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Sex Toy Safety - How to Find Safe Sex Toys

Are Sex Toys Regulated?

Porosity: The Nonporous Toy Rule

Toxic Sex Toy Materials to Avoid

Does Covering Toxic Toys Make Them Safe?

Safe Sex Toy Materials


Are Sex Toys Regulated?

The short answer is no; sex toys are unregulated. Besides the European ISO's 2021 release of manufacturing guidelines, there are no organizations regulating the sex toy industry. We could go on a whole rant about how our society’s sex negative stance results in all sorts of human harm, but that’s for another day. The main thing you need to know is that there is no equivalent of the FDA for sex toys, so it’s ultimately up to consumers to do the research. If that sounds overwhelming, we get it, and that’s why we wrote this guide to help you. So read on!


Porosity: The Nonporous Toy Rule

When researching what toys are safe vs. unsafe, a topic you will see come up repeatedly is toys that are porous vs. those that are nonporous. The easiest rule of thumb to follow is to simply choose toys that are nonporous. But what materials are porous and which are nonporous? Answering this question can be more confusing than you might think, and not all toys that are porous are awful (though most are...hence the rule). 

To give you an example of what we mean, take silicone. Silicone is often touted as being nonporous, but this is technically incorrect. Silicone is microporous, meaning yes, there are pores in the material, but those holes are too small to harbor harmful microbes like bacteria and mold. That means that silicone is safe to use since it doesn’t harbor harmful microbes and won’t degrade chemically, but the pores are still large enough to hold odors and stains (if you’ve ever stored coffee, garlic, onions, or tomato sauce in a silicone food container, you’ve seen this concept at work). So while silicone toys are indeed safe to use internally, they will require more thorough cleaning with heavier use, especially when used as anal toys.

Another porous material that can be safe, though certainly not as popular nor prolific as silicone, is wood. No, that’s not a cute innuendo, there are sex toys made from real, made-from-a-tree wood. The key here to ensuring safety is making sure the wood is smoothed and polished, then finished with a body safe lacquer. This ensures that there is a barrier between your internal cavities and the pores within the wood. 

Then, of course, there are the exceptions to the “all nonporous toys are safe” aspect of the porosity rule. Metal is nonporous, but if you’ve ever bought earrings from Claire’s or worn costume jewelry that turned your skin green, you know all metal is not made the same. Stainless steel is the safest option, while aluminum alloy and nickel are not. Unfortunately, the latter two are much of what make up the metal toy market. If the toy is inexpensive and the company isn’t shouting a stainless or surgical steel composition from the rooftops, that toy ain’t safe.

Toxic Sex Toy Materials to Avoid


Flexible PVC, or vinyl, is made flexible with the addition of plasticizers. Plasticizers contain phthalates, which most people know as being toxic chemicals to avoid. This is a little complicated and another “it depends” situation. Some phthalates are toxic and have been banned in the use of children’s toys; these include DEHP, DBP and BBP. Other plasticizers like DINP, DPHP (Di- [2-propyl heptyl]phthalate), and Hexamoll DINCH have been shown through rigorous testing to be safe alternatives for inclusion in PVC. Reports like this one from the Danish EPA detail this at length. Safe alternatives for PVC manufacturing are essential, given its prevalence in our everyday lives: flooring, garden hoses, vegan leather, shower curtains, and a seemingly unavoidable number of other items. It is a good idea to avoid PVC for insertable toys altogether as mucosal membranes contain cells specially adapted for absorption, but the risk of skin absorption of toxic phthalates has been reported to be a “minor route of exposure.” The FDA is currently evaluating whether to change what phthalates are allowed to be used in food containment/manufacturing and it’s worth keeping our eyes on what comes of that decision.


Thermoplastic rubber (TPR) and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) refer to a combination of thermoplastic and rubber. The material is inexpensive to manufacture and the texture of toys made from these materials ranges from very soft to hard plastic. Sex toys made from TPR and TPE often mimic the feel and texture of human skin and some may resemble silicone. Toys made from these materials are often referred to with terms like “skin-like” and “realistic.” Most penis masturbators are made from these materials. 

Companies selling TPR and TPE toys claim they are long-lasting when given proper care, but this is untrue. TPR/TPE breaks down over time, especially when stored together or left uncovered or in an environment that isn’t temperature-controlled. One only has to take a quick trip to Reddit to see some of the horror stories of shredded penises from using these things…we wish we were joking.

Although TPR and TPE are free from phthalates, they are porous, meaning they are difficult to clean and impossible to fully sanitize. Using these toys leaves you prone to infections, and sharing these toys can result in STDs and STIs.


You might be thinking, “but condoms are latex rubber–isn’t rubber safe?” Don’t throw your unused condoms in the trash yet! Latex and rubber (besides the obvious allergies some people have) are safe for bodily use. HOWEVER (we know, there’s always a “but”), rubber sex toys pretty much always contain an array of other, very bad for you ingredients that make it best to avoid the rubber toys entirely. Some of those toxic ingredients include: 

  • Carbon disulfide - a chemical used during the manufacturing process. This chemical emits a strong odor similar to ether and exposure to the fumes can result in headache, dizziness, vision changes, poor sleep, as well as damage to your skin, eyes, blood, nerves, heart, and kidneys.
  • Toluene - respiratory exposure to toluene may occur if using a sex toy immediately after removing it from its packaging, but it can also occur during skin contact and use. Effects of toluene exposure can include throat, eye, or nose irritation, dizziness, cognitive impairment and reduced reaction time, numbness in the hands or feet, reproductive toxicity, and even miscarriage.
  • Phenol -  sometimes used in the production of rubber and nylon. Although trace amounts are used in household items that include disinfectants, antiseptics, and even mouthwash, toxic exposure to phenol can result in a variety of health effects depending on duration of contact. Phenol exposure can result in eye, nose, and throat irritation, weakness, fatigue, skin burns, and liver or kidney damage.

If you’re still dead set on using a rubber toy and are certain the material is only rubber, make sure it has zero odors, and do not use any oil as lube, as it will degrade the rubber (this goes for latex condoms too).


Low-Grade Metals

Low quality metals like aluminum alloy and nickel can discolor, rust, leach chemicals, and cause allergic reactions. While these materials may be safe for external use, they should not be used internally.

Cadmium is a carcinogenic heavy metal found in many low-grade metal toys and has severely toxic effects, including flu-like symptoms that include fever, chills, and muscle pain; organ toxicity; and lung, kidney, and bone disease. 

Cadmium is sometimes also used as a plastic softener, as well as a pigment for yellow, red, and brown paint. To avoid exposure, check your toys’ information to make sure their yellow, red, and brown pigments used aren’t cadmium-based.

Does Covering Toxic Toys Make Them Safe?

No. Unfortunately, this is not possible; particularly in the case of TPE/TPR and PVC toys. Because these toys contain mineral oils, those oils degrade and create pores in latex condoms which allow for all the chemicals you were trying to avoid to leach through.

Safe Sex Toy Materials

Now that we’ve sufficiently horrified you with the toxic materials you should avoid, let’s pivot, shall we? Yes, toxic toys are scary, but the good news is that there are a few tried and true materials safe toys are made of, and they’re becoming more and more affordable to the average toy collector. Here are the safe materials you’ll want to look for when you’re shopping for sex toys.


Silicone comes in a range of firmness and is a great material for people who want a more flexible toy. Stick with pure silicone and stay away from anything marketed as a silicone blend or SEBS silicone (actually TPR/TPE). 

Some toys claim to be silicone that aren't. How can you tell if a toy is actually silicone? For one, silicone toys are never perfectly clear; the clear silicone will always be at least a little cloudy. Unfortunately TPR/TPE toys can be cloudy, or frosted, clarity. One way to tell if a frosted toy is silicone is to shine a light through it. If the light produces an amber hue, it is silicone. If the hue is pure white, it's likely TPR/TPE.

Some sex toy bloggers have claimed over the years that holding a flame to silicone can determine whether a toy is 100% silicone; this has, however, been proven a faulty test. Do not ever perform the flame test on any lithium battery operated (rechargeable) toy. Lithium explodes in the presence of high heat.

ABS Plastic

ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic) is a thermoplastic copolymer popular in 3D printing, food containers, and medical devices. It is frequently used in vibrating toys, often together with silicone. ABS is a hard, chemically stable plastic that is fully recyclable. Because of the material’s firmness, it is great at transferring vibrations. ABS plastic is made nonporous through a process called vapor smoothing which involves soaking it in acetone to partially break it down, then redistribute within the existing pores. The negatives to ABS plastic are its low heat and UV tolerance, meaning it cannot be sterilized via boiling, nor via UV sanitizer. It also never breaks down in a landfill, so if you throw it out, please recycle it!

Stainless Steel

We mentioned this above. Top dog toys like the famous Njoy Pure Wand are made of medical grade stainless steel, and the weight and $120 price tag reflect this. If you’re getting a metal butt plug or dildo that’s lightweight and <$20, it’s not stainless steel.



Glass is a firm, eco-friendly, nonporous material. Borosilicate glass takes the cake for the gold standard as the sturdiest glass on the market, but all glass (unless painted with an unsafe varnish) is safe for toys if it’s not chipped, fractured, or thin. The fear of broken glass may drive some people away from the material completely. However, if properly stored and cared for, glass can be an inexpensive way to get safe and attractive toys that cost 5-10x less than the price for the same sensory experience. Ignore qualifiers like pyrex, as it means nothing now about glass sturdiness. A good rule of thumb when searching for glass toys is to check for weak points and make sure the glass is thick enough to withstand impact and pressure. Look at where parts of the toy (like the base of a butt plug) are fused together and check for cracks or thin segments. If these are present, it’s best to avoid the toy. If the glass is thick and has no weak spots present, it can be a toy compatible with any lube that will last you a lifetime and will never compositionally degrade.


We know the experience of shopping for safe sex toys can be daunting, and we hope this guide has helped you understand what to look for and what to avoid. Did we miss anything? Have any unusual materials you love or hate and want us to add to the guide? Any questions about what  we covered? Drop them in the comments below, or send them to our inbox at We’d love to hear from you!

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