Apr 182014
 
A trio of wood sex toysWOOD SEX TOYS?!? But won’t I get SPLINTERS?!?

When I encounter a wood sex toy newbie, the “splinters” bit is bound to come up right away. Either in an attempt at a joke or said in seriousness, I will admit it makes me roll my eyes a bit. Do you get splinters from the wood furniture you sit on? From the wood salad bowl you use? From the wood bedpost you hump? I’ve yet to run across a wood sex toys crafter on Etsy that didn’t make use of excessive sanding and a finish, because they’re all woodworkers. It wouldn’t make very much sense to just hand over an unfinished wood carving. Right?

Why Wood?

Made from a sustainable material, well-made and cared-for wooden dildos can last a lifetime. Wood is beautiful, it makes every dildo unique, and often can be made solely from scrap wood. Hans Hardwoods, the first little company I heard about years ago, uses only salvaged scrap wood.  Depending on the type of wood used, your piece can be  featherweight, lightweight or have a bit of heft to it for its size, but it certainly won’t be as heavy as glass and definitely nothing like steel. Depending on the type of finish used, the wood dildo can glide as slickly as a glass or metal toy with only a small amount of lube.  When a high-quality finish is used, the grain of the wood stands out in a nearly-3D effect; it’s similar to how beautiful rocks and shells look when you pick them up on the beach, but they look dull and boring once they dry out at home.

Wood can also lend itself to some truly unique designs. I’ve never seen anything in the industry like the Nobessence Fling. Too often I’ve seen a small wooden dildo maker that has promise but only makes subtle designs that don’t excite me, or simply look too much like the leg of my kitchen table. With the creativity wood allows, why would you even bother with designs that look like an oversized tampon?  Looking through the massive listing of the wooden dildos that Hans Hardwoods has sold will really show you what can be done. Unlike Hans Hardwoods, whose designs are more organic and varied, Nobessence sticks to recreating tested design shapes that people love. I’ve not met many people who dislike the Seduction once they try it, and anal plug fans adore the Romp.  There is a benefit to the Nobessence way of life: the design has already been tested, refined, and so on. With the Hardwood Dildos, it’s more about what would seem to be a great shape, and no testing–some are going to work out great, some not so well. This also happens when you think you know best, and create your own.

How to Choose a Quality Wood Dildo

Most wood dildo makers keep it safe and simple; they never stain the wood. With all the various types of wood out there, combined with the beauty of what happens during the varnish coating process, who needs stains?? If you find one that is, I would stay clear of it. I would also keep away from dildos that boast a “natural finish” (see next section for the reason). Most wood sex toy makers put their design through many sessions of sanding, to smooth out any naturally-occurring rough spots and sharp edges.

The biggest sign of safety, though, is the coating used. Hardwoods uses something called “Salad bowl finish” which is food safe grade, but not an oil. Nobessence uses “Lubrosity”, which from the sounds of it, is the most superior wooden dildo coating being used currently. Both of the Hardwoods dildos I’ve own have been a more silky matte finish, and not quite as slick. The Nobessence coating clearly brings out the depth and beauty of the wood grain better. My older Seduction is a semi-matte satin finish, while my Fling is much more shiny and glossy. Both are smooth and beautiful.

Here’s what Alicia from Nobessence had to say about their process:

When wood, even ‘treated’ wood, comes into contact with moisture it will absorb some of it.  The results of that moisture can be a raised bumpy grain, warping and yes, splinters.  And add to that the harboring of bacteria, you can see why it was very important to us when we started selling our sculptures, that the coating be something more than ‘food safe wax or oil’.  Those products are great for salad bowls and chopping boards, but not for sex toys.  Even the non-toxic coatings used on children’s toys were rejected.  I don’t know of any children’s toys that are worn in the body, like a butt plug – well, at least that’s not the plan for them.  We have designed our Sculptures for use – they are in contact with moisture and delicate body tissue for extended periods of time.  So we worked for a long time to develop the process we call our ‘Lubrosity Coating’.  It involves a medical grade polymer – used on medical devices.  It’s formulated to be bacteria resistant, moisture resistant, hypoallergenic.  It meets our high standards.

We’ve been using our coating since 2007 and in that time we’ve been asked to re-coat only two of our own Sculptures.  Both of those had been damaged by the owners using abrasive body scrub type soaps on them.  In that same time, we’ve been asked to refinish and coat numerous other wooden dildos carved by other people.  We’re more than happy to do that.  There are some beautiful pieces out there and it’s a shame for people to spend a lot of money on a unique hand crafted item only to find it rough and bumpy after a couple of uses.

Something you’ll want to avoid is when the manufacturer boasts a “natural finish”. Thus far, I’ve only seen this on the smaller Etsy-based crafters. It seems that they’re mostly wood artists who make other household items, and simply finish them the same way. They think that a natural finish is safer than chemical-laden varnish, no doubt. But it won’t take long for that natural finish to wear off, leaving the wood susceptible to retaining moisture which will cause it to swell and splinter, and be porous. And, when it comes to using carnauba wax, olive oil, mineral oil, beeswax, etc., there is a greater chance for someone to have a skin reaction due to allergies and sensitivities. Between the use, the washing, and the lube I just can’t see these finishes standing the test of time.

What about if the finish is not natural, but isn’t medical grade like Nobessence’s Lubrosity? Well, we don’t know.  The non-toxic food-safe status is for the assumption that it’s being used to coat a children’s toy, a table, a utensil, etc. Most of those aren’t going to be tested for safety as a sex toy sealant. If you’re looking at a butt plug, I’d avoid it. An occasional-use dildo, I would be more tolerant, but make sure you completely inspect that dildo tip to tail before every use to make sure the finish is still perfect and intact.

As you can see from the photos below, the natural grain of wood isn’t perfect. You can see the little imperfections and pits in the wood, but when I run my hands over the dildo I don’t feel anything rough. This is because the wood has been sanded many times and there are many coats of finish on it. On the Nobessence Seduction, I don’t feel anything at all. On the Nobessence Fling I can barely detect those imperfections with my fingers; they are smoothed down and it’s not something I can feel during use. My Fling and Seduction are both the same type of wood; I imagine that on a different type of wood, you might have more or less of these little natural imperfections.

WoodDildoCloseup1 WoodDildoCloseup2

Wood Dildo Makers on Etsy

It seems that many wood carving crafters are sticking with Etsy at first to host and take care of payments. As with anything on Etsy, you can find some really great stuff or you can find items that should never be taken seriously. A few other reviewers have a wood dildo from Silvarus company, but I’m not seeing any reviews of any other Etsy-based wood sex toy makers. I continued to poke around the wood dildos on Etsy, and found some that concerned me. A number of them are using a “natural finish” and some don’t even say outright what that finish is, exactly.  I found this one company called LadyWood who is doing the pyrography that Silvarus also does, but hers are combined with color. At first, these look beautiful, but a closer glance makes me worry. I’m not sure what they are colored with, I assume wood stain; she doesn’t really say what the coating is exactly, but her description of it makes me unsure. Here’s one person who simply finishes it with “good old mineral oil”. Um, no. I don’t think that many of these crafters are really researching the coating to be absolutely certain of the safety, and longevity, of it.

If you find a design on Etsy that appeals to you, I strongly urge you to ask them about the finish they use. If they are using a natural finish, question the longevity and ability to make and keep the dildo non-porous and waterproof. I decided to ask Rickard of Silvarus what he uses, since as of this writing it wasn’t stated on the description, and he replied: “I use water based polyurethane made for applications such as kitchen areas and childrens toys. It’s diluted even further with water and applied in at least 10 coats to totally seal the surface and make it waterproof, virtually maintenance free and glass smooth.” “The surface is absolutely safe and I feel no hesitation using it, BUT there will always be someone oversensitive to ANY surface treatment used. I am 99.5% safe and secure in what I use, but because the 0.5% I have to be honest with my clients and say there is no 100% safe surface, and I doubt there ever will be.” I would argue with the last comment, because I truly believe that the coating Nobessence uses is the safest on the market and given the properties could boast a 100% safety rating.

When the Finish Goes Bad

On my original Hans Hardwood dildo,  I now have cracks and crazing in the finish. This isn’t normal, and if you ever see this after years of use, days or use or even when you first get it, you should contact the company immediately and not continue to use it. At this point the seal is compromised and the quite probably the dildo is no longer considered to be non-porous and waterproof. Another reviewer received a new dildo with a poor finish job, also shown below. After a couple uses, the finish developed some opaque spots that (to me) signifies moisture retention in the wood. The company agreed that it wasn’t normal, and sent her a new one with a much more acceptable finish on it, but it’s hard to say which version could be considered normal production quality for the company. The review on it is up, and it looks like the problems might be continuing.

ETA: K continued to use her replacement Dee Lee Do dildo, and saw damage to the finish again. She then did the water test described below, and well….the results? Very very bad. Only submerged for a minute, the dildo is now ruined and it’s a good thing, too–the finish would have continued to slowly deteriorate and flake off inside her. For now, I’d say that I don’t trust Dee Lee Do’s finish, and I’d also say that if you have any doubts about the finish on your wood sex toy, do the water test. The updated photo from K is the last one below.

WoodDildoCrackedFinish K circled the opaque spots in the finish K circled the opaque spots in the finish on her Dee Lee Do dildo Bl1Yp5RIEAAQO_L

Care and Cleaning

A wood sex toy shouldn’t be tossed around, unprotected in a drawer or overnight bag. I made that mistake years ago. I would absolutely recommend that you store your wood dildo in a pouch that is made from a slightly padded or thicker material (something made of satin, for example, wouldn’t provide enough protection in my opinion). Anything abrasive can ruin the finish. Scrubby cleansers or rough cloths shouldn’t be used. If you decide to take the risk and buy a naturally finished dildo, you should avoid using a lot of soap and you might consider re-doing the coating (especially if its oil) yourself every half a dozen uses to ensure that it remains waterproof and as non-porous as it can be. A Nobessence toy ONLY can be cleaned more thoroughly for use between partners by wiping down with anti-bacterial/microbial cleaner (alcohol, bleach, peroxide, etc.). I have seen other manufacturers/crafters caution against using anything that harsh, because the finish they are using cannot tolerate it–this means the wood sex toys from other crafters cannot be truly sanitized.

If you suspect that there’s a problem with the finish, Nobessence gives a great way to test that: “The integrity of your finish may be tested by immersing in water for a few seconds and removing to inspect. If the area in question darkens in response to water AND when wiped remains damp when the surrounding area is dry, then your toy should be retired or replaced.”

Can a wood sex toy break? Sort of. According to Nobessence: “Please protect your investment from impact with other solid surfaces (hard floors, sinks, etc.) as this may decrease the aesthetic qualities of the finish and ultimately damage the woods’ internal cell structure – weakening it and making it more prone to damage. In the event that your toy impacts another solid surface, gently but firmly test the integrity of your toy before the next use.”

If you have any other concerns, questions, whatever please ask below!

 Posted by at 12:39 pm
Apr 162014
 

Subtitled: How to make a sex toy activist have a heart attack
OR
Stupid Human Tricks: Sex Toy Edition
ALSO
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.
  4. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. DO NOT.

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.

RocksOff

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”:
maintenancecomments

 

Mar 022014
 

I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, I just wanted to share what little I’ve learned in case it might help others.

Accessibility. If you have all your limbs, if you can walk and run with ease, if you can see relatively well with or without glasses, if you can speak without assistance, if you can hear without major problems…..you probably don’t think about accessibility as often as you should. It’s easy to have those blinders on. Easier still if you do not know anyone deaf, blind, handicapped.  At my first conferences it was a little tough for me to remember to face certain people when I spoke to them, and I screwed up sometimes. Luckily they’re not afraid to speak up and remind me to look at them, and then repeat myself.

If you’re able-bodied and don’t know anyone who isn’t, it’s sadly too easy to forget about accessibility.  I try, I do, but I don’t  get it as well as I could. Yesterday I learned something new.  A reader, Amanda, sent me this awesome note:

Hi Lilly,
I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. I am blind, and I really appreciate the thoroughness of your reviews, as well as the absence of bullshit.  Also, I don’t know if you intentionally made your blog redesign accessible with a screenreader, but it is, and I was pleasantly surprised. Often, when people redesign their websites, accessibility is the last thing on their minds, and I find myself no longer able to read something I used to enjoy.  Definitely NOT the case with your redesign, and that’s just fantastic as far as I’m concerned.  Also, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you almost always put descriptions of pictures you post in the images’ alt text. It’s so helpful.

There wasn’t really much of a point to this email. I just wanted to let you know how helpful your blog is to someone who can’t see pictures and who has to depend on the overblown ad copy when shopping for toys. So… thank you. :)

Screen readers. I knew in theory that they exist, but I knew nothing about them. Scratch that, know nothing. I’ve never seen one in action. I don’t know the tech. All I know is that this magical thing can look at a website and read it out loud. Usually. The problem apparently is compatibility. While I don’t have all the info yet, Amanda said:

The problem is that there are several different screen readers, and not all of them support the same things. For example, I use a Mac and its built-in screen reader, VoiceOver. Until very recently, VO and the Mac browser, Safari, didn’t support the Disqus comment system, whereas JAWS (a Windows-based screen reader) always supported Disqus.

But how do we know if a blog theme or site design is screen reader compatible? You can go the long route and utilize some of the sites and tools I have listed at the end, but accessibility to screen readers is just not a feature that gets mentioned when you’re looking at the technical info on a theme. I hope that someone can educate us in the comments of this post. I’m thrilled that the WordPress theme “Suffusion” is so accessible1. It’s not the only aspect to work on, though. When Amanda was mentioning the “alt text”, it’s something you do manually one of two ways. The first is by clicking on the “Edit Image” button if you’ve already inserted the image into the WYSIWYG editor portion of WP. The second is manually typing it in. The following code is for an image.

Up top is the Tantus Black Widow Harness. Below is the Lelo Mona 2, the We-Vibe 4, the We-Vibe Touch 2 and Tango 2, Lelo Mia 2, and Jopen Ego e5

Here are screen shots of what I was talking about with the alt text, too:

A screen capture showing what a draft of a post looks like in WordPress, demonstrating how to access the attributes of an image   A screen capture showing what the attributes window looks like for a photo in the draft post process of WordPress.

Here are a few links that might help if you’re interested in making your blog more accessible to screen readers and beyond.

I hadn’t even seen Robin’s post until after I’d heard from Amanda and written most of this, so it’s great timing. Robin, a great blogger/educator/reviewer, is going to be presenting at CatalystCon in a few weeks and talking about accessibility.  She makes her points about access being not JUST for those needing a screen reader, but other sorts of disabilities. While I’m not hearing impaired enough / in the right way to be able to use a hearing aid (yet), I am hard of hearing to a degree. I come across SO many podcast and video posts that I cannot use because I can’t understand what they’re saying. A transcript would go a long way. So instead, I miss out on the information because I don’t even bother to try listening anymore. I may be able to understand half of it, which is more than others who have more hearing loss than me. It’s not an uncommon disability, yet it’s common for podcasters and vloggers to forget it.  I’m sure it’s not easy work, but could do an mturk for someone else to transcribe it and the results mean that more people can access your information. Win, no?

 

Accessibility is making sure that people aren’t left out. It requires effort on our parts, but why wouldn’t you if you know how? You’d want it done for you if you were in their shoes. Also? The fact that no bullshit = more accessible is a giant fucking WIN.

 

UPDATE: I wanted to add in some choice quotes from those who were able to attend Robin’s session on accessibility at Catalyst, as they apply to blogs/sites.

  1. For the record, my previous theme was, too, but Amanda’s point was that she encounters changes in design too often that negatively impact her ability to read it. My last theme was Glow from ElegantThemes.com.
Feb 192014
 

A very dirty We-Vibe 3; the shiny silicone attracts dust and fur in minutes. Wouldn't a sex toy wipe be great right about now?If you’re a fan of silicone sex toys (and if you’re a reader of this site, you’d better be!) you know that many toys, especially the plugs and dildos, attract lint/dust/fur better than your average Swiffer cloth. If you are a cat owner then you will find that you’ve got cat furs on your clean toy within minutes. A reader of mine was asking for advice on which of the existing sex toy wipes would be safe enough to use on the toy without rinsing it off before use. They were in a shared living situation where a trip to the bathroom in the middle of foreplay wasn’t a possibility. Since I wasn’t a fan of some ingredients in commercial wipes, plus they are awfully expensive, I did a little brainstorming.

A family member used to make their own baby wipes and I remember doing this for a number of baby shower gifts. It’s pretty simple, and cheap. We would buy these round Rubbermaid plastic containers (they no longer make these, but I’ve found a good alternative) that perfectly fit half a roll of paper towels (you cut the roll in half with a knife). Since it was for baby use, we would get two containers so that an entire roll of paper towels would be made up at once. For sex toy cleaning use I’m sure you could get away with just making up half a roll at a time. But the baby wipe recipes used baby oil (mineral oil) and baby shampoo – these aren’t products that I would want in my vagina. From all the research I’ve done for natural lubes, coconut oil comes up time and again as a great product with many health uses and is generally very well tolerated by most people when used as a lube. Notice I say most. Coconut oil doesn’t tend to clog up pores like the commercial oil-based sexual lubes, for most people. Very sensitive people might have an issue, but in the recipe here you’re using so little that you should be okay; still test it out on yourself. When thinking about it I also wanted something that would provide a bit of extra antiseptic quality, so that it could be used as a cleaning wipe after sex/masturbation. Many people in shared living situations also can’t just hop up and take their dirty sex toys to the nearest sink for a washing. Research showed that a bit of tea tree oil would work well, and has been used and recommended as a treatment for vaginitis in a diluted solution. The solution I’ve read about for a vaginitis rinse was 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil to 2 cups of water. I’ve been sticking with that and have not personally had any issues. Since this isn’t being used as a rinse, but a sex toy wipe, not much will get on the genitals.

When making:

(1) 1/2 roll (2) 1/2 rolls
1 cup Water 2 cups Water
1/2 Teaspoon high quality Tea Tree oil
1 Teaspoon high quality Tea Tree oil
1/2-1 Tablespoon organic virgin coconut oil 1-2 Tablespoon organic virgin coconut oil

I use hot water from my bottled water dispenser, which melts down the coconut oil (it really only needs to be above 77 degrees to melt the coconut oil). I shake it up really well in a smaller, lidded container so that it’s as dispersed in the water as it can be, and then quickly pour it over the cut roll in the plastic container. Put on the lid and let it sit for a bit, then turn the container over. Let it sit a few minutes more, and then open it and remove that cardboard core.  Then just continue to pull from the middle of the roll. I use the higher quality paper towels because they don’t disintegrate. Make sure when you pick out your plastic container that it’s big enough around and tall enough to fit the half a roll. There’s a number of options out there for containers at Target or Wal-Mart or similar places.  Creative types can come up with decorative options for making this container as discreet as you need it to be!

 

**Disclaimers** 

  • You need to make sure that coconut oil and tea tree oil in this very diluted solution is tolerable to your body. It should be tolerable to all but the most sensitive, but please test it out first. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, this is just something I personally use.
  • I do not recommend this for latex condom users. While the oil is very much diluted, there could possibly still be enough to break down a latex condom. I don’t recommend that you take the risk.
  • Coconut oil has been safe for me to use on every silicone toy I own, and was recommended as a natural lube option by Tantus folks. I know that mineral oil should never be used on the cheaper, porous materials like TPR, Elastomer, etc since they are already softened with mineral oil and that would speed the material breakdown. I assume that any oil could do so, because most will tell you not to use an oil-based lube with these toys.  This solution is safe for glass and stainless steel, but I would contact the manufacturer of your wooden dildo just to be certain. 
 Posted by at 4:31 pm