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Your Ultimate Guide To Sex Toy Materials

Last updated December 4, 2018
Ultimate Guide to Sex Materials

When it comes to purchasing your pleasure products, it can be relatively easy to pick what colour you’d like and what size or shape suits your body and desires…

But have you ever considered the materials and what it’s really made of? Whether it’s body-safe, or what lubricants are compatible with it?

Look no further! We have pieced together your ultimate guide to sex toy materials, helping you on your new-found journey of sex toy professionalism. Become an expert of your own pleasure and play safe with this “handy” repertoire of information.

 

The most important thing to remember when choosing a pleasure product for you or your partner is that sexual needs vary from person to person. It might be useful to pop into your local sex shop, have a feel and a smell (but perhaps not a taste) to see what turns you on.

Having a variety can be very important as sometimes you might want that real lifelike sensation and other times you may want the cool hard pressure stimulation.

When buying online, stores usually have additional information and reviews too. It pays (in pleasure) to know what kind of materials you are investing in. So read up on how to maintain them – saving you money and the environment.

Meet The Materials

Silicone

Techniques for Stimulating the Balls - Tenuto

What is it?
This material is also known as Platinum silicone, or its scientific term polysiloxanes. There are many different types of silicone that all tend to be rubber-like. Medical grade silicone is usually found in most premium quality sex toys such as Crescendo and Tenuto

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
Smooth, with some having a silkier finish than others and with generally no smell or taste.

Is it safe?
Silicone is found in many things, but medical grade silicone is typically found in medical equipment as it has been FDA approved as safe for inserting inside the body. If it is 100% silicone then it should be 100% skin safe; hypoallergenic, latex free and phthalate free. Food grade silicone is up for debate as to whether it is body safe – where well known sex toy reviewer Dangerous Lilly says it is fine, yet founder of Dame Products, Alexandra Fine disagrees as it has not been tested inside the body.

What lubricant can I use with it?
Use with water-based or oil-based lube. Do not use with silicone-based lube, as this can damage the surface of the toy.

How should I clean and store it?
Clean well before and after use with soap and water, or a specially designed toy-cleaning product to avoid dust and germs. Keep stored separately from your other toys to avoid chemical reactions. If your product includes batteries, make sure you remove them when when cleaning or when not in use to maintain product life.

If your toy is 100% silicone then it should be non-porous and can be boiled for sterilisation. If silicone-based, silicone-mixed, silicone-like, silicone-blend or silicone-feel then do not boil. Alternatively, you can clean it with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, as long as you make sure to rinse thoroughly and let dry!

Glass

glass

What is it?
Most glass sex toys are made from borosilicate glass, like Pyrex, which is heat-resistant and shatterproof – it’s the same stuff that makes most of your kitchenware. But don’t be using your glass dildo to scramble your eggs…

What does it feel like?
Smooth and sturdy, which is perfect for pressure-play. Glass is also great for temperature-play as it adjusts to heating and cooling quite easily. It can be popped in the fridge or a bowl of cold water to be cooled down.

Caution: avoid freezer temperatures as this could cause injury. For a warmer experience we suggest putting it in a bowl of warm water.

Caution: we wouldn’t recommend boiling or microwaving as this could cause injury.

Is it safe?
Glass is skin safe. But if you notice any crack, even the smallest hairline, get rid of it to avoid injury!

What lubricant can I use with it?
Glass can be used with all lubes. Halle-lube-yah!

How should I clean and store it?
This material – just like your kitchenware – can be cleaned relatively easily with soap and water, or even in your dishwasher!
It is also a non-porous material, so it can be boiled for sterilisation.

Plastic

plastic straws sex toy materials guide

What is it?
ABS plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is the most commonly used material in children’s toys for its cheap production value – LEGO is made from this – and it is mostly used in basic sex toys. Also, do be sure to check if the product is blended with other materials such as latex – which many people are allergic to.

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
Tends to be hard, and without any distinct smell or taste.

Is it safe?
Generally skin-safe, but if blended with phthalates and latex then can become harmful to the skin.

What lubricant can I use with it?
Works best with water-based and silicone-based lubricants.

How should I clean and store it?
This material is pretty easy to clean with a sex toy cleaning product or just water and soap. This is not a porous material so it can be sterilised through boiling.

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)

What is it?
Polyvinyl chloride is a popular man-made plastic, commonly used an alternative to rubber.

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
PVC can come in rigid or flexible forms. Most sex toys and bondage gear will use the flexible form for its shiny, stretchy and slick qualities. It also tends to have a strong smell of plastic.

Is it safe?
Unfortunately, most PVC products contain phthalates and therefore aren’t strictly safe for all skin types, or insertion. 

What lubricant can I use with it?
Use only with water-based lube.

How should I clean and store it?
Rigid PVC material is non-porous and easy to clean, however flexible PVC can be porous and harder to clean. Use warm – but not hot – water and soap or a sex toy cleaner.

Store away from other toys (preferably in its own casing) to avoid chemical reaction and damage to either toy. As it is porous, it cannot be boiled for sterilisation.

Real feel

What is it?
Real feel materials are also known as cyberskin, softskin or ultraskin made from Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE). They are frequently used in sex toys for penises, such as masturbation sleeves and cock rings.

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
It is realistically flesh-like, with soft and flexible capabilities. Other benefits are that it also warms to the touch, proving increasingly popular for sex toys. However, due to its softness, vibrations tend to be weak. It can have a strong rubbery smell and taste.

Is it safe?
There is some contention around whether this skin-like product should be considered safe. Although it is non-toxic, it’s porousness makes it prone to bacterial growth. TPE can be mixed with other materials and product softeners which some people are allergic to. So, do make sure you check with the manufacturer.

What lubricant can I use with it?
Real feel is compatible with water-based lubricants only.

How should I clean and store it?
As it is a porous material, it is generally difficult to clean. Best cleaned with just water and completely dried before storing.

Caution: discolouring can mean the pores are growing mould so throw it away! Keep your real feel separate from other toys and use a condom to maintain product life. It is recommended to replace this material every 5 months.

Metal

What is it?
Metal sex toys are usually made from medical grade stainless steel. Beware of products that include other metals such as nickel which some people are allergic to. 

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
Rigid and smooth, mirror like, with no strong taste or smell. Like glass toys, temperature-play is also fun try out with metal, as (remember back to your science class!) it conducts heat. With a higher density, metal toys can also be fun for weighted & pressure-play. They make great massagers – internally and externally. Or butt plugs.

Is it safe?
As metal sex toys cannot be mixed with phthalates or latex, and aren’t porous means they are super safe. Yay!

What lubricant can I use with it?
All lubes are good to use with metal products.

How should I clean and store it?
Easily washed with soap and water, antibacterial sex toy cleaners or in the dishwasher. Metal is not a porous material so can be boiled for sterilisation.

Wood

What is it?
Wood is perhaps not the most commonly thought of material for a sex toy due to the preconceived fear of splinters. However, if made correctly, with a high-quality finish it makes for a beautiful product.

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
Similar smoothness and hardness to glass or metal with the shine finish. Depending on what type of wood is used will give the product a different weight and look.

Is it safe?
As long as it has been given a proper sanding and non-toxic resin finish this material will body safe. As it is a natural material is is also environmentally friendly as it will not give off chemicals. Do check where the material was sourced if possible, as some manufacturers tend to use scrap wood, meaning less damage to the rainforests.

What lubricant can I use with it?
Wood is compatible with all lubricants, but only needs a small amount.

How should I clean and store it?
Store well in a protective case to maintain quality. Use water, avoid using soap to maintain product life. 

Caution: dispose of if there is any sign of wear to avoid injury… ouch, beware splinters! 

Rubber

What is it?
Rubbery is known as a cheap material, and is made from the resin of the rubber tree. 

What does it feel, taste and smell like?
Has a rubbery flexible texture, with a strong rubbery smell and chemical taste.

Is it safe?
It is advised to use a condom with rubber toys as they often contain phthalates which can be harmful to the body. In recent years skin-safe rubber has been produced, but it is not yet widespread.

What lubricant can I use with it?
If you decide to use without a condom, rubber can be used with both water-based and silicone-based lubricants. 

How should I clean and store it?
Do not store near other materials to avoid chemical reaction and melting toys. Rubber is porous and cannot be sterilised. It is difficult to clean thoroughly, but can be washed with soap and water.

Lubricant Compatibility

Not only do you need to be wary of what lubes work well with your body, but what reacts well with your toys too! They are super useful when it comes to sex toys, making for easier penetration and a more exciting sensory experience. We recommend starting with a pea-sized amount to your hands and rubbing them together before applying to the toy for a warmer experience.

Make sure you store your lubes in cool dark places, and take note of the expiry date – out of date lube ain’t sexy, people! It is good to try out a few to see which suit you best, but here’s some ground rules for using lubricant with your toys:

  • Water-based lube
    Although this one tends to dry out the quickest, it does react well with all sex toy materials and tends to be the most body safe!
    Some water-based lubricants can contain ingredients that mess up your pH balance. Ingredients such as glycerin (found in most flavoured lubes) and propylene glycol and paraben (which are preservatives) should be avoided to maintain a healthy and balanced vagina. Our top three water-based lubes have to be System Jo Agape lube, Liquid Silk realistic lube and Repair by Pjur originally formulated for sensitive skin.
  • Silicone-based lube
    The long-lasting, silky-smooth silicone lubes are super great for wet play when using your toys in the shower or bath as they do not wash off or get absorbed as easily as water-based lubes.

Caution: do not use with silicone products or real feel sex toy materials as they will react and melt the product.

  • Oil-based lube
    Oils are most fun when using sex toys as massagers, and mostly external use, and not recommended for internal vaginal use. It is the most popular lube for anal sex toys as the anus is not self-lubricating. Due to its thicker consistency it lasts on the skin longer than water-based lube. Cannot be used with latex condoms or latex-based toys.
  • Coconut oil
    Not advised to be used with latex condoms or latex-based sex toys as it can deteriorate the material. Although coconut oil does not deteriorate silicone sex toy materials, it is recommended getting extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil for best results.
  • Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly
    Is advised not to be used as a lubricant and especially with sex toys as it can remain on the product and on your skin acting as a barrier that cannot be absorbed, leading to potential infections.

 Health & Safety

Regulation

Sex toys are often classified as novelty products, rather than medical, as it is difficult and expensive to get them approved under the FDA (food and drug administration) regulation in the USA. Without proper regulation, over the past few decades the market has been flooded with cheap materials. Due the nature of their use, these can be harmful to the body and sexual health. Materials that are actually banned in other types of products, such as children’s toys, are still being mixed into sex toy materials.

As there are currently no firm regulations around sex toy material safety in the EU, US, Canada or Japan, it is vital that you do your homework before inserting any product into your body.

Body Safe Sex Toy Materials

When choosing your product, it is vital to consider the following things. 

  • Porous materials are used in many sex toys and while they are not toxic, they are definitely not body safe without special care. The more porous the material, the harder they are to clean. Bacteria and fungus tends to grow inside the pores of certain materials, which increases the risk of bacterial infections. To avoid this, use polyurethane condoms (not latex) when playing with materials such as TPE real feel, PVC and rubber.
  • Phthalates are a toxic material added to a lot of plastic to make it more malleable. They can be harmful to the human body, giving off a chemical that reacts with your skin and hormones – proven to negatively affect fertility.
    While it has been banned from most other industries, unfortunately, phthalates and other potentially harmful materials are still being mixed into sex toys due to a lack of firm regulations.
    When purchasing your sex toy make sure to read the ingredients and do your research online to check if the brand is trustworthy.

Sharing Toys

Sharing toys with a partner can be a great way to explore each other’s bodies and bring an edge of mystery to the bedroom. Just make sure you are either using condoms on the toy, just as you would with a new partner, or washing between uses! We have come up with some creative ways you can use your sex toy with a partner
If you plan on passing your toy on for second hand use, sterilising by boiling the toy (if applicable) will prohibit any bacteria being passed on.

Caution: do not boil if electrical or made of any material that will melt under hot temperatures.

Batteries

Of course you want your vibrators to last as long as they can – to avoid splashing out on more! So, make sure you remove any batteries when cleaning your toy to avoid damage and injury. Turns out, keeping the batteries removed when not in use also helps to maintain the life of your product. 

Alternatively, investing in a waterproof & wireless operated vibrator, like Crescendo, so you don’t have to worry about removing the batteries when washing or product life…

Eco-friendly

With the recent global movement of reducing our plastic waste – 10p plastic bags and banning of plastic straws – it seems a no brainer to also apply this to sex toys. Be wary as there are some companies who “Greenwash”, selling their products as eco and body friendly, when in fact they are not. These pose as a potential biohazard to the environment when degrading through the release of toxic chemicals.

Recycle, Reuse, Resell

Unfortunately you can’t just recycle your toys in your mainstream recycling. Depending on where you are in the world there have been projects specifically designed to recycle your toys. Here in the UK you can recycle through some online stores such as LoveHoney, where you can also get credits for your next purchase!

“Everyone loves silicone when it comes to toys because it’s so easy to clean, and comparatively easy to mould into different shapes, but it never degrades, which conjures an image of a floating island of dildos somewhere out in the middle of the ocean.” – Luke O’Neill, Vice

Or if you want to be super creative, like Dangerous Lilly, you can make your old toys into a work of art! In this video she also explains the damaging reaction when you store silicone with silicone! 

 History of Sex Toy Materials

  • 32,000 years ago – During the cavemen era, Siltstone (which was also used for chipping flint) is known as the world’s oldest sex toy material.
  • 500 BCSoft leather and wood dildos, called Olisbos, were invented by the Ancient Greeks, which required olive oil as lubrication.
  • Egyptian era – Cleopatra rumoured to have used a papyrus box filled with live bees as her vibrator. Buzzing!
  • 300 AD – In the Kama Sutra Indian Sex manual, Wood, leather, buffalo horn, copper, silver or gold were used as penis extenders.
  • 500 AD – Chinese Ben Wa Balls (also now known as kegel exercisers) were made of solid metal on a silk string.
  • 1200 ADGoat’s eyelids with eyelashes intact are known to the be the first documented cock rings.
  • 1400 AD – Renaissance Italian dildos were made of wood or leather similar to those of the Ancient Greeks.
  • 1700sRubber sleeves (nicknamed “Ladies of the Journey”) were used by French and Spanish sailors out at sea as early masturbators.
  • 1930sLatex rubber was developed for better condoms and diaphragms.
  • 1970s – The first silicone dildo was invented by a disabled man, named G.I. Duncan, for his wife.

Future of Sex Toy Materials

In the future, materials will be artificially intelligent, changing the game for sex tech! 

Biotechnology is the next step in evolution. Today, humanoid-robot hybrids are already making cyborg sex possible, with internal heaters and electronic sensors under silicone skin in sex robots. Cyberpunk science fiction writer, Rudy Rucker, takes it a step further. Sharing his thoughts on the future of sex toy materials at The Deep Future TedX conference in Brussels, he predicts that we will be able to grow anything we need biologically. Even sex toys.

In his science fiction story, Junk DNA, he imagines sex toy materials made out of human tissue…
“…instead of plastic. Ideally the seed cells for the tissues would come from your lover’s body, so that the smells and pheromones are just right.”

While that may sound a touch strange, graphene is more popularly fore-fronted as the future of sextech. With the 20th C as the century of the plastics, the 21st is set to be the century of graphene.

With the strength of a diamond, this will be a man-made memory processing material with the thinnest structure and strongest capability of conducting heat and electricity. The possibilities are infinite.

Here’s just a few that the sextech industry may take advantage of:

  • Graphene condom that is so incredibly thin, can conduct heat and vibrate for both your pleasure
  • Graphene glove for electric stimulation
  • Graphene clothing that can grope and pinch
  • Graphene dildo/butt plug/cock ring that will literally do whatever you programme it to

 

Finally, haptic materials are being adapted within teledildonics to work and respond within virtual reality, to recreate the sense of touch, particularly in long-distance sexual relationships. Not only that, but these artificially intelligent materials will be able to respond to your body and your mood, with a memory that learns exactly how to turn you on, incredibly forming much closer relationships with technology itself. 

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