Sex shop owner’s advises how to choose, clean, store toys

By Amina Sergazina, Senior Reporter

Simmons recommends cleaning sex toys before and after use. Simmons said “it’s important to use lint-free fabric” for drying.


For the past 24 years, Paradise Simmons and her husband have built a business selling everything related to intimacy and sex.

The couple owns Pretty Things Underneath, an adult novelty and women’s lingerie shop, which started out of their home on Chicago’s South Side.

For beginners, pros and everyone in between, Simmons shared how to choose sex toys and the best way to take care of them.

“If it’s something you don’t like, at least you tried it,” Simmons said. “There’s no right or wrong.”

Choosing your toy 

There are three common materials that are used to make sex toys: plastic, glass and silicone.

While plastic sex toys are usually more affordable and easy to clean; they can also hold debris, Simmons said. 

Glass sex toys can be heated or frozen for different sensations and different types of orgasms. Depending on the usage, however, they can have invisible chips and become a safety hazard.

Simmons’ choice for hygiene is silicone sex toys because they are safe, easy to clean and hypoallergenic, while still having a realistic feel.

For beginners, Simmons suggests starting with a bullet vibrator that has at least three speeds; because of how tender the genital area is, it easily gets desensitized to one speed, Simmons said.

“You don’t want to go spend $200 to $300 your first time out and then decide, ‘Oh, my God, masturbation isn’t even for me,’” Simmons said.

For more advanced users, Simmons suggests silicone toys that have a few speeds of vibration and more functions.

Simmons also recommends basing the size and shape of your toy of choice on a previously enjoyed sex experience.

For example, if a preferred partner’s penis “was curved a little bit to the left, find something that’s curved a little bit to the left,” Simmons said.

She said people with penises should look for pocket vaginas that are stretchy, easy to clean and have texture inside. She suggests they also use a water-based warming lube for a more realistic feel.

Toys like this battery-operated vibrator require delicate washing to not corrode the battery.

Washing your toy

Cleaning sex toys before and after each use is a must, even if they came straight out of a package.

After cleaning sex toys of any material, Simmons said it is important to dry them with a lint-free fabric and then leave them out for at least five to 10 minutes before putting them away.

“You can possibly get a yeast infection or a bacterial infection because you have not cleaned and you have not stored [sex toys] properly,” Simmons said.

Storing your toy

Once dry, the toy needs to be stored in a place that is also lint-free.

To store it with discretion, Simmons suggests putting it in a plastic bag and hiding it in the pocket of jeans. For larger toys, people can hide them in boots or shoes that they are not currently using.

Ideally, Simmons says boxes that can be locked with a key are best because they look like makeup cases.

“Don’t be afraid, just try,” Simmons said.

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of the Chronicle’s annual Sex Issue which will be published mid-February.