I am a Material Girl! Our Guide To Sex Toy Materials

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Why yes, that title was inspired by a Madonna song, thank you so much for asking! The Queen of Pop can introduce us anytime, but since we’re talking about sex toy materials today, the reference was too perfect to pass up. We’ll half-heartedly apologize if ‘Material Girl’ is stuck in your head now (…living in a material world, materi-aaalll…) but if it makes you feel any better, it’s stuck in ours, too.


Back to the point! Today we’re going to take a good hard look at your sex toys, and more specifically, what’s in ‘em. We know that this may not be the most thrilling topic we’ve taken on (or will take on), but it’s an important one. Here’s why. Your vibrator, dildo, butt plug, stroker or otherwise is going to be getting really cozy with you. Even if it’s not going directly into your body, it’s going to be coming in contact with your skin. You probably pay attention to the food you eat or the face cream you rub in every night, right? It’s important to know what’s going on in and around your body.


We’ve got a little insider info you may not know. The adult toy industry is largely unregulated. Sex toys fall under the umbrella term of ‘novelty device’, which means that there is generally no overseeing government agency or official quality control.


Before you panic and toss out your beloved toy collection, please know that self-regulation within the sex toy industry is extremely strict. Unsafe manufacturing, shoddy design and bad business practices will get a company blacklisted faster than you can say ‘lawyer!’


Here’s something else you should know – a good toy retailer (PinkCherry definitely falls into this category) will always volunteer lots of information on the sex toys they sell. After all, we want you to be happy with your toy(s)! We clearly list materials, care and cleaning instructions and any safety issues or helpful tips. If you can’t find the info you’re looking for, or if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email our customer service department or give us a call at 1-888-801-TOYS (8697). It’s what we’re here for!

Alrighty, that little lecture is out of the way, so it’s time to explore some of the most common adult toy materials. Ready? Okay!

 

 

Silicone


Silicone is up first because it’s our favorite and honestly, kind of the best. Silicone is a super-smooth, odorless and tasteless material that’s safe for your body, very durable and extra hygienic. Those last three benefits are all thanks to the non-porous nature of silicone. Why should you care about a sex toy’s pores, you ask? Answer: in toy terms, porosity refers to the toy’s surface. Pores are literally miniscule openings or holes that can collect and hold onto dirt, bacteria, old lube, bodily fluids etc. Gross. Usually, a good cleaning will get rid of most of that nastiness, but since a silicone toy doesn’t have any pores, you won’t need to fret about leftovers or grunginess that could be lurking beneath your bunny’s surface. Now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need to clean a silicone toy, and clean it well. You definitely do. It’s just easier. Silicone toys can be scrubbed under warm to hot water with some antibacterial soap, or you can use a good toy care fluid/foam (we always recommend that you follow any manufacturer instructions with sprays and foams). If your silicone toy doesn’t have mechanical parts - ie: isn’t a vibrator - you can even send it through a dishwasher cycle or boil it. Since they can be cleaned so thoroughly, silicone toys are generally okay to share with a (sexually responsible and honest) partner. That said, we’d err on the side of caution and recommend using a condom when sharing a toy.


silicone-sex-toy-material-hypoallergenic

 

You’re in for a bit of science lesson now, because we’re going to explain why silicone is hypoallergenic and so skin/body safe. Silicone is an inert substance, which means that it doesn’t easily react with other chemicals, including the natural chemicals in your body or on the surface of your skin. Strangely though, silicone will react with itself, so if your body is, by some weird coincidence, made of silicone, don’t use a silicone toy! In all seriousness, when silicone comes into contact with another silicone object or substance, it can melt. You won’t be able to use a silicone-based lubricant with your silicone toy, but any good water based formula will be just fine. Some silicone lubricants and hybrids (water + silicone) claim to be safe for use with silicone toys, but we say better safe than sorry.


One other sexy benefit of silicone is its receptiveness to temperature. Your silicone toy will warm up quickly to match your or your partner’s body heat, but you can play with temperature even more by soaking your dildo, plug, cock ring, stroker or vibrator (if it’s waterproof) in hot or cold water for a few minutes pre-play.


Pros:

  • • Odorless & Tasteless
  • • Hypoallergenic
  • • Hygienic
  • • Can be boiled/bleached (if non-vibrating)
  • • Non-porous
  • • Temperature receptive

 

Cons:

  • • Compatible with water-based lubricants only
  • • Must be stored away from other silicone toys/products

* Something to pay attention to: Some toys claim to be silicone or ‘silicon’, when they’re actually a blend of silicone and something else, usually thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) or thermoplastic rubber (TPR), which we’ll get to later. We always state if this is the case.

 


Glass


Boasting all the fantastic benefits of silicone (body safe, odorless & tasteless, non-porous and hypoallergenic) toys, glass sex toys, also known as borosilicate or pyrex, have one major difference - they aren’t soft. At all. The extra firm and super-precise texture of glass dildos, plugs and vibes make them perfect for more intense sweet spot massage, specifically g-spot seeking and prostate play.


Just like their softer silicone buddies, you’ll be able to boil or bleach glass toys if they don’t vibrate/contain mechanical parts. Plus, they’re even more receptive to temperature than silicone toys.


Glass one-ups silicone on one point - lube. You can use any favorite lubricant you like with a glass dildo, plug, or vibe.


glass-sex-toy-material-hypoallergenic


One worry people sometimes have about glass concerns breakage or cracking. It’s very rare for this to happen, but it certainly can. Store your glass toys carefully, keep them away from abrasive surfaces, and don’t throw ‘em around, obviously. It’s always a good idea to check over your glass before playtime, too.


Pros:

  • • Can be used with any lubricant
  • • Hypoallergenic
  • • Hygienic
  • • Can be boiled/bleached (if non-vibrating)
  • • Non-porous
  • • Temperature receptive
  • • Odorless & tasteless

 

Cons:

  • • May be too firm for some
  • • Must be stored carefully

 

 

Steel/Aluminum


Keeping true to our pattern of body-safety, unpainted steel and aluminum toys are, like glass and silicone, non-porous, a breeze to clean and generally safe for all skin types. Look for ‘stainless steel’ in the item specifications for top-notch peace of mind.


Just like glass, steel and aluminum toys are ultra firm, can be heated or cooled and are perfect for g-spot and prostate play. They’re also safe to use with any type of lubricant, and can be boiled/bleached for a more thorough clean (again, if they don’t vibrate and are waterproof).

 

steel-kegel-sex-toy-material-PinkCherry

 

 

You won’t need to worry about a metal or steel toy breaking, but you should pay attention to the surface. Any scratches or chipping could potentially cause injury, and no one wants that! Store your metal carefully, please.


Keep an eye out for cheaper metal toys that have been painted or coated in some other material. Plain-jane is definitely better when it comes to metal.


*A note: some metal toys could contain nickel, which can cause an allergic reaction in some. To be safe, look for a toy with ‘nickel free’ in its specs.

 

Pros:

  • • Hygienic
  • • Hypoallergenic
  • • Can be boiled/bleached (if non-vibrating)
  • • Non-porous
  • • Temperature receptive
  • • Very durable
  • • Can be used with any lubricant
  • • Generally odorless and tasteless

 

Cons:

  • • Very firm and unyielding
  • • Can be weighty
  • • Must be stored carefully

 

 

ABS Plastic/Acrylic


Winding up the last of our firm toy materials, ABS plastic and acrylic toys have a nice smooth surface that tends to resist bacteria, dirt and otherwise. Plastic can still be a little porous, however, so unless you’ve cleaned your toy down to the sub-atomic level, you should probably avoid sharing.


Fairly easy to clean and safe to use with all lubricant types, plastic is a common material in many bullet vibes. It’s also used quite a bit as an accent material (bases, handles, trim etc) for silicone and TPR/TPE toys.


Pros:

  • • Usually very smooth
  • • Fairly easy to clean
  • • Transmits vibration well
  • • Compatible with all lubricants

 

Cons:

  • • Inflexible
  • • Can be slightly porous

 

 

Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) & Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)

 

And now for the softer side of things! TPR and TPE materials range in texture from mildly flexible to super squishy and squeezable.


Not so long ago, there was widespread sex toy panic over soft toy materials like TPR thanks to the dreaded phthalate. Here’s the deal on phthalates. Some rubbers and plastics aren’t very soft to begin with, so they’re not as easy to mold into various shapes (a penis or a pussy, for example). Some toy manufacturers use substances called chemical softeners to relax the texture and make the rubber or plastic easier to work with. These substances are considered generally unsafe and probably toxic. Remember that science lesson we gave earlier about the inert (non-reactive) nature of silicone? Toy materials containing phthalates are essentially the opposite of inert. The chemicals can react with skin and worse, can ‘leech’ or bleed out from a toy’s surface. Not good. Fortunately, it’s usually not hard to tell when a toy contains phthalates. If it smells extra rubbery or feels slimy, there are probably phthalates present.


On that somewhat scary note, we’re happy to report that most TPR and TPE sex toys are now phthalate free. A good toy manufacturer will avoid the use of phthalates and responsible retailers will keep you posted about a toy’s phthalate status. On the PinkCherry site, for instance, we’ll specifically state “phthalate free”. If you don’t see the words ‘phthalate-free’ in a soft toy’s item description, it means that we aren’t 100% sure, and won’t tell you otherwise.


Phthalate free or not, TPR and TPE are both very porous. Toys made of these materials can’t be cleaned reliably enough to be shared, so please don’t. Warm soapy water or a good toy care fluid/foam are your best bets for cleaning. When it comes to storage, make sure your toy is nice and dry first. Speaking of storage, keep your TPR/TPE toys separate from other soft toy materials. It’s possible that contact with other toys could cause melting or other damage to one or both. Let’s avoid that!

TPR and TPE toys can be used with water or silicone based lubes, but we’ll always recommend a water-based lubricant just to be safe.


Pros:

  • • Soft and pliable
  • • Can be molded into just about any shape
  • • Lifelike look and feel
  • • Usually phthalate and latex free

 

Cons:

  • • May have a slightly rubbery smell
  • • Porous
  • • Should not be shared
  • • Must be stored away from other soft toy materials

 

 

PVC/Rubber


We covered phthalates already, so we won’t get into them again. Unless a PVC or rubber toy specifically states otherwise (we’ll tell you), you can probably assume that there are phthalates involved.


If you do decide to buy and use a toy made of PVC or rubber toy, it’s a good idea to use a condom overtop of the toy, or overtop of yourself. We don’t know exactly how phthalate-containing chemicals react with latex condoms, but it’s a safer bet than using no protection at all.


PVC and rubber toys can be cleaned using the standard method: warm soapy water or a toy care fluid/foam, but please keep in mind that these toys are definitely porous and can’t be fully cleaned. Keep them to yourself, in other words.


Pros:

  • • Soft and pliable
  • • Easily molded
  • • Can be used with water or silicone based lubes

Cons:

  • • May have a rubbery smell
  • • May contain phthalates
  • • Porous
  • • Should not be shared
  • • Must be stored away from other soft toy materials

 

 

Realistics


ULTRASKYN, UR3, Cyberskin, PureSkin, LoveSkin - there are all examples of realistic sex toy materials. Made to look and feel as close to human skin as possible, they’re used in the manufacturing of many masturbators and lifelike dildos. Usually made with the manufacturer in question’s signature (read: secret!) blend of various soft toy materials, they generally contain TPR, TPE, silicone, possibly latex and sometimes PVC. Some realistic materials contain phthalates, other don’t (remember, we’ll tell you!), but all are very porous and should not be shared.


Because they’re so porous, realistic sex toys need to be cleaned very well before and after. Use lots of warm soapy water and a good antibacterial soap, or coat fully and completely with a toy cleanser. You’ll need to let your realistic toy dry fully before storage.


Water-based lubricants are your best best with any realistic toy. Some are safe to use with silicone lubes, but we always recommend sticking with water-based ones!


Pros:

  • • Soft and pliable
  • • Easily molded
  • • Lifelike look and feel
  • • Temperature receptive

Cons:

  • • May have a rubbery smell
  • • May contain phthalates
  • • Porous
  • • Shouldn’t be shared
  • • Must be stored away from other soft toy materials

 

 

Latex


Latex isn’t used much in the making of adult toys these days. Though it’s soft and easy to shape or mold, it’s not a great material choice. Latex is porous, smells weird, and isn’t particularly durable. It’s also a common allergen. If you do end up choosing and using a toy made from or containing latex (we’ll specify), don’t share it, and consider using a condom overtop.


Latex is compatible with water and silicone based lubricants. Wash your latex toy well using warm soapy water, or use a toy care fluid/foam.


Pros:

  • • Very soft
  • • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • • Strong smell/taste
  • • Not very durable
  • • Can cause allergic reaction

Now that we’ve got you spooked about phthalates (honestly, please don’t be - just pay attention to what’s in your sex toys!) and revealed our undying love for silicone, we’re going to sign off with a (very modified!) quote from the Material Girl. “Toys may beg and toys may plead but they can’t see the light (that’s right), now I know just what they’re made of thanks to this website!"