Knowing When It's Time to Break-Up With Your Favorite Vibrator

Finding a truly excellent vibrator isn’t hard — but it’s not necessarily easy, either. It can take a lot of experimentation to find a sex toy that’s comfortable, reliable, and not so terribly pricey that you get distracted thinking about how much you spent on it every time you go to use it. Given how lengthy and complex this process can get, it’s little surprise that when most of us find a sex toy that works for us, we cling to it for dear life. Even when it starts looking a little worse for wear, when its battery begins to die faster and faster or even when its motor stops working quite the way it used to.

Acknowledging that your favorite vibrator is in need of replacement is no easy feat. But it’s a necessary one. And there are a few expert-backed tips you can turn to the next time you catch yourself wondering whether the time has finally come to part with your beloved.

How often should you switch out your sex toys? There’s no rule of thumb — but you should definitely do it.

“Unlike makeup brushes, there’s no set rule for how often you should change your sex toy,” Sammi Cole, Lovehoney sexpert, tells SheKnows. “The lifespan of a vibrator depends on several factors.” For starters, what material is your toy made from? How often do you use it? Do you clean it after every use? Do you store it properly? “A rechargeable vibrator made from more premium materials should last way longer than a battery-powered jelly vibrator that just gets thrown back in the drawer after it’s been used,” Cole says — but that’s just one example.

Put simply, an expensive vibrator should last longer than a cheap one. A well-cared for toy should last longer than one treated absent-mindedly. And a toy crafted from hearty materials should last longer than one that’s a little lower-quality. But even the priciest, heartiest, best-cared-for toy is bound to wear out at some point. And when it does, it’s time to move on.

“If you kill your sex toy, pat yourself on the back for good work done, and go buy [one that’s] double the price!” Dr. Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., Adam & Eve sexpert, tells SheKnows.

If a sex toy looks a little worse for wear, you probably shouldn’t be using it.

A few signs it’s time to break up with your favorite sex toy? Warping, discoloration, and wear are all symptoms of a toy that needs replacing, Cole says. But it’s not just the toy’s appearance you need to be worried about. “Damage to the contacts in the battery compartment, fraying electrical wires, cracks in plastic casing, and diminishing or intermittent vibrator power (even after you’ve changed the batteries) are all indicators that it’s time to go shopping for a replacement,” she says.

And yes, if your toy is exhibiting any of these warning signs, you should seriously consider swapping it out. “As with any household item, it’s not safe to keep using a vibrator that clearly has damaged electrical components because it could hurt you,” Cole says. “Similarly, you might think a crack or a tear in the surface of your long-time favorite isn’t that big a deal, but bacteria and other microbes can live in these spaces (even after a thorough cleaning) so it’s really not worth the risk.”

The good news? You can extend the lifespan of your favorite sex toy by taking good care of it.

While replacing your favorite sex toy is a necessary evil, you can avoid it by taking a few simple steps. First, consider what material a toy is made from before you buy it.

“Materials like silicone, glass, and metal are non-porous, making them easy to clean thoroughly (and therefore longer-lasting),” Cole says. “They’re also less reactive than some of the cheaper materials, like jelly rubber or PVC.” And consider what material your lube is made from, too. “Water-based lubricants are safe for use with all sex toy materials, but silicone toys can’t be used with silicone-based lubricants,” Cole says. “Using a lube that’s incompatible with your toy material can damage it, which isn’t what you want!”

Be sure you’re properly cleaning and storing your toys after every use, too. Using an antibacterial sex toy cleaner on your toy before and after you use it can go a long way, Cole says. “Just take out any removable batteries, spritz the surface with a cleaner, and rinse with warm water.”

Let the toy dry completely before you put it away, and store it on its own. “Some sex toy materials (if left touching each other for long periods of time) can react together and ‘melt’ or [get damaged],” Cole says. Avoid that by keeping the toy in its original box, a storage case or bag, or “even just a clean sock,” Cole adds.

Finally, if your toy is battery-operated, be sure to remove the batteries between uses. “Just like with Christmas lights, old toys, and other infrequently used battery-powered items, leaving a battery in an unused sex toy for long periods can corrode or damage the contacts,” Cole says. “And no one wants to use a damaged electrical item near their genitals (that is, if it works at all).” Opt for rechargeable toys over battery-operated ones where you can. But if you already own a few battery-operated toys, be sure to heed Cole’s advice.

“If you look after it, a good-quality vibrator should last for years and years,” Cole says. So shop thoughtfully and maintain your toys carefully, and the need to replace your favorite vibrator should only rear its ugly head once every few years.

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