If you’re like me, when you bought your first sex toy, you were anxious and probably didn’t know what the flying fuck you were looking for. If you’re like me, you just headed over to Amazon, read whatever reviews were there, and then based your purchase on those. Or maybe you trolled around Adam & Eve and finally worked up the nerve to buy that 2″-thick (but PVC!) cock because it had such great reviews! Sadly, many people end up with toxic and unsafe sex toys because they buy without knowing anything about sex toy material safety.
I was there once; I’ve bought PVC and jelly dildos. That’s why I’ve written this short guide, which I hope will help you navigate the maze of conflicting info!
Why Material Safety Matters
Sex toys are unregulated, so they can be porous and even toxic. Most big-brand sex toy manufacturers have no qualms about selling potentially harmful products—like PVC and and jelly dildos—to consumers. It’s big business! Likewise, on Amazon there’s very little oversight; products aren’t tested, and sellers can claim that a very, very cheap dildo (say, $8 for an average size) is “medical grade silicone.”1
It’s pretty obvious why “toxic” toys—which contain phthalates and lots of other chemical additives2—are bad, but other “realistic feel”3 dildos and plugs toys might not seem so dangerous at first glance. Many of these toys are now claiming to be “phthalate-free” in order to give the appearance of being safe. Doc Johnson, for example, calls its TPE dildos “body-safe.”
But the problem is: these toys can never be fully sanitized. The porous materials that they’re made of will allow bacteria and other harmful microorganisms to start growing as soon as you begin using these toys, and it only gets worse with time (and with heat and sunlight). Antibacterial cleaners can’t fully clean these unsafe materials.4
So What Is Safe?
The abundance of porous and toxic toys on the market means that it’s super important for us, the buyers, to know about material safety and reputable sex toy vendors before we make a purchase—before we use a porous PVC toy that leaches chemicals into our bodies or gives us a persistent itch where we least want it.
These materials are considered safe for internal use:
- Silicone (platinum cure)
- ABS plastic
- Certain metals, like stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium, when coated properly
- Glass, wood, stone, and ceramic under certain conditions5
Here’s how you can sanitize your body-safe sex toys:
- Boil in a cooking pot for three to five minutes (this is if there are no mechanical parts). Make sure to not boil any batteries! Also, wash with soap and water before and after boiling.
- Soak in a 10%-bleach solution or in rubbing alcohol. (Be sure to wash before and definitely afterward.)
- Put through the “sanitize” cycle in your dishwasher (if there is such a cycle; if not, don’t bother).
- Here are a few other methods to remove odors, like using a baking-soda rinse.
Because silicone is the only material on the list that doesn’t have to be super hard, it’s my preferred sex toy material. (If you like firmer, weightier stimulation, then metal, glass, and stone are great choices too.) And not all silicone is the same: higher densities, or shore durometers/shore strengths, of silicone can still be pretty damn firm! Check out my Silicone Dildo Firmness Guide for more info.
While there are many different grades and qualities of silicone, toys labeled “silicone” and sold by reputable online sex shops and independent toy makers—not by some random Amazon seller—will be body-safe. I do think it’s OK to buy some sex-related stuff on Amazon: if you need more Sliquid Sassy STAT, for example; or if you want a Liberator Wing cheaper, or an impact toy (leather whip, anyone?).
A quality body-safe toy can last you a lifetime.6 Until recently, though, body-safe toys were prohibitively expensive for a lot of folks. I’m glad to say that’s changing—fast!
But the Cost?!
There’s no doubt that some body-safe toys are pretty damn expensive: look at the Fun Factory Stronic G, for one. But every year, you can find more and more safe toys—especially silicone dildos, smaller vibes, and butt plugs—for under $50. Here are some ideas for where to find inexpensive and safe options:
- My “Affordable AF” articles (on toys under $40) discuss: First, silicone dildos, and second, bullet vibes, wand vibes, impact toys, and cock rings.
- SheVibe has very useful search options in the site’s left sidebar: first, a “Phthalate-free – Non-porous” checkbox under the “Body-Safe” section a ways down; and above that, a “Price” tool where you enter your upper budget limit. Here are silicone dildos under $50, for example. Check out all sex toy categories here.
- I’ve separated out the less-expensive toys I’ve reviewed here. For your cheapest dildo options, I recommend: (1) realistic: the ColourSoft dildos if you want softer stimulation, or the Blush Ruse dildos for firmer; (2) dual-density: the Blush Real Nude dildos. All these toys are mass-produced in China, so if you want to support manufacturers who you can be sure pay a living wage,7 check out these $50-or-less silicone dildos from Vixen Creations, Tantus, BS Is Nice, Funkit Toys, Godemiche, Fuze Silicone, Fun Factory, and Split Peaches. There are also less-expensive options from some Etsy shops/fantasy makers of platinum silicone dongs.
If you have any specific questions about these choices, comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
So What Lube Can I Use with These Sex Toys?
Just like there are unsafe sex toys, there are unsafe lubes. With water-based lubes, glycerin and propylene glycol have been associated with vaginal infections (especially with people who are prone to infection already) and may cause rectal damage because they make lubes “hyperosmolar.” Parabens may also be a source of concern.
That’s why it’s safest to stick to glycerin-free, paraben-free, and propylene-glycol-free water-based lubes. Sliquid is the biggest name: Sassy is marketed as “booty gel,” but I and many others think it’s great for vaginal play too because it’s thicker than the typical water-based lube. Silicone lubes, hybrid silicone-plus-water-based lubes, and oil-based lubes (including virgin coconut oil, available in many grocery stores) are options too, especially if you want something that lasts or is really slick (like for anal). I’m also a fan of Sliquid Silk, a hybrid, with my draggier silicone dildos.
But back to my main point: toys and lube. Most body-safe toys play well with most safe lubes—with one possible exception. In some cases, silicone lube may degrade silicone toys. This isn’t always the case: for example, Tantus says their platinum silicone plays well with silicone lube. If you love silicone lube and you want to be sure your quality platinum silicone toys stay safe, just do a patch test! Put a spot of silicone lube on the base of the toy, then wipe it off. If the surface looks normal, you’re good to use the two together.
Finally, please note that oil-based lubes will degrade latex condoms and cause them to tear. (Silicone, hybrid, and water-based lubes are all good with any condom, luckily.)
And Finally, Sex Toy Storage
Body-safe sex toys can be stored together. Body-safe sex toys can be stored together. Body-safe sex toys can be stored together.
It bears repeating, because many people still believe that silicone toys shouldn’t be allowed to touch other silicone toys—that one will cause the others to degrade. This myth likely got started because people weren’t buying actual, skin-safe platinum silicone toys, but instead some sort of mystery-meat toys labeled as silicone. (Jelly toys can harm platinum silicone, for example.) But I can guarantee—through my own dildos-all-clumped-together storage bins—that none of the toys listed in my Silicone Firmness Guide will harm the others.8
In some cases, very soft silicones (like Real Nude dildos) may make their neighbors a little tacky. Vixen Creations recommends storing VixSkin separately for this reason, plus upright (to avoid warping, because Johnny’s balls will start to bend upward). The stickiness should wash off when you scrub your toys with soap and water. Overall, it may be easier to keep very soft silicones in separate storage bags; even gallon freezer bags will work.9
Apart from this, the only reason to separate your truly body-safe sex toys is for convenience, especially if you have a big collection like I do! Separate compartments, and drawstring bags for toys with remotes, help me locate any given toy more easily. I also have a dish-drying rack that I put my freshly washed dildos on. Silicone may be hydrophobic (water-repelling) and functionally nonporous, but it’s good to not close it in a tight space when it’s wet.
I hope this helps answer any questions you may have. Let’s put these sex toy myths to bed!
If you found this guide useful, please consider making your next sex toy purchase through my affiliate links: I strongly recommend Peepshow Toys, SheVibe, Vibrant, and Tantus. (Lovehoney also carries a wide range of options, though make sure you read the materials and stay body-safe.) With any affiliate link, you pay the same price as you would normally—or 10% less at some of my affiliates like Peepshow and Vibrant when you use my discount code: FELICITY—and I earn a few bucks so I can justify all the time I spend trying to write quality sex toy reviews and keeping the Silicone Dildo Guide totally up-to-date!
- Dildos are never approved by the FDA. Anyone who says so is lying to/misleading you. The silicone used in a dildo may be certified as “skin-safe,” “food-grade,” or even “Class VI,” which means it’s a good quality for a toy. Please don’t buy that $20 dual-density “liquid silicone” dildo on Amazon, no matter how good the reviews are.
- JoEllen Notte (the Redhead Bedhead)’s article “How To Avoid a Toxic Relationship…With Your Dildo” has a complete listing of harmful additives used in sex toys.
- Usually either TPR/TPE, or “Ultraskyn,” or “Fantaflesh,” etc.
- See Dangerous Lilly’s assertion that antibacterial toy cleaners are “worthless” overall.
- See the section “Which Sex Toy Materials Are Safe?” in Dangerous Lilly’s Toxic Toys guide. This is the best resource out there about sex toy material safety.
- Though some vibrators, like the We-Vibe Tango, do have a tendency to die after a year or two, depending on how frequently you use them.
- Or own their own business, in the case of indie makers like Funkit and Godemiche.
- Also check out Lilly’s silicone-on-silicone experiment here.
- Always wash your toy well before use!