Sex toys come in a lot of different materials, each with its own qualities.
Unfortunately, the sex toy industry is majorly lacking in regulations, so not all sex toy materials are safe. It’s therefore super important to know what you’re putting in your body.
Even safe materials have differences from one another that may lead you to prefer one over another.
Let’s take a look at the most common sex toy materials to help you decide.
Jelly, in the context of sex toys, is a combination of PVC and rubber. It’s been used to make sex toys for a long, long time, but that doesn’t make it a great option. In fact, jelly is no longer used by most popular sex toy manufacturers.
Jelly is flexible and soft, but it’s also porous. As a result, these toys can’t be completely sanitized. This allows bacteria and fungus to sink into the material and grow, posing a health hazard for you. The porosity also makes jelly harder to clean than other materials.
Jelly also often contains phthalates. Now the research on how phthalates affect human health isn’t clear, but a lot of people are concerned about negative health effects. Phthalates may even be linked to cancer.
Don’t expect these toys to last as long as those made from some other materials, either. Jelly toys can crack or melt over time.
In addition, jelly toys can react to other toys of various materials, causing melting and discoloration. For that reason, jelly toys should be stored separately, such as in individual bags.
For safety, cover jelly toys with a condom before using them. This helps keep the toy clean and extends its life. Throw away jelly toys if they become discolored or develop a smell.
Buf if jelly has all of these disadvantages, why do any manufacturers still use it?
Well, because it’s cheap. This allows toy makers to sell at a lower price and the undercut competition that’s using higher quality materials, or else price similarly to the competition and make huge profit margins.
Either way, it’s best to avoid jelly toys.
TPE (for thermoplastic elastomer) and TPR (for thermoplastic rubber) are two names for the same category of plastic rubber. It’s similar to jelly in a lot of ways, including that it’s an outdated material. This material is mainly use in adult sex dolls.
TPE toys are porous, have a short lifetime, and often contain phthalates. Also like jelly, TPE toys may interact with other toys. They also have a tendency to have a recognizable funky smell that doesn’t fade over time.
As a rule, it’s best to avoid TPE toys altogether.
If you do use one, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Cover TPE toys with a condom before using them, but especially before anal play. Remember to always switch to a new condom when switching from anal to vaginal penetration. Don’t share TPE toys with partners.
TPE sex toys can be cleaned with an antibacterial spray or antibacterial soap and water. Don’t boil or bleach them.
TPE is often very textured, on top of being porous. That means they need to be scrubbed carefully to remove all residue. Then they need to be completely dried to make sure they don’t mold.
Toys made from TPE need to be stored individually to avoid reactions with other toys.
Finally, TPE toys should only be used with a water-based or water/silicone hybrid lube. Never use oil-based lubricant with TPE toys.
Silicone is the darling of the sex toy world. It’s available in a lot of textures and varying degrees of firmness to fit whatever sensations you like. You can also find it in a lot of colors and finishes, even fun finishes like glitter and glow in the dark. It doesn’t usually have a smell or taste either.
It’s also one of the safest materials currently available for sex toys.
Silicone stands up to heat very well, so it’s great for temperature play and is easy to sanitize.
You can usually place it in some boiling water or even run it through the dishwasher.
Just make sure to confirm the heat tolerances first, though, because silicone doesn’t all stand up to heat equally well. If heat is a problem, you can soak in a 1 part bleach, 10 part water solution for 10 to 15 minutes.
Virtually all types of sex toys are available in silicone, from vibrators to gags and more. The softness coupled with the cleanability makes it especially popular for toys intended for insertion, like dildos and butt plugs.
Silicone is more expensive than a lot of other sex toy materials. It’s long-lasting though, so you can save money in the long run over buying and replacing cheaper toys that don’t last.
Just be aware that silicone or oil-based lubricants can damage silicone, so use silicone toys with a water-based or oth
You can do a patch test with the lubricant to be safe. Just apply a small amount to the toy and let it sit for a few minutes. If there’s a change to the texture, shape, or finish, you shouldn’t use the lubricant with that toy.
When it comes to sex toy materials, glass is an oldie but a goodie.
It’s nonporous and nonreactive, so it’s safe and easy to clean. It has no taste or smell. It’s also just plain pretty a lot of the time.
Glass toys come in a huge variety of shapes and textures that provide not just interesting sensations, but also a lot of visual appeal. Some people even like to collect glass toys because of the diverse array of elegant designs.
Glass is resistant to extreme temperatures. It can be heated or frozen, so it’s great for temperature play.
To wash, you can boil your toy or throw it in the dishwasher. You can also just hand wash with soap and water, or with a toy cleaner.
Glass sex toys should be made from tempered glass, which makes them also resistant to shattering, chipping, or cracking.
Avoid glass toys with very thin or pointed parts or from less than reputable manufacturers, as these toys can break, leaving unsafe edges. Additionally, while colored glass is fine, avoid glass toys with coatings. This coatings can leach toxins or flake off.
The main downside of glass is the hardness, which some people may find uncomfortable. The craftsmanship behind a good glass toy means they can also get pricey, though there are simpler, more affordable options as well.
ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is a type of thermoplastic polymer.
If silicone is out of your price range, ABS plastic can be a great alternative. It’s more affordable, but is still nonporous and totally body safe. In fact, ABS is also commonly used for medical equipment. Like silicone, ABS typically has little to not smell or taste.
It’s also easy to clean with a toy cleaner or with soap and warm water. Just don’t boil ABS plastic toys or run them through the dishwasher, as extreme heat can damage the plastic.
Like glass, the hardness of ABS plastic can be a problem. ABS isn’t as smooth as glass though, so couple it with plenty of lube.
Fortunately, ABS can be safely used with water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubes, so you have plenty of options.
For the environmentally inclined, ABS can be recycled. ABS plastic is a common choice for vibrators, particularly those for external stimulation. Most people want insertable vibrators to be softer.
ABS plastic vibrators can be pretty noisy though, so that’s something to keep in mind if you want a more discrete toy or just find noise distracting in the moment.
However, some toys have an ABS plastic core with a higher-end outer, like silicone, to help lower the price while providing the comfort of a softer, smoother material.
In a lot of ways, stainless steel is similar to glass. It’s smooth, non-porous, and resistant to extreme temperatures. It has no scent or taste. Stainless steel doesn’t react to other toy materials and can be used with any type of lubricant.
However, like with glass, the hardness may not be everyone’s thing. On the other hand, some people like the extra weightiness of steel.
Make sure you’re choosing stainless steel over other, lower-quality metals which may contain allergens like nickel. Stainless steel itself is hypoallergenic.
Unfortunately, regulations on the sex toy industry are lacking. Cheap, shady manufacturers may lie about the materials that a toy is made from, so consumers have to do their due diligence.
Only buy from well-known, high-quality manufacturers and make sure you’re familiar with a material before buying a toy made out of it.
Avoid unsafe materials like jelly and TPE in favor of body-safe materials like silicone, glass, ABS, and stainless steel. Unsafe materials can be dangerous for your health, both in the short term and down the road.
Beyond the safety concerns, being familiar with the materials your sex toys are made out of helps ensure that you take proper care of them. Knowing the ins and outs of the materials makes it easy to lubricate, wash, and store them in the best way possible to avoid damage and extend the toy’s lifetime.
Finally, while you should definitely avoid unsafe materials, there’s no best sex toy material for all people. Among safe materials, your personal preferences will impact which material is right for you. And remember, you can always get toys from different materials to match your mood.
Don’t be afraid to mix and up and try new things. Experimenting with sex toys is half the fun!