Understanding the Importance of Material in Sex Toy Selection

For those unfamiliar with the realm of sex toys, the significance of material selection might come as a surprise. The unregulated nature of the sex toy industry means that not all products are created with body-safe materials. Despite persistent efforts by bloggers to inform consumers, many harmful toys continue to saturate the market. Meanwhile, safe sex toy materials offer diverse experiences, depending on your personal preferences. The purpose of this guide is to support your decision-making process in sex toy purchases, helping you invest wisely in durable products while prioritizing your health above all else.

Body-Safe Toys

Silicone | Metal | Glass | Wood | Stone/Crystal/Ceramic | ABS Plastic | Cleaning Guide

Non Body-Safe Toys

Jelly/PVC/Rubber | TPE/TPR | 'Realistic Skin'

The Good

Safe sex toy materials are non-porous, which enables hygienic cleaning, and they are free from harmful chemicals. Well-established sex stores only stock such toys, and these are the only kind I review on my blog. My Favourite Stores page issues warnings for stores that carry any porous materials, regardless of quantity, ensuring a safe browsing and shopping experience for you, where only top-quality products are displayed.

Silicone stands out as the most widely available, affordable, and best body-safe sex toy material. Characterized by its non-porous, hypoallergenic, phthalate-free, and latex-free nature, silicone often comes with labels such as "100% body-safe silicone," "premium silicone," or "medical-grade silicone," indicating high quality. However, some manufacturers falsely label their products as silicone, or use a potentially unsafe silicone blend. As such, it's recommended to read online reviews before purchasing from lesser-known manufacturers or retailers. Importantly, authentic silicone toys are never fully transparent and at most appear "cloudy." Any clear toy claiming to be silicone is likely not genuine.

Silicone is highly versatile, allowing for different levels of firmness to suit various sex toys and can mimic a realistic feel when expertly produced. However, some silicone toys may attract dust and lint, requiring cleaning before use. Moreover, most silicone toys are incompatible with silicone-based lubricants, although a patch test can be attempted if desired.

Metal, particularly medical-grade stainless steel and aluminum, is another safe material choice. Although these luxury toys are expensive, they offer durability and longevity. Despite their weight, they serve well in G-spotting dildos and anal plugs.

Glass, particularly borosilicate, is also a body-safe material for sex toys. Products vary in price, with higher-quality manufacturing processes producing more robust and durable toys. When purchasing glass toys, it's advisable to consult reviews to ensure value for money. Glass is superb for temperature play, as it can be heated or cooled by immersion in a bowl of water before use.

Wooden sex toys, when finished with a medical-grade coating, are safe for use despite typically carrying a higher price tag. The individuality of wood grain gives each toy a unique appearance and weight, depending on the type of wood used. The safety of the toy is contingent on its waterproofing and non-porous coating. Responsible wooden sex toy manufacturers disclose coating information on their websites. Any cracks or white spots on the wooden toy's surface indicate poor coating.

Although rare, there are other safe materials for sex toys,    such as unsealed stones and crystals that are polished and heavy for temperature play. Ceramic toys become body-safe after being glazed and kiln-fired. Often seen as luxury items, they are typically produced by independent toy makers. ABS Plastic, the same material used for LEGOs, is another body-safe and non-porous option, commonly used for the exterior parts of toys such as clit vibes or vibrator handles.

Cleaning Your Toys

Before cleaning your toy, refer to the manufacturer's instructions or contact them directly for specific cleaning advice. Although the following cleaning methods apply to most toys, there may be exceptions. Extra caution should be taken when cleaning non-waterproof toys to avoid damage.

Most toys can be cleaned simply by washing with hand soap or dish soap, followed by thorough rinsing with warm water. Toys with heavy texture may require scrubbing with a spare toothbrush. Allow the toy to air dry before returning it to storage. To prevent dust buildup, silicone toys can be stored in zip-lock bags or a non-segregated space.

Sterilization is necessary when switching toys from anal to vaginal use, or when sharing with partners. For materials like silicone, ABS plastic, wood, ceramic, and metal, a 10% bleach solution can be used for immersion, followed by thorough rinsing. Glass, metal, and silicone can be boiled for 3-5 minutes or placed in a dishwasher on a detergent-free sanitizing cycle, being the only items in the wash cycle. Rubbing alcohol can be used to wipe down metal, ABS plastic, glass, wood, and silicone toys. Always confirm the appropriateness of the cleaning method with the manufacturer before disinfection.

Potential Risks of Toy Materials

The two major issues that can make sex toy materials hazardous are porosity and the presence of phthalates. Although not all porous toys contain phthalates, any toy that does is porous. These toys, regardless of how diligently they are cleaned, can harbor bacteria leading to fungal and mildew growth, which is not ideal for intimate use. Phthalates, used by low-cost sex toy manufacturers to soften their products, can cause ailments like headaches, cramps, nausea, and have even been linked to cancer and chemical burns. Despite being banned in children's toys, these toxins continue to appear in sex toys, which we place inside our bodies. Moreover, storing such toys together can lead to breakdown or melting. I once became ill from using such toys, prompting me to start this blog and raise awareness of these product dangers. If possible, such toys should be avoided, and if you possess one that may contain phthalates or is porous, consider discarding it.

Jelly, PVC, and rubber are common materials used in dildos. Jelly toys are often transparent and come in fluorescent colors, while PVC and rubber toys exhibit an unnatural shine. These materials feel tacky or sticky and usually have a strong smell. Although inexpensive, they are not body-safe as they contain phthalates and are porous, making them inappropriate for internal use. As such, it's advisable to avoid these toys and dispose of any you already own.

Another common material, TPR (thermoplastic rubber), although porous, typically lacks latex and phthalates, making it relatively safer than jelly, PVC, or rubber materials. However, they can still present cleaning difficulties and eventually degrade due to their unstable nature. They should be disposed of every 6-12 months or sooner if discoloration or black spots appear. While they can be used with polyurethane or nitrile condoms for internal use, it's better to avoid them altogether    and purchase high-quality silicone toys. Sharing such toys is not recommended as they can harbor sexually transmitted infections such as HPV.

Some TPE/TPR toys are designed for external use only, such as masturbators and massager wand heads, and can be used with extra care and caution. However, most companies label their toys as having a "Real-Feel" or similar descriptor containing words like "Skin" or "Flesh," without disclosing the actual material. This ambiguity is a red flag, often seen on highly realistic dildos. These toys are similar to TPE/TPR materials in that they are porous but phthalate-free. Painted versions of these toys may have their colors come off during use. Store them separately, as they can merge or melt onto other toys. Generally, these toys should be discarded in favor of high-quality silicone dildos.