The Bare Minimum For a Sex Toy That Doesn't Suck: Materials & Safety

[Image: Super Smash Cache "No Toxic Toys" banner, featuring a cartoon drawing of a melting butt plug with a skull face in the drips. Butt plugs that melt are DEFINITELY toxic.]

Many con­sumers buy mys­tery mate­r­i­al jel­ly dil­dos and vibra­tors because they’re cheap, with­out stop­ping to think about what jel­ly is, or its effects on del­i­cate, inter­nal mucous membranes.

You read food labels and make sure your ingestibles are safe. Why should you inspect your insertable sex toys any less care­ful­ly? Sex toys, unlike food, have no reg­u­la­tion in the mar­ket. As a result, they’re com­mon­ly made of cheap and tox­ic mate­ri­als; man­u­fac­tur­ers keep nei­ther the envi­ron­ment nor the consumer’s safe­ty in mind.

WTF even is a "jelly" sex toy?

“Jelly” is an umbrel­la term for mix­es of polyvinyl chlo­ride plas­tic and rub­ber, with the addi­tion of phtha­lates used to soft­en the PVC. According to Tantus Inc., a man­u­fac­tur­er of sil­i­cone toys, a PVC sex toy is typ­i­cal­ly com­posed of 35–75% phtha­lates. If there is no plasticizing/softening agent, the PVC is a rigid plastic.

Signs your toy is undoubtedly jelly

The Bare Minimum For a Sex Toy That Doesn't Suck: Materials & Safety 1

If a sex toy has a vinyl “show­er cur­tain” smell, it's off-gassing and leech­ing the phtha­lates and oth­er tox­ic chem­i­cals into the envi­ron­ment. The off-gassing can melt oth­er jelly/PVC toys near it. Exhibit A: Smitten Kitten's tox­ic toy jars. Body-safe toys, includ­ing sil­i­cone, don't do that when you store them togeth­er because they’re chem­i­cal­ly sta­ble and inert.

As well, trans­par­ent and soft sex toys are almost cer­tain­ly jel­ly. There are translu­cent sil­i­cone sex toys on the mar­ket, but trans­par­ent sil­i­cone is usu­al­ly expen­sive and used in small amounts to make con­tact lenses.

What's the problem with the chemical composition?

Phthalates are a sus­pect­ed human car­cino­gen and endocrine dis­rup­tor, linked to infer­til­i­ty, can­cer, kid­ney dam­age, and devel­op­men­tal abnor­mal­i­ties (for exam­ple, a preg­nant woman mas­tur­bat­ing, or a baby play­ing with a PVC teething ring). You don't have to take just my word for it. The U.S. gov­ern­ment rec­og­nizes phthalate-infused PVC as unsafe for use in children's toys.

Other sub­stances you might find in jel­ly toys include cad­mi­um, toluene, cyclo­hexa­none, tetrahy­dro­fu­ran, 1‑methyl-2-pyrrolidinone, phe­nol, dimethyl­for­mamide, dimethyl phos­phite, and oth­er chem­i­cals with doc­u­ment­ed detri­men­tal health effects. Some of these com­pounds are com­mon­ly used in lab­o­ra­to­ries, but only with the usu­al safe­ty pre­cau­tions of wear­ing gloves, long sleeves, pants, and closed shoes. They are not com­pounds meant to be in your orifices.

Jelly is such a vague term, and man­u­fac­tur­ers are not legal­ly oblig­at­ed to state what the ingre­di­ents are. You don't know what you're getting.

Toxic toys are porous, unhygienic, and impossible to sanitize

Bacteria and fun­gi can also live in the pores of the mate­r­i­al. Even if you're the only one using the toy. Even if you're using it only in one hole. It is a cesspool of microbes that can mul­ti­ply and can dis­rupt your nat­ur­al bal­ance. Even if you, say, soak them in bleach, all that does is house bleach that can't get entire­ly be removed from the pores but is grad­u­al­ly released as the mate­r­i­al degrades, mak­ing the toy even more toxic.

Can't I just put a condom on it?

The prob­lem is that the oils used in mak­ing the jel­ly can dis­solve the con­dom. There's no guar­an­tee that a con­dom would pro­tect you. Nobody is say­ing you WILL get infect­ed or that you WILL get can­cer if you use jel­ly on your gen­i­tals, but that you're increas­ing your risk the more you expose your­self to it. Do your research when it comes to your health.

Body-safe sex toy materials you can trust

Bad Dragon Hanns Small, BMS Pillow Talk Sassy, Blush Noje G Slim, Blush Hop Cottontail, Je Joue Uma, and my pink and purple Tantus toys

There are many body-safe mate­ri­als to use, like glass, prop­er­ly fin­ished wood, hard ABS plas­tic, and steel. However, if you’re look­ing for a non-rigid toy, sil­i­cone is the only soft mate­r­i­al that is both body-safe and non-porous.

Other mate­ri­als like TPE and TPR aren't tox­ic, but they're porous and not for long-term use. Wash them thor­ough­ly after every use, and throw them away if there are any signs of micro­bial growth, like dark spots or a funky smell.

Since there is no reg­u­la­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ers can inten­tion­al­ly mis­la­bel tox­ic toys as “phthalate-free” or “body-safe.”

The only way to know you’re get­ting 100% sil­i­cone is to buy from a retail­er or man­u­fac­tur­er you trust to label their prod­ucts accu­rate­ly. However, you can do a flame test when in doubt.

There are many, many options for afford­able and safe toys, but below a cer­tain price point, you get what you pay for. Don't take the health of your inter­nal organs light­ly; safe­ty and qual­i­ty are an investment.


Examples of body-safe sex toy makers

Tantus, LELO, Vixen Creations, Fun Factory, Hole Punch Toys, Je Joue, JimmyJane, BSwish, Njoy, Nobessence, Papaya Toys, Crystal Delights, Swan, Jopen, Toyfriend, Minna Life, Laid, Bad Dragon, Damn Average, Fuze, Fucking Sculptures, BS is Nice, PleasureWorks, Standard Innovations / We-Vibe, Vamp Silicone

This list is by no means com­pre­hen­sive. You can find a vari­ety of sil­i­cone toys via my blog's "sil­i­cone" tag!

5 Responses

  1. Clara says:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve found on tox­ic toys 🙂 thanks for the guide!

  2. American Badger says:

    Thank you for mak­ing this, I will def­i­nite­ly use this when shopping.

  3. Jay says:

    Thankfully I found blogs before I bought my first sex toy, or else I prob­a­bly would’ve bought a cheap, tox­ic toy. I’ll def­i­nite­ly ref­er­ence friends new to toys to this guide!

  4. Annie says:

    I've been try­ing to con­vince my friend not to buy from Amazon, I'll have to send her this post

  5. Roxy says:

    I'm real­ly hap­py that I was aware of the porous/toxic toys issues before I bought my first sex toys.
    I don't under­stand why porous sex toys are still a thing . Even if some­one believes that a porous toy doesn't con­tain harm­ful chem­i­cals, the fact that it's porous alone means that it will have to be replaced even­tu­al­ly, it can nev­er be shared between part­ners or used in mul­ti­ple ori­fices, it can become a source of rein­fec­tion if some­one used it while hav­ing BV or a yeast infection…Body-safe mate­ri­als sim­ply offer more bang for your buck in terms of dura­bil­i­ty and ver­sa­til­i­ty, and they can be found for pret­ty cheap nowa­days. I sup­pose that many peo­ple assume that if it's on sale it must be safe to use, and that's why edu­ca­tion is so important.

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