Dildos and Dil-Don’ts: A Guide to Body-Safe Sex Toys
Think you know your dildo? Think again…
Sex toys come in a rich variety of shapes, sizes, colours and materials, there is a tool for probably any activity you can think of. I think they’re ace, whether used for solo masturbation or to enhance partnered sex.
However, did you know that the sex toy industry is largely unregulated? The market is still fraught with cheap, harmless looking toys that can in fact be damaging to your health.
While you may not have thought of it before, product safety should be at the forefront of your mind when purchasing a sex toy. After all, these objects are designed for your pleasure, not potential chemical burns or nightmare trips to A&E when a toy performs a surprise anal disappearing act…
Don’t let this put you off though! With just a little bit of prior knowledge, avoiding hazardous toys is pretty simple –
So, what should you look out for?
Silicone is my number one material for all styles of sex toy. It is the only “soft” material truly safe for any kind of penetration as it is non-porous and can be sterilised. This means it’s super easy to clean and maintain with basic soap and water and toys without a motor can even be boiled for added peace of mind (especially if you’re going to share with partners or use the toy for both vaginal and anal penetration).
Silicone can be used as the outer coating of a vibrator and be rigid, or as the main body of dildos and butt plugs where it can be pliable or even squishy! It is very tactile in all its forms. 10/10 would recommend.
Contrary to the popular myth, silicone toys can be stored together touching and there will be NO reaction. Ever had a toy melt in storage or fuse together with another? Those definitely were not silicone.
A Note on Silicone Lubricant
However, what you do want to avoid is using silicone lubes with silicone toys. This runs the risk of the lube damaging the surface of the toy making it all weird and sticky and unusable. It doesn’t always happen so if you absolutely must use a silicone lube, first perform a spot test on an inconspicuous area. I still advise playing safe just sticking to a good quality water based lube though.
There are still some shady companies out there who intentionally mislabel their toys as silicone. These are usually identified by using language like “silicone blend”, “Sil-A-Gel” or “real feel” and often easily identified visually. Silicone as a rule is never completely clear, “see through” or jelly like. It is best to just stick to reputable manufacturers and avoid anything you have any doubts about.
Glass is a stunning and understandably popular material. It is prized for its smoothness, rigidity and beauty. It is non-porous, easy to sterilise and accessibly priced.
Glass toys should be made out of borosilicate glass (same as Pyrex) which will not shatter in use, however they are not invincible and you still need to handle and store them with care.
Glass is compatible with any kind of lube.
Metal sex toys are a bit more exotic and it is a material you don’t want to skimp out on. I have personally encountered cheaper toys marketed as stainless steel but found them to in fact be “mystery metal” with a chrome/silver coloured coating that easily scratches off or flakes away by itself over time. Not good.
If you want the real deal, stick to tried and trusted brands such as nJoy (stainless steel), Crowned Jewels (aluminium and titanium) or Rosebuds (jewelled butt plugs, stainless steel and aluminium).
Smooth and weighty, there is nothing quite like it. My njoy Pure Wand and Eleven are some of my most prized possessions!
Metal toys are compatible with any kind of lube.
ABS Plastic (Hard Plastic)
This is what the base of most vibrators is made out of. It is smooth and completely rigid so conducts pinpoint vibrations very well. It is very easy to clean and take care of.
ABS plastic is compatible with any kind of lubricant.
Rarer toy materials are things like wood and ceramic. Both of these have to be made and sealed/glazed in a very specific way to be body-safe.
I suggest researching reputable companies to buy these specific materials from.
When made and finished correctly, both are compatible with any kind of lubricant.
Dodgy Stuff to Look Out For
Now on to things you do not want to put in your body!
Just don’t do it.
These materials are porous which means they cannot be truly fully cleaned. They will harbour bacteria and can easily cause health issues.
Jelly rubber in particular breaks down over time, leaching oils and can cause skin reactions, yeast infections or even chemical burns. Ouch! For a visual demonstration of how these toys degrade over time, check out Dangerous Lilly’s “jar of horrors” which speaks for itself.
Some of these materials (again, especially jelly) can also contain phthalates which are plasticisers used to increase the product’s flexibility and transparency among other things. These toxic chemicals are banned in children’s toys and are known to cause health issues, some studies even suggest they are a cancer risk, and yet scarily they can still be found in “adult novelties.” Avoid.
Some manufacturers can and will lie as to what material their toys are made of. Suspicious signs that a product labelled as silicone is NOT silicone are:
- Being completely transparent. Colourless silicone will nearly always appear cloudy and mostly opaque.
- A suspicious oily residue or overly sticky finish. Admittedly some brands of silicone are a bit tackier than others, such as Vixen Creations “VixSkin”, but it is not hard to look up if a big brand like that is reputable or not.
- Being flammable! Jelly toys burn extremely easily! If you really want, you can “flame test” a toy with a lighter. Silicone may catch fire a tiny bit but will leave behind a signature grey ash and any soot can be wiped away leaving no damage to the finish of the toy. A jelly toy will literally go up in smoke, melt and be completely destroyed very quickly.
- A very strong smell. This is a massive give away that you do not want something in your body. Jelly toys can really stink and the smell will not go away, no matter how much you wash or air them. Odours to look out for are an overly plasticky or chemical smell, like a new shower curtain, or really blatantly rubbery. Silicone toys straight out of the packaging can have a “new” factory smell (always give them a wash before first use!) but this will not be offensive and will fade quickly.
- It hurts to use. Skin reactions to silicone are very unusual. Chances are if you experience irritation from a toy (double check your lube first!) then it is likely not silicone.
A Note on Penis Masturbators
An overwhelming majority of products designed for penises are made out of these softer plastics. They need to be super squishy to get the job done and silicone isn’t that great at that.
This is generally okay by me as they are not being inserted into any holes and being exposed to delicate mucus membranes.
They are still porous and cannot be sterilised (including higher end toys such as official Fleshlights) so will not last forever and should be replaced eventually, especially in the event of any mould growth or other visual/texture changes.
Single use strokers are common, though I am not a fan of these from an environmental point of view.
This last bit applies to products designed for butt stuff.
Anatomy 101: Vaginas end at the cervix, the opening to the womb, which is too small for anything to pass through. You physically can’t “lose” anything up there.
Anuses are completely different and toy safety is actually a major concern. When something is inserted, butts act like a vacuum and any improperly used or poorly designed sex toy (or ill thought out miscellaneous object – please, don’t!) can very easily go AWOL.
No one wants that awkward trip to A&E so, here is how to avoid it:
The golden rule for safe anal play is: Only use toys with a flared base.
- Make sure this base is sturdy. Finger loops (commonly seen in toys like anal beads especially, plus some butt plugs) are usually too flexible from my experience.
- Ensure that the base is bigger/wider than the diameter of the toy at its widest point. I see a lot of butt plugs fail at this, especially “princess plugs” (the gorgeous ones with the jewel in the base). My general advice for plugs is bases that are “T-bar” or wedge shaped, designed to sit between the cheeks, are usually better (both for comfort and safety) than round ones.
- Do not use toys with a pull string anally. Things that are designed exclusively for vaginas, such as “love eggs” and “kegel balls”, are not safe.
- Do not use random household objects. No further comment.
… And there you have it! I hope this post was eye opening or perhaps influences you invest in better quality pleasure products in the future.
For more reading, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Sex Toys
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