Sex toy materials: the dos and (please) don'ts

We can all agree on the fact that sex toys are fun, sex toys are great - but are they always safe? Worry not! In this article, Hella Peter gives us a 101 on basic sex toy care and safety.

Basic sex toy safety

It might sound trivial, but the first ultimate rule, regardless of the material, is to wash your toys after every use. It can seriously prolong the lifespan of your toy, and, let’s admit it, dried on bodily fluids are not exactly hygienic. Don’t think about anything too serious, though. A quick warm water rinse, or some gentle scrubbing with some sex toy wash will do perfectly. To help with cleaning, you might want to put a condom on the toy, or your penis, depending on who puts what in what.

Another essential is lube, especially if you venture into anything involving your bum – please do not substitute with Vaseline, body lotion, massage oil, spit, or anything, as they can either throw off vaginal pH, or disintegrate your toy. It is also better to stick with water based lube, over a silicone based one, as silicone toys or condoms can be deteriorated by it.

Talking about condoms, STDs can be transmitted by sharing sex toys, so use the same precautions as you would during sex if you are not fluid-bonded with the person.

Finally, one last word of wisdom, before we switch to materials: if you plan on inserting anything anally, make sure it has a flared base, preventing it from getting lost in your butt and having to seek medical assistance to fish it out. Please.

Safe sex toy material and why should I care

Now onto safe materials. Sex toys get in contact with your genitals, where the skin is pretty delicate and the mucus membrane allows for easier absorption of chemicals into your body. That means, a badly chosen sex toy can harbour some mildew at best (ew), or slowly dissolve with use, allowing harmful chemicals to get in contact with your body at worst. And since sex toys only undergo safety tests meant for items only in temporary contact with body (look for “novelty use only” on the package, a huge red flag), manufacturers can get away with using cheaper, unsafe materials in their products. You can bet they do not test for chemical reactions undergoing in, say, a warm, acidic vaginal environment. So let’s see what you should steer clear of, and what are safe choices.

Jelly toys

Jelly toys can look very cute and jiggly. They are soft, and have a satisfying give to them, in contrast to harder silicone or ABS plastics. But honestly, that’s all the positives about them. They all contain phthalates, the chemical responsible for the jigglyness – but studies showed its connection to cancer, and it is already banned in kids’ toys. So, do not put them inside or on your body.

Wood, stone

Etsy and all the other self-starting business websites are full of “indie” sex toys, wooden ones being one of them. However, both wood and stone are porous materials, which can harbour bacteria. Unless you can make absolutely sure the manufacturer treats these materials with a body-safe method that also makes the resulting toys non-porous, it is better to steer clear.

Gemstone and minerals

Yes, seriously, gemstone and minerals. Talking about “indie” sex toys, you can find many online places offering sex toys made out of them: onyx, rose quartz, malachite and so on. However, most of them are porous, and it is hard to find information on whether they would literally dissolve in a human body. Unless you have a geologist friend who can be bothered to calculate how a given mineral would react to an anus or a vagina, it is better not to risk a very awkward visit to your GP.

Sex toys might look and feel fun, but always check their labels for the material

Sex toys might look and feel fun, but always check their labels for the material


Good old medical grade silicone is your friend if you love the squish and give of jelly toys – but without the suspicious chemicals. It is the same material used for menstrual cups, so it is appropriate for sustained and long-term use, even in contact with bodily fluids and is non-porous. Look for the medical silicone label, or do a flame test – if your toy is pure silicone, holding it in a flame for a few seconds won’t harm it in any ways besides some minor ashing.

Stainless steel

Speaking of materials already in use in medicine, stainless steel is another safe choice – non-porous and body safe. Steel could be your choice if you like your toys a bit more sturdy and minimalistic. Price-wise the same goes for steel as it did for silicone, but a steel toy is guaranteed to last you for a lifetime (I mean, how would you break it?).


Finally, glass, especially Pyrex glass toys, are good to go as well. Non-porous, safe for your body, and often looking like a straight up artwork or a Sailor Moon prop (comes handy if someone might stumble upon your toy), this might be your ideal choice if you like a harder toy. Also, they come in all shapes and sizes, so chances are good you can find the exact bump and curve array that gets your engine going.

Generally, doing your research, like reading reviews, checking the background of companies, or asking a shop assistant if you are in a shop, will help you decide if a sex toy will be safe and fun for you. Being prepared to spend a good 20 pounds or more on a toy and sticking with a reputable retailer pays off – both for the quality, and for your body, keeping yourself safe and clean.