Sex Toy Safety 101 - The Basics
The world of sex toys can be very confusing. Dildos, flashlights, vibrators, butt plugs… the list goes on. There’s a lot of misinformation out there on what you can/can’t insert, whether condoms help stop toxic toys from harming you, what's the best way to store toys and how to properly disinfect & clean.
I’m going to be focusing on sex toys used on the genitals/anus for this series and today I’ll be covering what different toys are made out of (body & non-body safe); as well as the confusing language some companies use when describing the quality and type of material used.
POROUS VS. NON-POROUS:
When shopping for sex toys, you’ll see the words ‘porous’ and ‘phthalates’ are used a lot. You’re going to want your new toy to be non-porous and phthalates free, for a few different reasons.
Porous toys have tiny, microscopic holes on the surface which can permanently trap dirt & bacteria. Because of this, you can re-infect yourself/your partner if you last used the toy while you had a thrush infection or an STI, for example. Using condoms on porous toys will help stop spreading bacteria, however not being able to fully sterilise your toy isn’t ideal - it’s best to only buy non-porous toys where possible.
And what are phthalates? Also, known as phthalate esters, it’s a plasticizer - added to toys to make them more flexible/softer; however, they also can make plastics sweat & leak chemicals. These chemicals can be very toxic; long-term exposure to phthalates has been linked to organ damage & cancer. Even just handling a phthalates-ridden toy can cause the skin to peel from chemical burns. Not only are toys with phthalates in them toxic; they’re also porous so can’t be sterilised properly.
SEX TOY MATIERALS:
-100% Pure Silicone a.k.a. Platinum Silicone: one of the most common & well-known materials used for body-safe toys. Ranging from soft & squishy to solid it’s a very versatile material. Pure silicone is non-porous and easy to fully sanitise; my favourite method is to boil them for 10 minutes. If looked after properly, silicone toys can last a lifetime.
-Jelly/Jellee/Gel: A very common material for cheap toys; jelly is NOT body safe for oral, anal or vaginal use. It is porous, meaning you can’t properly sanitise it between uses, and that there’s the risk of mildew growing. Jelly toys often contain phthalates and/or other toxins which can be absorbed into the mucus membrane of your body. It’s strongly debated whether or not covering jelly toys with a condom makes them safe to use; but I personally don’t believe it makes much of a difference as the toxins can easily break down latex on a microscopic level.
-Medical Grade Stainless Steel: is 100% body-safe & non-porous; it can be great to experiment with things like temperature play. A lot heavier than other toy materials, stainless steel toys are very solid. Like silicone, they can also be boiled if you need to sanitise them.
-TPE-silicone, Elastomer, TPR-silicone, SEBS, Sil-A-Gel, Silicone Blends: These terms are intended to confuse buyers. Toxicity levels vary; but they are almost always porous and these toys break down easily. If you own one, make sure to closely inspect it in-between uses to ensure it hasn’t degraded too much; and keep in mind that you ought to replace them every other month.
-Glass: Non-Porous & body safe, I love glass dildos. Glass toys are normally works of art in and of themselves and are very versatile toys. Ridges and bumps can create interesting textures; and like stainless steel toys they’re great for temperature play. My other favourite thing about glass toys is that they’re very easy to fully disinfect in-between uses - you can boil them or even run them through the dishwasher.
-Cyberskin / UR3 / Futorotic / Fanta Flesh / Neoskin / FauxFlesh: These materials are made to feel like real skin but often smell very strongly of plastic. They’re most often used for penis toys like cock-rings and masturbator sleeves. It is very porous material and shouldn’t be shared with anyone you’re not fluid-bonded with. These toys easily degrade, especially if it touches a toy made from the same material. It is best to clean these materials with just soap & water as they can absorb hasher chemicals, and make sure to keep an eye on them for mildew & other damage. It’s best to replace these sorts of toys every month.
-Wood: if the finish is medical-grade wood can make beautiful, non-porous, body-safe toys. Environmentally friendly as well; they can vary in weight and colour depending on the type of wood used. Avoid wooden toys that have been stained or have a ’natural finish’, as these can be toxic.
-Aluminium: Like stainless steel in texture but not as heavy, it is a non-porous, body safe material. Aluminium toys are often powder-coated with a body-safe colour. You can also sanitise them by boiling.
-Ceramic: An eco-friendly, body-safe material if it’s been glazed and kiln-fired. It’s the glazing which makes the ceramic non-porous and safe to use. Ceramic toys can also be used for temperature play - some you can even put water in, which creates a very unique sensation. Ceramic toy can be sterilised by boiling.
-Natural stone: Whether or not stone is body-safe can be hard to say - it really depends on what type of stone is used and how it’s treated. There’s no hard evidence saying whether or not putting these minerals/rocks in your body for extended periods will cause damage. It is believed to be mostly safe, however the porosity is also an unknown; as most stone toys can only be polished and not sealed.
-ABS plastic: body-safe, hypoallergenic & non-porous. Most commonly used for bullet vibratos; ABS plastic is relatively easy to clean and can be sanitised. However, make sure to avoid ABS toys which are coated in metallic paint as it can flake off during use.
SEX TOY REGULATIONS
As there’s no regulation in the toy industry it’s easy for manufactures to lie about what their product is made of/how it will affect you. Many companies intentionally use names which sound like, or have part of, the word 'silicone’ in them to confuse buyers about materials being used & to trick them into thinking it is body safe. For example: sil-a-gel. Whilst sil-a-gel is not a material itself, it is frequently added to sex toys - and manufacturer Doc Johnson seems to have been the first to use it. Doc Johnson claims that their sil-a-gel toys are 100% phthalates-free, however Dildology ran a lab test on one of their sil-a-gel dildos (http://wiki.dildology.org/view/James_Deen) that showed that 61% of the items make-up was phthalates.
"Silicone-blends”, for example TPR-silicone and SEBS-silicone are another way they try to trick you into thinking toys are body-safe. These don’t exist - two totally different materials just cannot be combined to create one material type. Even if they could, it wouldn’t make sense to combine high quality silicone with other cheap, porous material; the finished product would still be porous and possibly toxic. These ‘silicone-blends’ are very porous, and will cause other toys to degrade if stored so that they’re touching.
In the next few weeks I’ll be writing about different cleaning & sanitising methods as well as the best way to store your toys - if there’s anything else you guys want to know about sex toys just ask and I'll do my best to respond with a blog post!