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Apr 052014

I would hope by now that most people know the importance of using only body-safe sex toys but I realize that outside of the sex blogging community, it’s not common knowledge so, I’ll briefly explain why.

A lot of lower priced sex toys are made of materials like jelly rubber. Jelly rubber is an unstable, toxic material. It contains phthalates and it can leach chemicals. We want to avoid phthalates as much as possible because studies are beginning to show that they can lead to organ failure and possibly cause cancer. Some people even claim that they’ve suffered chemical burns from using jelly rubber sex toys. The US government has recognized how harmful phthalates can be and have banned them from being used in children’s toys but many may be surprised to learn that there are absolutely no regulations on what materials can be used in sex toys.

So, how can you be sure that you’re not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals? Choose sex toys made of pure silicone1, hard plastic, glass, stainless steel, ceramic, aluminum and wood (that has been properly sealed). All of these materials are body-safe and nonporous, which is the other half of the equation.

We want our sex toys to be nonporous because that means they can be sanitized. Sex toys made of porous materials can harbor bacteria (and other infectious agents) and no matter how you clean them, they could still cause infections. This is particularly important if you are sharing sex toys with others or using the same toy anally and vaginally.

So, if a manufacturer claims that a material is body-safe, that means it’s nonporous, right? Wrong. Sex toys are made of many different materials, other than the safe ones I’ve mentioned, and some of them can be body-safe in the sense that they don’t contain phthalates and won’t leach chemicals but at the same time, they can still be porous and the way I see it, a sex toy that can give you an infection is not really safe.

One common material that is body-safe (i.e. phthalates free) but porous is TPR (thermoplastic rubber). Manufacturer’s often tout their TPR toys as being body-safe and they aren’t necessarily lying. What they don’t tell you is that the toys made from it, can not be properly sanitized. That means toys made from TPR could cause infections and the only truly safe way to use them is with condoms and even then, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Medical grade TPR does exist that is nonporous but you really have to research the particular compound to be sure that what the manufacturer is using is truly medical grade. This information is usually not available so, how could you know if you were actually getting nonporous, medical grade TPR?

So, based on the ability of TPR to harbor bacteria and the inability to confirm claims that a toy is made of medical grade TPR, my opinion is that sex toys made from it are best avoided entirely, even if it is phthalates free. There are plenty of nonporous, body-safe sex toys out there to choose from in a range of prices and isn’t it worth spending just a little more to get the peace of mind that comes with using sex toys that won’t make you sick?

Some companies that I recommend are: Tantus and Vixen Creations for pure silicone, njoy for stainless steel and NobEssence for wood. If you’re interested in ceramic, there’s Pipedream’s Ceramix line. Glass toys can be found in a range of prices from affordable mass produced pieces, like Pipedream Icicles, to high end one of a kind pieces made by Fucking Sculptures. Hard plastic toys aren’t hard to find and also range in price from the very inexpensive to higher quality toys like the We-Vibe Tango or LELO Mia 2.

For more information on sex toy materials, go here.

  1. Notice I said, “pure silicone”. Some less trustworthy manufacturers market what they call “silicone blends” and you want to stay away from those. They might be phthalates free but they’re also porous.

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 Posted by at 11:10 am
  • Camryn Jones

    Well done Dizzy! This is very easy to understand. Someone that knew nothing of sex toy materials wouldn’t get overwhelmed and they’d know what to look for to get more information. *thumbs up*
    I appreciate the emphasis on porous toys. I knew to stay away from toys that contained carcinogens but I did purchase a TPR vibrator before I knew it could hold onto bacteria.
    Luckily it was weak so I only used it once *laughs*

    • Thanks. I’m glad you like how I wrote it. It was supposed to be a contribution to another site but they didn’t want it.

      Seems like there is a lot of confusion amongst non-sexblogger folks about what body-safe and nonporous mean so, I was trying to clear that up.

  • This is great! It’s very informative, yet clear and concise. Love your suggestions as well!
    One tiny suggestion: I’d add stuff about TPE and elastomer being porous too, since I’ve come across those materials often.

    • Thanks. I wanted to keep this kind of short and focus on TPR since I’ve seen a lot of that lately and worked with a new retailer on whether or not they should carry certain TPR products.

      I’ve mentioned TPE, etc. here:

  • dv8

    You’re confusing sanitization with sterilization. Toys made from hard plastic, wood, or some ceramics won’t survive common methods of sterilization, or possibly even less effective methods like submersion in boiling water. Neither will silicone vibrators with built-in electronics. Being nonporous doesn’t mean a toy can be sterilized.

    Conversely, if a toy can survive the method of sterilization, being nonporous doesn’t prevent it from being sterilized. Sterilization via autoclave or via irradiation will kill germs hiding in pores. Of course, remnants of the dead germs can remain in the pores.

    The issue at hand is sanitization: you want to be able to clean and disinfect a toy, using common household means such as wiping with bleach or alcohol, or running through the dishwasher. That’s where porosity matters. Pores will harbor germs which will survive a casual cleaning of the surface of a toy. Then again, a casual cleaning won’t kill all the germs on a surface and will be less effective than sterilization. Silicone and glass toys also may have bubbles or may be designed to have creases and wrinkles, all of which can harbor germs just like pores do. Likewise, rubbing a metal nipple chain with an alcohol wipe won’t clean every nook and cranny.

    Boiling water should be able to kill germs hiding in pores. This won’t be good for some silicone vibrators and some nonelectronic bodysafe toys. Toys made from porous rubbers, however, aren’t likely to survive a bath in boiling water.

    Hard plastic and sealed wood might react to alcohol or bleach. Metal toys or silicone vibrators with metal charging contacts definitely shouldn’t be exposed to bleach. Additionally, pigments used in glass and silicone toys may be affected by bleach, alcohol, or heat.

    Lastly, singling out bacteria neglects other infectious agents like viruses, viral spores, and fungal spores.

    • I know there is a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing. Thanks for the input. I still don’t recommend porous toys. And yes, other things besides bacteria can live on a sex toy.