CHAPTER 2: Sex Toy Safety

Let’s start with the good news: people started experimenting with sex toys a lot more after 50 Shades of Grey. The books were like a sexy nod of approval to engage our inner kink.

But it’s all fun and games until people wind up in the E.R. for neglecting their research on sex toy use. Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission demonstrates that injuries doubled since 2007, with most of them occurring after the novel’s release.

But it’s all fun and games until people wind up in the E.R. for neglecting their research on sex toy use.

As you might have guessed, sex toy injuries are the type to avoid. They get ugly. If you’d like to see dangerous sex toy use firsthand, check out the NEISS Query on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission site (code 1610). Heads up: it’s more addicting than your Facebook feed (and a great lesson for sex toy safety).

One male got a dildo stuck up his back door and waited two days before visiting the hospital. Another young girl recounts that she was trying to put a vibrator in her vagina, but accidentally stuck it in her anus when her mom walked in on her. Several cases involve nasty infections from patients who admitted they don’t clean their toys.

Fun visuals, right? While 78% of sex toy injuries involve the rectum, all sorts of mishaps are possible (Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy). And since visiting the E.R. for a lost sex toy isn’t quite as mild as a tummy ache, many go unreported.

Avoiding injury and embarrassment is the simplest part of owning a toy. And I’ll teach you how.

Rule No. 1 — Avoid Toxic Sex Toys

Let me tell you something tragic. Sex toys are the elephant in the world’s living room. They are there, but public leaders refuse to acknowledge them. They’re even “banned” in certain states and cities. The vast majority of high schools absolutely do not teach sex toy safety.

Aside from being a grotesque interference on our privacy, this mindset keeps the sex toy industry unregulated. I don’t like political lingo either, so let’s skip to the end. [rad-hl]Sex toy companies can put whatever they want into our toys.[/rad-hl]

So unless you like burning and itchy genitals, the rule #1 of sex toy safety is to look into the ingredients of your toys and avoid harmful chemicals.

The Importance of Phthalate Free Sex Toys

Phthalates are chemicals used to soften rubber. They make toys squishy. Since they’re presumably carcinogenic, they’ve been banned in U.S. children’s toys and other countries. Linked to diabetes, infertility, and neurological complexities, they’re downright cock-blocks (and sex toy safety red flags).

But even packaging popping with “phthalate-free!” messages doesn’t mean the toy is reliable. The industry isn’t regulated so companies can claim that their toys are safe and phthalate-free when they’re not.

“Do I have to do everything myself around here?!” Said by me, all the time.

Watch for dead giveaways that your toy is toxic:

–       It has a strong chemical smell that doesn’t go away after washing

–       It’s see-through and flexible

–       It’s surprisingly cheap

–       The ingredient list includes PVC, vinyl, and/or jelly rubber

–       You find oily discharge on the surface of your toy. Over time, this kind of “sweating” happens to toys that contain chemicals.

Rule No. 2 — Figure Out The Sex Toy Materials

Jelly toys are our kryptonite. They weaken our knees with cheap prices and squishy charm. Don’t fall for their tricks! Some jelly toys are toxic, some aren’t. (I’ll let you in on my secret: ditch the time deciphering which is which and go for medical-grade silicone.)  

There are tons of ingredients that are far more reliable and pleasurable. The most dependable are medical grade materials, like silicone, stainless steels, and Pyrex glass. Medical grade materials are FDA-approved and guarantee the highest quality possible. They’re unadulterated, in one sense at least.

The Lyps Aphrodite

  • $39.99
  • $22.99

About 5 cups of coffee

Made with 100% nonpourous FDA approved medical grade silicone. It’s incredibly soft, but most importantly… totally non-toxic and extremely easy to use and clean.

  • With 10 different vibration settings, the Lyps Aphrodite will push you to the edge of climax over and over (and you’ll never get sick of it).


Questioning what are dildos made of isn’t enough. You also have to avoid porosity. Porosity refers to whether a toy has pores. Just like the ones in your skin, pores are tiny openings hiding dirt and bacteria.

Nonporous ingredients: ABS plastic, pure silicone, glass, stainless steel, and ceramics.

Porous ingredients: impure silicone, jelly, thermoplastics, vinyl, leather, wood, rubber, and imitation materials (CyberskinTM, UR3, FuturoticTM, NeoSkin®, Soft TouchTM, and the like).

This is where a shortage of research and knowledge creates a puzzling grey area. Although all toxic toys have pores, not all porous toys are toxic. While porous toys are discouraged because they house bacteria and molds, we don’t know the extent of potential harm.

But we do know that porous sex toys can be cozy cubbies for viruses without proper sex toy safety. Results from a study by Indiana University School of Medicine proved that sex toys have the ability to carry on human papillomavirus (HPV). We don’t have equal information on bacteria. But it’s safe to assume toys transmit bacteria too, causing urinary tract, yeast, and other infections.  

When you wash porous toys and stash them when they aren’t fully dry, they become a harbor for molds. Even if there’s not evidence yet about the health risks of mold, no one needs a moldy dildo in their life.

Medical grade silicone toys are a popular option because unlike glass or metal they’re skin-soft and firm… Sound familiar? Don’t be surprised when quality toys run a higher price (except Lyps). Your health is worth the extra bucks.

Other Tips For Safe Sex Toy Safety Use

1. Sharing sex toys

When it comes to sharing sex toys, sharing isn’t always caring.

The study by Indiana University School of Medicine had women masturbate with a silicone vibrator (nonporous) and jelly vibrator (porous). Within the sample, 75% of the women tested positive for HPV. Just after the vibrators were cleaned, HPV was found on 44% of the silicone toys and 56% of the jelly vibrators. After 24 hours, the HPV still appeared on 40% of the jelly vibrators, but couldn’t be found on the silicone vibrator.

Unfortunately, research tells us that sharing vibrators is risky business. Unless you know for certain that your partner is clean of diseases and infections, you must use a sterilizer before passing the toy. Since sterilization isn’t effective with porous toys, if you share a sex toy, use a condom for each partner. Problem solved.

2. But if you do use a condom…

If you use a condom with your toy, for any reason, you get a gold star sticker from me for sex toy safety. But make sure you use a condom that isn’t lubricated (most are). Lubricated condoms and silicone toys don’t play nicely together. Instead, use a latex condom. For porous toys, you’ll have to hunt down polyurethane condoms so the toy’s materials don’t break down.

3. One Toy For Every Hole

If you use a toy anally, wash it thoroughly before using it elsewhere. Going back and forth between the anus and vagina will transfer anal bacteria to foreign territories. These trespassers can cause a nasty infection, which accounts for a lot of those posted in the E.R. for sex toy issues. Washing the toy can be tedious, and you’re likely do a shit job if you’re in the middle of a joyride. Better solution: get a toy for every hole.

Pop Quiz: Is it a good idea to use a porous sex toy anally, wash it thoroughly, and then insert it vaginally?

No! Washing a porous toy is us. It will still carry bacteria. If your toy is porous, you have to wrap it up. End of story.

There are more sex toys out there than anyone could use in 10 lifetimes. All these options mean the perfect sex toy for you is definitely out there. But it can also be hard to find that in all the noise. Move on to Chapter 3: Different Types of Vibrators and Sex Toys to learn which will best fit you.