materials 

If you want to share your sex toys, then you should be focusing on choosing the right material. It is always best to buy sex toys that are made from quality, non-porous materials like medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass. 

Just because the label of a sex toy says that it is “body-safe,” it doesn’t mean that it will be suitable for sharing. Materials like thermoplastic elastomer (or TPE) are porous, yet marked “body-safe”. The thing about the porous materials is that they harbor the bacteria, and are harder to clean. 

If you choose medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass, you will minimize the chances of transmitting bacteria between partners. 

Sanitize and wash them thoroughly

Research shows that 60% of women clean their sex toys before and after each use, but even 14% never wash their vibrators. Cleaning your sex toys is important when you are using them alone, and it’s crucial when you share them with your partner(s). 

Medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass can be washed with specialized sex toy cleaners, or warm water with mild soap. If our silicone toys are non-vibrating (like a dildo) they are also safe to boil in hot water, which can help remove odors (useful for toys like butt plugs), and sanitize them. You can safely boil stainless steel and borosilicate glass toys. 

If you wash your sex toys properly, and do it often, it should also help minimize the chances of transmitting any bacteria from you to your partner(s) and vice versa. 

Wait 24 hours 

The research shows that after 24 hours, there were no more HPV traces on the sex toys. If you are sharing sex toys with your partner(s), it might be useful to wait 24 hours between sharing the sex toy. It can be especially helpful for those who don’t like the barrier method, but who have anxiety about health. 

Consider a barrier method 

If you are fluid bonded (meaning: you have sex with your partner(s) without using internal or external condoms, dental dams, etc.), then using a barrier method might not be your go-to choice. However, it might be worth consideration if you are in an ethical non-monogamous relationship where you are not sure of everyone’s sexual history. 

Using a barrier method minimizes the chances of bacteria transfer and contracting STIs. Plus, it protects against pregnancy. Even if you are sharing a sex toy with one partner, whose sexual history you know, it might be worth using a barrier method with your sex toys if you use the insertable sex toy between the vagina and anus. 

As you know, vaginal microflora is super sensitive, and bringing the bacteria from the anus into the vagina can throw off the balance and increase the chances of infection. Using a barrier method in this case helps to protect the vaginal microflora.