Sex Toy Materials Guide: Porous v Non-Porous, Phthalates & More
Sex toy shopping can seem extremely confusing once you realise just how many different styles and variations there are. Then you find out they’re made from various materials, too. How are you supposed to know which material is the best? Are there any you should specifically look for? And, more importantly, which ones should you actively avoid? My sex toy materials guide is here to provide a few handy tips and pointers when it comes to finding a comfortable and body-safe sex toy you can thoroughly enjoy.
The main problem with the sex toy industry is that it’s unregulated. This means that manufacturers can make adult products out of any material really, which are not necessarily checked in terms of bodily health and safety. A lot of extremely cheap sex toys, bargain bin types, may seem like stretchy, flexy fun – but the packaging often states ‘for novelty use only’, a pretty lame disclaimer should you suffer any discomfort or worse after intimate/internal use.
As you can see, it’s extremely important to know just what your sex toy is made of before purchase, and most definitely before sexual use. That low-price tag may be attractive to your bank balance, but end up as an intimate betrayal.
Porous or Non-Porous?
We can’t head into a sex toy materials guide without first discussing the issue of porosity. The porosity of a sex toy material should have a very large bearing on whether you choose to purchase and use. But what is porosity, in terms of sex toys –and which is better, porous or non-porous?
Just as we have pores in our skin which allow it to breathe, sweat and the like, so do various materials. Porous materials have small holes as a part of their nature, penetrating the material. This means that any sexual fluids and lubricants you use with them penetrate the material of the sex toy, through those pores, and despite how thoroughly you may clean it afterwards and how clean it may look, you won’t be able to see if there’s bacteria being harboured and even multiplying inside. This leads to the sex toy being unhygienic and possibly even dangerous to use on future occasions. There’s an increased risk of irritation and infection – things you don’t want anywhere on your body, least of all in your intimate zones!
Non-porous sex toys do not have these pores present as part of the nature of the material. This means that fluids, lubes and other additions which could microscopically enter porous material and present dangers, cannot enter at all. There are no pores for them to seem into, and any fluids, lubes etc will simply remain on the surface, ready to be washes away between uses. The sex toy remains hygienic and safe to use time and again.
Heard About Phthalates?
While researching sex toy materials, perhaps you’ve come across the term ‘phthalates’. Phthalates are a group of chemicals added to materials to make them more flexible. Especially plastics, which would otherwise be too rigid or brittle for practical use.
Unfortunately, phthalates are toxins -so sex toys which are made of materials with phthalates added should be avoided if you prioritise body-safety.
Materials with phthalates usually end up making some of the most flexible sex toys around, but sadly they’re toxic –and porous as well. You may have negative reactions after using phthalate-laden sex toys, which can include irritation and burning sensations. As you can see, it’s a smart move to opt for phthalate-free sex toys (and sexual lubricants) instead.
Sex Toy Materials Guide
Non-Porous Sex Toy Materials
Silicone Sex Toys
More and more sex toys are being made with silicone, especially when flexibility (as well as body-safety and non-porosity) is preferred. It’s often called the sex toy connoisseurs’ material of choice, because it warms to body temperature quickly, can be used to make a wide spectrum of sex toy styles and you can use water-based lube and silicone lubricant with it.
Yes, you read that correctly. A popular past misconception in the sex toy world was that you can’t use silicone lubricant with a silicone sex toy, and that you can’t store silicone sex toys next to one another as you’ll end up with material deterioration. This isn’t true. As long as the sex toy in question is, in fact, genuinely made from silicone, you can use silicone lubricant with it. If in doubt, do a small patch test first. You can also store silicone sex toys directly against one another –just the same as you can store silicone baking trays right on top of one another in your kitchen cupboard.
Plastic Sex Toys
Some sex toys are made with plastic, which is non-porous and rigid, and can be cold during use and slow to warm up. These sex toys are often cheaper in price than silicone sex toys, but I’ve enjoyed plenty of plastic sex toys in my time.
You can use your choice of lubricant with plastic sex toys. Just watch out for extremely low-priced plastic toys, as I’ve found several with jutted seams present, and badly finished battery compartment areas. Sometimes you just get what you pay for.
Metal Sex Toys
Some of my favourite dildos are made from metal (and glass, we’ll get to that next). This cold, inflexible material can be shaped with contours or smoothly to provide a glidingly gorgeous penetrative experience. Njoy sex toys are top of my list when it comes to metal sex toys, they’re divine.
You can use whatever lubricant you like with metal sex toys –just be careful you don’t drop them as they tend to be weighty and you’ll risk a bruised toe or worse! You can warm up or cool down metal (and glass, stone and ceramic) sex toys before use, by placing the toy into cold or warm (never hot or boiling) water.
Some metals that your sex toy may be made of include stainless steel, aluminium or even precious metals such as titanium, silver and gold. Lower quality (& cheaper) metal sex toys can be made with alloys; mixtures of tin, nickel and others. Some people are sensitive to these so make sure you know exactly what your metal sex toy is made from before you purchase.
Glass Sex Toys
Glass sex toys are often incredibly beautiful, and I have several glass dildos which are almost like works of art to be displayed on the mantel, rather than stored away under the bed. You can use your choice of lube with glass sex toys, the material won’t be affected no matter which one you use. You can also cool down or warm up glass sex toys before use for exciting temperature play options. Or a sexy alternative to the old electric blanket in winter!
A lot of people have told me in the past that they’re scared of glass sex toys, so much so that I wrote about why you don’t need to be frightened about using glass sex toys. They’re solid, they won’t break or shatter, they’re not sharp. They’re made with borosilicate glass, the same type Pyrex cookware is made from. Resilient indeed! Some glass sex toys are smooth, others are rippled, dotted or contoured for exciting stimulation options. I think everyone should own & experience at least one glass sex toy.
Stone Sex Toys
These smoothly contoured pleasure pieces are made from beautiful natural stone and polished to a seamless, frictionless finish. The natural sparkle from the stone used lends an artisanal quality, and just like metal and glass sex toys, stone dildos can be warmed or cooled before use for temperature play options.
You can also use your choice of personal lube with these rigid, non-porous, body-safe sex toys.
Ceramic Sex Toys
Ceramic sex toys are a little different from the other inflexible non-porous sex toy materials I’ve mentioned (metal, glass and stone), because they may be entirely solid or they may be hollow. Despite being safe to use externally and internally, ceramic sex toys would obviously fracture or shatter if dropped from a height on to a hard floor, so you need to be careful where and how you use them.
Used carefully, ceramic sex toys are wondrous objects of pleasure which respond well to both water based and silicone lube (or your choice of personal lube) and which can be gently warmed or cooled before use using a bowl of water. Some styles have a hollowed area which can be filled with cool or warm water so provide ongoing thrills during internal use.
Finished with a body-safe glaze, ceramic sex toys are non-porous and body safe –as well as beautiful objects you’ll truly treasure.
Wood Sex Toys
Another persistent myth in the world of sex toys is that wooden sex toys will give you splinters… No, not if they’re made correctly and you purchase from a reputable supplier! Sensual shapes are carved and contoured, sanded and safely varnished to give an extremely smooth finish. These body-safe sex toys are often lighter in weight than their metal, glass or stone counterparts, making them supremely comfortable to keep hold of during use.
Whether wooden sex toys are porous or not is a difficult question to answer definitively, for all wood sex toys out there. It all depends on the exact finish used for the wooden sex toy in question. best practice is to avoid any wooden sex toys which state a ‘natural finish’ or which are simply coated in oil. These will either be porous or the oil layer will wear away over time. Top quality wooden sex toys are coated with a medical grade polymer which is used for medical equipment. It’s anti-bacterial, resists moisture and is hypoallergenic.
You need to be sure of exactly how your wooden sex toy is finished, and what coating it has, before purchase and use.
Porous Sex Toy Materials
PVC Sex Toys
And now for the porous sex toy materials. The PVC (polyvinyl chloride) element of PVC sex toys is a type of plastic. Plasticizers are added which makes the material extremely flexible and makes it feel stretchy and bendy in your hands (and other places, I imagine!). You’ll have seen the like in PVC clothing, as well as PVC household accessories, tubing and such.
PVC sex toys are both porous and toxic, due to the addition of those plasticizers. Using PVC sex toys –whether internally or externally- can lead to irritation and burning sensations, or worse, in some people. At the very least it can make you extremely uncomfortable and at worst you could suffer severe negative reactions. Oil based lubes can corrode the material of PVC sex toys further. Water-based and silicone lubes can be used, but remember that this is a porous sex toy material.
Rubber & Latex Sex Toys
Rubber and latex (a type of rubber) sex toys are also porous and can possibly contain phthalates. Some people also have a latex allergy, so make sure your sex toy purchase doesn’t have any trace of it if this is the case for you, or if you’re not sure whether you’re allergic or not.
Some rubber sex toys have other manufacturer ‘styled’ names for the material, but it boils down to rubber in the end. An example of this are sex toys described as being made of ‘UR3 material’.
Like with PVC sex toys, you could use water and silicone-based sex lubes with rubber and latex sex toys, but not oil-based lubes. Again, remember that this is a porous sex toy material.
TPR/TPE Sex Toys
The acronyms stand for thermoplastic rubber and thermoplastic elastomer. From what we’ve learned so far, the mentions of plastic and rubber should be sounding the alarm bells. So too elastomer, a plasticizer and therefore the risk of added phthalates. I’m not saying all TPR and TPE sex toys contain phthalates, but many do.
These materials are already porous when you first buy them, but quickly deteriorate and degrade through use. You may even see tears and welts quickly become clearly visible in the material, never mind microscopic holes. Your cheap purchase quickly turns into a false economy, bacteria-ridden, dangerous to use sex toy.
TPR and TPE is often the actual material behind many manufacturer-created ‘materials’, the exact formulation often touted as a company / trade secret. These include Pipedream’s FantaFlesh, Doc Johnson’s Sil-A-Skin, TENGA’s Cyberskin, Fleshlight’s Superskin and various other labels with ‘skin’ in the name such as FauxSkin, RealSkin, TruSkin etc.
Jelly Sex Toys
Jelly sex toys are a blend of PVC and rubber, leading to an often translucent and attractive at first glance sex toy which is extremely flexible. They’re also usually very cheap to buy. However, that low price tag is again a false economy – jelly sex toys are not only porous but toxic too, thanks to the inclusion of PVC.
When it comes down to it, jelly sex toys –like a lot of the porous, toxic sex toy materials I’ve mentioned- are best completely avoided at all times. Don’t be suckered in by the cheap price, the flexibility, the pretty translucency. Also, as with PVC, TPR and TPE materials, oil-based lubes can break the material down even quicker. Not that jelly sex toys ever lasted that long in one piece anyway, back in the days when I had them and used them –before I knew better!
As a not-so-lovely addition, jelly sex toys often have a potent smell. So do many other sex toys which have toxins, such as PVC and rubber. This strong ‘new car’ smell is just one sign that the sex toy could contain harmful chemicals and phthalates, and you probably shouldn’t risk using it.
I hope you’ve found my sex toy materials guide useful. As you can see, there’s plenty of diversity when it comes to sex toy materials – and what materials your sex toy is made from matters a great deal. Value your health? Value your comfort? Value a pleasurable sex life? Don’t throw it away for the sake of saving a bit of cash or grabbing something which ‘feels ok’ in the heat of the masturbatory moment.
Research what your sex toy is made from before agreeing to part with your hard-earned cash. If the product page doesn’t tell you, contact the company and ask. If they can’t give you definitive answers, don’t buy (& look for a better retailer!).
Using only sex toys made from body-safe, non-porous and non-toxic materials will mean you can look forward to many years of sexual pleasure with a healthy helping of the fabulous stimulation adult products can provide. By demanding only those sex toys made from body-safe materials, we can hope that eventually the manufacture of unsafe sex toys will decline and cease completely. Keep sex and masturbation 100% safe and sexy – prioritise your pleasure, and ongoing comfort, both in and out of the bedroom.
This sex toy materials guide contains affiliate links