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Polyurethane + Lubricant Safety

Is it safe to use any lubricant with a polyurethane condom? The Trojan packaging says not to use anything, but I really need something else to feel comfortable using them.

Short Answer

You need to be careful which type of lubricant you pick because most lubricants are incompatible with polyurethane condoms. Fortunately, there are a two lubricants that have been cleared in FDA testing for use with polyurethane condoms. AWT offers FeMani Smooth and ONE Move, both of which have passed FDA testing for compatibility with polyurethane condoms. To be clear, both are compatible with any type of internal or external condom made from latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane.

Long Answer

There are many different types of silicone lubricants on the market, and most of them should not be used with polyurethane condoms because the polyurethane material will break with exposure and friction. Medical grade silicones, such as pure dimethicone, have been tested and can be used with polyurethane products.

Here’s the problem: because of name issues, many silicone products sound, and are spelled like another. Silicone, siloconol or siloxane, anyone? Unfortunately, some silicones are blends of other silicones which makes identification worse because the components may be a problem, but the name obscures the presence in the product.

This is bad, because some industrial-solvent type silicones (cyclopentasiloxane) break polyurethane condoms, while other medical-grade silicones do not (such as dimethicone). Still, many, many silicone lubricants intended for sexual use are on the market, and their first, second or third ingredient is cyclopentasiloxane. Why? Industrial grade silicones are far less expensive than medical grade silicones, so manufacturers are putting these into products to lower cost. In fact, when you look at silicone lubricant prices, you might unknowingly choose one with an industrial-grade silicones from otherwise reputable websites with the name “condom” in their name.

Polyurethane condoms are a necessity for 1-10% of the population with true latex allergy. If that is you, your partner, or a partner that you don’t know well, someone can have a very bad reaction from: a condom that breaks giving you a sexually transmitted infection, or a latex allergy. We agree that polyurethane condoms go on better and feel better when used with lubricant, since the medical-grade silicone lubricant that they come packaged with isn’t enough volume for many people.

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I’ve given someone an STI … what do I tell previous partners?

I’ve infected someone with an STI. Should I inform an ex-partner who gave me unprotected oral sex once? There was a definite mixing of secretions. Is there anything that this former partner could do now that would help?


It’s important to tell your ex-partner that you found out that you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), because your ex-partner carries the risk of transferring the infection to other places on/in their bodies, as well as infecting other people. It’s part of taking care of the people you have been intimate with. Your ex can have their health professional do a complete STI screen, and in the case of a person with a vagina, they can get a pap smear to check for HPV.

I feel so bad about all of this! I never meant for this to happen to anyone! Part of me doesn’t want to have sex with anyone any more because I’m so scared of giving it to someone.

Hey – no one goes out and tries to contract infections. You were just trying to find pleasure, and so was your partner.

I think the most important thing is for you to take charge of your own pleasure without endangering someone else’s health. The best things that you can do now are to really look at your feelings (which you are doing), and get more information (which you are doing). Beyond that, you need to seek help from a healthcare provider to get a complete STI screen for yourself, get the treatment that you need, and be as thorough as you can about protecting other people.

It’s hard to incorporate all the good suggestions about protecting ourselves from STIs. We are seeking pleasure, and sometimes a bacteria/virus/parasite happens to climb on for the ride. But this doesn’t mean that you have to completely stop being intimate with others. It’s how you are intimate, not that you are intimate that matters.

Some strategies that help are to think through the whole process of being intimate, from the “Hmmm” of a first sexual thought, through the seduction, through the sexual intimacy, all the way to floating back up out of the euphoria. Transmission can happen from seduction through the end of the intimacy. Can you develop strategies before you have the “hmmm” thought, on how to anticipate potential moments of transmission? Forethought before foreplay prevents sexually transmitted infections.

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Internal Condoms

Structural Details of the Internal Condom

The Internal condom is made up of a long polyurethane sheath that lines the walls of the vagina and is anchored at each end by flexible polyurethane rings. The ring at the closed end rests over the cervix (like a diaphragm or cervical cap would). The outer ring rests outside the body, against the labia – if anatomy permits, it may rub nicely against the clitoris and may promote arousal for the woman wearing the condom.

The internal condom is made of polyurethane, not latex, so people who are sensitive to latex can use them comfortably and safely. The internal condom is longer than most latex condoms for men.

Heat and sensation are nicely transmitted through the soft, thin polyurethane lining. We have had customers rave about how well they can “feel” their partners.

The internal condom is used once with penetrative vaginal sex, and then disposed of. It can also be used for penetrative anal sex; however, the person doing the penetrating needs to keep an eye on the outer ring to ensure that it does not get pushed inside the wearer.

Although the internal condom comes prelubricated, it is wise to add more lubrication to the penis and to the inside of the condom to reduce breakage. The internal condom does not contain spermicide.

The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the first condom for women – called “Reality” in the U.S. and “Femidom” elsewhere – in 1993.

Health Issues and the internal Condom

Used consistently and correctly, it has a contraceptive failure rate of 5 percent, which means that using the internal condom can prevent pregnancy 95 percent of the times that you use it.

Available over-the-counter, this product technically puts the contraceptive and preventative benefits of the barrier technology into a woman’s hands. (We say “technically” because some women may initially experience resistance from their partners, which may take negotiation skills to overcome.)

It can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse, and unlike the male condom, can be inserted, used, and removed regardless of how erect the penis is.

The internal condom gives more protection against sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) than any other contraceptive technology available, except for the male condom. It gives better STI protection than the Pill, contraceptive implants, the “shot” (Depo-Provera), the IUD, diaphragms, or a cervical cap.

Techniques for use of the internal condom

As with any new technology, learning to use this condom takes a little practice. If you are using the condom for vaginal penetration, squeeze the inner ring and insert it into the vagina just past the pubic bone so it covers your cervix. Check with your finger to ensure the sheath isn’t twisted. Note that the outer ring stays outside the vaginal opening. (users report that this is not irritating or uncomfortable, and often adds clitoral stimulation during intercourse.) There is some aiming involved to make sure that the penis is inside the outer ring/sheath. Some people like to squeeze more lubricant into the sheath during use. When you’re ready to remove it, just twist the outer ring (to keep secretions/semen inside) and gently tug out. No mess, no fuss.

If you are using the condom for anal penetration, remove the inner cervical ring. You can insert it directly into the anus perhaps over your fingers, or you can put the condom over the penis and gently slide the condom in. There is the same concern regarding the aim (to make sure the penis is inside the sheath), as well as the additional possibility of pushing the condom in too far (since there’s no cervix to stop it). The person doing the penetrating needs to monitor the outer ring to make sure it does not slowly move in.

Women who do not have a cervix (due to hysterectomy) can also use the internal condom for vaginal intercourse. You’ll want to remove the inner ring, insert it into the vagina as described above, and have the person doing the penetrating monitor the outer ring to make sure it doesn’t slip inside. Take special care to have good “aim”, making sure the penis stays inside the sheath at all times.

We have been amazed at the success of the internal condom. People with vaginas love the internal condom. People with penises love the internal condom. Some couples take turns: he wears one this time, she wears one the next. Men say it’s a nice change to have someone else get the condom on.

For internal-condom-devotees, the increased warmth, sensation, and fit make the expense worth the price.

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Condom leakage … what to do?

My husband and I often use condoms. However, we are having trouble with leakage. When he ejaculates, the fluid runs out the bottom of the condom at the base of his penis. Even if he pulls out the instant he is done, there is often some of his fluid on my vaginal lips. We haven’t tried every brand of condom out there, so I’m wondering if we just need a better fit. Do you have any advice?


It sounds like some investigation would be worthwhile to find a condom that fits him properly. External condoms are made with a pretty wide range of sizes and shapes, and a Condom Sampler or a Condom Sampler: Grande might be just the thing to try. Also, the Internal Condom (only available on the web) is a lovely solution to this type of problem, since you wouldn’t need to worry as much about when he pulls out.

If you decide on a external condom, make sure you are leaving a lot of room at the tip of the condom when it is put on. You can do this by pinching the tip of the condom so that the semen reservoir (the smaller bubble at the end) doesn’t get pulled down over the tip of the penis. Make sure this “bubble” and a little bit of the condom are empty at the end. If you are already doing that, you might want to try a condom like the One Legend, which has a lot of room at the tip for the semen.

Another thing to try is putting an erection ring at the base of a external condom. A simple stretchy one will work the best. These will hold the condom snugly at the base, preventing any leakage.

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How infectious is HPV (genital warts)?

I have recently found bumps on my genital area, which I got checked out. Just by the look of it, the doctor said it’s genital warts. I wasn’t sure if this was correct, but I looked for pictures of genital warts on the Internet and found some that look like my current bumps.

If I do have genital warts, I accept that. But since I have a boyfriend that I care about, I need have some questions.

First, if medication clears up the warts and my partner performs oral sex on me, is he at risk? If I see warts around my boyfriend’s rear, does that mean he has had sex with men? If someone is infected, are they only considered infected when the warts appear, or are they “infected” all the time afterwards?


Your bumps could be HPV (genital warts). Often warts are easily recognizable by healthcare practitioners.

Did your provider do a pap smear? You will need to have monitoring pap smears every six months for the next several years to screen for the presence of early cervical changes that can lead to cervical cancer. Having genital warts doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cervical cancer, but it does increase your risk of cervical cancer. Screening with a pap smear is a very effective way to guide treatment options for you.

Fifty percent of the adult population of the U.S. will have HPV at some point during their adult lives. With the vaccination against HPV, that number should drop continuously over time. Right now though, it’s a really common infection, easy to get and easy to transfer to someone else.

Yes, you can clear the warts through medication, but not all healthcare providers know this. Some will cut the warts off instead with cryosurgery.

If you are treated and you have no visible warts, you could still transmit HPV to a partner. Why? Well, it’s really easy to infect the cells next to the treated cells, so even though you cured the first set of cells, you may have an infection that you can’t yet see in the cells next to them. Genital warts/HPV is transferred from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact. Your sexual partner(s) can get HPV/warts in their mouth (especially on the vocal cords/voice box) through unprotected oral sex with someone who has HPV on their genitals. The risk of getting them is less if you have been through treatment and have negative pap smears, but your risk of giving warts to him will not be zero.

“…If I see warts around my boyfriend’s rear, does that mean he has had sex with men?”

Great question, and no, it does not mean that he has ever had sex with men. It means that he has had contact with someone who was infected with warts.

So, how did your partner get warts around his anus? He could have touched a partner who had HPV, then touched himself and transferred the infection to a different part of himself; he could have had sex with someone who had warts; or yes, he could have engaged in anal play with a man. I wouldn’t make any assumptions. You’d have to ask, and he’d have to say to know for sure.

“If someone is infected, are they only infected when the warts appear, or are they ’infected’ all the time afterwards?”

Another great question. When researchers use really fancy expensive tools, they can tell whether cells are infected but not expressing (showing) the warts. Those studies show that many (not all) people will get rid of their own wart infection within a year or two. Even when people transfer the infection to themselves, people who have a happy and healthy immune system will have cleared up their infection within three to five years.

Sadly, it’s so easy to be re-infected by your sexual partners, that some couples stay infected for a long time (her turn, his turn, her turn…). The other piece of bad news is that HPV clearly causes cervical and larynx cancer (and is also associated with anal cancer for some people), so it isn’t a good idea to just hope and wait for the infection to go away. It might cause a fatal disease process to start while it’s there.

The best things to do are:

First and foremost, talk to your health care provider and find out whether you’ve been vaccinated against HPV. Bumps that “look like” HPV may not be HPV. Also ask your health care provider whether you are eligible to get vaccinated against HPV.

If you do have HPV, then:

1. Have your current warts treated with a medication called Imiquimod. (Ask your health care provider for recommendations.) Be aware that Imiquimod damages latex condoms, so you may want to use polyurethane condoms while you’re taking it.

2. Have your partner tested for anal warts and oral warts. His anal warts can also be treated – which is a good idea for both of you, since it will be harder for him to give them to you.

3. While you are being treated, use barriers when having oral sex. Ideally, you would not have or give unprotected oral pleasure for about six months after treatment, either.

4. You are at risk for cervical cancer, and any partner that had oral contact with your genitals are at risk for mouth and throat cancer. Make sure you have a pap smear soon if you have not had one in the last six months. You will need to have them every six months for several years. Don’t let your healthcare provider talk you out of these, either (some will do that to save their practices money). It’s your life, and you’ll have to make this your own personal priority.

5. If you have three consecutive pap smears and have no evidence of change, then you may ask your provider whether you can go back to the once-a-year schedule. Depending on your partner situation, you may choose not to do that. It just depends who you are intimate with.

6. By the way, it’s really easy to have several sexually transmitted infections and have no symptoms. So make sure that you have been screened for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and herpes, too. (If they are being really really thorough, they will also check for syphilis, bacterial vaginosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, as well.) You do not need all these tests all the time, but please do get a screen now, since the presence of the warts means that you could have also been exposed to other infections.

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Is it safe sex to give a hand job?

Does a “hand job” pose any risk of STI transmission? It seems harmless. This is common in massage places and in casual sex these days.


Sorry, but the “hand-to-penis connection” is a easy way to get some undesirable infections. Three scenarios:

  1. Imagine that you have little tears in your skin from washing too many dishes that day, or you chew your hangnails, or your cat scratched you. This is a direct blood-semen pathway for almost anything to infect you (anything you can think of, including HIV, hepatitis, etc.). Scabs over cuts do not provide protection, since they soften with secretions, liquids, and oils.
  2. Okay, let’s say you don’t have any tears in your skin at all. Even without the possibility of skin- and semen-to-blood contact, there is still quite a list of critters that you can infect yourself with: herpes type 1 & 2, human papilloma virus (genital warts), crabs, lice, and syphilis. These infections do not need any tear in the skin to infect you, and can infect you before you have the chance to wash your hands. These infections can be passed between two women, two men, a man and a woman, and any other possible combination, because it only takes infected secretions and skin contact to transmit the infection. (Why didn’t your partner tell you that he/she has an infection? People who are infected with HSV, HPV and syphilis usually don’t know it, because they may not have experienced any significant symptoms when they first became infected. Oops on you. This is why you/they need to be tested.)Unfortunately, it is also pretty easy to infect a woman after a hand job if the hands that did the work are then inserted into her vagina or anus. Even without a skin tear, many common infections (chlamydia, gonorrhea) infect the infection-fighting white blood cells that are naturally present in the vagina and anus. Your hand acts as a vector in carrying the infection from one place to another.
  3. You have no skin tears, and you wash your hands immediately. Better, admittedly. You should be able to wash most gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, etc. off of your hands (soap and hot water, please). Unfortunately, you are still at risk for HSV, HPV and syphillis, and you’d be surprised how clingy crabs and lice can be. Did you check under your fingernails?

What’s the solution? Casual sex can be fun and safe if you protect yourself. Potential playmates are more likely to be willing participants if you show that you are wearing gloves. After all, it goes both ways: you are protecting them from you, too. In the right hands, lubed gloves are slippery, sexy tools of pleasure.

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Why lesbians should use barriers during sex with new partners

Why do I need to use barriers? I’m a lesbian!


So you’re a lesbian. Do you think that lesbians don’t transmit infections to each other?

Humans transmit infections back and forth regardless of gender. Eighty percent of lesbians have at one time in their lives been intimate with men. Serial monogamy (being in one long-term relationship after another) increases the chance that although you may have never been sexually intimate with a man, one of your partners may have been, and may still have an asymptomatic infection. In addition, some women describe themselves as lesbians even though they’re occasionally sexually intimate with men. (Asking someone else what they mean by “lesbian” is probably the best way to understand what they mean by that term.)

But I have never been sexually intimate with a man, and neither has my partner.

Women can still pass along many sexually transmitted infections to each other.

Latex is a barrier that keeps all sorts of things from passing through: chlamydia, herpes, trichamonas, HIV, HPV, hepatitis, syphillis, gonorrhea, colonic bacteria, blood, as well as keeping you from getting a facial rash from your lover’s acidic vaginal pH. Chlamydia infections are now the single most reported sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It’s easily transmissible, often without symptoms, and can cause infertility. Just because you love women doesn’t mean that you or one of your partners doesn’t want to become a mom someday: quite a price to pay. Some women even have trouble with yeast infections if their partner’s yeast is introduced into their vagina, because it’s of a different yeast strain than the one they carry around.

Besides, latex and lube are great sex toys. Have you ever gone down a slide with your shorts on, on a hot summer day, feeling the skin on the back side of your legs go lub, lub, lub, stretch, stick!? Compare that to sliding down a water slide, where you go swish, slide, wheeee, (splash!). Sensation can be increased when you take out the friction, and that’s exactly what latex + lube does.

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Why not use K-Y Jelly or Vaseline as a lubricant

Do Not Use Vaseline Oil in the Vagina. Vaseline is an oil based petroleum product that is very difficult to naturally clear out of the vaginal space. It can cause something similar to vaginal acne, and can cause or intensify yeast infections if you get them fairly often. In addition, if you are using latex barriers (condoms, dams, or gloves) for protection against sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy prevention, Vaseline will create tiny holes in the latex, making them worthless.

The original K-Y Jelly (the kind that is sold in a tube) is a water-based lubricant that is widely available, and for that reason many people are familiar with it. Unfortunately, it has some major drawbacks as a sexual lubricant. K-Y Jelly was not developed as a sexual lubricant per se, it was developed as a medical lubricant. Medical lubricants are used when something needs to be introduced into a body, usually once (like when a physician uses a speculum during a vaginal exam, for example). Sexual intimacy often involves a lot of back-and-forth motion and friction, and under these conditions, medical lubricants dry and become sticky and gloppy. Lubricants which were developed as sexual lubricants will take the friction of sexual activity, be slicker in use, and stay wetter, longer.

K-Y has developed some “personal” lubricants that are a better choice than the thicker jelly. You can consider them along with the other lubricants available that have been designed for sexual use. Use our “How to choose a lubricant” brochure to help you choose which lubricant might work best for you.

Sexual lubricants are a very sexy sex toy. In our store, people who take sample packets home to try them out invariably come back with rave reviews. Sexual lubricants come in many different varieties and properties, and most people can find the lubricant(s) that work best for themselves. No taste? Really slick? Doesn’t cause yeast infections? Flavored? Just ask–all of these (and more) have been developed for the sole purpose of increasing your sexual pleasure.

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Am I allergic to latex?

My partner and I are fine with wearing condoms, but I get a painful, red rash right at the opening of my vagina after we use them. I’m thinking that I’m allergic to latex condoms. What should I do?


First, a word about latex allergies: Latex allergies are more common now than they were even ten years ago, because people come into frequent contact with products that contain latex, and more people use things like latex gloves in their working lives.

Any person can develop an allergy to latex, but the symptoms can be wide-ranging, from contact dermatitis (rash upon direct contact with skin) to asthma (upon breathing in the latex proteins). Only your healthcare provider can determine whether you truly have an allergy to latex.

Having said that, many of our customers have struggled with the same type of “rash” situation that you describe, yet they have no asthmatic (difficult to breathe) symptoms, and they do not get a rash anyplace else that comes into contact with the latex. Allergy, or no allergy?

There is a straightforward test that you can do in the privacy of your own home to see if you have a contact allergy to latex. NOTE: if you have any concern about an asthmatic reaction, or you are unsure of your allergic status, please do not try this at home, and see your healthcare provider.

1. Collect a latex condom.
2. Find a nice book to read or sunset to watch.
3. Place the condom into the inside “nook” of your elbow, bend your arm up to hold the condom, and leave it there for about 20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes, take the condom out of your elbow, and see if there is any redness or swelling where the condom was in contact with your skin.
5. Redness/swelling or NOT, wash the skin in your elbow with soap and water.
6. Check your elbow skin the next day for redness or swelling, because some people can have a delayed reaction to latex (up to 48 hours in some cases).

Any swelling, itching or redness? If yes, you very likely do have a contact allergy to latex, and your healthcare provider may have additional information for you. Non-latex condoms made of polyurethane or polyisoprene–including Skyn, or the Female Condom–are an effective solution to true latex allergies

No swelling, itching or redness? If there is no response to this contact to the latex, it is much more likely that you are experiencing a friction burn, but not an allergic reaction. Friction is an integral part of the thrusting of intercourse, and for some people sexual penetration with thrusting can result in some pretty tender skin afterwards.

Here are some solutions to the friction burn problem:
1. Massage your vulva with a sexual lubricant prior to penetration. Incorporate massage into your regular sex play, and you’ll be increasing your sexual arousal as well as lubricating in advance of penetration.
2. Slather the shaft of the condom with lube. Even though many condoms come “lubricated”, there is rarely enough lube to last through an entire sexual session, particularly at the shaft where most of the friction occurs.
3. Keep a bottle of lube with your traveling or home sex kit. While some people enjoy the sensation of friction, too much friction is just the same as a road rash, and it isn’t good for your skin in the long run. Having a bottle of lube as a part of your routine collection of stuff is a great way to be sure you have it on hand, just in case you need it.
4. Consider using the Female Condom. For people who struggle with friction no matter how much lube is used, the Female Condom allows them to experience the pressure, heat and sensation of penetration, but without the friction. How? The Female Condom doesn’t move, so the penis or dildo slides on the condom’s surface, rather than against the sensitive walls of the vulva and vagina (or anus). A little more expensive, but a great choice for some.

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Is my sex toy infected?

I recently found out that I had an STI, and I had it treated with antibiotics. However, I own a couple of sex toys that I used while I was infected. I know that you say not to share sex toys with partners, so I’m wondering: if I can infect someone else with my sex toy, can’t I also reinfect myself with my toys? Do I need to throw away my toys to protect my health?


Short answer:

Yes, it is possible to reinfect yourself with a sex toy, or infect someone else who has used that sex toy without sterilization in between. Usually* (in most cases but not all) the surface needs to be wet or moist to keep the infectious particles alive, so the more time that goes by, the less likely your sex toy is an infection source because as the toy dries, the infectious particles die. (Another good reason to wash your toys after you play with them and store them properly.)

A partner who used that toy while you were using that toy is a much more likely source of infection, however. Their body, as it became infected, will have a much better chance of keeping the infectious particles alive whether in their mouth, vagina, penis, or anus. Sure, it might have been the toy that was shared between you all, but now the persons are more likely to keep that infection alive than your toy ever was.

This is the most compelling reason to own the toys used on your body and not to share them with other people.

Long answer:

Yes, it is possible to infect a toy and then reinfect yourself, but there are some details regarding the type of material the toy is made from that determine whether the toy should be pitched.

Transmission of an infection through a inanimate object is technically called fomite transmission. The success of fomite transmission depends on a number of factors: 1) the infectious particle; 2) the vector (or object, like your toy); 3) the potential “infectee” (person in contact with the object). Let’s consider them separately:

1) Infectious particles: All infectious particles (viruses, bacteria, fungi, little swimming protozoa) require specific environmental factors in order to survive or to pass on an infection. For example, some bacterial forms like chlamydia require direct skin cell to skin cell transmission, because the chlamydia only lives inside of skin cells. But if the skin cells are transferred to a porous plastic and then kept moist (such as from hand to eye-dropper), studies have shown that an infection can be transmitted from the eye-dropper to the eye (see Novak et al, Cornea. 1995 Sep;14(5):523-6.).

Chlamydia can, of course, be transmitted directly from ejaculate to eye, because the infected cells then transmit the infection to the cells of the cornea (see Rackstraw et al, Int J STD AIDS. 2006 Sep;17(9):639-41). Therefore, it is also reasonable to think that wet ejaculate, such as from a giving a handjob, smeared on a toy which is then used, can easily transmit the infection. Flies (the buzzing kind) can also transmit moist infections, so even if you washed your hands, the flies in your room might not have, if any drips are left around.

Considering other types of infections, scientists have looked carefully at how much volume of an infectious particle is needed to cause an infection, and in some cases, it’s pretty small. HIV, for example, can be transmitted through tiny holes in poorly made condoms. This is why technology has progressed substantially in the past decade detecting condom flaws before the condom is used.

In general, wet things transmit infections better than dry things because moisture is a critical feature of infectious-particle survival. Creatures, including viruses and protozoa, require water to live in environments. The dryer a spot, the harder the survival.

2) Vector (i.e. sex toy): The more porous a material is, the more likely infectious particles can be trapped in the pores, and the more difficult it is to clean. For example, high-density polyethylene kitchen cutting boards are not highly porous until used: knives cut into the dense surface leaving pockets (pores, if you will) which then harbor bacteria and keep them moist. Washing the plastic board in the dishwasher *does not* sterilize these little pockets, and may spread the bacteria to other objects being washed (eww).

Sex toys are often made of much more porous plastics than cutting boards. Beyond the potential toxicities of the plastics, these soft crevices certainly have the potential to hold infectious particles, and depending on conditions, to keep them moist. We worry particularly about plastics, since they are so effective at keeping bacteria (etc.) alive that they are often used in laboratories to grow them. However, pores are not required to transmit infections: even a penny can transmit dangerous infectious materials (see Tolba et al, Am J Infect Control. 2007 Jun;35(5):342-6).

A toy with pores and pockets (usually plastic, but other materials are possible, too) is able to hold infectious particles more easily. A toy that is not completely dried is more infectious, so leather harnesses swapped from partner to partner or kept moist in a drawer are potential transmitters. A toy used by one person, then another, can definitely transmit to the next person. A toy used by one person, then re-used can also reinfect, as can a partner who never got cured.

3) The infectee: It’s easier for an infection to live on and come from a human (moist beings that we are), but unsterilized sex toys can also transmit infections right back to you. Some sex toys can never be sterilized either, so it’s important to own your own toys.

Final Considerations

Additionally, how exactly do you know when you got the infection? Infections are very easy to spread and are quite often asymptomatic (that is, the infected person shows no symptoms). Therefore, it can be difficult to pinpoint when and from whom you got a particular infection. You may have had it yourself, given it to someone else, then they have symptoms, get tested, and tell you.

For this reason, we recommend throwing out non-sterilizable toys and only using new toys after your infection is shown to be “lab cleared” (a health care provider has tested you and the test came back negative after treatment was finished). It’s way too easy to think that your infection was cured because you don’t have symptoms after treatment, but statistics show that many people with STIs don’t have symptoms. Unless you’re tested, you take the risk of continuing to be infected since you can’t tell the difference by symptoms alone.

It’s far less expensive to buy a new toy than to continue being infected and paying for the antibiotics for you, your partner(s) etc. For non-porous toys, like those made from 100% silicone, glass, and stainless steel, you can reduce your risk somewhat by soaking them in 3% hydrogen peroxide for 90 minutes, completely submerged. This is NOT a complete, 100% fool-proof sterilization, though, so you’re taking your own risk in using this strategy. For everything else, pitch it.