Using sex toys with a partner is a medium-risk activity for most sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There’s no STI risk if you use sex toys alone. However some sex toys present other risks to health.

What are sex toys?

Sex toys can be used to stimulate you or your partner. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be bought or homemade.

If you use a homemade sex toy make sure it isn’t going to break and is clean – if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t use it as a sex toy.

Commercial sex toys are widely available and can be bought online or in shops, including some high street stores.

What are the risks from sex toys?

If you use sex toys alone there is no risk of STIs, although you should still be sure to keep them clean to reduce the risk of other bacteria and viruses.

When using sex toys, be careful not to hurt yourself or your partner with them. If you use something that’s too big, you could rip or tear the skin inside the vagina or anus. Sex toys can break during use and damage the genitals or become stuck deep inside the body.

Prolonged use can also damage the skin of the penis or around or inside the vagina or anus.

If sharing sex toys, bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause STIs can easily be passed between partners. Find out more about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

How can I reduce the risks from using sex toys?

The health risks from using sex toys can be reduced if you:

  • always cover the toy with a fresh condom before use
  • change condoms before swapping toys with a partner
  • change condoms between use on different parts of the body (vagina, anus, mouth)
  • use plenty of condom-friendly lubrication
  • only use well-made toys displaying the European safety CE mark
  • follow manufacturers advice on how to clean and store them
  • wash with warm soap and water before and after use
  • for anal use, always use toys with a cord or plug on the end that can’t pass inside.