Discovering body-safe sex toys has been the single best thing to happen to me in the last decade. But I didn’t always know about body-safe dildos! If you’re like me, when you bought your first sex toy, you were anxious and didn’t know what the flying fuck you were looking for. 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 (PVC!) cock because it had such great reviews! Sadly, many people end up with toxic, 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 smelled weird and leached god knows what into my system. Since then I’ve learned that quality sex toys and body-safe dildos are NOT just for users with “sensitive skin.” They’re for everyone who values their sexual well-being. And body-safe sex toys don’t have to be super-pricey either: every year they get more affordable, for every budget.
Why Material Safety Matters
Sex toys are unregulated, so they can be either or both: (1) porous and (2) toxic. The first term means that microorganisms—bacteria, yeast, and fungi—can penetrate at a cellular level and begin to grow. Moisture, heat, and light will accelerate this process. “Toxic” toys are an even worse category: they’re porous plus they can leach potentially harmful chemicals. PVC/jelly is the worst material here.
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
Many porous toys are now labeled with buzzwords like “phthalate-free,” “hypoallergenic,” and even “body-safe” itself to keep up appearances. For example, Doc Johnson calls its Ultraskyn (UR3) “body-safe,” as NS Novelties does with its TPE toys, and Pipedream does with its Dillio dildos (made of PVC!), etc., etc. So what is Ultraskyn, btw? It’s Doc’s name for TPR/TPE, a porous material that may feel quite realistic but will allow bacteria to grow on itself.
Even if they don’t contain phthalates, porous sex toys can still cause problems for many. Antibacterial cleaners cannot fully clean these unsafe materials; they’ll never penetrate deep enough.
That’s why I only use, recommend, and review body-safe sex toys. But wait: Lubricants can be unsafe too, so buy wisely there; here’s my list of recommended water-based lubricants, tested for balance against vaginal pH & osmolality.
Side note: I see people finding my site by googling “homemade dildo.” Please, please, for your health & safety, do not try to create a homemade dildo. Safe sex toys are specifically made from nonporous materials, and using a DIY dildo exposes you god knows what kind of germs.
Also: PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN BUYING AT LOVEHONEY. This mega-retailer has made the choice to call their porous TPR/TPE toys “soft plastic” to make them seem safer. See the Lifelike Lover Classic, to name just one of their “soft plastic” dildos. I have stopped reviewing for Lovehoney because this is a deliberate choice to mislead consumers about sex toy safety. Call it what it is, not by a confusing alternate name. Lovehoney does make silicone dildos as well, but nothing you couldn’t find a comparable or better version of elsewhere.
So What Is Safe?
Body-safe sex toys are functionally nonporous. Their surfaces are hard, impenetrable, and/or hydrophobic2 plus sanitizable. That means you can kill any nastiness living on their surface whenever you want! (More on how to sanitize toys in the next section, below.)
These materials are safe for long-term contact with mucous membranes (genitals & rectum) and skin:
- Silicone (usually platinum-cured)
- ABS plastic (with or without a PU cote)
- Certain metals, like stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium, when finished properly
- Glass, wood, stone, and ceramic under certain conditions
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 discreet sex toy vendors with curated collections.
Sex Toy Cleaning
Sex toy cleaners won’t harm your body-safe toys, but they also won’t sanitize (kill bacteria and microorganisms) any more than a good scrub with soap and water will. You really only need “toy cleaner” if you do not have access to running water (like from a normal sink!) after using your sex toy.
The safest practice is to sanitize your body-safe sex toys when you first get them, to clean off mold release agents and other junk from the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping processes. If you’re the only person using a toy, and you’re only using it in one hole,3 you can wash with soap and water for everyday use. You may want to sanitize sex toys every month or two to be especially safe.
Here’s how to sanitize (sometimes called “sterilize”) a body-safe sex toy:
- Wash with a gentle soap and water before sanitizing. Then choose from the following options:
- Easiest: UV sanitizing. The UV Sterilizer Pouch is simple: Wash and dry your toy first, and then stick it in the pouch for a 3-minute light bombardment, by UV-C (short-wavelength ultraviolet) rays shown to deactivate bacteria & viruses. Run the pouch a few times in a row after rotating your toy, to be extra-cautious. See the pic below!
- Cheapest: If there are no mechanical parts (i.e., it doesn’t vibrate or pulsate), then boil in a cooking pot for three to five minutes and rinse with water after cooling.
- Also if there are no mechanical parts, instead of boiling, you can put toys through the “sanitize” cycle in your dishwasher—with no detergent. This method is not great for soft silicone, as it will dull the surface.
- If a vibrator is waterproof: soak in a 10%-bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts tap water); or in rubbing alcohol, ideally 70% isopropyl. Be sure to wash before and definitely afterward to remove the cleaning agent.
- If the toy is not waterproof submersible and has a motor (Magic Wands!!!), then wipe down the section that’s going to touch your parts with a 10% bleach solution or isopropyl alcohol, being careful to not get liquid in the motor, charging port, or battery compartment. Then wipe down with a damp cloth.
- To remove odors, wipe your toys down with acetone (pure nail polish remover) first. If the odor hangs around, seal the toy in a plastic bag along with an enzymatic cleaner (like for pet-odor removal). There are many solutions for odor-removal, like baking soda, but the enzymatic pet cleaner method is the surest.
Silicone is my favorite body-safe dildo material because it’s the only one that doesn’t have to be really hard! Not all silicone is the same: higher shore durometers of silicone can still be pretty damn firm. (Check out my Silicone Dildo Firmness Guide for more info.) If you want a body-safe dildo that feels comfortable and as realistic as possible, then dual-density silicone it is.
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 accessories (not toys) on Amazon: like if you want a Liberator Wing toy mount STAT.
Platinum-cured (platinum, for short) silicone is body-safe because it’s the most chemically stable silicone. Specific blends are certified as being “skin-safe,” meaning that they’re guaranteed not to harm your skin (or any sensitive membranes) even if they’re worn for extended periods of time. Silicone is also safe because it’s hydrophobic: its molecules repel water, which bacteria can thrive in.4
Silicone toys don’t usually have a smell, at least in the strong way that porous PVC toys do. Anyone with a sensitive nose may notice a slight smell on a new toy (especially if it’s been sitting in its plastic packaging for a while). If there is a smell, it should fade when the toy is sanitized and left to dry.
Silicone dildos are made by blending two parts of platinum silicone (one of which includes the catalyst, platinum) to form a thick liquid. It’s degassed (put in a vacuum chamber) to remove air bubbles. Then it’s poured or injected into a mold. After this, the silicone sets (“cures” or “vulcanizes”) for a specific period of time. Afterward, voilà!, a body-safe sex toy is ready for the world.
Until very recently in sex toy history, silicone dildos and other 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 sex toys are pretty damn expensive: look at the $500 RealCock2 dildos! 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:
- See a best-of affordable toys roundup here, covering clit vibes, dildos, anal toys, & more.
- SheVibe has very useful search options in the site’s left sidebar: all filterable sex toy categories include 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. (Find this in the left sidebar on desktop or the “ADD OR REMOVE FILTERS” drop-down menu, right under the cartoon & category name, on mobile.) For example, here are silicone dildos under $50, and here are body-safe clit vibes for under $50.
- Peepshow Toys has an under-$50 vibrator category here, and their deals page features deeply discounted toys that are all body-safe.
- I take an in-depth look at bullet vibes for under $50 in this comparison, ranking them against the power of the (pricier) We-Vibe Tango.
- I’ve separated out the less-expensive toys I’ve reviewed here. For your cheapest dildo options, I recommend: (1) Realistic: Blush Neo Elite for a slick, pretty realistic feel; the ColourSoft dildos if you want semi-soft stimulation (review here), or the Blush Ruse dildos for a bit firmer. (2) More abstract: the Blush Avant dual-density dildos (review here) for squishy-soft outside, Avant D15 for semi-soft & pretty, or Blush Temptasia (review here).
Another way to save is to watch for sex toy sales. Certain holidays, like early February (before Valentine’s Day) and especially on Black Friday-Cyber Monday, are the best time to find the absolute lowest prices. (If you can stand waiting!)
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 “hyperosmolal” (high osmolality), which means your cells push out so much water in reaction to the lube, your protective outer layers shrivel and separate. Parabens & alcohols are also lube ingredients of concern.
That’s why it’s safest to stick to glycerin-free, paraben-free, and propylene-glycol-free if you choose a water-based lube. Here are safe options, tested for pH and osmolality. Water-baseds have the consistency most like natural moisture, and are easiest to clean up: So they’re not all bad!
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 reeeeeeally lasts or is super-slick (like for anal thrusting). I strongly recommend Coconu for butt plug wear these days. Here’s a pros & cons checklist comparing the 4 lubricant types!
But back to my main point: sex toy and lube compatibility. Most body-safe toys play well with most safe lubes—with one possible exception. In some cases, silicone lube may degrade silicone toys — especially thin-silicone-coated toys like vibrators, where the silicone is a fraction of an inch thickness over a firm motor core. Multiple American-made platinum silicone makers, like SquarePegToys and Hankey’s Toys, argue that silicone lubricant is perfectly fine with their high-quality material: does not degrade the silicone toy with normal use. If you let a silicone toy remain drenched in a bath of silicone lubricant overnight, the toy will indeed swell; but that’s an excessive amount of lubricant that you just wouldn’t encounter in real-life use. 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 after about an hour. If the surface looks normal, you’re good to use the two together.
Finally, please note that oil-based lubes will degrade latex condoms.5 Here are photos I took showing the degradation! (Silicone, hybrid, and water-based lubes — everything except oil — are all good with any condom, luckily.) If you are NOT using condoms for either STD prevention or contraception, then oil-based lubricants are now generally seen as safe for both vaginal and anal use; I would recommend caution here if (1) you get very frequent yeast/bacterial infections; or (2) you’re using the oil lube on a toy with deeply recessed buttons like, say, Impressions N1, because the lube could gunk them up.
I recommend bookmarking this lube compatibility chart by Smitten Kitten, for easy reference!
And Finally, Sex Toy Storage
Body-safe sex toys can be stored together in most cases. Silicone toys do not destroy other silicone toys, like PVC toys eat through and damage. A collection of silicone dildos stored together long-term, unharmed:
There is one minor caveat: Store your super-soft silicone dildos separately from your silicone vibrators. Very soft silicones—like the outside of any good dual-density dildo, or SquarePeg’s Super-Soft blend—may make the thin, firm coating of silicone on vibrator cores swell up a bit. The swelling from that dimethicone (a.k.a. PDMS or “silicone oil,” a silicon-based polymer that makes platinum silicone softer) will subside, but the vibrator’s silicone will likely become separated from the motor core below. Some air-pulse “clit suction toys,” like We-Vibe Melt, are liable to swell if left against pure super-soft silicones, too. So: You can store super-soft with super-soft, but and silicone vibrators with other silicone vibrators, but don’t leave the two groups in contact for many hours.
Apart from this super-soft exception, the only reason to separate your truly body-safe sex toys is for convenience! 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. Find more on locking sex-toy-storage options here.
I hope this helps answer any questions you may have. Let’s put these sex toy myths to bed!
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- Dildos are never approved by the FDA. Anyone who says so is 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—there’s really no telling what it’s made out of.
- Skin-safe platinum silicone repels water on a microscopic level—since bacteria breed in water, this is crucial.
- That is, you’re not switching from anal to vaginal use.
- See Tantus’ page on its “100% premium” silicone. Silicone’s “low surface energy” or viscosity is another factor that makes it safe.
- As well as polyisoprene non-latex condoms. Oil-based lubes can apparently be used with polyurethane and natural membrane (Trojan NaturaLamb) condoms; note that the latter are effective for sperm-blocking but not for stopping the transmission of many STIs. I recommend LuckyBloke.com for an exceptional condom selection; like check out Durex non-latex and Japanese micro-thin latex like Wink (by Okamoto) and Kimono for sure if you use condoms regularly.