This is the fourth in a series of articles on sex toy materials.
Click here for last Part 1, Intro & Why It Matters.
Click here for Part 2, Toxic Sex Toys.
Click here for last Part 3, Porous Sex Toys.
Click here for Part 5, Counterfeit Sex Toys.
We’ve already learned that the sex toy industry is unregulated, that toxic toys are bad for everyone, and porous sex toys should never be inserted into the body. So, how do you, as a consumer, know what body safe sex toys are?
If you plan to insert your toy or use it on your vulva, only use a nonporous material. Nonporous sex toys either don’t have pores at all due to their structure, or the pores are so small bacteria, viruses, mold, and yeast don’t fit inside (smells can, though). They’re completely non-toxic and made in such a way that they can be sterilized or sanitized in ways porous products can’t. A good rule of thumb is that if you can find cooking utensils or dishes for your kitchen made out of it, it’s safe for your body.
Here’s a list of materials that are actually body safe, with a few caveats.
This is one of the oldest sex toy materials and one of the safest. There are several types. The caveat? Quality glass is not cheap or mass produced. If they’re mass produced, especially overseas, shortcuts can be taken with paint that flakes off, or even heavy-metal laced paint (lead, cadmium, etc.).
This is the most common. Crystal Delights plugs and dildos are produced from borosilicate glass. It’s the same kind of glass many cooking dishes are made from. Borosilicate glass can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling if the toy doesn’t vibrate.
Specially designed to shatter into non-sharp pieces if it breaks, it’s the same type of glass used in movies for heroes to crash through. Also known as toughened or safety glass, it’s durable as long as it has no cracks. Throw it away at the slightest sign of a crack or chip, since this can cause a chain reaction in the crystalline structure that will cause it to shatter at any moment. Tempered glass can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling if the toy doesn’t vibrate.
Soda Lime Glass
The most durable and heavy material, soda lime glass is used by high end artisans like Fucking Sculptures (yes, that’s the name of the company). It’s best to custom order your own to your specifications. Soda lime glass can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling if the toy doesn’t vibrate.
Not all metal sex toys are alike. If it turns your finger green, do you want it around your genitals? Here are some materials to look for and manufacturers that specialize in them.
You want 100% medical grade stainless steel. You do not want cheap steel plating around an imperfect core that can break. Quality steel toys won’t be cheap – there’s a reason the Njoy Eleven is always over $300 (unless a shop wants to sell you lube at full price with it on Black Friday). Njoy and Lelo are my recommendations. Steel can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling if the toy doesn’t vibrate.
Aluminum is more lightweight than steel while being less expensive. Tantus has phased out their Alumina line, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a reputable company that uses this material. Aluminum can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling if the toy doesn’t vibrate.
Obviously, these posh toys are only for those who can afford them. I recommend Lelo, because they use 24K gold, which is the most pure. Gold can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling if the toy doesn’t vibrate.
Body safe coatings on otherwise porous materials allow for much more variety of sensation. This can be a little trickier, as nonporous, body-safe coatings are sometimes hard to find. Generally, aim for higher end, established toy producers who avoid upsetting well-to-do clientele.
The oldest known dildos were made from stone 30,000 years ago! Laid has perfected the technique, offering you nonporous stone in shapes meant for pleasure. Stone can be sterilized by boiling, or depending on the finish, with a 10% bleach solution. Not sure? Drop me a line.
Finding a body-safe coating for wood can be tricky. I recommend NobEssence, but Idee du Desir and Lumberjill Leisurecrafts also use nonporous, body-safe coatings. Wood can be sterilized by boiling, or depending on the finish, with a 10% bleach solution. Not sure? Drop me a line.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Plastics & polymers can be made with all sorts of stuff. Most of these are for penis use only, because they are porous. Never insert a porous toy into the body. I’m going to define each and tell you which genitals can use them.
TPR – FOR PENIS USE ONLY
Thermoplastic rubber. POROUS. Stick with brands that have a patent on their rubber like Fleshlight. Be wary of potential mold/mildew growth. TPR cannot be sterilized.
TPE – FOR PENIS USE ONLY
Thermoplastic elastomer. POROUS Stick with brands that have a patent on their elastomer like Tenga. Tenga uses silver in its matrix to slow microbial growth, and their products are disposable after so many uses anyway. TPE cannot be sterilized.
SEBS – FOR PENIS USE ONLY
Styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene. POROUS. Most often used to make cheap penis rings. They don’t last too long, but they can grow mold eventually.
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – NONPOROUS. This is a hard plastic often used in vibrators, especially to make the handle/control part of the toy. The We-Vibe Tango is made from ABS. ABS can sometimes be sterilized with 10% bleach or high grade rubbing alcohol, but spot test first.
Polyurethane. NONPOROUS. This is a thin coating attached to ABS to give it a silky, velvety, or matte finish. It can be affected by toys that contain mineral or aromatic oils, so keep these away from any sleeves or cock rings. Oil lubricants are safe, however, since they are a different type of chemical compound. PU can sometimes be sterilized with 10% bleach or high grade rubbing alcohol, but spot test first.
This is the most popular nonporous toy material for body safe sex toys. Just like with stainless steel, brand reputation plays a big part of selecting a silicone toy, since many overseas factories try to pass plastics off as silicone. Silicone can come in a variety of densities and finishes – from firm to squishy, velvety to shiny. It may not be compatible with silicone lubes depending on how it was made, so be sure to spot test before mixing the two. My personal favorite brand is Tantus, because it’s made right here in the USA, woman-owned by a badass sex positive intersectional feminist, and all products are designed by people who plan to use them (surprisingly, many sex toys are designed by people who have never used a toy in their life)! Silicone can be sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, or by boiling of the toy doesn’t vibrate. Silicone sex toys can last you a lifetime.