The first thing you should consider when choosing a sex toy is material. The material the toy is made of dictates everything about how you can safely use it and how you care for and clean it. I’ll start with the best choices:
These are considered the best sex toy materials because of their safety, durability, and hygienic properties. They are all nonporous and phthalates free. You want a toy to be nonporous because that means you can sanitize it. There are no microscopic holes in the material for bacteria to accumulate in. This means that toys made of these materials can be safely shared, if sanitized between users, and the toy can be used vaginally and anally but only if it is sanitized after being in the ass, before going into the vagina. Remember, vagina to ass is OK. Go ass to vagina and you’re asking for an infection. Also, no matter the material, a sex toy needs to be thoroughly washed prior to its first use.
If you want a squishier more pliable toy than the other materials listed, then Silicone would be your choice. It actually comes in a wide range of firmness and finishes. For high quality silicone sex toys, you can’t go wrong with Tantus. As mentioned before, silicone is phthalates free and nonporous.1
It’s generally a good idea to limit your exposure to phthalates as studies are beginning to show that they can lead to organ failure and possibly cause cancer. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics. They are present in some sex toy materials (like PVC) but not in pure silicone.
Being nonporous and heat resistant, you can sterilize silicone toys in a number of ways including, boiling for a few minutes (making sure that the toy never touches the sides or bottom of the pot), washing in a 10% bleach solution, washing in the top rack of your dishwasher (on sanitize cycle), or simply lathering it up well in antibacterial soap and rinsing clean. If your silicone toy has a vibrator inside then don’t boil it or put it in the dishwasher.
Usually manufacturers and most sex toy reviewers will tell you to only use water-based lube with silicone toys. This is because some silicone lubes can damage some silicone toys. But if both the lube and the toy are made of high quality silicone then it might be possible to mix the two. I have done it with some of my silicone toys and have not run into problems yet. If you would like to experiment with silicone lube on your silicone toys, you can test a small area, in a spot that won’t be inserted into the body, by rubbing a little silicone lube on it. If there’s going to be a reaction, it will happen right away and what you’ll feel and see is that the test spot gets gummy and sticky. If this happens scrape off the test area and then wash it really well in soap and water.
Many people believe that you can’t store silicone toys where they are touching each other. This is not necessarily true. Many sex toy reviewers have stored their high quality silicone toys, piled together in drawers without any issues but a good rule of thumb is to have some kind of storage bag for each of your silicone toys. A lot of them come with their own pouches and it’s fine to store them in there. For the ones that don’t, I just use ziplock style bags. Just make sure the toys are thoroughly dry before you seal them up in plastic bags. Any moisture left in there can lead to mold growth.
If ever there was a durable sex toy material, stainless steel would definitely be it. Steel toys like those made by njoy, are solid, heavy chunks of metal. The mirror polished finish on these toys makes a little lube go a long way and you can use any lube you like with steel. You can disinfect steel toys by boiling or, on the top rack of the dishwasher (on sanitize cycle). For routine cleaning antibacterial soap is good. About the only way you can harm steel toys is if you use something abrasive to clean them. That will mar the polished finish.
The only downfall I can find with steel, and it has nothing to do with its safety or hygienic properties, is that it tends to be heavy and people with joint problems, etc. might find it tiring to use them. Also, they obviously aren’t going to have any give so thrusting needs to be done with caution.
njoy toys are cast in 316 grade stainless steel and made from medical grade materials. There is an issue I’ve been wondering about but haven’t found much information on concerning the grade of steel used to make toys. It’s my understanding that the only steel that can be counted on to be nickel free is medical grade. I would hope that all manufacturers are using nickel free steel.2 If you have a nickel allergy, you might want to take the extra step and contact the manufacturer to find out.
Many people are skeptical of using glass sex toys. The truth is, it’s a great material to make toys out of. Glass toys are nonporous and phthalates free so, no worries there. Clean it in all the same ways you would clean steel or silicone but if you decide to boil a glass toy, you might want to put a hand towel in the pot to cushion it and keep it from hitting against the sides and possibly chipping.
Some smaller artisanal glass sex toy companies, like Fucking Sculptures, (this manufacturer is out of business) use a material called, soda-lime glass. It is not as heat-resistant as boroscilicate glass and should not be boiled or put in the dishwasher. The material used in most glass toys is the same stuff that Pyrex cookware is made of, borosilicate glass. This means that it is very durable and does not break easily. Believe me, even if you have the strongest PC muscles in the world, you’re not going to break a glass toy inside of you. You do have to be careful of chipping it if you drop it onto a hard surface. And if it does get chipped, stop using it. Inspect your glass toy for chips or cracks prior to every use. Glass sex toys are compatible with any lube and you’ll find you need very little.
Ceramic and Wood
Both are nonporous and phthalates free materials. The wood is sealed with a finish that is nonporous and body safe. Nobessence is a reputable manufacturer of wood toys. For ceramic toys check out Pipedream’s Ceramix line (this line has been discontinued). You shouldn’t put either of them in the dishwasher or boil them but antibacterial soap and a 10% bleach solution can be used. Solvents of any kind should not be used on wood sex toys. It will damage the finish. All types of lube are compatible with ceramic and wood.
Aluminum is nonporous, body safe and phthalates free. Any lube can be used and it can be cared for like stainless steel. One advantage it has over steel is its lighter weight.
Choose a sex toy made of the above materials, take proper care of it and observe safe sex toy practices and your toy should last a long time and you’ll stay safe and healthy. The following are the more dubious sex toy materials and if I had to make a blanket statement about them, I’d just recommend staying away from them. Some might be OK if the labeling on the box is honest and accurate and if you adhere to proper hygiene. But for me, there’s just too much uncertainty with these materials.
I’ll run down a list of these materials and they generally get less hygienic and possibly more dangerous as you go down the list. With all of these, it’s best to use with a condom when sharing or, in some cases, even when used just by one person. I’m not completely current on these materials since I usually avoid them so, I’ll reference Lilly’s blog where she’s compiled a comprehensive material reference.
Elastomed (not to be confused with Elastomer)
Nonporous and phthalates free.
Thermoplastic Rubber: TPR, TPE, Elastomer
Some are nonporous, others are not. Probably phthalates free. Better choice than jelly rubber.
Silicone Blends: TPR Silicone, CyberSilicone
Even though a small amount of silicone might be present (more likely, there is none) in these toys, they are porous. They are probably phthalates free. The concept of a silicone blend product is really one invented by some manufacturers. They want to attract the consumer to the word “silicone” on the box, making them think that the toy is made of a safe material. These toys should be used with caution. Who knows what they are really made of.
Various “skin” or realistic materials: Often going by names such as Cyberskin or Ultraskin.
Porous and may contain phthalates. Should not be shared without a condom. Limited cleaning options, usually mild soap and water except, in the case of Fleshlight where not even soap can be used. It is recommended that Fleshlight material be rinsed with water and occasionally rubbing alcohol can be used. Many of these products need to be coated in a very fine dusting of cornstarch to preserve the feel of the material. Only water based lubricant can be used with these materials.
PVC, Jelly, Rubber, Latex
These are the materials I would definitely stay away from. They are all porous. They most likely all contain phthalates in addition to other irritating chemicals that people can have bad reactions to. Not only should you always use condoms over these when sharing but even when you just use it by yourself. You want a barrier between your delicate skin and and that toxic soup. You shouldn’t use oil based lube with these but silicone or water based should be fine. But seriously, just save up your money a little bit and get quality silicone sex toys instead.
Safe Anal Sex Toys
Not all sex toys should be inserted anally. This is because items without a flared base can be pulled into the rectum, where it cannot be reached and that requires emergency medical treatment for removal. There are plenty of sex toys made specifically for insertion into the anus. They are safe because they have a flared base that is at least 2” across. The base acts as a stop and keeps the toy from slipping too far up. Another consideration with anal play is lubrication. Use a lot of it. If you think you have enough, use even more than that. This is because the anus and rectum do not self lubricate like a vagina and without supplemental lubrication, it is easy to tear the delicate tissues. Here’s another one of my opinions: porous materials should never be used in anal toys. Why use something in your ass that can’t be sterilized? And always remember: mouth to ass is OK, vagina to ass is OK, ass to anywhere else is not OK. I don’t care what they do in porn. It’s a bad idea.
A Word on Lube
There are two common lube ingredients that I want to call attention to here. The first is glycerin. The other is parabens. Glycerin is a sugar derivative and that can be a bad thing to introduce into the vagina. It ferments at body temperature and can lead to yeast infections.
Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies. They fall under the category of “nasty shit we ought to stay away from”. Some people are allergic to them and can have skin reactions. Also, parabens are being found in breast tumors. Some parabens have a demonstrated ability to mimic estrogen. Methylparaben applied to the skin, may react with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.
It’s hard to limit our exposure to them though. Just take a look through your health and beauty products and you’ll find them everywhere. So, we should probably avoid them when possible and using a lube that doesn’t include them makes good sense. Sliquid is a great brand of lube that does not use glycerin or parabens in any of their products.
- Except silicone really isn’t completely nonporous. Confused? The pores it does have are so small that bacteria can’t live in them so, for all practical purposes we refer to silicone as nonporous. ↩
- Caution should be used when buying stainless steel toys from merchants on Amazon or Ebay. Apparently, some of them are knockoffs and the composition of the metal is questionable. Also, some reviewers suspect that Pipedream’s MetalWorx toys are probably not pure, solid stainless steel. ↩