What is silicone?
Chemistry has never been my strongpoint, so my knowledge of silicone does not go into deep, scientific detail. I can tell you the basics: that it is a synthetic compound created primarily from silicon, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Silicone is inert, meaning that it does not undergo chemical reactions. It also comes in a variety of forms (from liquids to solids), and is capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures. Silicone has a very wide range of uses. You may own rubber-like silicone cooking utensils/bakeware or you may use contact lenses made from silicone gel. For me, silicone happens to be my favorite material for sex toys.
Why are silicone sex toys so awesome?
First of all, the variety that you can get with silicone is amazing. These toys can be made from either 100% silicone or hard plastic with a soft silicone coating. Even the ones that are pure silicone range widely in softness, flexibility, color, and texture/finish. Some are very stiff with little give, while others are made to feel more squishy and “life-like.” Some are shiny and slick, while others are velvety and matte. Skin tone, neon colors, even rainbow combinations — silicone can do it all.
But the most important thing about silicone is that it’s body safe. Unlike many soft plastic sex toys, silicone is phthalates free. This means that you don’t need to worry about nasty side effects like chemical burn or potential toxicity. Silicone toys will not decompose over time, leaching oils and smelly chemicals into the air. In addition, silicone is essentially non-porous. I say “essentially” because while silicone does contain pores, they are much too small to harbor bacteria, fungus, molds, etc. (However, silicone may sometimes retain smells or stains.) This means that silicone can be completely sterilized.
How do I care for my silicone toys?
Cleaning: Most of the time, a simple wash with warm/hot water and mild soap will do the trick. (I suggest fragrance-free liquid soap to protect the vagina’s natural pH balance.) If you notice that your toy has retained some smells, would like to share your toy with a partner, plan to switch between vaginal and anal use, or you simply want to go the extra mile, you have several options…
If your toy does not have a vibrating motor, you can 1. Boil the toy for 2-3 minutes. (Awesome advice from Dangerous Lilly: Use a steamer basket to prevent the toy from coming into contact with the very hot bottom of the pot.) 2. If you have a dishwasher with a sanitize option, put the toy on the top rack. (Do not use any sort of dish detergent!) If your toy does have a vibrating motor, you can still wipe it down with a cloth and a 10% bleach/90% water solution. Just make sure to wipe it with plain ol’ water afterwards.
Storage: There’s a rather pervasive myth that silicone toys cannot be stored together without damaging effects. The truth is, if your toys are actual silicone, there shouldn’t be a problem. (Want photographic proof? Check out Dangerous Lilly’s silicone jar experiment.) The problem comes from when sex toy companies lie about what their products are made of. Unsafe, porous toys that claim to be silicone (or a questionable “silicone blend”) do run the risk of melting/leaking on your real, quality silicone products. So before tossing everything together in a drawer, consider the company and whether you trust their materials. Personally, I store all of my Tantus, Lelo, and Fun Factory in one location and have never experienced an issue. (It’s important to note that some very soft silicone, like Vixskin, may bend if haphazardly crushed by other toys for extended periods of time.)
Lubrication: Many of us have also heard the “never use silicone lube with silicone toys” warning. The idea is that silicones will react with each other, and this will damage the toy. In reality, it can be a grey area. If both the toy and the lubrication are made from high quality silicone, they may not have any reaction whatsoever. To be safe, you can test your preferred brand of silicone or hybrid lube on a discreet area of the toy (ex: the base). Keep an eye out for any changes in the material, like a sticky or tacky feeling. Of course, to be extra safe, you can simply stick to using water-based lubricants with all of your silicone toys.
How do I know if a toy is true silicone?
Like I’ve mentioned before, there are no sex toy regulations and companies lie to make money. There are many products made from porous and potentially toxic materials that get advertised as silicone. There are also companies that claim to have created a silicone “blend” with other materials. Who knows if this can even be done — let alone be body safe. So how can you tell the difference? First of all, examine the product. If it is completely clear, it is most likely not silicone. (“Clear” silicone will still be cloudy.) Does it have that new, plastic shower curtain smell? If so, run in the opposite direction, because whatever you have likely contains phthalates. (Silicone is essentially odorless.)
Still not sure? You can also do a flame test, but be aware that the results are not always 100% accurate. The idea is that most (but not all) silicones will not melt; they will only produce ash that can be wiped away. Of course, do the flame test at your own risk, and make sure to be very careful as some plastic products will go up in flame very quickly. If you would like more information on flame tests, I highly recommend Dangerous Lilly’s posts (here & here), which include several photo and video examples.
I also suggest that you keep up-to-date with Dildology and The Coalition Against Toxic Toys. Both are organizations that have actually had sex toys tested to find out what materials they are made from. (Unfortunately, these tests are super expensive and very few toys have been tested thus far.)
Silicone Sex Toy Manufacturers That I Trust
My number one piece of advice for making sure that a toy is made from real silicone? Shop from reputable stores and manufacturers. Shevibe, Good Vibrations, Peepshow Toys, and Sexy Time Toys are all companies that I trust enough to be affiliates with. Other stores dedicated to body safety include Babeland, SheBop, Filthy Dirty, and Smitten Kitten. (Avoid Amazon at all costs, as counterfeit toys are quite common there.)
This is not an exhaustive manufacturer list by any means, but it will at least get you started.
- Bad Dragon
- BS Atelier
- B Swish
- Fun Factory
- Je Joue
- Jimmy Jane
- Minna Life
- New York Toy Collective
- Tantus (another beloved affiliate of mine)
- Vixen Creations
If you want an even more in-depth look at silicone, I highly recommend Lorax of Sex’s Epic Silicone Post and Dangerous Lilly’s Ultimate Guide to Silicone Sex Toys.