Keeping It Clean – Hygiene and Safety for Toys and Sharps

By Fledermaus

Each person must understand that these are relative degrees of cleanliness and safety as they apply to various kinds of contaminants. As with all BDSM play, both Top and bottom must understand the levels of risk and accept that risk for the activities in which they engage.


Something that is sterile is cleaned of all forms of life, including viruses and bacterial spores. Many medical supplies, including hypodermic needles, sutures, catheters and lubricants, are available in pre-sterilized packages. Sterilizing occurs in an autoclave, a device for applying steam heat under pressure. If you do not have access to an autoclave, you can sterilize anything that will stand the heat in a home pressure cooker.

Place the object to be sterilized into a paper bag and seal securely with masking tape. Place it in a basket, or on a rack, above the water in a pressure cooker and process at 15 lb of pressure for 30 minutes. When the cooker has cooled, transfer the rack or basket, without touching the wet bags with anything that was not in the pressure cooker, to a preheated 200 degree oven. Turn the oven off and leave the packages there until dry.

Ideally, everything that comes in contact with a person’s body fluids should be sterilized before being reused. Anything that has come in contact with the blood or semen of one person, MUST be sterilized before being used on another person. Since it is virtually impossible to clean dried blood and tissue out of the lumen of a hypodermic needle, it is virtually impossible to assure sterilization even with an autoclave. These should be disposed of in an appropriate “Sharps” container after a single use.


In current usage, this means that the object has been washed in soap and water or otherwise cleaned of all grease, then cleaned with either a 10% solution of chlorine (bleach), a 10% solution of hydrogen peroxide, or a 70% alcohol solution. These agents will kill most bacteria and some viruses, including HIV. They will not kill hepatitis or herpes viruses. Be certain to thoroughly rinse all items, particularly those cleaned in chlorine, well before use.

This procedure can be used on items that cannot be sterilized, such as dildos, lexan cockrings and similar toys, and leather whips which have drawn blood. It can be used on sounds and piercing implements (not hollow needles) if hepatitis, herpes, etc. are not a danger.

Personal Reserve

This is used to refer to items that are not sterilized, and possibly not even decontaminated, between uses, but are reserved for use on only one person. On the theory that you cannot catch anything you do not already have, this is permissible. However, anything that breaks the skin, like a needle, or enters the bladder, like a catheter, MUST be kept in a clean container safe from ambient contaminants between uses.

Clean Unused

This refers to the original condition a new object arrives in. It is based upon the assumption that the object has not previously come in contact with any person’s body fluids. For example, a package of stainless steel diaper pins purchased at a store. One can relatively safely assume that they have not yet pierced the skin of anyone and that they are relatively free of general bacterial contamination. The same could be safely assumed for a urethral sound purchased still in its plastic bag at a medical supply outlet.

Sterile Technique

This means that all aspects of the operation have been brought to the highest possible levels of sterility, including a surgical scrub of the operator’s hands, the victim’s body, removal of hair near the operation site, sterile masks, etc. Usually this level of sterility is achieved only in hospitals, medical clinics and similar facilities.

Clean Technique

This means that all of the implements are sterilized, if that is required, or at least decontaminated, including any lubricants in use, that sterile, or at least clean unused, gloves are being used to handle catheters, sounds, piercing needles, etc. And that the work area is kept free from contaminants as is possible. This is the technique usually found at a first aid site, and which should be found in the playroom when these techniques are being performed.


• HIV & AIDS Information – Body Fluids – Survival Outside The Body
• AFAN – HIV Survival Outside The Body (not body fluids)
• Kink Network – BDSM & Sex Toy Maintenance and Care
• CollarNcuffs – Leather Bondage Toys and Clothing Cleaning Guide
• WikiHow – How to Sterilize a Needle (9 Steps with Pictures)
• BME Zine – Sterilization Techniques for Play Piercing Needles
• Submissive Guide – Tips for Taking Care of Your BDSM Sex Toys


SMPerspectivesVol2Iss2Tony DeBlase (1942-2000) was a longtime leather activist, co-founder of the Leather Archives and Museum, publisher of Drummer magazine and designer of the Leather Pride Flag. He was also a world expert on bats (hence his literary nom de plume Fledermaus). He was inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame in 2010, as “perhaps the most transformational figure in the history of the leather community”.

Drummer Magazine was an influential gay leather journal, published in the US from 1975 to 1999. Some of the issues have been scanned and uploaded in full and are available on Scribd and the Leather Archives and Museum has a full set of 241 covers on Pinterest.

This article first appeared in S/M Perspectives (Vol 2, Issue 2), independently published in Vancouver by Rainfall Press.

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