Understanding Different Sex Toy Materials and Why It Matters
Do you know what your favorite sex toy is made of? Understanding the different sex toy materials can help you make better choices and buy toys that will last much longer — while also being safer to use.
Here’s what you need to know about sex toy materials and why the one you choose matters so much.
Porous vs. Non-Porous Sex Toys
In general, sex toy materials break down into two main groups: porous and non-porous. Which group your sex toy belongs to determines how it feels, how well you can clean it, and even how safe it is to use.
Porous sex toys are typically softer, more flexible, feel much more life-life, and tend to cost less which is what makes them so popular. These toys are likely to contain phthalates — a chemical compound that binds with plastic and gives sex toys a realistic feel. Unfortunately, they’re also dangerous to people’s health. They’re known endocrine disruptors and could lead to cancer.
Which toys are porous? If your sex toy is made of these materials, it’s porous:
- Any soft material made to feel “real”
Most other sex toys fall into the non-porous category. They’re made of much harder materials, even if they feel soft. They also won’t have phthalates in them. Non-porous sex toys are, in general, a much safer option.
Which are non-porous? Any toy made of very hard materials such as:
- Medical grade silicone
- Metal or stainless steel
- ABS plastic
- Some (but not all) wood that’s been finished in body-safe materials
Sex Toy Safety: Cleaning and Sterilization
The material of your sex toy makes a big difference in how well you can clean it and how safe it is to use — with other partners and over time. All sex toys need to be cleaned after each use, but the method you use to clean them can make a big difference.
All sex toys can be cleaned with soap and water or a sex toy cleaner, including the softer, porous materials like your jelly dildos. But these toys can never be fully sterilized — easily done in a dishwasher or by submerging them in boiling water for a few minutes. Because of this, any germs or bacteria (even from your own body) can never be fully removed. You can reinfect yourself with a UTI or yeast infection or transfer bacteria from one partner to another.
The best way to keep a porous sex toy clean is to use a condom with it. This acts as a barrier between the body and the toy. All you have to do is remove the condom when you’re done and wash it with soap and water. If your sex toy contains phthalates, you still run the risk of any potential health problems by using it, even with a condom.
Silicone, metal, and glass can be cleaned in a dishwasher or in boiling water (as long as it doesn’t have a motor or battery). You can still use a condom over it if you’d like but you don’t have to because you know you can sterilize it later.
The benefit of non-porous materials, although they may cost more, they last longer. Sex toys made of softer, porous material can and do break down over time. Once bacteria grows on a jelly or rubber sex toy, you can’t get it off, and the toy has to be thrown out. But if you suspect something funky on a silicone or glass dildo, clean it in the top rack of your dishwasher (with hot water), and you’ve killed whatever’s growing on it.
Sex Toy Cost
A big reason why softer, porous materials are so popular is because they cost less money. Everyone, at any budget, should have access to affordable pleasure. Unfortunately, an inexpensive rubber or jelly toy may not be worth the money in the long run.
- It could be ruined by not cleaning it.
- Store it incorrectly, and it could melt.
- If it gets a funky smell, you have to toss it.
- Once it gets marks or streaks that don’t go away with soap and water, throw it away.
Non-porous sex toys may be more expensive, but they also last longer. You’ll be able to clean them more easily and use them for much longer. As silicone is becoming more popular with sex toy makers, costs are coming down. Glass dildos have been around for years, and during a good sale, you can often buy them for the same price or less than a jelly version.
If you’re going to buy a softer, more realistic feeling sex toy, understand the risks and do your best to keep yourself safe. Use a condom when you play, and throw it out the moment it smells or looks unclean. When you can, invest in better quality sex toys made of better materials. It’ll last longer and be better for your sexual health, in the long run. Bottomline: before you stick anything in your body (or your partner’s), make sure you know what it’s made of.