[Question #2002] cleaning sex toys

46 months ago
I was involved in a BDSM scene in which I used a leather flogger, along with several other "toys," on a woman. Afterwards, we noticed that one of the weals on her buttocks cheeks had the skin broken, with a small amount of bleeding. Although I don't think the flogger was the toy that caused the bleeding, and I did not see any visible blood on the flogger, it's still possible that a small amount of blood may have gotten on it.

I am concerned about using the toy on other people because of the risk of HIV, hepatitis or other viruses contaminating the leather. Is there a safe way to clean the toy to destroy potential viruses? (The flogger manufacturer advises against submerging it in liquid cleaners, but I would rather damage the flogger than risk infections, if that's necessary.)
Thanks!

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
46 months ago
Welcome to the Forum.  I'll try to help.  I appreciate your concern for your partners as well.  Thus question is beyond my personal knowledge.  On one hand, I suspect that the woman you mention is not carrying HIV or hepatitis virus and that this, combined with the fact that on exposure to the lower temperature and drying effect of the environment quickly render these viruses non-infectious make this concern a non-issue.  At the same time however, depending on the surface and finish of the flogger there would be a tendency for it to absorb liquids and thus potentially expose persons to what would most likely be non-infectious organisms.  Further, as you might imagine, there is no professional advice on cleaning contaminated leather.  In the laboratory we use dilute solutions of bleach for cleaning as this is highly effective for killing virtually all bacteria and viruses however this might damage the leather.  I would advise having your flogger professionally cleaned before using it on another person.  Sorry I can't provide more advice.  EWH
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46 months ago
Dr. Hook, thanks for your thoughtful reply. As a professional myself, I recognize how hard it is to say, " I'm not sure," and I appreciate your frankness. 

On the other hand, I was really hoping that -- if needed -- you would look beyond your personal knowledge to answer this question.  Is there a literature on cleaning contaminated surfaces to kill HIV and the blood-born hepatitis viruses? What does the literature recommend for non-porous surfaces? Perhaps I can modify that approach for my leather toy? Or perhaps there is even literature on cleaning porous medical instruments if contaminated?

Thanks for your continued help.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
46 months ago
Thanks for your thanks.  The is a substantial literature on cleaning and decontamination of non-porous surfaces.  Dilute bleach solutions are the mainstay of such recommendations although there are a number of other commercial products which work as well (but no better).   My hesitancy regarding use of these on your flogger are that they may impact the suppleness of the leather.

As for porous materials, classical soaps and other chemical cleaners work well.  The problem is that the leather may be somewhere in between and I presume that there may be a tendency for cleaning to deleterious or affect 
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Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
46 months ago
Sorry, erroneously hit send.

...or affect the flogger.  One approach might be to use a good leather cleaner, then work on it with saddle soap or some other leather maintenance product.  EWH
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46 months ago
Thanks; that's quite helpful. Can I ask for more specific instructions? Given that I would rather damage the leather than risk damaging the lover, what would the instructions be if this were a countertop or a dildo (i.e., non-porous materials that can't be heat-sterilized)? I'm hoping for an answer such as "wipe with x% bleach solution and let air dry," or "submerge in x% bleach solution and let sit for y minutes."

Another option that you may have insight about is the survival time for the relevant viruses in air. If you were to tell me that HIV is only infectious for z minutes when on a countertop or equivalent, hep B is only infectious for q minutes and hep C is only infectious for r minutes, then it might make sense to simply hang my flogger for whichever number of minutes (z, q, or r) is greater; what do you think?

Thanks again!
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
46 months ago
Again, this is beginning to get beyond my area of expertise.  Having said that, for non-porous surfaces such as countertops or a plastic dildo, simply washing with a 10% bleach solution and  allowing the solution to air dry would kill all bacteria and viruses that might be present.  The duration of contact is less important than the contact. 

As for virus survival, while the HIV virus clearly becomes non-infectious and is not transmissible as it begins to dry in the environment, hepatitis viruses are somewhat more resistant to death from environmental exposure.  How much more resistant is not well quantified.  I do think that if you carefully clean your flogger and leave it open to dry in the environment for a week to 10 days you can be confident that it should not be infectious, if it ever was. 

I hope this will help you.  This will have to end this thread.  As per Forum guidelines, this is the 3rd reply to your questions and therefore this thread will be closed in a few hours.  Take care.  EWH
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