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.
Why Material Safety Matters
Sex toys are unregulated, so they can be porous and even toxic. Sadly, many sex toy manufacturers have no qualms about selling potentially harmful products—like phthalate-containing PVC and and jelly dildos—to consumers, as long as they’re making a buck. 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 porous toys might not seem so dangerous. Many porous insertable toys are now claiming to be “phthalate-free” in order to give the appearance of being safe.
But these toys can never be fully sanitized. The porous materials that they’re made of will allow bacteria and other harmful microorganisms to breed 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.3
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 (generally safe)
- Certain metals, like stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium, when coated properly
- Glass, wood, stone, and ceramic under certain conditions4
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);
- 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 can be 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?).
- Dildos are never approved by the FDA. Anyone who says so is lying to/misleading you. Silicone may be certified as “skin-safe” or “food-grade,” which means its a good quality for a toy.
- 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.
- 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 vibrators, like the We-Vibe Tango, do have a tendency to die after a year or two, depending on how frequently you use them.
- See my reviews of the Blush Novelties Ruse Magic Stick and the NS Novelties ColourSoft 8″ for examples of inexpensive silicone dildos that I enjoy.