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Is Your Sex Toy Safe? The Best & Worst Sex Toy Materials

Lisa Hochberger, LMSW, MEd
Updated on April 30, 2021
April 30, 2021

Sex toys are a great pleasure aid for individuals and couples. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn't regulate the sex toy industry, usually classifying them as "novelty items." But just like you're careful about the food you put in your body and the cosmetics you put on your skin, it's equally important to avoid potentially dangerous compounds that can be found in your sex toys. Here's how to know which sex toys and dildo materials are safe:


Chemical makeup

Some toys are made with chemicals that are not safe for the human body. These chemicals can cause itching, burning, rashes, and tissue damage.

One chemical commonly used in sex toys is phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that aid in binding things together and make plastic more flexible. Phthalates are usually found in the rubber of cheap sex toys. In the past two decades, phthalates have become the subject of a major public health concern. The exposure to phthalates has been linked to male fertility issues, obesity, type 2 diabetes, asthma, neurodevelopmental issues, and more.

For this reason, many progressive sex toy stores, such as The Smitten Kitten, Babeland, Good Vibrations, and others, have made it a top priority to ensure that the items sold at their stores are phthalate-free.

Unfortunately, it is common for sex toy packages to read "phthalate-free" yet still contain hazardous materials. It's important to read about all the ingredients listed on the packaging to ensure safety. Other chemicals to look out for include:

  • Timethytin chloride
  • Phenol
  • Carbon disulfide
  • Toluene
  • Admium

These chemicals may affect the fetus of a person who is pregnant or breastfeeding. They also have harmful effects on the central nervous system.

A handy trick for checking unsafe materials is the smell test. If a product has a strong smell, that's a good indicator that cheap, unsafe materials were used to make it.


Porous vs. non-porous

Sex toys that are porous make a cozy home for bacteria to grow. Bacteria thrive in these places because they can't be properly sterilized. If you choose to use a porous sex toy, always use it with a condom.

Nonporous sex toys are smoother and have a water-resistant surface. These materials do not harbor bacteria because they can be sterilized with boiling water, bleach, or in a dishwasher. (Here's more on how to clean your sex toys.)



Best sex toy materials:

  • Silicone: Silicone is commonly used to make sex toys more bendy and realistic. It is more expensive than materials made with dangerous chemicals because it is more durable.
  • Stainless steel: This sexy material is not only nice to look at but easy to clean since it isn't porous. Just stick it in the dishwasher, in some bleach, or in boiling water.
  • Borosilicate glass: This material is perfect for sex toys because it is neither porous nor toxic, and it doesn't change form in high temperatures. To clean, just stick it in the dishwasher next to your stainless-steel sex toy.
  • Lucite: For those trying to strengthen their PC muscles, a Lucite sex toy is the perfect pick for you. The firm texture makes Kegel exercises easy to practice. Stick it in the dishwasher when you're finished using it.

Sex toy materials to avoid:

  • Jelly: An affordable material used to make sex toys feel somewhat realistic. Jellies contain phthalates.
  • Rubber: This latex material is commonly used to make dildos. It has a pungent odor and can cause allergic reactions. If you buy a rubber sex toy, be sure to use it with a condom because it is porous.
  • PVC and vinyl: These are both cheap materials that contain phthalates. They are commonly used in sex toys to make them soft and more affordable.

Store and brand values

When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions when you're physically at a sex toy shop. The staff at sex toy shops are trained to help you figure out exactly what sex products are best for you and prioritize your sexual health along the way. It's also a safer bet to seek out feminist sex toy companies and sex toy companies that are wellness-oriented. Happy shopping!

(And don't forget to use lube, too! Here's how to find the right vaginal lubricant for you.)

Lisa Hochberger, LMSW, MEd author page.
Lisa Hochberger, LMSW, MEd

Lisa Hochberger, LMSW, MEd, is cofounder of Sexpertise, an informative portal that educates the public about sexual wellness using innovative technology. Formally trained in human sexuality, Lisa's passion for the field is rooted in her belief that all human beings should understand what healthy sex is, regardless of culture, body or ability. Her particular areas of expertise are: the intersection of media and sexuality, modern romance, the effects of body image on sexuality, sexuality for people of all abilities, social media's effect on sexuality and contemporary dating websites.

As part of her work she has guest taught human sexuality at several universities across the east coast.

Lisa obtained her Masters of Education in Human Sexuality at Widener University's Center for Human Sexuality Studies. She is continuing her studies at the University as a doctoral candidate. Lisa is a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapist (ASSECT).