Three Things You Must Know About Sex Toy Materials


Given the rapid increase in sex toy availability during the past decade, it’s perhaps no surprise that many women and men ask me questions about how to choose the right sex toy, especially when it comes to the materials that sex toys are made of. There are at least three issues that I’d recommend taking into consideration when considering sex toy materials:

1. Steer clear of sex toys made with phthalates – which usually means avoiding sex toys described as “Jelly” (these toys usually contains PVCs or phthalates, chemicals that some believe to be potentially toxic). Although Jelly toys tend to be more affordable, research suggests that they may not be good health choices – particularly during pregnancy.

2. “Silicone based” toys are not the same as “medical grade silicone”. Toys made of medical grade silicone are less likely to contain potentially toxic chemicals (such as PVCs or phthalates) or potential allergens (such as latex, for those who are sensitive or allergic to latex). If you’re not sure what a sex toy is made of, or suspect that it contains potentially toxic materials, consider slipping a condom over the sex toy before using it.

3. The less porous, the easier to keep clean. “Glass” (actually more like Pyrex) dildos and vibrators made of hard plastic or medical grade silicone and may be less porous than toys made of Jelly, Cyberskin or other very soft materials. An easy way to keep many sex toys clean is to put a new condom over your dildo or vibrator before using it and to throw the condom away after use. It is also often recommended that toys be cleaned before and after use, and stored in a cool, dry, place. Soap and water can be used to clean most sex toys but if you’re not sure how to clean your particular toy, ask the person who sold it to you.

Sex toys can be a fun complement to an otherwise satisfying and pleasurable sex life. To learn more about sex toys including how to shop for, use, clean and store toys, check out The Many Joys of Sex Toys by Anne Semans or search the archives of

[Photo above by jrmyst, via Flickr/Creative Commons.]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at