Apr 182018
 

It’s always been my personal opinion that, for most people and circumstances, simple sex toy cleaning methods are generally best. I’ve never liked “sex toy cleaner” solutions and have made my own simple cleaning wipes. But today I want to talk about the UV Light sex toy cleaning boxes that have been added to the lineup recently. Using UV-C light to kill wigglies isn’t new – I bought a similar item to keep my toothbrushes clean a few years ago. And sure, UV-C will kill stuff, but as Kenton so eloquently put it to me: “but, other things don’t not kill stuff”.  A year ago there was another brand selling a UV-C light box, Dorr. SheVibe doesn’t carry it anymore; I so far can only find it on shadier sites like AdamEve, Sextoy.com, and Amazon. It’s considerably cheaper than the UVEE, but also seems to be smaller and doesn’t double as a charging station.

In this post I’m focusing on the selling points that UVEE is making for their product (and against other cleaning methods) because I feel it’s important to look critically at their claims to help you decide if the expensive light box is worth it.

ETA: For further information on sanitizing standards and more, start with this article on sanitizing via your dishwasher. In the first paragraph there are links to articles about sanitizing, disinfecting, and more.

I keep getting approached to review the UVEE sex toy cleaning box by the company and every time I’ve been approached, I’ve fired back with a lot of questions. They have always answered me, but I’ve never been quite convinced that the UVEE is something I should recommend to my readers. Sometimes it’s a money issue I keep coming back to – most of my readers can’t afford to drop $120 and up for something that isn’t going to get them off. Mostly it’s a “but this isn’t really necessary” issue combined with a little “yeah, but, will this actually work?” skepticism.

One of my biggest complaints about the UVEE isn’t actually about the UVEE system itself, but the fact that they seem to be using scare tactics to tell you that whatever cleaning method you’re using, it isn’t enough. On their site: “Bottom line, you can clean your toys but without UV-C you can’t sanitize them.” This feels dangerous, to me, because then people may think “well I can’t afford the UVEE and nothing else is effective, so why bother?” But last year the Head of Operations said this: “Yes, there are ways to sanitize without UV-C, including bleach, alcohol, and soap & water. However, we don’t believe this is something the average person actually does.”

That last line contradicts their current website claims.

Wherein They Put Down Alcohol and Bleach

Recently their latest PR company contacted a number of bloggers with a list of bullet-points that counters every cleaning method I’d asked them about in the past when they’d reach out, and they claim that UV-C light is superior to all of these things1. When I got to the bullet point that says, and I quote: “Alcohol and bleach – can destroy surface materials and change body’s natural pH balance”, well, I think you know my reaction.

I specifically countered to them the last time that these two cleaning methods are well-accepted by many medical organizations as a way to disinfect. And most bloggers and educators will take the time to explain to people that you do not just pour on unadulerated bleach, let it air dry, and go forth and fuck. You use a solution of bleach and water (10% bleach, 90% water) and then you rinse it off well with water or mild soap and water.

This means there’s not anything left on the sex toy to harm your body, right? When I Google “will bleach on your sex toy harm your pH” I see the same, generic rhetoric without anybody linking to a study that details whether or not this effect happens if the person does not rinse/wash the evaporated alcohol/bleach off the sex toy. When I see a study that tells me otherwise, I will change my opinion on alcohol and bleach cleaning. Until then, I decided to run a little experiment and y’all know how I love doing that. More on that in a minute.

And alcohol? Rubbing alcohol can sometimes create swelling of silicone but that will return to normal as you let the item air dry. It doesn’t cause any lasting harm. Some sex toy manufacturers may caution against using it because of this temporary swelling, due to customer complaints and customers thinking their item is defective. It is also possible (but I have no idea on the liklihood) that rubbing alcohol could do harm to a polyurethane coating which sometimes exists on silicone products.

When I asked the person I go to the most these days for science-y stuff (Kenton, if you haven’t figured that out by now), his response told me all I needed to know about their claims against alcohol and bleach. I also work at a company that uses silicone products and cleans them with alcohol, to no detriment.

The pH Experiment

It’s pretty simple – Start with a water-based liquid solution. Test the pH. In a different container let a silicone sex toy hang out in something with a very different pH, rinse it, then put the sex toy in the control liquid container and swish it around and re-test the pH of the control liquid. I started with tap water (pH was around 6.5) and used vinegar because that’s what I easily had on hand at the moment. Vinegar had a pH of somewhere around 3. When I then put the vinegar-soaked-and-then-rinsed silicone back in the tap water and re-tested the pH of the water I found no change to the pH.

While this is a very rudimentary experiment, the experiment combined with the expert input from others tells me that it’s not going to change your body’s pH to clean sex toys in rubbing alcohol or bleach so long as you rinse (water or soap and water) and then air-dry if you used alcohol.

Boiling Water Isn’t Good Enough?

They also tried to tell us that “Boiling water will not kill bacteria and can damage the toys”. Again, context. Are you talking about a vibrator? They do mention electronics on the website but not in their PR pitch. Sure as hell that’ll destroy a vibrator. But most bloggers and educators take the time to spell out “don’t put anything with a motor in boiling water”. We also tell folks that it needs to be in the boiling water for about 10 minutes – dildo soup! They also state that a dishwasher can damage toys. Yes, it can, if people aren’t educated to avoid using detergent in the cycle and if they put a toy with a motor in there. From what I’ve read a dishwasher can only sanitize your sex toys if the dishwasher has a sanitize cycle – anything less and you’re just getting them a little more clean.

Sex Toy Cleansers

And then they talk about sex toy cleaning “foams and gels”, which as I’ve said, I dislike. They’re not necessary, especially in light of using affordable, readily available, rubbing alcohol and bleach (diluted). Unless you have an active infection or plan to use a sex toy between untested partners or plan to use a sex toy between ass and vagina, mild soap and warm water are enough. Mild soap, warm water, and a few minutes of rubbing are what every doctor will tell you to employ to keep yourself healthy during cold and flu season, yet somehow this is not good enough for sex toys?

However, my final skepticism comes from, well, good ole sex-toy-industry-skepticism. They can tell me they have run lab tests. They can show me the lab tests. But what do I have at home to prove that the UV light is killing whatever might have been on the sex toy in the first place?

Nothing. This may come off very conspiracy-theory because there’s also nothing telling me that I’ve gotten my sex toys disinfected at home with my own methods, right?

It Cleans What It Sees

Here’s the other aspect of UV-C light being used to sanitize: It can only clean what it sees, essentially. The light has to hit the spot. The UVEE box has lights on the bottom and top and seems to do a pretty good job of avoiding shadows but I don’t think  it’s foolproof for every sex toy. Because you can’t see what’s happening, you won’t know if you missed a spot with the light. When I’m cleaning by hand I can feel pretty confident that I’ve washed all the surfaces.

Porous Materials and UV-C Light

I also asked about the porous materials, at one point, because if UV light could sanitize a porous material then that could be very awesome. Most people who buy porous sex toys cannot afford the UVEE, but I’m thinking specifically about the people who spend money on masturbation sleeves like Tenga and Fleshlight – they’re not cheap! Because the UV light can only kill what it can “see” it’s surface-only for opaque materials – which is no better than any other cleaning method since we know that bacteria, yeast and other things can make a home down in the pores. If it’s completely clear, then it’s possible. There are clear Fleshlight sleeves, and you can remove them from their cases, so I will cautiously approve it for that. The Tenga Flip Hole material may also be clear enough for this to work, but again…without an indepedant lab test I am extremely reluctant to tell you it’ll work. I’d want to cut into the product to make sure it sanitized down into the pores.

Specifically, here is what I was told from the company:

The UV-C light can eliminate bacteria as deep as light can penetrate. Light can penetrate deeper (even all the way through) in lighter/ clear/more transparent toys than it can darker or more opaque toys. We have tested our systems on many of the materials that pleasure products are made out of including jelly (which is quite porous), our study found our system to be over 99.9% effective at eliminating bacteria, which is 3-5 times more effective than foam and spray cleaners. Bacteria is killed quickly under UV-C light but our systems run longer than the time necessary to kill the bacteria, this gives more time for the light to penetrate materials. Also, we did a specific study on “complex devices”, specifically the Magic Wand. This is called a crevice test, and we were able to prove that our system is 99.9% effective at eliminating bacteria on complex devices as well. As you know, these devices are not water proof and problematic to properly clean in the nooks and crannies. 

 

A reader recently asked me about combining the UVEE with a Womanizer, because they felt that the Womanizer was hard to thoroughly clean. Again I am concerned about the “shadows” in the nozzles and that that therefore makes it possibly less effective than the following method: Remove the silicone nozzle and wash it in soap and water or soak it in a 10% bleach solution for 10 minutes – followed by a thorough rinse and air dry. Use a Q-tip or paper towel corner to get some rubbing alcohol swabbed inside the hard plastic nozzle of the toy, or just soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Re-assemble.

The bottom line is that the UVEE system will appeal to a small percentage of folx, and that’s fine. I’m not here to shame your choice in the matter and I’m not here to say that the UVEE, or similar products, are 100% useless. I’m writing this because the claims made in favor of the UVEE system, claims which put down perfectly good (and accessible) cleaning methods feels wrong and dangerous. I want people to understand that they do not *need* UV light to clean their sex toys properly and thoroughly.

If you absolutely hate taking the time to properly clean your sex toys then by all means get that UVEE system. If you’re in situations where sex toys will be shared – or used anally and then vaginally – and you’re not able to get easy access to alcohol or bleach, etc, then a UV light box could be right for you. If you don’t have the spoons or physical ability to clean things properly every time, that’s valid, too. Get that UVEE. But I want to offset the marketing buzz with some logic, education, and a healthy dose of skepticism.  Unlike the creators of UVEE I feel that the general population of sex toy owners doesn’t need such an expensive tool for cleaning, it’s a niche product.

  1. these claims are also on the website
 Posted by at 10:39 am
Apr 032018
 

Black Lelo Sona Cruise on a gray knit backgroundYears ago I swore I’d never review another Lelo sex toy, but my commitment to trying most of the Womanizer and Satisfyer toys meant that I had to try the Lelo Sona Cruise, much to my dismay. For now, I can’t compare the Lelo Sona Cruise to the regular Sona but I feel like my assessment of the Sona Cruise is going to be enough and I really don’t want to go through the rigors of testing two of these horror shows. I’ve disliked my experience from first to last.

I was so extremely skeptical of Lelo’s claim to be doing the pressure air technology different – by incorporating sonic waves, aka sound waves – that I had to feel it for myself. Let me be clear, though: I still don’t support Lelo and I never will – I broke up with them years ago and my decision has been reinforced by their marketing choices and that terrible, troubling condom. I 100% feel that you can get an equal or better identical product by choosing Womanizer or Satisfyer over the Lelo Sona or Sona Cruise. Yet I’m still spending nearly 2,000 words talking about an inferior product that has made some people bleed because I’m thorough, damn it.

The Lelo Sona Cruise is…Sonic?

EffinBirds: "I read some shit on the internet, I'm an expert now" Lelo’s ad copy says: “SONA Cruise is a sonic clitoral massager. That means it doesn’t rely on vibrations like a conventional sex toy. Instead, it uses sonic waves and pulses to stimulate the entire clitoris – not just the external part you can see and touch.” 

I’m side-eyeing that real hard, folx. They’re right on one thing, it’s not relying on vibrations. Neither does the Womanizer brand or Satisfyer brand of pressure air pulsators. So basically Lelo is claiming to use SOUND. 

Yes, there is sound – there’s always sound. But I can see and feel the little fluttering gizmo that is producing the air pulse sensations, and it is just like the Womanizer and Satisfyer models. Do they feel the same? Mostly, yes. I think that the Lelo Sona Cruise is more intense right off the bat (not a great thing in my book) but I believe it’s because there’s less physical space between the fluttering motor and the point of clitoral contact. The nozzle is also thinner inside in width than most Womanizer and Satisfyer models; I noticed that that aspect also leads to a more intense sensation, like I saw in the Womanizer 2GO. For comparison, the inside width of the Lelo Sona Cruise nozzle is .454 inches or 11.53 mm, and it is circular – the smallest width of the oval Womanizer nozzle is 12.3mm.

Despite their “sonic” claims I cannot feel any discernible difference, other than initial intensity, from Womanizer and Satisfyer models. Yes, due to designs there is varying sensation between all of the Womanizer and Satisfyer models — some more intense, some less, some more thuddy, some more shallow/buzzy. A few people have reported to me that the Sona worked for them where a Womanizer or Satisfyer did not, but I don’t know why – maybe it’s an intensity thing? So yes, the short distance and narrow opening means the Lelo Sona Cruise is more intense right away compared to some other models, but I do not think it feels different enough to warrant the “sonic waves” claim.

What is this Cruise Control Bullshit?

EffinBirds: "Come back when you get your shit together"“Specially developed by LELO and exclusive to SONA, Cruise Control is a feature that reserves 20% of SONA’s full power during normal use, so that when SONA is pressed hard against the body and the motor begins to drop power, that extra 20% is unleashed so that there’s no reduction of intensity. It’s not a setting, it’s completely automatic, and it eliminates the single most common complaint against pleasure products.”

That…..It’s….That is not a Thing That Happens in these types of sex toys. I’ve never experienced a drop in motor power if I pressed a Womanizer or Satisfyer harder against my vulva. Not once. Yes, it feels different and maybe a little less intense but that’s not what they’re saying here. They’re saying specifically the motor drops power. Typical to Lelo’s infuriatin marketing tactics over the last 5 years they are inventing problems that don’t exist and then “solving” them. Yes, a traditional vibrator will see a power decrease as more pressure is applied but we’ve already established that this is not a vibrator. 

In practice the Cruise Control is simply infuriating and reminds me of the problematic Smart Wand’s “SenseTouch” which would supposedly increase the vibration the harder you pressed, except that many users found it would act erratically. I experienced that same erract behavior when using the Lelo Sona Cruise – sometimes it would seem to increase, and sometimes it would decrease. Sometimes the increase wouldn’t stop even when it was literally not touching my vulva, when I had it just hovering over my clitoris because the sensations were too intense.

Cruise Control is trash, for me. I don’t want to guess at the intensity level I’ll get – I want to have control over it. That’s why there are various intensity levels! Pick the one you want! I want it to stay at a lower intensity on the lower levels until I’m ready for something more. I’m actually laughing at the disparity in their name choice for this “feature”.  Cruise control in a car means you maintain the same speed so congratulations for naming it like you’re in Bizarro World.

I would hate the Lelo Sona about 20% less because it lacks the useless, horrible Cruise Control. So if you must, just get the regular Lelo Sona. But, I mean, still don’t get the Lelo Sona.

Patterns? What Fresh Hell is This?????

EffinBirds: "You are not capable of producing a useful result"Patterns. They’re controversial but most people don’t like them. They are the bane of my existence, they are the thing I almost always accidentally turn on and then frantically try to reverse. Patterns are what I only resort to if I’m trying to fool my clitoris into thinking the vibrations are more rumbly or more intense than they are, and it nearly never works out for me.

The Lelo Sona Cruise buttons are closely-aligned and difficult to distinguish by touch alone. Given how un-ergonomic I feel the entire design is, combined with the diminuitive size I hate, I’m usually pushing the wrong buttons. Entering into patterns on a pressure air sex toy, one that is already intense, is akin to that burst of pain you feel when you consume a hot or cold liquid and you have dental pain. That sharp, wrong-feeling, nerve-zapping makeitstoppppp feeling is what I felt any time I accidentally went into patterns.

To be honest, this feature alone would be enough to make me never pick up the Lelo Sona Cruise again, but wait…there’s more.

It’s Painful

The Lelo Sona Cruise caused me pain in two unexpected ways. The first was while holding it. It’s a combination of the size, the button placement, and the weird way the body of it bends away from you where the controls are. Every press of the button would rock the nozzle away from my vulva so I needed to keep an anchor on it by pressing my fingers around the back, and lower. It is awkward to hold in ways that straight-bodied models like the Pro40 or Satisfyer Pro 2 are not. I would actually rather use the potato with the pokey button, aka the Womanizer Pro 500 Deluxe Whatever They’re Calling It now.

The second way the Lelo Sona Cruise is painful to me took some time to figure out, and I may not have understood what was happening without Aurora asking me specifically if I’d ever heard of anybody bleeding after use. By the time she asked me I’d forgotton about this thread on Reddit where multiple people reported bleeding after use, and a few others on Twitter mentioned bleeding1. I can’t say that it made me bleed because I never paid attention (and didn’t know what was happening at the time) but I know that it cut my vulva a bit or irritated it to the point of localized pain. The last few times I used the Sona I had to pee shortly after and noticed that when I wiped, it hurt. Like an open cut. It wasn’t excruciating so I ignored it. I didn’t connect the two facts until I used it again after Aurora’s question and it hit me.

EffinBirds: "Our expectations for you were low, but holy fuck"The culprit is the short distance between the exterior opening of the nozzle and the “flappy bit” motor inside the nozzle that causes the air pulsation. No other pressure-wave sex toy has this short of a distance – not even the smallest Satisfyer or the smallest Womanizer. There is, without a doubt, a short enough distance between the edge of the nozzle of the Lelo Sona Cruise and the motor to allow a clitoris or labia to come into contact with semi-moving parts. I say “semi-moving” because there is a squishy skin-like membrane over the flappy bit. It’s not like there are sharp edges but it is enough to cause irritation to my vulva/clitoris.

How short of a distance? When the motor is on, the distance is halved; if I insert my pinky finger then it’s just equal to the distance between the tip of my finger and the base of my nail bed aka 7.8mm or .3 inches. That’s it.

This is ridiculous.

How the Lelo Sona Cruise Compares to Other Brands

Effinbirds: "Basically you're fucking incompetent"Given Lelo’s penchant for drastically overpricing everything they sell I’m absolutely shocked that the most expensive Sona is still considerably less expensive than the Womanizer brand. That said even though I strongly prefer and recommend the Womanizer brand over the Satisfyer brand I still would rather see you get a Satisfyer than a Lelo Sona.

Unlike the Womanizer and Satisfyer products, the Lelo Sona Cruise does not have a removable silicone nozzle for easier cleaning. Yes, this means that the Lelo Sona is covered in silicone (except for the large plastic plate on the backside) but it’s not a “good feature” to me. Unlike most Womanizer models the Lelo Sona Cruise has only one opening size and that opening is pretty small. This is not a sex toy for larger clits but given it’s penchant for cutting up smaller clits, it’s not for those either. It’s for NO clit.

When we talk about the pressure-wave air stimulators we have to talk about the noise level because despite not having a vibrating motor, these can still get kinda noisy. Lelo would, of course, have you believe that theirs is superior: “It’s quiet and restrained – perfect for users who need discretion.” Strangely, unlike most other models, the Lelo Sona Cruise gets much more noisy when the nozzle is covered. With most Womanizer and Satisfyer models they are a little noisy until they come in full contact with your vulva, then they are extremely quiet. Check out the Instagram video to hear the strange noises it makes. Also note the sounds you hear after I remove my thumb from the nozzle, you can hear the motor stepping back down in strength.

You’ll get much less use time out of the Lelo Sona Cruise, as well. Nearly all of the Satisfyer models give you 2 hours, and many Womanizer models boast use times of up to 4 hours on a single charge. Womanizer also gives a better warranty – 2 Years to Lelo’s 1 Year.  I’m not adding the Sona specs to the Womanizer vs Satisfyer guide spreadsheet but you can see how they compare.   

I can’t recommend the Lelo Sona Cruise, at all. I hate every single thing about it and feel that nearly any model of Womanizer or Satisfyer pressure air sex toys is equally as good or better. 

 

Much thanks to SheVibe for providing me with a Lelo Sona Cruise in exchange for my honest review!                                                                                                                                                              

 

  1. Check out Amber’s review too