By Cristina Goyanes
April 30, 2014

Your favorite sex toys may be dirtier than you think-and not in a sexy way. A new study published in The Journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections found that women and men who shared sex toys could also be sharing the human papillomavirus (HPV), even after the device had been cleaned.

Researchers took vaginal swabs of 12 women immediately after using two different vibrators, one made of thermoplastic elastomer (picture the Rabbit) and the other of silicone. They also took swabs of the vibrators before and after cleaning them, and again 24 hours later. They detected DNA on the vibrators, with the more-porous thermoplastic toy having more on it, but they could not prove whether that DNA was infectious or not.

"We weren't specifically looking for HPV. We set out to prove the potential for transmission," says lead study author Teresa Anderson, M.D., who specializes in the research of HPV, which has been linked to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, and penis.

Anderson says further research on different materials, such as glass or silicone composites, is needed before being able to give formal recommendations on how to clean your vibrators. For now, since the researchers didn't find any DNA after 24 hours on the silicone, it may be safer than elastomer. Check a product's full information before buying it to determine what it's made of. Also be sure to follow any specific cleaning instructions, and if you didn't keep that info, a quick Google search should lead you to the manufacturer, but soap and water is better than nothing at all.