I didn’t care for the original name I came up with for this page (Toys 101, creative huh?) so I changed it. I kind of like this but let it be known that it’s just a cute name. This is no official document. It’s just a collection of information that I think every sex toy enthusiast should know. I’m not an expert by any means and while I may have a misanthropic steak about me that doesn’t mean I want people getting sick from their sex toys. I believe we should respect our bodies and be discerning about the toys we play with. And as toxic as some sex toys can be, maybe they should come with anMSDS.
So, I’ll mix it up a little between the facts that are generally accepted out there in sex toy land but I’ll also throw in my opinion here and there. It’s my blog. I can do that, right? I just don’t want to steer anyone in the wrong direction. I want you all to know what you need to, to make good decisions.
This page will always be a work in progress. I will start with what I already know. As I learn more or, find out I’m wrong about something, I’ll update it. When I don’t know enough about something, I’ll refer to someone who does. So, let’s get started.
At the very top of the list of criteria you use to choose a sex toy, the first one ought to be, material. The material the toy is made of dictates everything about how you can safely use it and how you care for and clean it. I’ll start with what I believe are the best choices:
I list these materials at the top because of their safety, durability, and hygienic properties. These four materials are all nonporous and phthalates free. You want a toy to be nonporous because that means you can sterilize it. There are no microscopic holes in the material for bacteria to accumulate in and grow. This means that toys made of these materials can be safely shared, if sterilized between users, and the toy can be used vaginally and anally but only if it is sterilized after being in the ass, before going into the vagina. Remember, vagina to ass is OK. Ass to vagina, you’re asking for an infection. Also, no matter the material, a sex toy needs to be thoroughly washed prior to it’s first use. So let me break it down on these materials.
If you want a squishier more pliable toy than the other three materials listed, then Silicone would be your choice. It actually comes in a wide range of firmness and finish. As mentioned before, silicone is phthalates free and nonporous1. It’s generally a good idea to limit your exposure to phthalates as studies are beginning to show that they can lead to organ failure and possibly cause cancer. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics. They are present in some sex toy materials but not in pure silicone. Silicone is hypoallergenic.
Being nonporous and heat resistant, you can sterilize silicone toys in a number of ways including, boiling for a few minutes, washing in a 10% bleach solution, washing in the top rack of your dishwasher*, or simply lathering it up well in antibacterial soap and rinsing clean. If your silicone toy has a vibrator motor inside then don’t boil it or put it in the dishwasher. The heat will ruin the motor.
Silicone is a great sex toy material but it does have a drawback. You’re limited in your choice of lubricant. The hard and fast rule is to never use silicone based lube with silicone toys. Only use water based lube. If you don’t want to ruin your toy, that’s the best way to go. However, I have been hearing rumblings amongst sex bloggers that sometimes silicone lube can be used with silicone toys. Apparently they can be compatible when both are of very high quality silicone. It is said that you can test a small, out of the way area, of your sex toy by rubbing a little silicone lube on it. If there’s going to be a reaction, it will happen right away and what you’ll feel and see is that the test spot gets gooey and sticky. If this happens you’re supposed to scrape off the test area and then wash it really well in soap and water. If you want to experiment with your toys and lubes feel free to do this. I just generally stick with water based lubes and call it a day.
For the same reason that silicone lube and silicone toys aren’t compatible (except for when they are), you shouldn’t store these toys where they are touching each other. It will damage the surface of both toys where they were touching.** A good rule of thumb is to have some kind of storage bag for each of your silicone toys. A lot of them come with their own pouches and it’s fine to store them in there. For the ones that don’t, I just use ziplock style bags. Just make sure the toys are thoroughly dry before you seal them up in plastic bags. Any moisture left in there can lead to mold growth.
If ever there was a durable sex toy material, stainless steel would definitely be it. Steel toys like those made by Njoy, are solid, heavy chunks of metal. The mirror polish finish on these toys makes a little lube go a long way and you can use any lube you like with steel. You can disinfect steel toys the same ways you can with silicone: boiling, 10% bleach solution, top rack dishwasher or antibacterial soap. About the only way you can harm steel toys is if you use something abrasive to clean them. That will mar the polished finish.
About the only downfall I can find with steel, and it has nothing to do with it’s safety or hygienic properties, is that it tends to be heavy and people with joint problems, etc might find it tiring to use them. Also, they obviously aren’t going to have any give so thrusting needs to be done with caution.
Njoy toys are cast in 316 grade stainless steel and made from medical grade materials. There is an issue I’ve been wondering about but haven’t found much information on concerning the grade of steel used to make toys. It’s my understanding that the only steel that can be counted on to be nickle free is medical grade. I would hope that all manufacturers are using nickle free steel.*** If you have a nickle allergy, you might want to take the extra step and contact the manufacturer to find out.
Many people are skeptical of using glass sex toys. The truth is, it’s a great material to make toys out of. Glass toys are nonporous and phthalates free so, no worries there. Clean it in all the same ways you would clean steel or silicone with the exception of boiling, where you’d want to put a hand towel in the pot to cushion the toy and keep it from hitting against the sides and possibly chipping.
The material used in glass toys is the same stuff that Pyrex cookware is made of, boroscillicate glass.**** This means that it is very durable and does not break easily. Believe me, even if you have the strongest PC muscles in the world, you’re not going to break a glass toy inside of you. You do have to be careful of chipping it if you drop it onto a hard surface. And if it does get chipped, stop using it. You don’t want to risk injury. Inspect your glass toy for chips prior to every use. Glass sex toys are compatible with any lube and you’ll find you need very little.
Ceramic and Wood
Both are nonporous and phthalates free materials. The wood is sealed with a finish that is nonporous and body safe. You shouldn’t put either of them in the dishwasher or boil them but other sanitation methods can be used. Solvents of any kind should not be used on wood sex toys. It will damage the finish. All types of lube are compatible with ceramic and wood.
It’s nonporous and phthalates free. Any lube can be used. It can be sterilized by a number of means but shouldn’t be boiled and I’d keep plastic toys out of the dishwasher.
I almost forgot to include aluminum. Some toys are being made from it now and it can be considered a safe, nonporous, phthalates free material. Any lube can be used and it can be cared for like stainless steel. One advantage it has over steel is its lighter weight.
Choose a sex toy made of the above materials, take proper care of it and observe safe sex toy practices and your toy should last a long time and you’ll stay safe and healthy. The following are the more dubious sex toy materials and if I had to make a blanket statement about them, I’d just recommend staying away from them. Some might be OK if the labeling on the box is honest and accurate and if you adhere to proper hygiene. But for me, there’s just too much uncertainty with these materials.
I’ll run down a list of these materials and they get less hygienic and possibly more dangerous as you go down the list. With all of these, it’s generally best to use with a condom when sharing or, in some cases, even when used just by one person. I’m not completely current on these materials since I usually avoid them so, I’ll reference Lilly’s blog where she’s compiled a comprehensive material reference.
Elastomed (not to be confused with Elastomer)
Nonporous and phthalates free.
Thermoplastic Rubber: TPR, TPE, Elastomer
Some is nonporous, others are not. Probably phthalates free. Better choice than jelly rubber.
Silicone Blends: TPR Silicone, CyberSilicone
Even though a small amount of silicone might be present (more likely, there is none) in these toys, they are porous. They are probably phthalates free. The concept of a silicone blend product is really one invented by some manufacturers. They want to attract the consumer to the word “silicone” on the box, making them think that the toy is made of a safe material. These toys should be used with caution. Who knows what they’re are really made of.
Various “skin” or realistic materials: Often going by names such as Cyberskin or Ultraskin.
Porous and may contain phthalates. Should not be shared without a condom. Limited cleaning options, usually mild soap and water except, in the case of where not even soap can be used. It is recommended that Fleshlight material be rinsed with water and occasionally rubbing alcohol can be used. Many of these products need to be coated in a very fine dusting of cornstarch to preserve the feel of the material. Only water based lubricant can be used with these materials.
PVC, Jelly, Rubber, Latex
These are the materials I would stay away from. They are all porous. They most likely all contain phthalates in addition to other irritating chemicals that people can have bad reactions to. Not only should you always use condoms over these when sharing but even when you just use it by yourself. You want a barrier between your delicate skin and and that toxic soup. You shouldn’t use oil based lube with these but silicone or water based should be fine. But here’s where my opinion comes in, just save up your money a little bit and get quality silicone sex toys instead.
And because you can’t always trust what the manufacturer puts on the box, it’s important that we have a means to get definitive answers. That’s what Dildology.org is doing so, we all need to give them our support.
Vibrators should be stored with the batteries removed. If you store them for long periods of time with the batteries inside, they can corrode and ruin the toy. It’s good to remove the batteries when traveling as well. Anything with a vibrator inside that can’t be removed should not be boiled and I advise against using the dishwasher.
Safe anal sex toys
Not all sex toys should be inserted anally. This is because items without a flared base can get sucked up into the rectum, where it cannot be reached and requires emergency medical treatment for removal. There are plenty of sex toys made specifically for insertion into the anus. They are safe because they have a flared base that is at least 2” across. The base acts as a stop and keeps the toy from slipping too far up. Another consideration with anal play is lubrication. Use a lot of it. If you think you have enough, use even more than that. This is because the anus and rectum do not self lubricate like a vagina and without supplemental lubrication, it is easy to tear the delicate tissues. Here’s another one of my opinions: porous materials should never be used in anal toys. Why use something in your ass that can’t be sterilized? And always remember: mouth to ass is OK, vagina to ass is OK, ass to anywhere else is not OK. I don’t care what they do in porn. It’s a bad idea.
A word on Lube
There are two common lube ingredients that I want to call attention to here. The first is glycerin. The other is parabens. Glycerin is a sugar derivative and that can be a bad thing to introduce into the vagina. It ferments at body temperature and can lead to yeast infections.
Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies. They fall under the category of “nasty shit we ought to stay away from”. Some people are allergic to them and can have skin reactions. Also, parabens are being found in breast tumors. Some parabens have a demonstrated ability to mimic estrogen. Methylparaben applied to the skin, may react with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.
It’s hard to limit our exposure to them though. Just take a look through your health and beauty products and you’ll find them everywhere. So, we should probably avoid them when possible and using a lube that doesn’t include them makes good sense. Sliquid is an often recommended lube that does not have glycerin or parabens.
As I said, I’ll constantly revise this page whenever I learn something new, I find out that I’m wrong (hey, it happens) or when new information becomes available from the industry.
1Silicone is actually a porous material. Confused yet? The holes are just very small (bacteria and viruses cannot get into them) and there is a low density of them.
*The thing with using the dishwasher, that is often not mentioned elsewhere, is that you should not use any kind of detergent and the toys are only properly sanitized if your dishwasher has a sanitize cycle. Mine doesn’t, so I’d never put my sex toys in there. Besides, I wouldn’t want my sex toys in there with the dishes and you can’t use detergent anyway. So, it would seem like such a waste of water and electricity to run the washer just to clean a few toys that you could easily wash in the sink with soap.
**If your toys are made out of high grade pure silicone, like Tantus uses, the toys will not be damaged by touching in storage. If you’re unsure, it’s best to give them all their own pouch.
***Caution should be used when buying stainless steel toys from merchants on Amazon or Ebay. Apparently, some of them are knockoffs and the composition of the metal is questionable. Also, it’s been brought to my attention that Pipedream’s MetalWorx toys are probably not pure, solid stainless steel.
****Some smaller, artisan glass toy companies, like Fucking Sculptures, are using a material called “soda-lime glass”. It is reportedly, just as durable as boroscillicate glass but it might not withstand the temperature of boiling water or the dishwasher.