Body-Safe Sex Toy Materials Guide

 

Body-Safe Sex Toy Materials Guide

by Phallophile Reviews
Felicity of Phallophile Reviews is a freelance writer, book editor, and
sex-positive blogger with a passion for both realistic and fantastical dildos!
Discover everything she’s learned during her silicone sex toy
search in her Silicone Dildo Guide.

 

When I first learned that Peepshow Toys only carried body-safe toys, I was extremely impressed. This commitment speaks volumes about Peepshow’s concern for its customers’ well-being. Why? Because the sex toy industry is unregulated, manufacturers are free to profit off of products that are porous (that is, that can’t be sanitized) and that may even be toxic. These unsafe toys sometimes cause their users infections and even chemical burns. Meanwhile, you, the consumer, are left to make sure you’re not inserting a dangerous product into your body.

Also, there is no industry-standard definition of “body-safe.” Sometimes the term is thrown around lightly—a specific product may claim to be body-safe, and users will assume this is really the case without a clear understanding of actually what makes different types of sex toys safe for intimate and internal use. That’s why Peepshow Toys asked me to put together this guide, which explains how we generally define the term “body-safe.” We all hope it will be a useful resource for you in your continued pursuit of pleasure! 

Body-Safe Materials

The materials in this category are the ones Peepshow Toys stocks, because they’re safe for internal use and can be sanitized between uses and between partners (see the next section, “Cleaning Your Body-Safe Toys,” for more details).

  • Silicone is the only body-safe material that can be soft and flexible. Silicone sex toys come in all different firmnesses, varying from super-soft (like Tantus Super Soft and Colours Soft toys) to fairly firm (like the original Tantus Vamp).1  Plus, dual-density toys (like Tantus O2 and VixSkin) are a happy compromise between silicone firmnesses: a squishier outer layer of silicone poured over a firm inner core, so that the toy feels soft externally but isn’t floppy in use. 

  • ABS plastic is a type of hard plastic that’s very chemically stable. It’s commonly used in body-safe vibrating toys, often together with silicone.

  • Glass sex toys are nonporous, easy to clean, and can be heated in warm water or cooled for temperature play. Borosilicate glass, which has been engineered to be resistant to pressure, thermal shock, and acidic conditions, is the type most commonly used in sex toy manufacturing. (The Icicles line is an example of borosilicate glass.) However, some independent brands also use “soda-lime” glass, which is treated to make the glass resistant to pressure, more heat-resistant, and less likely to break. It is very important to note that once a glass toy has been chipped, it should no longer be used as a sex toy, as its structure has been compromised. 

  • Wood toys are safe if they’re coated in multiple layers of body-safe varnish, like Nobessence toys are.

  • Metal toys can be safe when they’re made of high-quality, properly finished metals, like Njoy’s medical-grade-stainless-steel dildos and plugs.

  • Stone dildos (like the Laid D.1 and D.2) are made of semi-precious stones that are smoothed and finished so as to be functionally nonporous.

Cleaning Your Body-Safe Toys

Body-safe toys should be sanitized when you first purchase them, between vaginal and anal use, between uses by non-fluid-bonded partners, and after each use if you have an active yeast or bacterial infection. To be extra safe, it’s wise to sanitize toys frequently after anal use, and regularly (once every couple weeks) with vaginal use only.

How to sanitize your toy depends on which materials it’s made of. For all methods, wash the toy with soap and water after sanitizing (and after the toy has cooled down, in the case of boiling and baking).

  • Silicone (nonvibrating), glass, and metal toys can be boiled in a normal kitchen pot, completely submerged with water, for 3 to 5 minutes. (It’s best if metal toys don’t touch the sides of a metal pot, though; you can put a towel in between.) Be careful: glass and metal in particular, and silicone to some degree, are hot after they’ve been boiled, and stay hot for some time.

  • Nearly all body-safe toys can be soaked in a 10%-bleach solution: the exception is some types of wooden dildos. Happily, Nobessence toys are safe to bleach.2 Immediately after removing your toys from the bleach solution, be sure to thoroughly wash them with soap and water. Also remember to never boil bleach. For vibrators that have a seam between the ABS plastic and silicone sections, it’s important to pay special attention to this crack. An unused toothbrush may be useful in cleaning the area.

  • All toys can be wiped down with rubbing alcohol (and of course thoroughly washed afterward).

  • Silicone toys can also be baked at 250°F (or even 350°F, for Tantus toys3) for 20 to 30 minutes. This is helpful in removing butt odors.4 

  • Silicone (nonvibrating), wood, and metal toys can be put through the “sanitize” cycle in a dishwasher (without detergent). If your dishwasher doesn’t have a sanitize cycle, consider boiling or bleaching instead.

Porous and Potentially Toxic Materials

We classify toys as unsafe because they’re porous and also because—in certain cases—they may be toxic. 

Porous toys are unsuited for long-term use because the materials they’re made from will harbor bacteria, mold, and other harmful microorganisms. These toys can’t be sanitized, so these microorganisms continue to grow, no matter whether or not you use antibacterial toy cleaners or wipes.5 All the materials listed later in this section are porous.

But, not all porous toys are toxic. Toxic toys leach harmful byproducts into your body, including unknown chemical additives6 and phthalates. Phthalates are a special cause for concern because these plasticizers (additives that make PVC and other rubbers softer and more flexible) have been associated with—but not directly linked to—cancer and numerous other health problems.7 Though not all phthalates are the same, at least one, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”8 In 2008, research into the potentially harmful effects of ingested phthalates led the US Congress to ban certain phthalates in children’s toys and other child-care products that might be sucked on or eaten.9

  • TPR, TPE, and elastomer: TPR is a synthetic rubber, while TPE is an elastomer (a stretchy polymer). These materials are commonly used in masturbators, cock rings, and inexpensive dildos. Though chemically different, both TPR and TPE are both porous enough that mold and bacteria can flourish in toys made from them within a short period of time, especially if the toys aren’t dried properly and are exposed to warmth (like from sunlight). Though porous, TPR and TPE aren’t toxic like many of the materials further down this list.

  • “Realistic-feel” products: Often found in male, canister masturbators, these materials are mysterious, in that they made be made up of multiple other porous materials in this list (like rubber, PVC, and TPR) as well as mineral oils—we just don’t know. Some of these materials can’t even be cleaned with soap because this causes their material to begin to break down—so forget trying to sanitize them without using harsh chemicals. Over time, realistic-feel products begin to exude oils (and other microorganisms hiding inside) and often become very sticky.  

  • Rubber: This is another porous material that often contains phthalates; there’s no way to tell for sure what’s in it without chemical analysis. Note that though body-safe silicone is technically “silicone rubber,” toys labeled as simply “rubber” are most definitely not silicone and are not body-safe.  

  • Latex: Latex is best known for its use in condoms. Assuming the user and their partner don’t have latex allergies, latex condoms are safe. However, latex condoms do have a limited shelf life because they degrade over time.10 Due to this lack of chemical stability, latex sex toys are generally unsafe. 

  • PVC: PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a synthetic plastic polymer that has to be softened by some time of “plasticizer” in order to be flexible. In the past, PVC toys (besides being porous) always contained phthalates, but recently—due to health and environmental safety concerns—non-phthalate PVC has been developed. For example, the Doxy Massager’s “soft head covering is made from a hypoallergenic medical grade non-porous PVC that is free from latex or undesirable phthalates.” Though PVC can be nontoxic in some cases, it’s still porous, and so it isn’t a good material to use internally (like in any dildo or anal toy). 

  • Jelly: “Jelly” rubber sex toys—like rubber and PVC—often contain phthalates and other potentially harmful additives. Again, there’s just no way to know what’s really in this type of toy without expensive lab testing, and users do sometimes experience harmful reactions.11

 

Footnotes_________________

1. See my “Silicone Dildo Firmnesses: Squish Matters” post for a comparative guide.

2. See #5 in Nobessence’s FAQ page for more info on cleaning options.

3. See Tantus’ silicone toy cleaning instructions.

4. Temperature and timing taken from Dangerous Lilly’s “How Can I Remove Butt Odors…” post.

5. Antibacterial wipes and cleaners only clean the “absolute surface” of a toy; they can’t penetrate deeper into the material. See Dangerous Lilly’s critique of antibacterial cleaners in her “Sex Toy Cleaning Guide.”


6. See Joellen Notte (the Redhead Bedhead)’s article “How To Avoid a Toxic Relationship...With Your Dildo” for a list of other potentially harmful additives.


7. The US Environmental Protection Agency notes that “Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates” (emphasis added). Phthalates have also been tied to (but not proven to be the cause of) increased breast cancer risk, birth defects, preterm birth, and obesity and insulin resistance.


8. This is from a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program. For more information on phthalates, see this page on the US National Library of Medicine’s website.


9. See this page on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for more details about the law.


10.See these state guidelines for a list of factors that influence the shelf life of latex condoms.


11.  See Dangerous Lilly’s post on the danger of jelly toys for examples.

 

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