Sex Toy Safety

This post brought to you in association with Adam & Eve Toys.

Because of the taboo against talking about sex, especially masturbation and kink, a lot of safety information that should be common knowledge not only isn’t circulated, it’s only now beginning to be researched. What I have here is a collection of best practices I’ve learned from a(n appropriate adult) lifetime of being interested in frank discussions of sex and sexual health and safety. I’ve listed my sources at the bottom so you can do more detailed reading if you like. Sexual expression can be an important part of a healthy life, but like any other recreational activity, there are some general rules and guidelines that can mean the difference between having good fun and maybe needing good insurance. Don’t let embarrassment or shame keep you from becoming knowledgeable about this subject. Read reviews of the toys you buy, and become familiar with the company that’s making them. Keep yourself informed as to best practices for your sexual health.

The first thing you need to know about sex toys is that they are considered novelty items by the US government, and therefore are not regulated at the levels they should be. Some manufacturers take advantage of this fact and will label their toys “for novelty use only” in order to avoid taking responsibility for their products. A “for novelty use only” label is a massive red flag for anybody that cares about their health.

An example of where we are in general sex toy knowledge can be seen in the argument regarding phthalates [1], a plastic additive that gives flexibility to shower curtains, car dash boards and yes, dildos and dick sleeves. Phthalates are on the FDA’s list of probable carcinogens, but they are also in children’s toys and pill casings. The industry response to the phthalate scare has been, on the whole, rather enlightened. Progressive stores don’t carry toys with phthalates, most others offer a clear description of the product’s composition. People worried about phthalates should stay away from any product that claims to be made of PVC, or “[j]elly, which is a widely used material designation, [that] has turned out to be plasticized vinyl (PVC). The plasticizer content may be very high up to 70%, which means that more than 2/3 of the materials consist of plasticizers. The plasticizers used are of the phthalate types (DEHP, DNOP; DINP).” [3] If you’re interested in flexibility, silicone is a trusted alternative to jelly. Medical grade silicone also has the benefit of being non-porous, which keeps bacteria at bay and makes it easy to keep reliably clean [4].

Once you’re equipped with a safe, non-porous toy, anything you’re inserting into yourself (back, front, top or bottom) would do well to have a flared base. Vaginas are easier to fish things out of (or just stand up and let gravity do it’s level best) but better safe than sorry I always way. A flat flare wide enough to prevent slippage, or a set of (rather silly looking, I think) balls at the end will serve this purpose fine. If you’re using the toy anally, a flare or a string is basically mandatory. Unlike a vagina, a butt doesn’t have a conveniently placed cervix to stop things from getting lost in there, and it tends to create rather more suction. One thing all your orifices have in common, though, is sensitive tissue that can tear or even puncture. An untreated injury in the esophagus, vaginal canal, or colon (especially here) can lead to infection, sepsis and even death. It’s good to stick with soft edged penis shaped objects.

Vibrating toys and constricting toys can also be an issue if used improperly. A constant, unchanging vibe can lead to nerve fatigue and even damage, while constricting toys like cock rings should never be left on for more than two hours, nor should they be too tight. There is some conflicting information as to weather metal is good for you [2] or bad [5], but the general consensus is that you shouldn’t be too rough with the boys if you want them to stay your boys, if you know what I mean.

At some point you’ll probably run across the need to lubricate. A Danish study from 2005 [3] recommends the use of water based lubricants with toys in general, as the chemicals involved in their construction are far less likely to be water soluble and far more likely to oil soluble. Oil based lubes like silicone and petroleum jelly are generally not good safe sex lubes anyway, as they can deteriorate the latex of a condom. Most toy stores, online and in real life, are clear about which of their lubes is water based or oil based for this very reason. Your better lubes will also state on the bottle weather they are water based or oil based.

Most toys can be cleaned with soap and water. Some can be boiled, and others can go in the dish washer’s top rack. If you are ever in doubt about a toy’s origins, or when sharing toys, the best, fastest, and most trustworthy way to ensure your health is to put a condom on the toy. It also makes for easier clean up when switching between any combination of mouth, vagina or anus. But don’t take my word on any of this. Ultimately, you shouldn’t rely on any one recommendation or review when shopping for your next toy. Do your own research to make sure a product is well made and safe before you bring it out to play.


[1] Unsafe Sex Products and Toys – Consumer Beware

[2] Good Vibrations: U.S. Consumer Web Site Aims to Enhance Sex Toy Safety

[3] Survey and health assesment of chemicals substances in sex toys Nils H. Nilsson, Bjørn Malmgren-Hansen, Nils Bernth Eva Pedersen and Kirsten Pommer Danish Technological Institute Also sourced here

[4] The 411 on Non-Porous Sex Toy Materials

[5] Can Cock Rings Be Risky?