Is Your Glass Sex Toy Truly Safe?
Everybody and their brother claims to be creating/selling high quality glass sex toys; they may tout brand names like Pyrex or toss out the term “borosilicate” as if those words automatically mean quality anymore. When we know how shady many sex toy companies can be and how they can say whatever they want about their product without the need for truth in advertising, people naturally get skeptical regarding the true safety of glass sex toys. I’m always trying to find new ways of testing sex toys at home for quality, material, and relative safety. Since one of the few things I could do is burning to see if it’s silicone or not, I never thought I’d be able to test a glass sex toy at home until Crystal Delights talked about using a polariscope on some glass pieces which shows stress in glass. I figured out how to run the test at home, cheaply, and then proceeded to spend more than a few dollars buying various brands to test. I tested them all for glass quality and lead content – I have no way of testing for Cadmium or other harmful heavy metals, though. I have always received questions about the relative safety of inexpensive glass sex toys and I can finally give you some more in-depth answers. I suspect we won’t stop with this post; I’ve already talked to Crystal Delights years ago and I plan to present you with a more in-depth chat with the people behind Fucking Sculptures, soon.
Please note: This piece is to inform and educate, not scare you. If you are worried about the glass sex toys you own after reading this, please contact me. Send me a link, send me photos, etc. I’ll help you determine if you need to toss it or just baby it.
Pyrex Means Nothing
You probably associate the name Pyrex with tough glass – glass that can stand up to a drop, that can be boiled, etc. On the boiling front, you’re right – borosilicate glass can be boiled or can be the vessel for boiling. But Pyrex just isn’t what it used to be anymore – namely it used to be well-made borosilicate and now it’s soda-lime. Sometime in the 1990s Corning and their Pyrex name were bought out by a Chinese company called World Kitchen. Since then, Pyrex items just aren’t as tough. I ran the glass test on some Pyrex branded items I own – the new Pyrex measuring cups showed rainbows in the parts. The lid from my 1950s CorningWare casserole dish was completely clear on both the polariscope and polarimeter. A lab flask from the 60s was also showing clear on both tests. So when you see glass companies bragging about how they use Pyrex glass? They’re full of shit. Pyrex isn’t a type of glass, it’s a brand and it is no better or worse as a name brand than anything generic. If you want glass brand names that mean something look for people talking about Simex or Schott glass, which are used for medical purposes. Plus, if the glass isn’t annealed then nothing matters. I’ve seen a lot of cheap glass sex toys boasting “Pyrex” and they’re not annealed. Most of these same sex toys that use the term “Pyrex” also say “borosilicate”. Since Pyrex is no longer borosilicate this presents a bit of Pinocchio situation. So what are they really? They may very well be borosilicate glass, which is fine but just saying that doesn’t really make it any better than soda lime glass that is annealed – soda-lime is used by Fucking Sculptures, Steele Malone, Standard Glass and Simply Blown, to name a few. Even when annealed though you can’t plunge a soda-lime glass dildo into boiling water. But annealing does strengthen glass and make it able to withstand some abuse. My Fucking Sculptures soda-lime glass dildo may not be able to withstand boiling water but it definitely is hardy and break-resistant because FS makes their pieces carefully and properly. The cheap “Pyrex” now made in China hasn’t been made carefully; my newer measuring cups have all chipped on the lip/spout.
What Annealing Means (and doesn’t)
I talked to a lot of glass experts when researching this and I could include information from many people here. Some have said that it’s nearly impossible to anneal away all stress in thick glass sex toys; some disagree. Some “internet experts” have gotten the terms annealing and tempering confused; you probably wouldn’t find a tempered glass dildo. First, here’s some information from Maria at Fucking Sculptures:
It is both theoretically and actually impossible to remove all stress from any glass, and especially so with objects that vary in thickness, shape, and color. Some stress actually strengthens glass, that extreme being known as “tempering” (also from metallurgy) or quick cooling, which is done to car side windows (not windshields!) and some drinkware. It makes them VERY hard to break up to a certain point way beyond that of annealed glass, but at which point they break into a zillion pieces. Do note that as stressed out as they are, car windows and drinkware never break themselves! Someone has to do it for them. So, having said all that, yes, our dildos do have some stress. We do anneal them in a longer cycle than most anything else made in our studio, because they are relatively thick. We anneal them in the upper part of our oven, which provides more evenly controlled heat. We also know that having some stress makes them stronger, having dropped them on various floors, even sometimes concrete won’t break them. There are other issues going on, too. Hard or soft, the skilled and careful glassmaker has to keep whatever object is being made fairly evenly hot throughout the sculpting process, thus taking a lot of the stress out of the glass before it even reaches the cooling oven. Design plays a part, too. That butt-plug ring you mention should never have existed in the first place, and more subtle things are prone to break as well – abrupt changes in thickness or angle can be interesting features in metal, for instance, but doomed in glass. Factory production of course is riddled with risks- harried or unskilled employees, quotas, deadlines, budgets- all of which increase chances for error, or worse. We avoid all that by having 2 people (sometimes a third) make everything.
Looking for strain with a polariscope is not just as simple as rainbow or no rainbow. Yes, totally clear is a good sign. But there are varying levels and intensities of coloration, and reading them is something that takes training. Strain in glass doesn’t always make it weak, it can also make it strong. Think about tempered glass, like is used in skyscraper windows. Tempered glass has a controlled pattern of stress put into it during manufacturing. It is very flexible and durable, and takes immense amounts of bending from wind, earthquakes, etc. Regular, annealed sheet glass would surely snap, but the tempered glass doesn’t. However, once the tempered glass reaches its limits, it blows up into little square chunks like auto glass does.
This would be bad for a sex toy, but is an example of how complicated strain is. The junk import “pyrex” toys are just formed at a torch and likely allowed to cool on a tabletop. Maybe they go into a kiln, but I’ll bet not. This is not good strain in glass, and it’s not safe. I’m not expert enough to properly read the stress in the images you sent, but my basic understanding is that the tighter/brighter the rainbows are, the higher the stress levels are. The mellow brown/purple haze is likely safe for use. You might try going to your local university and seeing if they have a scientific glassblowing lab in the chemistry department somewhere. Down there, there will be someone who knows quite a bit about polariscopes and glass. They will likely also have a much fancier polariscope with graded dials, one that can let the user rate strain in ranges and give a better idea of its stability.
The toys we produce at Standard Glass are of soda lime glass, not pyrex, and if we put our toys on the tabletop after making them, they would blow up before they’re cool. Everything we make goes through a computer controlled cooling process in a large, well calibrated, custom kiln. We have made clear toys and both polariscope tested them (polariscope only works on clear glass), and also test them by breaking/sawing them into pieces. Glass with stress breaks/cuts differently than well annealed glass.
Color is also a source of stress. Making colored glass changes the physical attributes of the glass, and so the color formula needs to be chemically tweaked so the final result “fits” with the clear glass you’re using. At our shop, our color is made in New Zealand, is tailor made for our clear glass and our process, and is tested at their factory. We also test each batch of color with our product/process here at the shop before we use it. In China or any other glass shops, there’s no telling what’s happening. Hopefully they’re being thorough, but that’s why it’s best to stick with long time, tested toy manufacturers. When I see a Chinese glass dil with two or three colors in it for $17 retail, I definitely wouldn’t recommend putting it inside anyone. Stick with older, more trusted brands. Stay domestic. Pay a fair price.
What’s the Big Deal?
Cheaply made glass sex toys are still unlikely to break while they are inside of you. When a cheap toy has a stress point (thin necks, like butt plugs or handles) there is a greater chance that it will break at this spot. As you’ll read below I’ve come across one instance of a glass sex toy breaking while inside someone’s body.
What is more likely to happen is that your glass sex toy will simply break/crack easily even with great care. As it gets used and handled over time the stress inside the glass gets worse until one day it falls off your bed onto your carpeted floor and breaks in half. Or a chip forms on the base of your plug. As long as you thoroughly examine your glass toy before every single use and after every single time you clean it I don’t feel that there is a huge risk of bodily harm in most cases. I’ve heard from many people that cheap glass sex toys have arrived to them already broken, scratched, etc.
Sadly, as is the case with porous materials versus body-safe materials, there will always be a large number of people unwilling or unable to buy a properly made glass sex toy. When an improperly made glass sex toy can be had for under $20 while an annealed, hand-made glass toy can cost hundreds of dollars the choice to take the risk is understandable. Amazon is, naturally, appealing but take a look at what happened when I tried to order a few “name brand” pieces from Amazon as part of my testing phase.
Bottom line: cheap glass sex toys will need to be replaced; high quality glass sex toys won’t. A cheap glass sex toy may break easily; a high quality glass dildo won’t.
How to Test Your Own Glass Sex Toys
The test only works on clear or light-colored glass. Dark glass won’t show you much, if anything. Pastel blue, pink, lavender and maybe glass with small shots of color running through will all work well in the test. All you need is a computer monitor and a circular polarizing lens – I used this exact one in part because it was a lot bigger than my existing camera lens 1 (my c-polarizing lens that I use on my camera is 40-some mm, fairly small) and in part because it was cheap. Since I wanted to take photos that showed both the view from behind the lens and naked glass, I didn’t want to attach the polarizing filter to my camera lens. I also used a small light tent box to make sure that what I was seeing wasn’t a reflection of other things. It seemed to work best when the room was dark with no overhead light. It also worked best to have a totally blank, bright white screen, so I used this webpage and F11.
Depending on which way you look through the lens you are creating either a polarimeter or a polariscope. The polarimeter shows color where there is minor to moderate stress, but it requires a degree to figure it out. The best answer I could get was from Glass Alchemy who said that “totally clear is best, but those showing gold and indigo are still relatively strong and shouldn’t be a problem”. You will only see the gold and indigo if you’re using it as a polarimeter. How to tell if you’ve got -meter or -scope? When you hold the lens and rotate it, the -scope side should at some point black out the monitor, as shown in my photos below. Now according to Glass Alchemy and Fucking Sculptures, showing some stress isn’t bad. According to Crystal Delights, showing any stress is bad. If I test items that I know are made to withstand drastic conditions (vintage Corningware Pyrex casserole lid and a lab flask) they show zero stress. Personally, with the small market share of glass sex toys that have been annealed being what it is, I’ll still recommend some brands that show *some* stress versus a lot of stress just because the list of “no stress” perfect glass sex toys is woefully small. I know you need choice
How to Evaluate the Results
This is pretty much the one time in life where rainbows are bad. It doesn’t matter which side of the filter you look through, if the piece is mass-produced in China with no tempering or annealing in any way then you will see rainbows. This means the piece is holding on to a lot of stress at various points and can break easily. It can be fine for a few years and then one day break easily – Sunny Megatron described this to me with a dildo that was great for a couple of years and then one day it took a light fall 2 feet from the bed to the carpeted floor and it broke.
Conversely, a properly annealed glass sex toy could be dropped from a few feet onto a hard surface and probably suffer no damage. Maria from Fucking Sculptures has said that they’ve dropped their annealed pieces on a concrete floor and they didn’t break. Standard Glass has said the same.
What you ideally want is a glass sex toy that has been annealed – and it’s highly unlikely that the mass produced China products have been. Annealing means that after the hot glass piece is done being created, it is put into an oven which is brought up to a certain high temperature, over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, and then slowly cooled at a precise rate. This takes two things the China plants usually don’t have – time and money. In my testing I only ran across 2 mass produced brands that had pieces that weren’t filled with rainbows.
Are Colored Glass Sex Toys Safe? Is Painted Glass Safe?
I’ve seen some shady stuff in my searches, like CalExotics dildos with decals painted on and Pipedream dildos with a weird irridescent glaze to them. I’ve also wondered about the colored glass bumps, dots and swirls we often see added to the design. According to Ryan at Luscious Playthings: “There are “lusters” that can be applied to the surface of glass and then fired on in the kiln, sort of like a glaze, but they’re highly toxic. As for bumps or texture being added to the surface, as long as it’s melted in good it should pose no threat.” Nearly all glass artists are using colored glass – they get pre-colored glass rods to create the lines, swirls and flowers/mushrooms or “frit” which is crushed colored glass that can be used inside the clear or rolled onto the outside (the latter is how Fucking Sculptures does it).
Another interesting tale which involves, naturally, Pipedream’s Icicles line. Jane told us about someone who boiled a red Icicles dildo and the water turned red! Whatever was going on here, they weren’t using red glass. It sounds like they were using some sort of luster or paint. Not safe! I tried boiling some colored dildos to see if there would be any bleeding in the water and I didn’t detect anything. Someone else commented here about the color flaking off during boiling of their Pipedream Icicles.
And what about metallic coatings? How hardy and body-safe are they? Unfortunately I don’t know. It would take lab tests to find out the material they are using combined with extensive wear tests to see if it rubs off like the metallic coating on Lelo items.
Another question has been about leaded glass – is the cheap stuff riddled with lead? Turns out, nope. Not a single item in my possession tested positive for lead. Only one glass thing in my house did test for lead, but that was a decorative ornament. I used the 3M Lead Check swabs.
Glass Sex Toys to Avoid
At this point, I’m reluctant to tell you to avoid certain brands. Sure, if I had my way about it I’d tell you to avoid Pipedream and retailer-branded glass, and of course everything from Amazon. They’re not going to be annealed, ever. I don’t feel, nor does anyone else I’ve spoken to, that most of these designs will break/snap while inside your body. I don’t see you exerting enough force on the object, nor would the temperature change from cold to internal body temp be enough to stress it to breaking.
There is one major design I cannot recommend: The style with a pull-ring at the end. If you see this style made by the cheaper companies, AVOID IT. The following story is true:
An employee of Nitecap Megastore on Staten Island shared the photo with me. She purchased this to use on her partner, after finally working through his skepticism on trying prostate stimulation. The piece in question had been handled with care on her end and this happened the first time they used it – the pull ring broke while it was in his ass. “Luckily the plug wasn’t even fully situated in his ass yet so he was able to contract his muscles and push the piece out on his own”, she told me. I’ve spoken many times about the amazing “vacuum” nature of the butt; if a large salami or bottle of pancake syrup can get sucked up and require a doctors care for removal, I’m sure you can imagine how easily that incident with the broken glass piece could have been a serious accident. The lacerations he would have sustained internally could have been life-threatening.
Other tips for deciding if a glass piece from an artist is truly their own, or not: check to see if the design(s) are common. One of the most common designs was (originally? I think?) the Don Wands Bent Graduate. SSA Glass called it the Amethyst. I’ve seen it all over Amazon and I’ve even seen it in the small Etsy shops where they claim to hand-make all their own glass to the highest of standards. Could they just be making that design because it’s popular, and it’s still a quality handmade piece? Sure, absolutely. But when I look through their shop and see generic designs that feel familiar, I move on.
One company I will tell you to avoid is The Glass Dildo Shop aka A Tough of Glass, a UK seller. The company owner is a lying sack of crap, so there’s that, but their site has this ridiculous scare-tactic post warning you about low-quality glass sex toys, how easily they break and even show a photo of a shattered glass plug to scare you further. The irony here is that their pieces are the exact things they warn you against. In the height of the drama as we uncovered more info about The Glass Dildo Shop someone sent me one of the dildos they received for review and it didn’t pass the polariscope test. Rainbows galore! Their post which talks about “regular window glass” is an infuriating piece of bullshit, especially given their lies. It’s not about the glass, it’s about the annealing!! They talk about second-hand glass dildos leading you to “contract something nasty”, and while used products are certainly a possibility in some crappy markets, glass is truly non-porous and very easy to sanitize. I fucking hate this company and would like to see them disappear from the internet for good, along with the owner David Mattocks.
Glass Sex Toy Brands I Endorse
When I was gathering up glass from various companies, and in many cases speaking to the company owners/glass blowers, it became clear on who you can trust to give you a high-quality product.
Crystal Delights: They inspired me to write this piece and do the testing; I couldn’t get the polariscope they used, so I fashioned my own. I fully trust every product from Crystal Delights. I even tested an item from them myself and it was perfectly clear with no visible stress. You can buy direct from CD, or purchase select pieces at SheVibe.
Fucking Sculptures: I couldn’t test their pieces with the polariscope because of the colored glass they use, but I’ve dropped a piece (no damage) and have talked extensively with Maria. I’ve seen videos of their work and I fully trust that every product from Fucking Sculptures is annealed and made properly. Sadly, Fucking Sculptures closed their doors in the autumn of 2017.
Luscious Playthings: They currently sell on Etsy, and used to have a few styles that were sold by GoodVibrations under a different name. The piece they sent me shows as nearly clear in my tests, I only notice a bit of gold/indigo when I turn the product certain ways – however the piece they sent me is also much larger/thicker than the other items I’ve tested. It has been noted that with the thick pieces it would be pretty damn difficult to get rid of all stress from annealing. I’d rate their glass highly. While their stuff isn’t as fancy as Crystal Delights or Fucking Sculptures, you’ll find a lot of moderately-priced interesting designs that work well. They have a lot of glass butt plugs, and a really interesting handled dildo (which they sent me to try out) which I quite enjoyed – the shaped and handle were great but I don’t like textured bumps as a personal preference. I tried not to let the bumps affect how I feel about their piece overall. You know I like dildos with a long handle and curve for easier use and theirs certainly lived up to my standards. I would definitely recommend Luscious Playthings as a safe company with great products.
Glass by Woozy: They also sell on Etsy. I purchased a really small, clear piece from them just to test and it passed the annealing test. A number of bloggers have reviewed their items and have always been happy with the end result.
Standard Glass: They only sell to particular stores; Babeland and Smitten Kitten being a few. They sent me a totally clear version of their product to include in my testing and it showed absolutely no signs of stress. It’s well made and the colored versions are beautiful.
Ttamage: Another Etsy seller; also has seen a good number of blogger reviews. I haven’t tested anything from them but I have spoken to the owner/blower when I’ve done research and he knows his stuff. I would recommend them.
Simply Blown, Steele Malone, and Phallix Glass are also brands that I’ve heard good things about. Phallix is hard to find, and so far I’ve only seen it at Holistic Wisdom.
Glass Sex Toy Brands and My Testing
The following items I purchased or received for testing purposes did not pass – results were obvious with a lot of rainbow action: Lovehoney brand, 50 Shades of Grey line, 2 knock-off dildos from Amazon, Spartacus Blown, Pipedream Icicles, Edenfantasys brand, A Touch of Glass/ theglassdildoshop.com brand.
The following items showed extremely little or zero stress: Crystal Delights, Standard Glass, Glass by Woozy. These items are as perfect as my vintage Pyrex/Corningware lid and my lab flask.
The following showed indigo/gold (low-to-moderate) stress: Luscious Playthings, Jopen Key Comet G Wand, Glas Chili Pepper (this one showed the most indigo), NS Novelties Heart Wand, Sinclair Institute.
A few miscellaneous things I wanted to note: as part of my test I was going to send an already-photographed rainbow-y dildo over to Crystal Delights and have them anneal it. Yes, they can anneal an already-made toy, and have done so on their own to show that it wasn’t the glass quality giving a bad polarimeter reading, it was the lack of annealing. However, the research and massive undertaking of this project meant that I first started researching and gathering product as early as August of 2015 and only now in almost-June of 2016 am I publishing this piece. I feared that if I put this off any longer I would never get this beast of a post published.
Also in the vein of “I need to get this published, it is looming over me and stressing me out” my photos aren’t as awesome as I wanted them to be. I guess it only really matters that I am showing the differences, but still. My apologies here. When I locate the larger lens filter I’ll re-shoot the images here.
- By the time I was ready to click publish I realized I didn’t have nearly enough photos – and suddenly I couldn’t find my large polarizing lens. Squinting to see through my little 40mm one was pure hell ↩