Sex toys and adult toy materials

About Toy Materials: Cleaning and Maintenance

Adult sex toys are made of specific materials that are conducive for sexual activity: masturbation,, foreplay, sex, and couple play. However, some sex toy materials are better than others. When choosing a sex toy, beginners and professionals need to be familiar with the different types of sex toy materials.

Knowing what you insert into or place onto your body is extremely important, and this guide will improve your knowledge of sex toy materials. After reading this informative guide, your newfound knowledge will empower you to make better purchasing decisions.

As you become more familiar with certain sex toy materials, you will find it easier and easier to distinguish between superior and inferior materials. Keep in mind: Like other products made of higher quality materials, the best sex toy materials are more expensive.

Silicone Sex Toys

Silicone is revered as one of the best sex toy materials available. Safety, reliability, and durability - silicone sex toys can boast of all three characteristics. Since silicone toys are phthalate-free and hypoallergenic, many women and men prefer this material to jelly, rubber, vinyl and plastic.

Silicone pliability varies from toy to toy. While some silicone sex toys are flexible and soft, other silicone toys are semi-rigid and hard. In either case, silicone is still the preferable sex toy material, mainly because silicone transmits vibrations effectively. Not only that, but silicone toys are smooth, flexible, and nonporous, which means they can be cleaned more thoroughly than other toys. Silicone also warms up quickly and retains body heat.

Since silicone toys are capable of withstanding high temperatures, you may sterilize non-vibrating toys in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. If you plan on sharing your silicone dildo, boil it for at least 10 minutes, ensuring its sterility - or disinfect your silicone toy by placing it inside of the dishwasher on the top rack.

Unless your silicone sex toy is waterproof, you should never submerge it in water. In such cases, clean your silicone toy with a soft cloth, using soap and warm water, or wipe your toy down with rubbing alcohol. Before playing with your toy or putting it away, make sure that it is completely dry.

NOTE: Never use silicone-based lubricants with silicone toys; they are not compatible. If you mix the two - silicone-based lubricants with silicone sex toys - you risk damaging your toy. Click here for more info about lube interactions.

Elastomer Sex Toys

Elastomer sex toys are soft, durable, and supple. Like silicone sex toys, elastomer material is phthalate-free and hypoallergenic. This material is a great alternative to jelly rubber, vinyl, and plastic - especially since elastomer retains its soft texture and shape.

Elastomer is somewhat porous, so complete sterilization is not possible. You may, however, sanitize your elastomer toy by cleaning it with soap, water, and rubbing alcohol.

When you want a toy that is slightly more flexible and softer than silicone sex toys, consider an elastomer toy. If you have any concern about its porous material, simply use a condom with the toy.

Glass Sex Toys

Glass sex toys are firm, smooth, nonporous, hypoallergenic, and phthalate-free - all of which make glass toys a reliable alternative to silicone sex toys. Since glass is nonporous, like silicone, you can completely sanitize your toy. Certain higher-grades of glass, such as Pyrex, can be fully sterilized by boiling. You need not be concerned with pores and the possibility of hidden bacteria. Lubrication tends to last longer with glass products, which is extremely helpful!

Within the broad category of glass sex toys, there are different types of glass products: Pyrex, Lucite, and acrylic. You can use running water to cool or warm your glass toy to the desired temperature; however, certain glass products are more temperature-resistant than other types. Pyrex, for example, is temperature-resistant glass; it can be boiled or washed in the dishwasher for superior cleanliness. Lucite and acrylic, in contrast to Pyrex, should not be exposed to extreme temperatures - cold or hot.

In the case of Lucite and acrylic, since boiling is out of the question, you should use soap and warm water, or clean with rubbing alcohol. Also, when you purchase a glass sex toy, manufacturers generally send helpful instructions, detailing exactly how to properly care for your new glass toy.

You might be asking yourself, "What are the benefits of toys that can be warmed or cooled?" When you warm or cool your glass sex toy, you are essentially adding another form of desirable stimulation, certainly creating unique sensations that are impossible with most other sex toy materials. Also, glass toys will adjust to your body's temperature after a few minutes of playing around, and then retain heat throughout your sexual activities.

Safety, safety, safety! Take the necessary precautions to ensure your glass toy is chip, scratch, and nick-free. Always inspect your glass products before you use them. It's also a good idea to wrap these toys in something soft (like a sock) before storing them. One more word on safety: These toys tend to be very slippery when wet; VibeReview recommends playing with them on a soft surface, like a bed or a carpeted floor.

Softskin & Cyberskin Sex Toys

Cyberskin and Softskin sex toys are constructed of soft, supple, skin-like material that is quite popular due to its amazing flexibility, arousing skin-like texture, and flesh-like appearance. More porous than silicone and elastomer, Cyberskin and Softskin are also more difficult to clean. Neither material can be sterilized.

Since these types of materials are porous, VibeReview recommends that you use condoms with Cyberskin and Softskin sex toys, keeping your toy clean and bacteria-free. Cyberskin material is phthalate-free, but Softskin material does contain phthalates.

To clean your Cyberskin or Softskin toy, use soap and warm water; and after drying thoroughly, lightly sprinkle cornstarch on your toy, which keeps it silky smooth, preventing unwanted stickiness. Avoid using talcum powder on your private parts; this powder has been associated with cervical cancer. Store all Cyberskin and Softskin toys in a cool, dry place away from sun.

NOTE: The manufacturers of Cyberskin and Softskin sex toys do not share all the ingredients with consumers, claiming that the formulas are "top-secret". For this reason, VibeReview cannot rule out the possibility that latex might be included in this material. If you are latex-sensitive, Cyberskin or Softskin products may not be right for you. Also, only use water-based lubes with these two materials. The same guideline is applicable for latex condoms.

TPR & TPE Sex Toys

TPR (thermoplastic rubber) and TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) material are virtually interchangeable for the purposes of this material guide. Both are considered Thermoplastic Elastomers, a material that is often phthalate-free. It is a porous material, however; so be sure to clean the toy to the best of your ability with anti-bacterial soap or cleaning solution. TPR is a flexible, elastic material that enhances penetrative stimulation. High tension strength and tear-resistant, TPR material does last longer than most materials like it.

Additionally, this material is generally lightweight and durable. TPR is environmentally safe and made of 100% nonpoisonous raw material, which is preferable for most women and men. Compared to silicone and pure elastomer, TPR is slightly less impressive - though TPR sex toys are generally inexpensive in comparison to silicone and pure elastomer. And in comparison to jelly rubber TPR is the better material, slightly more expensive. If you want to know which TPR toys are phthalate-free, phthalate-free TPR toys are identified as phthalate-free in product descriptions and item details.

Phthalate Free Sex Toys and Material

The sex toy industry is quickly moving in the direction of phthalate-free sex toy materials. Phthalate compounds are often referred to as rubber and plastic softeners. Some sex toys include phthalate compounds, which improve sex toy softness and flexibility. And while most people prefer the softness and flexibility of sex toys containing phthalates, these toys may have some health risks when used for internal stimulation.

Though no conclusive evidence has indicated that sex toys with phthalates are dangerous, you should proceed as if phthalate-containing sex toys are a possible health risk. If you currently use a toy that contains phthalates, you can still use it by rolling a condom over the shaft. Phthalate-containing sex toys are usually highly porous, so its best to use condoms with these toys anyway.

Another option is purchasing phthalate-free sex toys. Silicone, elastomer, hard plastic, glass, metal, Cyberskin, and most TPR sex toys are phthalate-free. Phthalate-free sex toys are generally more expensive and made of higher quality sex toy materials. Always read product descriptions thoroughly and pay attention to additional details offered for a given sex toy. VibeReview has compiled categories for phthalate-free sex toys: Phthalate-free Vibes and Phthalate-free Dildos

PVC Sex Toys

PVC is a popular additive used to make a variety of sex toy materials. In its natural state, PVC is hard and firm; however, sex toy manufacturers use various softeners to make PVC material flexible and smooth. Jelly, Jel-Lee, TPE, TPR silicone, Futurotic, Cyberskin, and Better-Than-Real contain elements of PVC - or are primarily made of PVC compounds.

The presence of PVC elements within a sex toy do not mean, as some have suggested, that the toy material contains phthalates. Depending on how the PVC is processed and what additional materials it is mixed with, PVC-containing sex toys might not be phthalate-free. For example, TPE material is made of PVC, but it does not contain phthalates, whereas Jelly - which is primarily made of PVC and rubber softeners - is not phthalate-free. For clarification, VibeReview has marked phthalate-free toys as such. If you have a question about any materials, don't hesitate to email a VibeReview customer service representative.

Latex Sex Toys

Latex or latex rubber is firmer than most sex toy materials. It is a resilient material that can handle a variety of sexual activities without losing shape, form, or strength. Porous and hard to clean, latex sex toys should be used with condoms and since some women and men are highly allergic to latex material and latex condoms, silicone, elastomer, and TPR are considered superior materials. Latex sex toys should not be shared unless a condom is used, in which case a new condom should be used when the toy is shared between partners.

Latex sex toys tend to be inexpensive, so a lot of people prefer them. But as a general rule, to avoid potential phthalate-containing material combinations, you should consider silicone as the best alternative to latex sex toys. Toy life span is another issue with latex material, as this material usually lasts one to two years at the most. Use only antibacterial soap and warm water to clean material.

Jelly Rubber Sex Toys

Jelly rubber sex toys are flexible, soft, and often less expensive than other adult toys. Jelly rubber sex toys contain phthalates, are porous, and have a shorter lifespan than other toys. Latex is commonly found in jelly rubber material. More than a few people are allergic to latex, so please keep that in mind before purchasing a jelly rubber sex toy. If you are latex-sensitive, you should consider silicone, glass products, and elastomer as alternatives.

Jelly rubber toys cannot be sterilized. Since they are extremely porous, thoroughly cleaning them, removing bacteria hidden in the pores, is difficult. However, cleaning your jelly rubber sex toy with soap, water, and rubbing alcohol kills most of the bacteria.

Like Cyberskin and Softskin sex toys, jelly rubber products must be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and other objects. Jelly rubber toys should never be heated up or submerged in water; because when this material's temperature increases, the toy's properties change; thus, your jelly rubber toy's lifespan, then, decreases.

Note: Jelly rubber is cited as the main type of toy material which contains phthalates. As this point, nobody knows for sure that phthalates are dangerous, and in fact, the FDA has authorized phthalates to be used in food, household items, and a variety of other common products. In any case, to be on the safe side VibeReview is phasing out these types of toys. In the meantime, if you are concerned about phthalates, you should use only phthalate-free toys.

Hard Plastic Sex Toys

Hard plastic toys are generally considered nonporous, and can be easily cleaned with soap and hot water, or with rubbing alcohol. This material is phthalate-free. Hard plastic material lacks flexibility that many people prefer. There's not a lot of give in its overall structure, form, or shape.

Always check hard plastic sex toys for any unwanted rough, sharp edges. In most cases, a condom is not necessary with hard plastic sex toys, unless partners are sharing the toy, in which case condoms should be used. As with other sex toy materials, be sure to store your hard plastic toy in clean, safe place.

Metal Sex Toys

Metal is nonporous, phthalate-free, and durable. Though metal sex toys lack flexibility, they are often stronger and more dependable than other materials that can rip, tear, break, or simply fall apart. If taken care of properly, metal sex toys have a long lifespan.

Vibrations travel well through metal materials. The dramatic impact of each vibration is felt immediately. No pulsation will be lost with this type of sex toy material. Metal is generally smooth, so for penetration, metal sex toys offer frictionless insertion and self-stimulation.

Vinyl Sex Toys

Vinyl is porous, can sometimes contain phthalates, and cannot be sterilized. Though porous, vinyl toys are less porous than jelly rubber toys. In many cases, vinyl sex toys are more hygienic than jelly rubber sex toys, easier to clean, with less opportunity for bacteria to hide. Clean vinyl toys with soap, warm water, and rubbing alcohol. Vinyl attachments for vibrators can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher.

Vinyl's texture tends to be firmer than jelly rubber sex toys. That being said, vinyl is not as firm or solid as many silicone sex toys. If you are looking for a sex toy material that feels like jelly rubber, is less porous, and less expensive than silicone, glass, or elastomer, vinyl is the right choice.

Miscellaneous Materials and Sex Toys

Faux fur material is used for a variety of sex toys, but it is most often used for ticklers, playful handcuffs, and clothing. It is not real fur, so faux fur products are not that expensive. Some people are allergic to genuine fur, but few people experience allergic reactions associated with faux fur; so that's another advantage.

Most manufacturers recommend that faux fur products be cleaned by professionals since this material can fall apart easily, especially if not taken care of correctly. This causes a problem for some people who want to wash their faux fur clothing or handcuffs. As a general rule, clean your faux fur toys and clothing with a wash cloth or place the items in the top level of your washing machine, which should be set on "delicate" and "lukewarm-cold" water. Be sure to use color-safe detergent. Allow the faux fur to air dry.

Leather is a material often used for restraints, whips, harnesses, and clothing products. Some dildos are made of leather; however, VibeReview does not sell any leather sex toys that can be used for internal stimulation, and we recommend that no one use leather products for internal stimulation. Strong and durable, leather works great for BDSM-driven activities.

If you want to clean your leather product, you'll need a gentle, moisturizing soap, three soft washcloths, and leather conditioner. Use a small amount of soap on a wet washcloth, create a nice lather on the washcloth, and gently wash and scrub the leather. Then, use your dry washcloth to remove any water and soap from the leather. Once the leather is dry, use your last washcloth with conditioner to protect the leather from damage during any future use.

General Suggestions and Tips

  • If you share sex toys with a partner, cover the toy with a condom, minimizing virus or bacteria transmission.

  • If your sex toy is battery operated, remove all batteries from the toy before putting it away. Proper storage of your toy's batteries will keep them fresh, ready for action in a moment's notice!

  • Inspect all waterproof vibrators before using them. Look for any rubber seals or O-rings that are out of place, sticking out too far, or obviously not airtight. If you notice the battery compartment is not adequately protected by a rubber seal or O-ring, do not use the vibrator in the water. Contact the manufacturer or VibeReview with any questions about your waterproof toy.

  • Always inspect your sex toy for cracks, rips, tears, or any visible damage that could potentially compromise the effectiveness of the toy, or your safety.

  • Never store sex toys together. Keep all your sex toys - regardless of material - separate. Certain materials react unfavorably with other materials. Storing each sex toy in different locations will preserve your adult toys. Many men and women store sex toys in clean socks.

  • Vibrators are easily cleaned by wiping down with rubbing alcohol, and/or soap and warm water. To prevent corrosion of motor parts and battery compartments, never immerse a non-waterproof vibrator in water, alcohol, or any other liquid which could seep into the toy's inner workings. After cleaning your waterproof vibrator, open the battery compartment and allow it to dry before storing.

  • Most harnesses come with their own cleaning instructions, so follow the manufacturer's instructions. If no instructions came with your garment and it's made of fabric, it's probably machine-washable. For garments made of leather, we suggest using a leather cleaner, or gently hand washing dirty garments with soap and warm water. Make sure your harness is dry before putting it away.

  • Most importantly, if you ever have any questions about your sex toy, don't be afraid to ask us. Our goal is to provide you with the power to make better purchasing decisions, and to do so with safety as the central objective.

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    Last updated: Oct. 08, 2023