Why Sexual Wellness has a Sell by Date…

October 27, 2021

Why Sexual Wellness has a Sell by Date…

By: Jacquetta Szathmari

…and how to clean and store your sex toys.

Nothing lasts forever and that includes your sexual health and wellness products. Throwing out expired personal lubricants, intimate washes, massage oils, gels, and lotions are not the same as wasting them; they are no longer usable. You wouldn’t hesitate to toss out that carton of milk gone bad. Treat that old tube of lube the same way.

E.U. law mandates that all personal products be labeled with easy-to-read expiration dates. The rules are different in the US, where the laws around providing expiration dates only apply to products recognized as drugs by the FDA. In many cases, even when “sell by” and “use by” dates are provided, they may be difficult for consumers to identify or interpret.

We want you to have the best possible experience with your lubes, creams, and oils, from the moment you squeeze them out of the tube through application and use, so here are our tips for cleaning out your cabinet and keeping it up to date. And while we’re in that bedside top drawer, let’s not forget some of the sex toys that you may be using with those products. They probably deserve some attention, too.

How to tell if your lube has expired

First, check the “sell by” or expiration date. You might find one or two nasty surprises! (If you can’t find a date, possibly consider not buying that product again.) If your product is made in Europe you will also find a little symbol that looks like an open container with “6M” or “12M” written on it. This is how many months the product is good for once it has been opened, (even if this time period falls after the date on the bottle).

Bear in mind, however, that these dates are contingent upon how the product has been stored. Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen may shorten a product’s shelf life and can accelerate rancidification and oxidation. Both processes cause products to separate and become unstable which can neutralize the effects of active ingredients. They may also become vulnerable to harmful bacteria which can be easily transferred to the body. 

Cosmetic symbols of expiration dates

Extend the life of your lubes and massage products by storing them away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Make sure that all caps are on tight to limit access to environmental contaminants, that while benign to you, might be harmful to the product. For the same reasons, wash your hands before handling products and after using them. 

Use your senses. If you notice a change in the color, consistency or aroma of a product, the party is over. Toss it out.

An expired product is a sign that either you purchased more of the product than you could use in a reasonable amount of time, or that the product was improperly stored. Or maybe this is just not the product for you. For new products, consider purchasing or requesting a trial size or buy the smallest amount you can before going all-in on a gallon of the stuff. 

Dispose of expired products responsibly by putting them in the trash and never down the drain where they may contaminate the water supply, clog plumbing, and causes problem to municipal water systems. If possible, separate your caps from the bottles for easier recycling, and if you really don’t want to throw them out, there may be an alternative industrial use. That squeaky door won’t say no to your expired silicone lube.

How to Clean and Store Your Sex Toys

A clean dildo is a happy dildo and the same goes for any items that you incorporate into foreplay, sex, and the post-coital chill out. All kinds of harmful, infection-causing bacteria can camp out on your sex toys- including ones that can survive outside the body for days to weeks. Product residue left on improperly and infrequently cleaned sexual aids can also promote bacterial growth. Even freshly ejaculated sperm can survive on toys long enough to be effective, so it’s important to protect yourself by correctly sanitizing and storing all your toys and tools.

Bed with side table

Each item must be cleaned and stored according the manufacturers’ suggestions. Consult the manual, read the packaging, or look to the manufacturer website for clues. Is it porous or non-porous? Is it made from natural or synthetic materials? Is it battery operated? Are there a lot of moving parts with seams and crevices where bacteria could hide? Knowing what materials from which the toy is made is important and will determine care and storage. This will also help you avoid items that may cause an allergic reaction.

Most toys can be cleaned with antibacterial soap, either completely submerged in soapy water or wiped down with a damp cloth. While storage options range from lint-free cloth bags to glass containers, you must keep anything you use as a toy away from contaminants. If it’s been rode hard, do not put it away wet in your nightstand pleasure drawer and forget about it.

To make cleaning a part of your ritual, here are some basic guidelines to follow:

Glass and metal toys can be soaked in a mild antibacterial wash and rinsed under the drain. You can also boil them in water to get them really clean. Do not assume they are dishwasher safe unless it is clearly noted by the maker. Wipe the glass down with a soft lint-free cloth and store them wrapped in cloth or in a cloth lined container.

cleaning under water

Battery operated toys and toys with charging ports or electrical cords should not be submerged in water for cleaning. Wipe them down with a cloth soaked in a mild antibacterial wash, or spray and wipe with a sex toy cleanser. (That’s a thing!) Allow them to dry before storing them in a cloth pouch, or non-porous container. 

Toys incorporating natural and synthetic fabrics can be cleaned in the same way as garments made from those materials, but should not be stored until they are completely dry. Leather toys should be spot cleaned and treated before you put them away, (or on display). 

Just the (pro) tip:

If you are not certain how to clean a certain toy or simply do not want to, then consider it a one-time use item. Items used internally for pleasure can always be used with a condom, but they still need to be cleaned after each use. Regardless, always use condoms on sex toys that will be shared in a group setting, and change the condom before handing it off to the next person to better protect everyone. Remember, safe sex is the best sex!

Before you throw anything away:

Please remember to recycle as much as you can. Separate your tubes and bottles into all of their components, (caps and pumps off), recycle any batteries correctly, and if possible pull the biodegradable silicone off of that vibrator! It might take a little muscle, but just close your eyes and think of our planet.




Jacquetta Szathmari, Dernier Mile
Jacquetta Szathmari is a New York based writer and the founder of Dernier Mile, a boutique consultancy providing last minute and last mile solutions for your content-intensive, logistically complex, and totally unique creative projects.





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