Nov 022014
Amazon Warehouse (image courtesy of

Amazon Warehouse (image courtesy of

Amazon and sex toys. Not quite as troublesome in my world as toxic toys, but nearly so. A lot of people are more comfortable buying their sex toy from than a sex toy retailer, because they feel certain that it will be more discreet – they know that anything “sold by Amazon” will come in an Amazon box and an Amazon mailing address. And most of the time, Amazon is cheaper…and to detriment of the reputable sex toy shops, too.  Many of the higher-end manufacturers put a limit on how low their items can be sold, and Amazon sellers often completely ignore this. Either they are just shady people or…..they’re counterfeit.  In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had more people report problems ordering from Amazon than any other sex toy problems combined. I’ve had readers tell me, even as far back as 4 years ago, that they bought a “luxury” vibrator and something went wrong after a month or two. They took their problem to the manufacturer because it has a warranty, and they found out it wasn’t the brand they thought they were buying and the company wouldn’t honor a warranty claim. Rightfully so; it’s not their product. The counterfeit sex toy market is bigger than you think and it’s found a nice home at Amazon (and Ebay).

So Which Brands Are Suspect?

While this is by NO means a complete list, and I’d be suspect of just about anything, the specific brands I’ve heard of are: Lelo, Fun Factory, We-VibeFleshlights, Tenga, Fairy Wands by Merci Toys, Magic Wand.  Njoy is probably the most copied brand I know of. Multiple times a month I am contacted by shady companies in Hong Kong, Pakistan and India, who specialize in metal sex toys. They often go so far as to use Njoy product photos. The prices are super low, and there’s no way it could be an Njoy product, much less made of medical grade stainless steel, for that low price (in the ballpark of 15% of the cost of an Njoy).  One shady seller on Amazon was including free Fun Factory Smartballs that were counterfeits….and not even made of silicone as was found out from a flame test. Other products that I would be wary of: low-priced metal toys that claim to be stainless steel. I’ve heard some really bad things about a crystal-ended metal plug that is selling for around $20.  I might even go so far as to be suspicious of glass toys sold on Amazon, too. A cheaper manufacturer could potentially use unsafe pigments containing heavy metals to color the glass but I need to do more research on this. Further issues abound with BDSM items (which are outside my realm of expertise) as well as specialty items like chastity cages:

 Another brand that can be suspect is Tantus. It was officially noted to affiliates “in regards to Amazon & Ebay, we don’t sell directly to anyone that has an Amazon/Ebay store. Tantus does NOT guarantee the origin, product quality, or authenticity of ‘Tantus’ items purchased off of these sites.”

Could They Re-Sell a Used Sex Toy?

This part is just a theory but there’s another issue with third-party sellers that isn’t brought up much in discussions about Amazon – the returned sex toys. I’ve always felt pretty confident that there’s little to worry about when the major retailers who allow returns of sex toys (despite a few dramatic claims at the height of other issues with EF). Lovehoney and EdenFantasys both allow it. While Lovehoney is certainly bigger and more global, EdenFantasys used to hold its own quite well as a go-to retailer in its day. Logistically speaking, why would they risk their reputation and company on re-selling a returned (used or defective) sex toy? All it would take would be for one person to report it to the authorities and the doors would be shut. But with an Amazon third-party seller who doesn’t use Fulfillment By Amazon, a person could send back a toy and an unscrupulous seller could re-sell it. I’ve seen third-party sellers who do accept returns if it is “unused and unopened” but unless it’s been shrink-wrapped it’s not that hard to carefully open a box and make it look like it was never opened. On Twitter after this post was first published, this was said and very relevant:

The Amazon Shuffle – The New Shell Game?

Are all sex toys sold via Amazon possibly a counterfeit? Of course not. But the risk for getting one is high enough that I don’t feel that people should take the gamble. Many people have no idea that they even got a counterfeit some of the time, especially until it breaks.  Many think it’s okay to buy the item if it is listed as being “Sold by Amazon LLC”.  Here’s how it works: In the Amazon Warehouses, to save space, every We-Vibe Tango (as an example) goes into the same warehouse bin. Every seller who is storing their goods at Amazon for Amazon to ship has to give their item a UPC or Item Code or something. Everything with the same item code all goes in the same bin. They don’t have room to store every seller’s We-Vibe Tango in a different space. So now, whenever you buy a We-Vibe Tango someone at Amazon is grabbing from the communal bin. Since Amazon has many warehouses across the country, they’ll also ship your item from the warehouse closest to you that stocks the item. This means it’s not necessarily going to be the stock of the retailer you chose to buy from and there’s no control over that, either. You could be ordering from a reputable retailer on Amazon and still get the stock from a shady retailer.  The ONLY way you’re not taking a risk is if the item is being sold by AND shipped by a reputable retailer or manufacturer – of which there are very few on Amazon. And then, because it’s coming from the retailer/manufacturer and not Amazon, there goes all your assumed discretion in shipping and the possibility of “Prime” shipping. So what’s the point?

Is it Just Amazon?

No. While other sites don’t work the same way, there’s still a huge huge risk of the game ending badly if you buy from Ebay. If you find discount sites that look too good to be true….they probably are. is one such site. 

Stay Safe, Ask a Sex Blogger

So what would you rather do? Save ten or twenty bucks and take a big gamble on Amazon or deal with a sex toy retailer that is vetted by your hardworking sex toy review bloggers, and is a company that actually cares about you? By buying from the companies we bloggers work with, you’re supporting the Good Guys in the industry. By using us bloggers as a sounding board before you spend your money, you could actually save money by listening to our advice in our reviews. I advise many people one-on-one on their purchase before they buy (email, Tumblr or Reddit). I’ve had too many people come to me AFTER their purchase, saying that they wished they’d seen my review before wasting their money and there went $100+ down the drain. Read all the reviews, email your favorite bloggers. Ask their opinion. And then, when you’ve decided, wait a little bit. Keep an eye on the sales. Tantus, for example, has a different sale every month. SheVibe has different sales every week. And don’t just take the word of one blogger. 

BOTTOM LINE: I’m such a huge advocate of safe, non-porous sex toys; I want every aspect of your sex toy buying and using experience to be as safe as possible. I can’t promise your safety if you buy from Amazon and Ebay.


Where to Shop

If you’ve been here before, you probably know my most highly-recommended store is SheVibe.  My reasons are many and varied, but here’s the highlights: their stock is neither too specialized or too excessive. They don’t stock known-toxic toys. They educate their customers on the porous toys. The company is run by people who love what they do and who treat everyone – customers to industry people – with kindness and respect. Their prices are great, and they have many sales. I don’t often recommend buying directly from a manufacturer, but there are two that I’ll break that rule for. Tantus is great, and every month has a really great sale (no sale you like? Coupon code LILLY gets you 15% off). Between their closeout section and grab bag section, you’re bound to find a safe, silicone dildo to fit your budget. And their customer service is great. Problem with your order? They’ll take care of it. Currently their shipping is a bit high though and can be a deterrent for small orders – although they do offer free shipping in the US if you spend $100.  Crystal Delights is another wonderful manufacturer. Other retailers I can recommend:

Early to Bed is a Chicago-based shop with an online presence. They have a great selection of items for trans and genderqueer people; however they have a habit re-naming the sex toys they carry. This makes it hard to locate a particular sex toy if you know it by brand and style name.

Goodvibes is a long-time shop with an online presence as well as a few brick stores in the US. They don’t carry anything toxic, but do carry some porous items. Their overall catalog tends to be slim and I have numerous favorites that they don’t carry. They also sometimes re-name toy, but more often I’ll find them stripping the manufacturer’s name from the lower-end stuff – since I try to avoid recommending certain brands, I’m not a fan of this practice. Their prices are not as good as SheVibe. They do have a decent on-demand porn store, though.

Come As You Are is a nice little Toronto-based cooperative shop with an online presence. They’re one of the few better stores that do carry a few toxic items – in fact the first few things that come up in their dildo section seem to have phthalates. However, they’re one of the few places that carry a silicone vaginal dilator set with the dilator sizes ranging from 1/2″ wide to 1 1/2″ wide and you can buy the sizes separately. Their prices seem to be good and they also have a great selection of items for trans and genderqueer people. They do have educational material on the site, but continue to (as most places do) insist that condoms will absolutely protect against phthalates (it’s not actually been proven true, nor has it been proven false).

I’ve never experienced them personally, but a number of Canadian friends spoke well of the shipping, prices and customer service at Lovedreamer. They seem to carry a fair amount of crap, but also have a good amount of sales going. Do your research before picking something out.

Lovehoney has bases in the US, UK, Australia. On the plus side, they have a 365-day return policy if you hate it. On the other hand, they carry a large amount of porous stuff without educating consumers about it and their prices are not as good as SheVibe. Stick to silicone (if in doubt, ask) and the other safe materials. Even if they call it “body safe”, if it’s not a non-porous, I’d avoid it.

Other places that are fine, I just don’t work with them: Babeland is best if you are at a brick store. Online their selection is kinda meh. The ToolShed, SheBop and Smitten Kitten are great places, instore and even online. UK shoppers can also check out ThatPosition or Vibrator Kingdom. Canadians, check out Pinkcherry. Australians, I’ve heard MissX and AdultSpice are good.

 Posted by at 12:32 pm
Aug 272014

Silagel or Sil-a-gel, no matter how you spell it, should be pronounced as “avoid”. It’s a confusing matter in the sex toy industry, because we apparently cling really hard to our myths. At some point, some retailer assumed that the “sil” in sil-a-gel stood for “silicone”. Not surprisingly, most toys containing sil-a-gel do look “gel-like”. This grand misconception might even be where the “silicone blend” bullshit came from; or vice versa. But I don’t feel like playing the “which sex toy myth was spread around first” game today. I get asked about Sil-a-Gel often enough that I’m writing here about it. 

Sil-a-gel is strictly a Doc Johnson creation, so far as I can tell.  From their site:

Q: What is Sil-A-Gel?

A: Sil-A-Gel is an anti-bacterial compound that we add to all of our Made-in-USA products. It is not a coating or a separate material. It is added into our material in the raw mixing phase so that the anti-bacterial agents are actually engrained into the product and will not wash away with use. Sil-A-Gel helps stop the spread of unwanted and potentially bad bacteria forming on your favorite products. Although you should always wash your products with mild soap and water, Sil-A-Gel is our way of going the extra mile to make sure that your products are as safe and clean as they can be.


Dildology had the James Deen realistic dildo sent to the same labs that used to deformulate the dildo. It gets run through the same machines you hear about on crime scene type shows. Their results actually found that the dildo contained 61% phthalates – meaning 61% of the whole item’s make-up was phthalates ….. the thing they claim it’s free of. The rest was simply PVC. There was nothing else in there that the machine could detect. Now, this is only one lab test. I am reluctant to fully condemn Doc Johnson for lying until we see another lab test run, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. These tests need to be funded, they cost something like $400 a pop, I think. 

Sil-a-gel is an Additive, NOT a Material

Despite what you may have heard or seen at other retailers who haven’t kept up with the toxic toy times, sil-a-gel is not a material. This bears repeating. However, any material that sil-a-gel is added to is still very porous and potentially toxic. Oh, I know, all these SilaGel added dildos claim to be phthalates-free. But you know they can lie as there are no regulations for sex toys, right? Right. And Doc Johnson only claims that it will act as an anti-bacterial agent. What about fungi like mold and mildew? All of these can live in the pores of these low-quality sex toys. Until I see unbiased lab tests that prove that Sil-a-gel is present AND WORKS, I won’t believe in it. You know what anti-microbial additive does work? Silver. Tenga is starting to use it. 

But are Sil-a-Gel Treated Items Non-Toxic?

While Doc Johnson will continue to say that they don’t use pthalates in their facility, phthalates aren’t the only toxic chemical we need to worry about. And many people still have a bad reaction to these “phthalates-free” sil-a-gel sex toys; the same reactions that are reported from known-toxic sex toys – rashes and skin burns, mainly. And that’s just what we can see/feel. Most people report that these sex toys stink, which means VOCs are present. 

A reminder, folks: True silicone is considered to be effectively non-porous, able to be sanitized, and is chemically inert – meaning it won’t break down. The materials that need to be softened with chemicals and/or mineral oil – jelly, rubber, PVC, vinyl, TPR/TPE, elastomer, cyberskin, etc etc – are all chemically unstable and will begin to break down over time. And the old line of “put a condom on it” shouldn’t be supported, either. There have been user reports of skin irritation continuing AFTER they put the condom on the dildo. And, by logical deduction, if a sex toy is softened with mineral oil and there’s any amount of oil seeping from the pores, it could break down your average latex condom, providing you with a barrier that’s as effective as Swiss cheese. 

TL;DR – Treat it like every other toxic sex toy. Throw it out and buy safe materials from reputable manufacturers and retailers. 


 The opinions expressed in this post are my own, gleaned from information I’ve gathered through my own research and speaking with other sex toy users. Until more tests are run, information on what, or how effective, sil-a-gel is or is not is merely supposition and not fact. However, when sex toy materials that are proven as completely safe exist, why risk it? 


 Posted by at 4:03 pm
Aug 122014

“TPR-Silicone”? Silicone blends? NOPE. Not possible.

For quite some time, we used to believe that there was some bizarre “10% rule” where a manufacturer only had to create a sex toy that contained 10% silicone in order to actually call it silicone for marketing. When I learned that there are no regulations, I learned that the “rule” was a myth and companies could be lying about the material. They could use any material, and claim it to be any material. There is nothing stopping them from out and out lying. And then the lies get spread further because the retailers usually have no option but to parrot the information given to them by the manufacturer.

When I first started reviewing in 2008, we (the consumers) thought that silicone blends and “TPR Silicone” was a thing. The manufacturers called it that, the retailers (of course) called it that. In fact, many retailers still do! A google search of that term shows that it’s still being used on many sites. I don’t know, can’t know, which retailer was the first to explain the various materials – Edenfantasys, for all its downfalls, did a service in providing their material safety rating scale which helped educate a number of people about jelly, cyberskin, etc. The material safety was ranked on a scale from 1 to 10. In order to give credit where credit is due, the material safety scale was created by Shanna Katz and someone who went by “Delilah Douglas” on EF.  Sadly though, they still list TPR Silicone as a material. Many new sites model after their material list, and the myth/misinformation perpetuates. Given the drastic decline of Edenfantasys, I highly doubt that there’s anyone there who would care enough to change their information.

How to Tell TPR from Silicone

Ever since I started burning sex toys, I’ve noticed certain traits. For one, jelly and TPR can be completely clear, crystal clear, but silicone can not be. Silicone can be clear, but it is a somewhat “cloudy” clear. TPR and jelly has also a certain feel that you’ll never get from silicone, and an elasticity you’ll not get from silicone. So if something is crystal clear and can stretch to fit around your ankle? That cock ring is not silicone.


Most often, when I find a sex toy still being advertised as “TPR Silicone” on a retail site, a look at the manufacturer’s site shows that they’re merely calling it TPR. It’s hard to say who is to blame for the inaccurate listings…..did the manufacturer wise up and the retail store hasn’t made changes to the listing? Or is the retail store trying to fool you? Information changes, so what we used to believe as fact is no longer, and when this old, incorrect information still persists, the myths persist.  Sites like this are not out to purposely misinform, but I hope that the information given will be changed as more is learned about these materials and the truth. Information changes, so what we used to believe as fact is no longer, and when this old, incorrect information still persists, the myths persist. 

The Confirmation – TPR Cannot be Blended

I have a few industry friends I can turn to for further investigation when I get one of my hunches, and this was no exception. I can’t name names nor say anything about my “informant” but they work with materials and and have worked for a few large sex toy manufacturing companies. They confirmed for me that it is not possible to blend TPR/TPE with silicone. They’re different materials, and simply cannot be “blended” to create one material type.  They said that one could, technically, layer the TPR and silicone, so that the silicone layer is what is seen by the consumer, but it’s a stretch and it’s very expensive to do so – therefore that negates the whole reason for it. This person reiterated what I’ve suspected, which is that “a lot came from [earlier in the industry] when silicone started to become popular and some were trying to pass it off by saying TPR/TPE silicone”.

Once Again I Lash Out at Screaming O for their “SEBS Silicone” Claims

I decided to dig deeper because of the material naming discrepancies that I still sometimes see; one culprit as mentioned above is Screaming O. I’ve burned their cock rings that they claim are made of a “material” called SEBS, which they claim stands for “silicone elastomer blend”. Not only can you not even blend silicone with a thermoplastic elastomer, but everywhere else in the chemistry world, SEBS stands for styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene.  The Screaming O cock rings are extremely stretchy and soft. They’re probably over 80% plasticizers (likely mineral oil). When lit, they burn like Indiana Jones’ torch – hot, bright and resistant to extinguishing from a gust of air. The Screaming O rings were the only thing I’ve burned that I couldn’t extinguish by blowing out, I had to toss them under running water. Silicone doesn’t behave like that. And of course, after being burned, the Screaming O rings left no ash — the hallmark of silicone — just a look of melted plastic.  I can’t tell if the material Screaming O is using truly is this SEBS stuff or if they’re just using that acronym as a made-up term for their made-up material. I’d have to raise funds to get a ring sent to the lab like I did with the Hello Touch to find out for sure. I’m skeptical of their material, though, highly skeptical. Styrene is a chemical that many are side-eyeing pretty hard, and aren’t sure how toxic it could be.  If we’re gonna continue to get all technical and science-y, Screaming O (and other sex toy companies too, like Vibratex) use the term “Elastomer” as a material name, when it’s actually a material type. I’d be willing to bet that when most companies are describing their item as being made of Elastomer, it’s really TPE – thermoplastic elastomer. Wikipedia says it’s “also called” thermoplastic rubber (TPR) so I am not yet sure if there is a chemical difference between TPR and TPE, if they’re the same thing, etc. There are different types of TPEs, but I don’t know if all of those types could be used in the sex toy application. We’ve seen these mystery materials come in a variety of shore strengths, too. The softer they are, the more porous they are, and the more likely they are to break down. There’s a big different in how the TPR like these items behaves vs the TPR of say the Eroscillator. I’ve yet to hear that someone’s Eroscillator attachment melted or started to break down, or got “greasy”. Those attachments have much less softening content, though, too. I’ve tried to contact Eroscillator about the material, but they won’t respond.

The term TPR Silicone is very misleading and very incorrect; people hear “silicone” and think that it’s safe, and non-porous. I’d like to see retailers eradicate the language, and I can only hope that when they’re contacted, they will change the terminology.  If you see a site selling items listed as “TPR Silicone”, please consider contacting them to change the wording.


Disclaimer: I am explaining things in the best way I know how. I’m dealing here in many “facts” that I can’t promise are all 100% accurate – we lack the ability to be super scientific about this. I don’t have a chemist by my side, I don’t have a lab. I’m sharing with you what I think, what I’ve been told, what I am inferring from my own test results thus far, and what my reason and logic is filling in. The information here may change as we learn more–this post is evidence that as the years go by in the sex toy industry, things are changing and past truths are becoming myths.


Apr 162014

Subtitled: How to make a sex toy activist have a heart attack
Stupid Human Tricks: Sex Toy Edition
Don’t try this at home

In research for my post about wood sex toys, I’ve been spending time on Etsy. There are some whackadoodles and many legit crafters on Etsy, and this of course applies to sex toys. Today, Naughty Reenie pointed me to a whackadoodle of the highest order. I’ll link to the shop at the end of the post, but I honestly don’t want to give this guy too much traffic. I’ve screencapped his wares for you, in case he does finally wise up.  You have to see this. It’s sort of like when something smells really bad, you know? We have this bizarre need to share it with someone else: “ewww man this smells funky! Here, smell this.”

I shared my horror over this on Twitter but now I shall share this with the world 1. I will do my best to describe it visually in the alt tags, Amanda and my other screen readers!

First up, the polymer clay dildos. Nope, they’re not sealed with anything to make them non-porous. Toxic? PSHAW YOU JEST, he sez.  And yes, one of the balls has a crack.

Description from the creator: " Molded as accurately as possible to simulate the real deal. Has a head and everything. I call him Richard! Measurements as follows: 3 inches at widest point, 2 inches at bottom of tip, 5 inches total insertable amount. " Description from Lilly: This polymer clay creation looks like something a child would make. The shaft is lime green with purple striations, and the balls are yellow with brown strreaks. Description from seller: These mystical creatures are rarely seen and never heard from. But I happened to gaze at one for a short time and this is what their penis looks like! Measurements are as follows: 3 & 1/2 inches at widest point, 6 inches total insertable amount." Description from Lilly: It looks like candy, like pulled hard candy that's been swirled. It is pink with some colorful streaks in it, swirled like a "horn" but straight, coming to a sharp point. There's a base, as it this could ever be anal-safe or worn in a harness.

The rest of his creations involve wax. From what I can gather, it seems that they’re made of clay first, molded into a shape, and then covered with white wax that’s been dripped all over it. Because TADA. WATERPROOF! *headdesk*

Description from Seller: This one took 10 hours to sculpt, form and paint. Great for yourself or a friend that wants something a little different. Fairly accurate detail to simulate a penis as close as possible. Waterproof and ready for use.  Measurements are as follows: 3 inches at tip, 4 & 1/4" at widest point, 3 & 3/4" total insertable amount. Description from Lilly: It's very lumpy and bumpy. It looks diseased. Black clay with white wax dripped all over it. It has giant balls, but a tiny head that looks more like a doll head than a penis head.  Description from Seller: That's right! A one of a kind butt plug for any girl or boy. This one is special because it has lumps and bumps built in. It took 6 hours to complete this gem. Waterproof and ready for use.  Measurements are as follows: 4 & 1/4" widest girth, 3 inches total insertable amount. Description from Lilly: It's shaped like the A-Bomb Tantus plug. Reddish brown clay with wax dripped. It is also lumpy and bumpy and crudely made.
Description from the Seller: This is a limited edition scented dildo. It took 8 hours to make and is waxed with a Hawaiian scented candle. Waterproof and ready for use! Plus it smells fantastic!  Measurements are as follows: 2 & 3/4" at tip, 3 & 3/4" at widest point, 4 inches total insertable amount. Description from Lilly: Reddish-brown clay covered with clear wax. Tiny head, big balls, very ugly and lumpy

Not only are these the ugliest things I’ve ever seen, it’s the tip of a delusional iceberg. The creator refuses to believe that there’s anything wrong with using clay, it seems.  Oh and, “anything” can hold on to bacteria if you don’t wash it, so that sex toy specialist was iffy, if you believe him.  Reenie believes in the old adage “you catch more flies with honey”, and she also is a lot more level-headed than I. I  would grab this guy and shake him violently. You can click on the screencaps below to read the artist’s glorious words.

sc1 sc2

Thank the dildo fairies there is no evidence of anyone having yet purchased one of his creations. I would think that most would not, based on the sheer ugliness of most of these, but on the off chance that the “Unicorn Dildo” appeals to someone? Let me point this out to you:

  1. The clay and the paints are probably toxic when used this way.
  2. The clay is very porous.
  3. The whole thing is unstable. At any moment, pieces of material could break off inside your body.

In case you want to visit this shop, or educate the owner, or hey even report it to Etsy, here’s the link to his shop named “The Real Shiz“. CLASSY. FITTING.

  1. or at least the world according to the few who read my blog
 Posted by at 2:17 pm
Mar 182014

Disclaimer: I am explaining things in the best way I know how. I’m dealing here in many “facts” that I can’t tell you are all 100% accurate – we lack the ability to be super scientific about this. I don’t have a chemist by my side, I don’t have a lab. I’m sharing with you what we think, what we are inferring from results thus far, and what our reason and logic is filling in. The information here may change as we learn more–in fact this post is all about how the information is changing because we’ve learned more because I’m sharing more nuanced result facets than I could with the first flame test post. So understand that nothing is 100% certain but I’m doing my best.

Myth #1 – Silicone can’t “burn”

A couple years ago I created a big post with videos talking all about how you can flame test sex toys to see if they’re really silicone or not. But the silicone styles being used in the industry are changing and are more varied than we thought, and so the flame test isn’t as easy to decipher as we thought. It used to be thought that it was pretty black and white – silicone won’t “burn”. “If it burns, it’s not silicone”. “Silicone won’t melt” is another one. But what do YOU think of when you think of something burning? What results would you expect? You may expect nothing to happen, for the silicone to be utterly resistant to the heat of the flame. And that is partially true – your results vary depending on where on the item you flame test. If you flame test the middle of the flat base, or the shaft of the insertable portion, there is no edge or no seam. When the silicone is thinner, that’s when it can burn. But there’s a large difference between the smoldering like the ashes of a nearly-dead campfire and the flames of a torch.  In my interview with Metis, she told me that we could expect pale gray ash. The ash was the marker of the silicone, but that it would brush off with no damage. We thought this of the Jimmyjane Hello Touch. It burned, it produced the tell-tale dry ash of silicone oils, but it also showed material loss and stickiness. This confused us. It got sent off to a lab test, and it was proven to in fact be 100% silicone.

Myth #2 – Silicone won’t get sticky from the flame

After the third person mentioned the “sticky”, I asked Metis her thoughts. She weighed in on this with some thoughts that it could be down to a difference in the amount of softening silicone oils present or a difference in the types of silicone. RTV, LIM. One is poured, one is injected. This difference in silicone types could be why some appear to burn/smolder more than others or why some get sticky and you’ll see some material loss. One theory I have is that many of the dildos that frequently got flame tested were made with RTV type silicone; it would have been much less likely to be thin/soft/stretchy silicone so therefore less likely to produce excess flame, sticky material, etc. A few years ago, RTV type would have been much more prevalent, therefore the RTV type silicone was used as the “this is how silicone should behave” standard.  One constant I see, though, is the presence of the pale-grey / white ash if it is silicone and if any “burn” happens. It might burn because the sample is so thin (like the Hello Touch) or because you caught a sharp edge/seam — but there was still ash left behind. Also when true silicone burns like this, it usually will quickly extinguish on its own….unless you have a situation like the Bedroom Kandi kegel beads.

I admit: We were wrong about the Bedroom Kandi kegel bead holster. I remember a few years ago at the conference, I was showing my results to a number of industry professionals and asking their opinion before I said it publicly on my blog. Everyone said “that’s not how silicone behaves, I don’t think it’s silicone”.  But! It produced ash! If we posit that ash is a defining marker of silicone, then yeah….the BK Hold On To Me bead holster is silicone. Why did it burn up like it did, so fast? Because it was a very thin piece of silicone, LIM type, made to be extra soft and stretchy.

Embrace Your Inner Pyro and Observe

Get out your lighter, an empty bowl, some water, and a camera if you want. Apply the tip of the orange flame to the sex toy and see HOW it burns. One thing that a pure silicone will NOT do, no matter what type it is, is burn like an oil lamp. I’ve had these weird TPR things go up in flames, burning bright, high and hot. I’ve seen the more firm versions of TPR-type materials (this is rare in the sex toy world) not do anything at first….they just absorb the heat of the flame, and then get all smooshy and melty and pliable.  I tested a cock ring that is called “SEBS Silicone” by Screaming O. A lot of retailers who don’t know any better look at that and say “oh, silicone!” and list it on their site as such. Pure silicone will never be crystal clear and see-through1. The extreme stretch and the jelly look of the material means it’s not silicone.

Results from a flame test that likely indicate pure silicone (in any combo or alone):
  • Pale gray ash which is easily removed
  • A small amount of material damage and “flaking”, leaving behind a sticky patch
  • No change
  • Black, sooty mark that rubs off easily
  • Black, sooty mark that doesn’t rub off 100%
Results that likely indicate it is not silicone include a lack of anything above plus:
  • Easily catches fire to a hot, large flame that must be doused with water
  • Completely melted and deformed material
  • Material that looks charred black and melted
  • Catches fire and spreads quickly over the material as if an accelerant were involved
  • Does not catch fire, just absorbs the heat and eventually deforms. Material is pliable and soft when still warm.

Below, I have some photos I’ve taken of the flame test process on some known materials.  Then I have some readers who wrote in with their questions on their flame test results.


First up is a silicone cock ring from CalExotics. It’s “clear”, but it’s cloudy-clear. The stretch amount isn’t anything like a “jelly” ring. You’ll see in the first photo that I was able to get some ash. It did smolder because I caught a seam, but I couldn’t get the photo of that in time. Next, you can see a section where there is a bit of obvious material loss. Still, though, I can stretch the ring and it doesn’t tear. Finally, I’ve stretched it out a little and you can see slight scorch marks that I was able to mostly wipe off, plus little areas that are slightly different looking.
SiliconeCRing1 SiliconeCRing2 SiliconeCRing3

This is the Bedroom Kandi kegel bead set with a silicone holster. This was the first item to trick us. First you can see it smoldering and producing white ash. It burned a lot more/faster in my original flame test video, because I was burning the thin retrieval cord. Next up you can see that the material looks different after I blew the ash off. Finally, you can see that a part of the material is sticking to my finger. The section where it burned was sticky to the touch. It isn’t nearly as sticky the day after burning.
BedroomKandi1 BedroomKandi2 BedroomKandi3

This is some Tantus silicone. First up in pink is a representative of their firmer silicone. This is the base of one of the handled dildos. I couldn’t get it to burn, therefore no ash, but it scorched from the lighter. Perhaps if I were using a cleaner type of lighter, I would have less of the black soot. Next up though you can see that the black soot was easily wiped clean. However on their much softer O2 material, I had trouble getting the soot mark to completely rub off.
TantusFirm1 TantusFirm2 TantusSoft

This is a Screaming O cock ring with the plastic bullet removed. Their packaging calls it jelly material in one section, but “SEBS Silicone” in another and then goes on to say that this is a disposable ring and shouldn’t be used again. That doesn’t sound like silicone to me! Plus this material is super soft, very clear, and extremely stretchy. In the first photo, you can see it burning like an oil lamp. This happened quickly and without much provocation. Unlike the silicone flames, I couldn’t blow this out, and had to dump water on it. You can see in the next photo where the most recently burned portion is puddling out into the water. In the last photo you can see a more severe case of it melting, and even see that the material is browned a bit from scorching. This was from a previous burn that held on longer because I forgot to bring water over and had to rush it to the kitchen sink.
ScreamingO1 ScreamingO2 ScreamingO3

This is an old-school CalExotics rabbit vibe. The packaging doesn’t even say phthalates-free. The material feels WEIRD. It is more firm than I expected, and the surface is as smooth as glossy hard plastic. It stinks like a sweet shower curtain smell. When it burns, the fumes are extremely pungent, much moreso than the Screaming O ring. So in the first photo you can see the tip of the bunny ear flaming away. Then you can see the black scorch of melted and burnt material. That’s exactly what it’s like….burnt plastic.  The burnt part is hard now. The flames didn’t want to die down easy and I had to dump water on it before it got out of control.
Bunny1 Bunny2

These photos come from someone else who shared their results on the Reddit board I help manage, and I’m sharing them with you. “I did attempt it on the end first, but it was so thin there wasn’t even enough material to light, all it did was get greasy, and weep, before I could see the plastic underneath. There was never any ash produced at anytime during the test. And when the middle melted, it just oozed apart, and lost all structural integrity. It behaved a lot like warm hard candy before the hard crack stage. Pliable, but once it cooled back down it lost a lot of its elasticity and some parts even became brittle.” In the photos below you see the “Smart Balls” separated with weird greasy-looking drops of liquid and blackened burnt plastic.  This person received these as a free gift with order from an Amazon seller, Healthy and Active. The “Smartballs” came in bulk packaging, not Fun Factory packaging. These are clearly a knock-off. This is why I always say never buy your sex toys from Amazon!
Smartballs1 Smartballs2 Smartballs3

Another reviewer, Sex and Java, decided to flame test their Pleasure Works Cadet. It is labeled as silicone and thus far they’ve been a manufacturer to trust, but the package labeling caused concern. Why would a dildo be labeled “for external use only” and then proclaim to be “anal safe”? You can’t have it both ways, folks.  The first photo below shows a lot of soot, but that’s to be expected so long as it washes off, and it does as seen in the 2nd photo. The 3rd and 4th photos show the disclaimer and then anal safe wording. This disclaimer and wording also appears on a buttplug of theirs, so it seems to be a standard disclaimer. I just can’t understand why a company who makes insertable sex toys would be a “for external use only” warning on the package. It doesn’t feel right.
Flame After externaluse analsafe

Regardless of theird weird package warnings, this black soot/scorch mark is still normal. It’s because you’re not burning something “clean”, you’re using a lighter or match or something that gives off soot when it burns. So the longer you hold the flame to the material, trying to force a burn/reaction, the more soot you’ll get and something it won’t rub off. In this particular instance I would say that you can’t expect a burn result (to produce ash to tell that it’s silicone) if you’re holding the flame against that flat surface. You’d need to try the edge of the base. I’ve seen results of just minor soot marks on silicone from Fun Factory and Lelo, mainly because they are vibrators with no discernible “sharp” thin edge and no sections of super thin material. I couldn’t get a burn, so no ash. The soot is also probably a reaction of the dimethicone burning. When I cut the silicone skin off the Lelo Ina, I was able to catch an edge and get some white ash and minor smoldering burn.


Hi Lilly,
I ran across your informative blog while I was searching for information about silicone sex toys.
I’ve had this favorite dildo for a few years now, but I kept getting reoccuring vaginal infections after using it. Since I mostly used it during the times when my husband and I were intimate, I initially thought the infections were coming from sexual intercourse with my husband.
After reading your blog, I decided to do a flame test on the dildo. Within 2 seconds of the flame touching the dildo, it immediately started on fire. The entire thing was covered in light blue flames. To give it a fair chance, I tried it on 2 different spots (the shaft and the base), and both had the same results. It was scorched black and it stank really bad. I tried to rub off the scorch marks and it was melted and peeled off, revealing underneath a fibrous looking material.
I don’t think this is silicone and now I may have found the source of my infections! The issue is that this sex toy company is well known where I live (Europe) and I visited their website and viewed their description of my toy. It states “100% silicone” and “Phthalates free”.
Is it still possible for this toy to be silicone? Have you ever done a flame test on a silicone toy and had it go up in flames? If it isn’t silicone, how can they falsely advertise like that and cause women, like me, to get infections?

The fact that it burned in this manner, covered in the light blue flames combined with the peeling and the lack of pale gray ash tells me it’s not silicone. If it was just covered in the blue flames, I would think that the company didn’t thoroughly rinse off the m0uld-release agent during production. I’ve burned a lot of silicone, and it’s never smelled great (you are burning chemicals, after all). TPR  and jelly rubber did stink much, much worse though. And yes, if this is a porous toy it would absolutely be passing on a recurring infection!

What’s your opinion on Rocks Off toys? I bought one of them recently (an anal plug), the site had it listed as silicone. But then after I got it, I checked the Rocks Off site and on there it says “silicone rubber.” Which is disappointing. I tried the flame test and it did melt and come off on my finger when I rubbed it after. I tried my other two silicone toys (Dorcel and Fun Factory) and neither even had burn marks, they just got warm. There was some light grey ash, yes. I redid it to show how it rubs off and to show it better, my camera isn’t the greatest but a bit definitely gets removed. The spot on the toy stays tacky after.


My best answer to the “silicone rubber” term: “Silicone rubber” is a…. oh boy. there’s a word for these terms. Like “tin foil”. It’s no longer made from tin, but its a holdover saying. I have yet to actually find a logical reason for a company to create a material that is a combination of silicone and another porous elastomer. Silicone is expensive. When they say “silicone rubber” it’s a “rubber-like” sort of material. Pliable.  Anyways, with regards to the results of the flame test, I’ve seen this. The sticky, the material loss but with the presence of ash. Because it smoldered and didn’t go up in a woosh (coupled with the ash), I still believe this to be silicone.


If you’ve flame-tested a toy, please email me with a photo of your results so that I can start sharing more here!


  1. Someone who didn’t  publicly comment pointed out that Chavez Designs, formerly Jollies, has some “clear” dildos. There is a large difference though between the clarity of their silicone and the crystal-clear of TPR/Jelly; plus their stuff is very firm. Every dildo I’ve seen from them is a bit “cloudy” clear. Example 1 and Example 2 from Chavez. Now here is what I mean by crystal clear: Example 1 and Example 2. Now you will absolutely see cloud-clear TPR and Jelly, yes. But the feel is different, they’re very soft. Companies other than Chavez that make silicone in this translucent-yet-not-crystal-clear silicone are Vamp and Vixen. If you see others and question the material composition, let me know!
Mar 072014

Various examples of porous sex toys - Fleshlight, Screaming O cock ring, Evolved Novelties vibrator, Vibratex Rabbit HabitSafety of sex toy materials is not exactly a black and white thing. People really focus on phthalates an awful lot; and while I absolutely agree that they’re terrible, they’re not the only thing about a sex toy that can harm you. There are many nasty chemicals. Heavy metals like cadmium can be present. The issue with VOCs can exist without phthalates coming in to question. And then there’s all these thousands and thousands of porous sex toys saturating the market.

But people just don’t seem to understand or care much about porosity outside of our little sex educator/reviewer bubble.  Why? Because they don’t know it is even a thing.

We’ve been told that materials like TPR/TPE and ‘Elastomer’ are “not as porous” as PVC/jelly/rubber/vinyl/cyberskin. The latter is heavily linked to phthalates and other toxic chemicals, while the former is usually regarded as a middle ground – it’s usually accompanied by descriptions such as “body-safe” because it supposedly is free from the super-harmful chemicals and has smaller pores than the other stuff. Still porous, but less so. Of course, all of these materials are still unstable to various degrees and will break down over time. Case in point? My jar of melted sex toys. Only one item in that jar contains phthalates. None of these materials mentioned above can be shared or sanitized.

Yet people still flock to them for their squishy, realistic feel and affordable price tag.

  Why Should You Care About a Porous Sex Toy?

Bacteria, mildew, fungus etc can enter the pores of these materials and make a home. The more porous the material is, the easier this will happen. No studies have been done on the effects of using a sex toy that mildewed. My brand of common sense says that some molds can kill you or make you crazy so why would I want to take any risk of putting mold spores in contact with my very sensitive mucous membranes? I don’t. But not everyone sees it this way, because they don’t understand how it works. Let’s say you have a cyberskin dildo. You wash it, and let it sit on the sink for a day or three or you put it away before it has dried. You could have just created a breeding ground for mold. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve heard about it happening. The same can be applied to bacteria and fungus—if you have vaginitis or a yeast infection that’s not been cleared up before you use a sex toy, or you decide to use a toy anally as well as vaginally.

Washing the surface with anti-bacterial soap and hot water is not going to be enough, and will only clean the surface. The material breakdown of these unstable creations will happen, and the floodgates can open. When the mineral oil starts to sweat to the surface, who knows what it’s bringing with it. Or maybe there’s a teeny crack in the material that you don’t see–perfect hiding spot for bacteria that can duck out of the way of your quick cleaning job.

You just cannot clean these materials to a “clean” state. This is why we care so much about the non-porous materials like silicone, glass, stainless steel, and so on. I feel utterly safe in not cleaning my silicone dildo immediately after use, I know it can get sanitized clean later on. Nothing can be harbored in those pores. Yes, silicone still has pores but not big enough for bacteria, mold, mildew, etc. Big enough for odors to trap, yes. 

  The Problem

I can’t find any research on what harm might befall users of porous sex toys. I’d really love to see a crew of microbiologists closely examine under microscope just what is hanging out in the pores of the average sex toy. I have not located any studies or research on just what your chances are of getting sick from the things hanging out in those pores. For that matter, because these middle-ground materials are all accepted as phthalates-free, they’re flying under the radar.  No one is really looking closely at them, because they are not the squeaky wheel.

And of course, no one is doing any research (to my knowledge) to find out just how easily the mold spores or bacteria can exit the pores and how sick you can get. I do know from my “jar of horrors” that even the non-toxic yet porous TPR/TPE toys are breaking down. During the process of breaking down they are releasing the mineral oil and that can release the bacteria/mildew that was living rent-free in there.

What I would really like to see is for the more common materials to be examined under a microscope and find out from an unbiased source just how porous each one is. Are the pores big enough to harbor mold, mildew, bacteria, fungus?

Material Geek Info

Part of the problem in this industry is the erroneous naming of material. Screaming O calls their clear, stretchy material “SEBS Silicone”, which is so false. SEBS stands for “styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene”. There’s no silicone in there. Many manufacturers( for some reason, particularly newer manufacturers of male toys) use carefully guarded trade secret materials that they won’t reveal the make-up of. I don’t LIKE that, but I understand it. It’s a recipe. They don’t want another company coming out with something just like theirs. Theirs won’t be special anymore.

The term “Elastomer” is weird, because that’s like calling something “Liquid” as the name. Lots of things are elastomers. There is a difference between TPR and TPE, yet those names are used interchangeably. It seems that TPE may be more stable than TPR, and it also seems that there can be a “medical grade” TPE. I have seen toys that claimed to be a “non-porous” TPR, but research online seems to point to TPE being the more common material overall, especially in the higher quality end of things. Even silicone has pores, but they’re small enough that the only things getting in are dyes and odors (yes, a silicone butt plug, if used long enough and not boiled now and then, can retain a bit of an odor). I also see some companies refer to items as being “TPR Silicone” which is about as ridiculous as “SEBS Silicone”. I can’t find any data yet to support this either way, but it doesn’t seem very likely to me that one would blend a TPR or TPE with silicone, since silicone is expensive and a blend would retain absolutely none of the beneficial properties of silicone. Also, everything I’ve seen that is labeled “TPR Silicone” is jelly-soft and crystal clear – neither is an attribute of silicone.

 How Can a Sex Toy be “Body Safe” and Porous?

You’re going to see a lot of retailers listing items that I’ve said are porous as “body safe”. The definition for “body safe” in this context refers to the lack of phthalates, latex and harmful chemicals. In my opinion, if the toy has the ability to turn on you, so to speak, by housing and spreading microorganisms, it doesn’t feel technically “body safe” to me but this is a fine line and you’ll find sex educators on both sides of it.

Keep this in mind: just because it is porous doesn’t mean it is toxic. All toxic toys are porous, but not vice versa. I also have to recognize that some people do not have the privilege of affording a non-porous material. I also have to recognize that very very few pure silicone options exist for penis toys like sleeves/masturbators. Fleshlight and all of the Tenga products show no evidence of being toxic (nor have I seen these break down and become greasy with oils being leached), yet they are porous. Fleshlight is more porous than the Tenga material, and more delicate. Hell you can’t even clean it with soap. My husband tried one silicone sleeve and it was not pleasurable – not enough give/plush. So while we can avoid the porous issue for those looking for external or internal vibrators or dildo, those who want to use a masturbation sleeve are shit out of luck. So just because it’s porous, doesn’t mean I’m going to 100% shun it – it depends on what is available as an alternative to either the type of item or your budget. I am going to educate the hell out of you, though, and advise you to purchase from a better manufacturer than California Exotic Novelties or Pipedream.

For example, while companies like Vibratex or Evolved do offer many porous items, I’ve never heard that they have the markers of a toxic toy. While I don’t relish the thought of someone buying an Evolved Novelties vibrator like this one, I know that for those just getting into owning sex toys, the thought of dropping $75+ on a silicone vibrator is scary.

  What to Do

As a retailer, if you’re going to carry porous items then please have something on the site to educate the buyer. Alert them that the item is porous and needs special care and attention. Recommend a purchase of condoms for their toy – it’s not ideal, but it can keep them safer, longer. Educate them as to what will happen over time to the material, because of the unstable nature of it – and that when the inevitable happens, they should replace the toy.

As a consumer, if you can’t afford to buy something in a safe material yet, or are new to sex toys and want to see what styles and sizes you might like before you save up for a silicone version, then at least be safe. Use a non-lubricated condom on the toy if possible. Clean it immediately before and after each use, and be vigilant – if you see any dark spots, replace it. If the material starts to feel greasy, replace it. In fact, if you’ve owned it for a year or more, replace it.

Every year we are seeing more and more companies creating affordable silicone sex toys.


Thanks for sticking with me on this post, I know it was a long one! Tell me how you feel about porous materials, do you agree or disagree with my opinions? Also, I’m learning and educating myself as I go along. The world of sex toy materials is a vast, complicated one. If you’ve run across conflicting information that seems valid, please share it with us!

 **For some reason, the comments on pages didn’t transfer to  Disqus, but these are comments I received on the page that show that people don’t share my mindset immediately of “ew mold”: