What Is Water-Based Lubricant & How To Use It

Safe for all sex toys and condoms, water-based lube features water as its main ingredient and it’s easy to use in just about every sexual situation.
photograph of four water-based lubricants on a soft furry blanket: aloe cadabra, good clean love almost naked and liquid, and sliquid h20
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Water-based lubricant is any personal lube that features water (or sometimes aloe) as its main component — usually listed as the first or second ingredient on the product label.

Key Takeaways:

  • A water-based lube is a type of personal lubricant that has water, instead of oil or silicone, as its main ingredient.
  • Some personal lubricants that are aloe-based may only have aloe juice listed on the label; that ingredient contains a high concentration of water.
  • Water-based lube is water-soluble, so it dissolves in water easily, cannot be used for bath or shower sex, and typically doesn’t stain fabrics.
  • This type of lube is great for oral and vaginal sex, but not necessarily for anal penetration if its pH is too low, osmolality is too high, or the texture is not thick enough to provide adequate cushion.
  • Most water-based lubes are lightweight compared to other lubricant types and tend to need frequent reapplication. The good news is that they are compatible with most condoms and sex toys (including those made from silicone).

Water-based lube is a great option for many sexual activities, especially if you’re allergic to oils or prefer to stick with more natural ingredients, rather than synthetic (but body-safe) silicones.

We’ll share everything you need to know about water-based lubricant, what it is, and how to use it.

— Things To Know —

What Is Water-Based Lubricant?

aerial photograph of aloe cadabra (natural aloe) bottle in hand with living aloe plant in the background

Any personal lubricant that features water, as opposed to oil or silicone, as its main ingredient is considered to be a water-based lube.

Some lubricants derive their water from aloe, a common ingredient found in many water-based products.

This type of lubricant tends to be more lightweight and easier to clean up compared to those made from oil or silicone and it’s ideal for oral or vaginal sex.

We caution against using water-based lubes for anal sex, however.

None of the water-based anal lubes researched by our testing team have a pH range of 5.5 to 7, which is recommended for anal use.

Plus, water-based lubes (generally) aren’t as thick or long-lasting as those made from oil or silicone, so they don’t provide enough cushion for anal penetration, anyway.

If you’re wondering about how water-based lubricant feels, it tends to be very similar to the natural lubrication of the vagina.

  • Is Using Water As Lube OK?


Even though water is the primary ingredient in water-based lubes, it is NOT a safe lube on its own because it doesn’t provide enough slippery lubrication.

What Is Water-Based Lube Made Of (And Is It Safe)?

Water-based lubricants typically consist of the following safe ingredients:

Water-based lubes may also contain less safe ingredients, such as:

  • Glycerin (found in most products of this nature)
  • Parabens
  • Capsaicin
  • Benzocaine
  • Artificial fragrances, flavors, and dyes

Not sure if your lube is water-based?

Read the ingredient list — if the first or second ingredient is water or aloe, the product is generally going to be considered water-based.

As noted above, some water-based lubes also contain oils (or even silicone).

It’s always a good idea to read the product label if you have allergies or other concerns to avoid a reaction.

  • Is water-based lube safe to use during pregnancy or while trying to conceive?

As long as your water-based lubricant is made from safe ingredients overall, it is also safe to use while pregnant.

If you’re trying to become pregnant, water-based lubricants are safest when they contain hydroxyethylcellulose, an ingredient that will not negatively affect sperm motility or function.

“This does not mean that you should consider products without hydroxyethylcellulose to be a contraceptive,” Dr. Susan Milstein, a human sexuality health educator on our medical review board, said.

She noted that water-based lube is different from spermicide — which is designed to kill sperm — and should not be used to prevent pregnancy.

How Does Water-Based Lubricant Work?

Water-based lubricant works by acting like the body’s natural fluids, such as vaginal discharge or saliva, allowing more friction-free movement during masturbation, sex play, and vaginal intercourse.

By reducing friction, the lube enhances sensation and eases penetration while minimizing the risk of irritation, discomfort, or even injury.

It’s worth noting that at least some sperm can (and do) survive in water-based lube regardless of its ingredients — and it will not work as a spermicide.

One study found that water-based lube “immobilized all of the spermatozoa within 5 minutes of exposure and killed on average 95.23% within 60 minutes.”

But that means that 4.77% of them survived.

For this reason, as Dr. Milstein pointed out, water-based lube is not meant to be used as a spermicide unless it was specifically designed to do so.

Pros & Cons Of Water-Based Lube

Water-based lubricants, although great for a lot of things, are not without their share of pros and cons.

Water-Based Lube Pros:

  • Great for oral or vaginal sex
  • Generally lightweight in texture and similar to natural vaginal lubrication
  • Safe for use with latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams
  • Safe for use with sex toys because it doesn’t degrade the materials they’re made of, including silicone or latex
  • Generally edible and safe to swallow
  • Great for people with sensitive skin and allergies to oils, particularly those that are nut or seed-based
  • Easy to clean up
  • Won’t stain fabrics
  • Some products can be effective as a daily vaginal lubricant to reduce irritation and dryness

Water-Based Lube Cons:

  • Not good for anal sex because of its lightweight texture and (usually too low) pH level
  • Not waterproof, so it isn’t suitable for bath or shower use
  • Not as long-lasting as most oil- or silicone-based lubes and tends to need frequent reapplication
  • More likely to upset vaginal flora if it isn’t pH-balanced or lacks the proper osmolality

If a lubricant is made of unsafe ingredients or has a pH or osmolality that isn’t appropriate for the area it is coming in contact with (such as the vagina or anus), yes — water-based lube can cause irritation.

Additionally, even if a lube is made from safe ingredients, some of them may be potential allergens so if you have sensitive skin, always be sure to read the label thoroughly to make sure it doesn’t contain ingredients you are allergic to or sensitive to.

How To Use Water-Based Lube

aerial photograph of good clean love almost naked lube on a fingertip with the bottle in the background

Using a water-based lube is a lot like using any other type of personal lubricant: simply apply a few drops to the desired area(s) and re-apply it as needed.

Of all the lube types, water-based lubricants tend to require the most frequent reapplication.

During external masturbation of a vulva or vaginal penetration, a water-based lube may last for 15 or 20 minutes before requiring reapplication because the vagina may “add” some of its own.

During handjobs, however, in our experience, a water-based lube might require reapplication every 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the formula and amount applied.

FAQs About Using Water-Based Lube

Below, we’ll answer some of the most commonly-asked questions about using a water-based personal lubricant.

  • How Do I Clean Up A Water-Based Lube?

Water-based lubes can be wiped away from the genitals using a towel, or rinsed away with water — soap optional.

When cleaning water-based lube from bedding or clothing, typically a machine wash with your normal laundry detergent is all that’s necessary.

  • What Does Water-Based Lube Taste Like?

A water-based lube may taste like absolutely nothing if it has no added flavorings or other ingredients which create a taste.

In our experience, many water-based lubes are completely devoid of taste if flavoring has not explicitly been added to their formula.

  • Does Water-Based Lube Expire?

Yes — water-based lubricant can and does expire.

Most lubes do not list an explicit date of expiration, however, most lubricants remain “fresh” for one to three years after the date of manufacture.

  • Can Water-Based Lube Cause Yeast Infections Or UTIs?

A water-based lubricant can cause a yeast infection if it contains sugar or sugar-derived ingredients (like glycerin).

Sugar and glycerin act as a food source for Candida albicans, a common type of fungi that’s most often responsible for yeast infections.

A healthy vaginal microbiome generally keeps Candida in check, however, lubricants with sugar or glycerin can cause an overgrowth of Candida, leading to a yeast infection in the vagina or anus.

Additionally, it is possible that some lube ingredients could cause a UTI (urinary tract infection) if their presence causes a disruption in the genital microbiome, but more often than not, a post-sex UTI is caused by sex alone.

Top Water-Based Lube Recommendations

If you’re ready to try a water-based personal lubricant right now but aren’t sure where to start, check out the top recommendations tested by our team below.

Closing Thoughts

The type of lube you use largely comes down to personal preference, although water-based products are ideal for those looking for a versatile lubricant that works with all sex toys and condoms, and is easy to clean up.

Whatever lube you end up going with, be sure to do enough research to make an informed choice for you and any partners you may be using it with.

That way, you can focus on the fun part when you’re ready to use it.

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