Keepin It Safe

Maybe you’ve just assumed that those toys you use in your most private orifices are okay. But, that isn’t necessarily true! It’s kind of unbelievable that the materials used for children’s toys are carefully regulated, but not for adult toys. That’s why you may be noticing that more product descriptions include “Body-Safe.”

What makes something Body Safe? Let’s start at the beginning –

Word count – 2,566 Read time – A really important 10-minutes!)

 

Toy Materials and Health

Labels on sex toys and lube can be just as confusing and difficult to translate as those on food items, but it’s just as important to fully understand what you’re putting into your body via your vagina or anus.

What are phthalates and why is it important that your toys don’t have them? What is the difference between food-grade, medical-grade, platinum, and 100% silicone? What is Sil-a-Gel anyway? What is a biostatic? Could that glass toy break in my body? TPE, TPR, PVC, ABS, what?

 

Repeat After Me: Sex Toy Materials aren’t Regulated

Many manufacturers still use materials that have been banned from baby goods and water bottles to make their products. Incredibly, there are no regulatory boards or agencies in the United States, Japan, Canada and the European Union regulating the safety of sex toys.

Regulating sex toy production is something many Americans are not ready to do. In fact, the sale of sex toys is still illegal in Alabama and laws in parts of Georgia and Texas, as well as other states, based on the beliefs about sexual freedom that the products are “immoral and obscene.”

 

Safe Sex Toys – A Consumer Responsibility

Because sex toys are unregulated, it is up to you to make sure you are well informed about how to find a Body Safe sex toy. Body Safe means that the toy does not contain any chemicals or materials in it that are unsafe to use inside your body. Additionally, a truly body safe toy is nonporous and can be sterilized.

It simply is not safe to hope that most sex toys on the market are being made with safe materials. The iconic Rabbit, brought into popular culture by Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex in the City – pink, may be glittery, transparent, smells like a shower curtain. That Rabbit, a part of our cultural consciousness and maybe even your sexual awakening, is not body-safe.

One example is PVC. It’s used everywhere, including our plumbing. Sex toys are commonly made from Jelly Latex, which is made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC and uses plastic softeners (including phthalates–a carcinogenic compound added to hard plastics, to make them bendy, squishy). PVC is known to leak toxins after six months, when the material becomes agitated, or from heat. These toxins are stored in fat cells causing kidney and liver cancer in addition to damaging to your reproductive organs. Obviously, this material is not suitable for products that will be go inside your body, exposed to heat and friction. Without any regulating body, manufacturers are getting away with continuing to use it and relying on an uninformed consumer base.  

 

Deciphering Sex Toy Terminology

Toys can be washed, disinfected, and sterilized, depending on their material.

Washing a toy which should be done both before and after use, serves to disinfect the toy and removes any dust, lint, or pet hair from the toy.

Disinfecting a toy means cleaning all  or most surface level contaminants – body fluids, microbes, and bacteria.

Sterilizing a toy involves putting it in the dishwasher or boiling it, if it doesn’t have an internal motor, or soaking in a 10% bleach solution for at least 15-30 minutes and then thoroughly washing.

Three important notes about cleaning your toys:

First, a porous toy cannot be sterilized and may pass bacteria and infections to partners through shared use.

Second, toy cleaners on the market are a reasonable short term solution for cleaning a toy (say, to toss in a purse and head home), but they function kind of like antibacterial hand gel — washing does the same trick and doesn’t leave chemicals all over your toys.

Third, always clean your toys, especially if they’ve been shared between orifices and/or partners before putting them away.

There are several materials that companies use to make sex toys that are safe for your body: silicone, elastomed, ABS plastic, stainless steel, or borosilicate glass. Additionally, elastomer (TPE) and phthalate-free TPR are considered body safe because they do not leech chemicals into the body, although they are porous and cannot be sterilized.

 

Following is a detailed run-down of the most commonly used materials and what to do and not do with each.

 

Silicone

Basic: 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 manufacturer recommends. Silicone is heat resistant, so don’t worry about any melting. Make sure to rinse thoroughly after using a cleaning product.

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

Be Aware: 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.

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 the 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. A silicone lube can melt your silicone toy.

Glass

Basic: Non-porous. It is latex-free, phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. The material is smooth, rigid and can absorb and maintain temperature. The best glass toys are made from Borosilicate glass (trade name “Pyrex”). A 1-inch rod of Pyrex glass requires more than 3000 pounds of pressure to snap in half and has a crush strength of over 8 tons.

Cleaning Care: Basic cleaning with soap and water is fine as it is a non-porous material. 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).

Be Aware: Cheaper glass toys are often mass-produced with lower quality materials. Small local companies will create a toy that has some variation but it is because they’re making them with TLC. Glass is great for temperature play – soak in warm or cold water. Be sure that any design is part of the glass and not a decal or paint that can flake off inside your body.

Avoid: Any glass toys with decals or painted-on designs. 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.

Storage: No issues.

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

 

Wood

Basic: Although some will insist wood toys are non-porous, we believe you should treat it as porous. Depending on what coating is used, it is latex-free, phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. The material is smooth and rigid, but considered less rigid than glass.

Cleaning Care: Clean wood toys with a soft cloth, soap and water. Do not use abrasive cleaners, which will 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. They to be cloth-dried and air-dried before storing, depending. Check with the company.

Be Aware: 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: Wood toys need special handling and storage to avoid damage and compromising the finish. Each should be thoroughly dry before storing in a padded bag of its own.

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

Metal

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

Cleaning Care: Basic cleaning with soap and water is acceptable because it is a non-porous material. 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.

Be Aware: 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

Basic: Non-porous. Phthalate-free. The material is smooth and rigid. ABS is the acronym for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

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

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

Avoid: The material may crack if dropped on a hard surface. If this happens, same as with a bicycle helmet, 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)

Basic: Porous but preferable to 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 has been suggested but there is not actual evidence that this will protect you from bacteria, etc. If you insist on buying a TPR/TPE toy against recommendations then make sure to only use polyurethane condoms as any oils from the TPE/TPR will degrade latex.

Be Aware: 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

Basic: Porous. May contain latex and phthalates. Releases chemicals. The material is very soft, squishy, bouncy and odorous. Some say they have a “new car” smell. Melts when in contact with heat and reacts poorly to other materials. PVC stands for Polyvinyl chloride and is softened with agents, often phthalates. This is a carcinogenic free-for-all!

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 has been suggested but condoms will not block out all of the chemicals and bacteria. We repeat: condoms will not block out the chemicals. If you insist on buying a Jelly/PVC toy against recommendations then make sure to only use polyurethane condoms as the oils from these toys will absolutely degrade latex.  

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. Better yet, just don’t buy or use these things!

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

Basic: Incredibly porous. Phthalate-free. Typically only used for masturbator sleeves and not for penetrative toys. Easily damaged.

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 as the oils from the material will break down latex.

Avoid: Avoid painted colours as they usually come off the material. Avoid using with 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 or fuse to your other toys. Store in a cool, dry place in a separate bag.

Lube: Use only water-based lubricant.    

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

 

So on your next shopping spree, remember your friends – silicone, borosilicate glass, and stainless steel. You will end up with a body safe, higher quality sex toy, and your body will thank you. Girl Groove Boutique is a 100% Body Safe zone.

 

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