Tuesday, October 11, 2011
MTSR #5: Cleanliness is Next to Hawtliness
Once upon a very long time ago, I was asked a question about a “proper” way to clean toys. Yay for questions! While “my way” is by no means the only or best way to minimize the risks of accidentally giving your play partners 'extra bonuses' when you play, in my not-at-all humble opinion the best way involves either getting new toys for each person you play with, or having an autoclave in your kitchen. If you don't happen to be made of that much money, feel free to try my way, if you like. I won't even charge you a user's fee.
A brief little blurb about pathogens, since this is obviously what we're trying not to pass on (I suppose it's __possible__ that pregnancy can occur by sharing a flogger in some very intimate ways, but I'm going to let someone else talk about ways of preventing that, okay?) Most (not all! Hep C, for example, can live all safe and happy on surfaces for up to four frigging days!) but most pathogens do not survive for very long outside their host body _unless_, and pay close attention here because this is the point of this paragraph, they have some small part of that body to keep them all safe and cozy and warm. That small part is usually a bodily fluid like blood, or mucus, or semen, etc... Think of that fluid as acting like the little bag of aquarium water you bring a goldfish home in, except that it's a bag for chlamydia instead.
The goal when you're cleaning toys that might break skin or otherwise come into contact with broken skin or other high risk areas is actually two mini-goals: We want to remove and/or kill off all the pathogens that we can, and then we want to make the area as toxic and inhospitable for whatever sneaky little buggers we might have missed so that they too will die a horrible, horrible death.
Now, I'm a bit lazy, so if, say, I want to use an insertable on more than one person, I'll generally just wrap it up in a condom. Otherwise, my method for cleaning toys is as follows:
1. Wash it down with a foaming, mild antibacterial soap. I like Softsoap antibacterial. If there are nooks or crannies in it, consider using a fingernail brush to get into the hideyholes. Rinse or wipe down well.
2. Spray or wipe down with a 10% peroxide solution.
3. Let dry completely. Yes, Virginia, this is a separate step. Allowing the peroxide to evaporate is the way to make sure it's done it's job. If we remember our little terrifying lesson from the first paragraph, the longer the better here. Like, as in, days longer.
4. Rinse well or wipe down with baby wipes to remove any residue that could irritate the skin. Please note that this is my step _#4_, baby wipes alone do not come anywhere near a safe enough cleaning method for toys that could potentially create fluid exchange.
Ta-da! That's it! I deliberately didn't say that this is a way to sterilize your toys. Nothing short of that kitchen autoclave I mentioned above really is. But I've done quite a bit of research, and this is the method that stuck with me as a good balance between being pretty dang effective and also fairly easy to do.
“But Mad!” you say, “Some of the toys that I want to clean are leather! Won't the peroxide dry out my leather and make it all yukky and cracky?”
Honestly, peroxide will dry out leather, and this will lead to it becoming damaged, but if I had a leather singletail that had drawn blood I'd still do all the steps listed above to it, *despite* it being made of leather. That being said, as soon as the peroxide evaporated, I'd be all over that whip to reverse the damage I might have done to it. For me, that would mean a nice lathering with saddle soap (the Dove bar of leather soaps) and a finish up with some leather conditioner. It's worth it to me to make sure I'm not adding any special treats to my partner's play experience.
If I may for a very quick moment before I leave you today return to my chlamydia-in-vaginal-fluid-as-goldfish-in-bag-of-aquarium-water analogy, goldfish may live for a while in there, but at least it's not as long as they would if you brought them home and put them in your nice, big aquarium with food and a filter and maybe a cute little pirate ship at the bottom. If you're on the fence, and wondering whether you need to go through my 4 steps of superhawt cleanliness, consider how long it's going to be before that toy is going to be used on someone else. If it never is, then leave that blood drop caked on there for all I care, use it as a badge of honour! If the answer's in two weeks, then maybe wiping it down carefully and hanging it out to dry is enough. If it's going to touch someone else later tonight, you bet your ass that you should do all 4 steps. And also know that even those may not be enough. That is if, of course, if you want my learned advice. If not, then why are you reading this article anyway?
Yours in squeaky clean hawt kinkiness until next time,
Mad the Safety Ranger