Sex Toy Material Guide

Written by: LaRee
Last Updated:

When we bought our first round of sex toys together, we had no idea that toxic toys still existed. I know it sounds naïve, but we thought that rubbery-baby-powder smell was normal. It, unfortunately, doesn’t stop there. We proceeded to have a yeast-infection incident brought on by using inappropriate soap as cleaning product in a moment of desperation. It was then that we decided it was time to read-up on proper toy cleaning practices… only to discover that some of our toys were toxic! Returning to our toy box – we noticed that some of our toys had actually started to dissolve or harden. Needless to say, they were thrown out instantly, and we decided to educate ourselves on this matter. Here is the best information we can find – so you can learn from our mistakes. Be safe, people!

To start, we need to mention that the sex toy industry is not regulated. This means that companies can blatantly lie about the type of material used and the presence of chemicals. It is important to purchase toys from a reputable source to ensure safe toys and knowledge about proper maintenance.

For all toys, regardless of material – you need to clean them before the very first use and then after every use. Make sure they dry completely before storing them. You wouldn’t put wet clothes in your drawers, so don’t put wet sex toys.

Silicone 

The Basics: Pure silicone (100%) is non-porous. It is latex-free, phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. The material is somewhat flexible, has a smooth/velvety texture and can rapidly warm up to your body.

Cleaning Care: Any cleaning method is acceptable because it is a non-porous material: soap & water, toy cleaner, boiling water or putting in a dishwasher (alone, no detergent). If you share your toys between people or orifices, make sure to sterilize them with either boiling water (typically needs 3-5 minutes), rubbing alcohol or soaking in a 10% bleach solution as the manufacture recommends. Silicone is heat resistant, so don’t worry about any melting. Make sure to rinse thoroughly if adding a cleaning product.

Anal: If you are using for anal play, then you should occasionally sterilize the product in boiling water, as there are still micropores that can retain some odours. The micropores are too small to host bacteria, but you don’t want them to develop a smell over time.

Vibrator: If your vibrator is partly silicone and partly another material, you need to ensure proper cleaning where the two materials connect, as it can be a trap for bacteria.

Tips: Items that are clear or look like jelly are not made from silicone, even if the label says they are. Silicone, at its ‘clearest’ looks cloudy. Silicone can tear if in contact with sharp objects.

Avoid: Many manufacturers use the word ‘silicone’ even if there isn’t any used – they use the term as if to describe a ‘blend’. Examples include: ‘TPR-silicone’ or ‘Silicone-Elastomer Blend (SEBS)’. These are porous materials, and should be treated as such.

Storage: Silicone is known to pick up lint and animal hair, so store it in a bag or original packaging, and always give it a quick rinse prior to use.

Lube: Water-based lubricants and oils (coconut oil) are okay. Do not use silicone-based lubricants, as there is a negative interaction. An exception to this is using a high quality silicone toy with a high quality silicone-based lube – but always do a ‘patch test’ first.

 

Glass 

The Basics: Non-porous. It is latex-free, phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. The material is smooth, rigid and can absorb and maintain temperature.

Cleaning Care: Basic cleaning methods are acceptable because it is a non-porous material: soap & water, toy cleaner. If you share your toys between people or orifices, make sure to sterilize them with rubbing alcohol or soaking in a 10% bleach solution. Glass should not be exposed to high temperatures to err on the safe-side (no boiling, no dishwasher). Different types of glass can withstand different temperatures, so always check with the manufacturer (Boroscilicate (pyrex) glass vs soda lime glass).

Tips: Cheaper glass toys are often mass-produced with cheap quality materials. Smaller, local companies will create a toy that has some variation to what you ordered, but it is because they’re making them with TLC. Glass is great for temperature play – soak in warm or cold water.

Avoid: Very few companies use decals or actual paint to decorate the glass. This is safe if done on the inside, but can be problematic if on the exterior.* Glass toys are hard to break, but they are prone to cracks or chips, and if this happens you need to throw out your toy.

*Information from Lilly: “I’ve asked a number of glass blowers [about colors] and the way it works for most is that the mineral salts used to create the colors are embedded in glass, which is added on to the existing glass (like when you see spirals, dots, etc). It’s encased in glass, so it’s okay. I tested every glass item I could get my hands on, none tested positive for lead, either. Very few companies use decal or actual paints, but it should be obvious when they do. Those are the ones that are problematic if it’s done on the outside because it can flake off in the body.”  Read more about glass toys on DangerousLilly.com. 

Storage: No issues.

Lube: Water-based, silicone-based or oil. You won’t have to use much. 

  

Wood 

The Basics: Non-porous. It is latex-free, phthalate-free and hypoallergenic (all depending on what coating is used). The material is smooth and rigid, but less rigid than glass.

Cleaning Care: Clean wood toys with a soft cloth, soap and water. Do not use abrasive cleaners, which can ruin the finish. So far there seems to be only one company that has proven to withstand diluted bleaches or rubbing alcohol (NobEssence), so until there are more outstanding companies – don’t do it. Some need to be air-dried and some need to be cloth-dried (check with the company).

Tips: Most wood sex toys are finished with polyurethane (PU) or lacquer that is body safe and permanent. Some smaller sellers complete a “natural finish” which entails only rubbing the wood in a few coats of wax or oil – which is only temporary (and obviously not ideal).

Avoid: Always check with the manufacturer what the finish is made of and how to care for the toy. If they cannot adequately answer you, don’t trust them.

Storage: No issues.

Lube: Water-based, silicone-based or oil. You won’t have to use much.

 

Metal 

The Basics: Non-porous. It is latex-free, phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. The material is smooth and rigid and heavier than other materials.

Cleaning Care: Basic cleaning methods are acceptable because it is a non-porous material: soap & water, toy cleaner. If you share your toys between people or orifices, make sure to sterilize them with rubbing alcohol. Do not use bleach unless the manufacturer indicates it is acceptable. You can also stick them in the dishwasher (alone, no detergent) or boil them (make sure to include a dishtowel or other protective barrier to avoid damage from metal against metal). If you choose to sterilize with heat, be careful as metal takes a long time to cool down.

Tips: When looking at metal toys, purchase medical/surgical grade stainless steel or aluminum. Steel is heavier than aluminum.

Avoid: There are many knock-offs on Ebay and Amazon. They might not be medical grade, or only the outer part will be metal and the inner part will be a different material. 

Storage: No issues.

Lube:   Water-based, silicone-based or oil. You won’t have to use much.

 

ABS Plastic/Hard Plastic 

The Basics: Non-porous. Phthalate-free. The material is smooth and rigid. ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

Cleaning Care: Basic cleaning methods are acceptable because it is a non-porous material: soap & water, toy cleaner. If you share your toys between people or orifices, make sure to sterilize them with rubbing alcohol (unless coated in polyurethrane). Do not boil plastic.

Tips: Transmits vibrations really well. Found on its own, or as part of a toy with another material (often silicone).

Avoid: The material may crack if dropped on a hard surface. If this happens, you need to throw it out.

Storage: No issues.

Lube: Water-based, silicone-based or oil. You won’t have to use much.

 

Thermoplastics (TPE/TPR) 

The Basics: Porous, but preferred over jelly/rubber. It is often latex-free, often phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. The material is squishy, smooth and odourless. TPE stands for Thermoplastic Elastomers and TPR stands for Thermoplastic Rubber.

Cleaning Care: These toys are porous, so only the surface will be cleaned. The pores will continue to hold onto bacteria, mould and chemicals. Only use soap and water. Toy cleaners will not work. Sanitizing with a dishwasher, boiling water, rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach will break down the material. Using a condom as a barrier is suggested, but only polyurethane condoms as the oils from the TPE/TPR will degrade latex.  

Tips: Non-porous TPR/TPE ‘medical grade’ exist, but only trust reputable companies.

Avoid: It is recommended to throw out these toys after 6-12 months of use. Throw out your toy if there are any colour changes, black spots (mould) or odours. Do not share these toys with another person, and do not use for both vaginal and anal insertion.

Storage: Keep away from heat. Ideally keep them in a separate bag from other toys. 

Lube: Water-based or silicone-based. Do not use oil.

 

Jelly/PVC 

The Basics: Porous. May contain latex and phthalates. Releases chemicals. The material is very soft, squishy, bouncy and odourous. Melts when in contact with heat and reacts poorly to other materials. PVC stands for Polyvinyl chloride and is softened with agents, often phthalates.

Cleaning Care: These toys are porous, so only the surface will be cleaned. The pores will continue to hold onto bacteria, mould and chemicals. Only use mild soap and water. Toy cleaners will not work. Sanitizing with a dishwasher, boiling water, rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach will break down the material. Using a condom as a barrier is suggested, but it will not block out all of the chemicals.

Avoid: It is generally recommended to avoid this type of material. Do not share these toys with another person, and do not use for both vaginal and anal insertion.

Storage: Do not put in contact with other toys of any materials. If you store two jelly toys together, they will melt.

Lube: Water-based or silicone-based. Do not use oil.

 

Cyberskin or “real skin” materials 

The Basics: Incredibly porous. Phthalate-free.

Cleaning Care: These toys are porous, so only the surface will be cleaned. The pores will continue to hold onto bacteria, mould and chemicals. Only use mild soap and water, followed by dusting the product with corn starch or another non-talc powder. Sanitizing with a dishwasher, boiling water, rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach will break down the material.   Should be used with a polyurethane condom.

Avoid: Avoid painted colours as they usually come off the material. Avoid using in strap-on harnesses or other hard/sharp objects as it tears easily.

Storage: Do not put in contact with other toys of any materials, as the cyberskin can melt of fuse to your other toys. Store in a cool, dry place in a separate bag.

Lube: Only use water-based lubricant.    

Note: For Male Masturbators, always read the cleaning care process from the manufacturer’s website. 

A Couple Of Kinks