Apr 182018
 

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

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

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

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

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

That last line contradicts their current website claims.

Wherein They Put Down Alcohol and Bleach

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

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

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

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

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

The pH Experiment

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

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

Boiling Water Isn’t Good Enough?

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

Sex Toy Cleansers

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

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

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

It Cleans What It Sees

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

Porous Materials and UV-C Light

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

  1. these claims are also on the website
 Posted by at 10:39 am
Mar 062018
 

Coconut Oil and Silicone Sex Toys - A jar of coconut oil is surrounded by various silicone sex toysThe world is divided on their feelings about coconut oil as lube, but I didn’t know that people truly believed that coconut oil and silicone sex toys were incompatible. It doesn’t work well as a lube for everyone; it’s not the perfect lube (there isn’t one perfect lube). But it does work well for many folks! It’s not good for those who use condoms – unless you can use the hard-to-find polyurethane or nitrile condoms – but it is great with all body-safe sex toy materials.

I’ve talked about the fact that coconut oil and silicone sex toys are compatible but then recently a sex toy shop published a Very Incorrect article on why they hated coconut oil as lube. Among their many opinions touted as (incorrect) facts was that they claimed it would destroy silicone sex toys, making them look “decayed”. That’s…that’s not a thing that happens…ever.

Despite myself and other bloggers chiming in about their long-time use of coconut oil lube with silicone sex toys, the shop’s social media manager was not swayed and they got really shitty with folks. But since they were not the only ones surprised that coconut oil and silicone sex toys can have a long, happy marriage I decided to run a little experiment. Y’all know how much I love experiments.

Geeky Metrics

I wanted to be sure I could tell you that there was no change to the silicone with no doubts, so I had to use proof beyond my pictures and my words. I borrowed a durometer to tell me the shore strength (squish level) of the sex toys before and after their exposure to coconut oil. I weighed them in grams to make sure that no oil was absorbed. I photographed them before and after each time they bathed in coconut oil.

Coconut oil and silicone sex toys - showing various silicone sex toys with coconut oil on themThe first time I put the coconut oil on the sex toys I had melted the oil and brushed it on with a basting brush. I did it this way because once the coconut oil is in your body it’s warmed up enough to liquify. But this meant that I was worried there wasn’t enough oil on the sex toys to be convincing because the oil slid right off the shiny Tantus dildo and dripped off the others in slow motion. Because we keep our house temps at 68F, though, the melted oil eventually solidified on the sex toys. I waited 30 minutes before I washed and dried them. 

The second time around I scooped out some slightly-softened-mostly-solid coconut oil and spread it on the sex toys. This time I left it on the TPR toys for only 2 hours and decided to leave it on the silicone sex toys overnight. The coconut oil and silicone sex toys marinated for 15 hours the second time.

Coconut Oil and Silicone Sex Toys

My first test time of 30 minutes “marinating” the coconut oil and silicone sex toys was based on this poll I ran asking people how long their sex toys were usually covered in lube.

My second test time of 15 hours1 was because I wanted to make sure that a cumulative effect of many uses would also not have any effect. I was too impatient / couldn’t gaurantee the consistent cleanliness of my kitchen to run 5 or 9 half-hour tests so I figured that a long exposure would be fine. 

As expected, the coconut oil had no effect on the silicone. There was no absorption of oil into the silicone. There was no change in shore strength. There was no “decayed” look. There was no effect: coconut oil and silicone sex toys are perfectly compatible.

Coconut oil and silicone sex toys - close up views of silicone sex toys before coconut oil was applied and after the final 15 hour test

Coconut Oil and Fun Factory Toys

It came to my attention tonight, thanks to Epiphora, that it does void the warranty on Fun Factory toys if you use coconut oil or other oils – however, it’s not because of the silicone. I find this kind of ironic because one of the toys I tested was Fun Factory. WHOOPS. The toy is fine, though. Anyway, it’s because oil damages their plastic handles / the controls. I’ve never personally experienced any issues with coconut oil and other plastic sex toys or their plastic handles but I cannot tell you to risk voiding your warranty when the manufacturer is so explicit.

Which Coconut Oil?

I did my tests with “extra virgin, unrefined” coconut oil. When I first did my research on coconut oil as a lube information seemed to point to unrefined, organic, extra-virgin as being the “best” and healthiest. Refined goes through processes to sanitize it but those processes also destroy a lot of the good stuff. According to LiveStrong:

Of the two options, refined oil remains a cheaper choice. While the refined product still contains the valuable medium chain fatty acids, the damage done to many nutritive factors such as the polyphenols during processing means that the unrefined oil stands out as a healthier choice.

Some refined coconut oils can have partially-hydroginated fats added in, which could increase the pore-clogging factor of oil for some people. I think that as long as you make sure it has nothing added and it’s organic, there’s no harm. Fewer benefits, but reduced cost.

If you’re someone who is most worried about pores being clogged because you’re prone to that then you could try liquid coconut oil – it has the solidifying fat removed so it’s considered non-comdedogenic. Of course this is also the most refined and it removes most, if not all, of the health benefits you may want from coconut oil (anti-fungal, anti-microbial, etc).

You can also try out the new options on the market that are specifically marketed as lube, which includes Coconu and Sliquid. Both are combinations of various plant-based oils and butters; I have no idea how much of the anti-fungal -microbial properties would remain in these lubes so if that’s an aspect that is important, go back to unrefined coconut oil. It’s also considerably more expensive that buying plain coconut oil – 2 ounces of Sliquid is $12, but 32 ounces of organic, unrefined coconut oil is $14.

There are no studies on coconut oil as a lubricant that I’ve found, but a number of studies showing that coconut oil is great at killing candida. I’ve found a study on mineral oil and vaginal use, which is bad, but not coconut oil. No studies talk about the pH because, as far as we know, oils don’t have a pH. Some people have reported increased vaginal infections with coconut oil and feel it’s down to the fact that oils can help bacteria hang out for longer in your vagina – they can, but unrefined coconut oil is anti-microbial. So what could be the problem?

Well, it could be how you’re getting the coconut oil on your bits. Are you digging a finger into the tub of oil? You’re introducing bacteria. I suggest “decanting” an ounce of oil into a smaller container with a lid. The article linked above also suggests that using too much coconut oil can disrupt the flora balance and make an existing yeast infection worse, not better, so it’s a delicate balance. People who easily get yeast infections may want to take caution.

“The fact that coconut oil kills candida and yeast can help with yeast infections and candida issues, but can also cause a healing crises or candida die off when used internally. If you have never used coconut oil internally before, start with a 1 teaspoon (5 grams) and test your body’s response.”

A little goes a very long way with coconut oil as a lube.

Oil and Silicone Elsewhere

A few months ago the myth of “silicone toys touching in storage” came up again on social media in part because of Lovehoney’s incorrect assertions that some silicone wand toppers shouldn’t be used on silicone-headed wand vibrators and my jar experiment of a few years ago didn’t seem to be “enough”. I went to a kitchen supply store, I looked around my own house and pointed out the many many silicone kitchen ephemera that exists peacefully as a group, all touchin’ up in each others’ business. The silicone items at the kitchen store touching in long-term storage. Nothing. Happens.

People seem to forget that silicone exists in the world outside of sex toys. Silicone wedding bands, and gasket rings, and various kitchen and bath items, and cell phone cases. How many times do you use oil in your cooking and baking and it comes in contact with a silicone item? For me it’s a lot – spatulas and basting brushes and measuring spoons. Many people wear a silicone wedding band and I’ve not heard of one problem with the band being destroyed due to contact with oils. They don’t warn you in the care instructions to avoid oil.

Like the myth that silicone-touching-silicone will result in damage to your sex toys I think this myth is something that has hung on from the unchecked industry issues of companies or retailers saying that something is silicone when it’s actually TPR. If your sex toy is damaged, melts, deforms from storage or oil? It’s not silicone. You’ve reached an timely end in your adventure, now turn back to page 14 and start over, this time by flame-testing that sex toy to make sure it’s actually silicone.

Bonus Section: Coconut Oil and TPR

I expected to see visible destruction given the results of my jar (the liquid in the jar is the oil that’s leached out of the toys and my theory is that that speeds up and encourages more breakdown of material). What actually happened mildly surprised me. 

I could not find any change in the texture or softness of the two TPR sex toys. One was more firm than the softest silicone and one was so squishy it reminded me of a masturbation sleeve and it was softer than the Shore A durometer could measure. What I did notice, however, was how the oil behaved. The liquid oil on the TPR never solidified. The solid oil on the TPR started to melt AND seemed to draw out some of the oil in the material. You can see the differences in this video. The oil on the cutting board beneath each TPR sex toy was slightly sticky, too. 

I even left the softer TPR dildo in contact with coconut oil for an entire day – the coconut oil in the dish solidifed (I’d melted it) but the oil I’d put on the dildo was gone and the oil that dildo was touching in the bowl also remained liquid. It’s really strange. I couldn’t see any damage like visible material distortion or anything but I could see some literal holes in the dildo that teared easily when I pulled on the material a little.

Without having access to more in-depth scientific tools I can’t tell you exactly what happened to the TPR. It’s a known thing in the industry that you can’t mix TPR or PVC with oil lubes so this wasn’t a thing to prove – it was merely a “compare and contrast” and “because I can” addition to the test.

 

Do you use coconut oil as lube? What have been your experiences?

  1. In the video I said 10 hours but that is because I have no concept of time, and guessed. But when I looked at my IG post from the day before to see when I’d actually put the oil on the toys the second time, it said 15 hours
Mar 032018
 

Definition:: what is a body-safe sex toy?Toxic. Non-porous. Body-safe. Skin-safe. Non-toxic. These are all terms you will see used to define sex toy materials. Toxic, non-toxic, and non-porous are all pretty self-explanatory terms but we’ll go over them here. The term that seems up for debate is body-safe, so today I’m going to give you various answers on what a body-safe sex toy is.

But, let’s start by talking about the other, more easily defined terms, before we define a body-safe sex toy.

Toxic Sex Toys

The topic of toxic toys is one this blog is familiar with; I have a whole page dedicated to the ins and outs. When you get down to the nitty-gritty of language, though, you may wonder if “toxic” is accurate. Toxic, by definition, means “containing poisonous substances” or “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing serious injury or death

While there are no cases of a sex toy material killing someone we do know that some sex toys contain phthalates, a chemical that can do bad things to the body. The occurance of phthalates in sex toys is sharply declining, thankfully, as evidenced by recent lab tests. One or two uses won’t likely hurt you, and sex toys are not the only place to find phthalates but they’re a thing you can control and avoid.

We’ve also seen the presence of heavy metals, like Cadmium which is dangerous, but this is rare. We may see irritants, such as chlorine, which may cause a burn or rash on your skin. But the chances of a sex toy truly being “toxic” to the point of serious illness? We don’t know. After all, no one is subjecting mice to a Basix dildo and observing them.

The lab tests on sex toys have largely been performed on the more well-known brands but the market is flooding, unchecked, on sites like Groupon, Amazon, Ebay and AliExpress. Brands come and go and they are usually not the focus of testing. These are the brands I am most skeptical of; they are white label brands usually (another definition post to come on that) and their manufacturing isn’t watched with a careful eye like the more major brands.

Because the sex toy industry is much less regulated the chemicals in sex toy materials are not monitored by any governing body. Packaging can say whatever the company wants it to say with no regard for the truth. As consumers become more savvy and bloggers educate more, I feel we’re seeing fewer companies lie on packaging but it certainly still happens.

There are a few things we know to be true, though: You’ll never find phthalates in silicone or hard materials. Due to the nature of the material you don’t find phthalates in TPR/TPE but you may in latex rubber or PVC. PVC/Vinyl can contain high levels of chlorine, while TPR/TPE has been shown to be free of harmful and irritating chemicals. Visually, it can be hard to tell the difference between a TPR and PVC – your nose may know, but all soft sex toy materials (even silicone) can have a bad chemical odor due to manufacturing chemicals not being removed before the toy is sealed up in packaging.

Non-Toxic Definition

Non-toxic is a definition I use for materials that are porous but are either very unlikely to contain harmful or irritating chemicals or the company claims they are free from harmful or irritating chemicals. TPR/TPE and various trademarked “flesh” like materials will fall in this category – such as masturbators like Fleshlight and Tenga. PVC that claims to be phthalates-free could begrudingly go in this category if we’re feeling charitable or have repeatedly seen that the brand never fails on lab tests. 

Unfortunately, as noted above, it can often be hard to tell the difference between PVC and TPR/TPE. Both can be jelly-like and clear, or completely opaque. I am more wary of this difficulty telling the difference when you’re relying on white-label brands direct from the Chinese manufacturing plant than of major name brands carried at most retailers.

Non-toxic, porous sex toy materials may not ever harm your body in the ways a toxic toy can – they are unlikely to cause a rash or chemical burn, for example. They will, over time, become a happy home to bacteria and yeast because these materials can only be cleaned on the surface – the same can be said for toxic toys because they are also porous. Their pores will always freely feed bacterial colonies and encourage them to thrive. The material is not chemically stable and will break down over time. It will happen slowly if left on its own: it’ll sweat an oily substance, lose it’s coloring, or take on coloring from anal use or simply the place it’s being stored. It will happen rapidly if stored in a place that gets hotter than body temperature or if two porous toys are stored touching each other.

Non-toxic, porous sex toys can also potentially cause vaginal infections in some people.

Skin-Safe Definition

I’ve only seen this term used by a few retailers, namely Lovehoney (and anybody setting up their site who copies Lovehoney). My best guess is they use this term as a nicer way of describing materials that are porous yet claim to be non-toxic.

Why “Skin safe” and not body-safe or, more accurately, non-toxic? Perhaps even they recognize that “body-safe” is a higher level of quality yet they still want to give you a false sense of security. Given all the issues that can happen with porous materials I would never call them “skin safe”.  PVC without phthalates is non-toxic but could burn your skin from chlorine…that doesn’t sound “safe”.

Body-Safe Sex Toy Definitions

Like “skin safe”, some retailers and manufacturers use “body safe” as a blanket term for anything that is merely non-toxic. The issues with porous sex toys, like repeated vaginal infections, won’t happen for everyone. If you replace the porous material after 4-6 months and take very good care of it1 then you may never have to worry about shoving a bacterial colony of squigglies in your body. These exceptions, maybes and loopholes mean that, to some, TPR/TPE and similarly named products (elastomer, for example) are “body-safe”.

I don’t consider microbial stowayas “body-safe” but, unless you’re a microbiologist, you won’t know the bacteria and yeast there. They could be. I’ve heard of people giving themselves repeated yeast infections because of the microbes in the toy; I’ve heard of people feeling like they’ve had food poisioning after using a porous sex toy anally.

While many retailers will push you towards sex toy cleaners for the porous materials, I don’t recommend it. The chemicals from the cleaner could potentially stick around in the pores. Do we know this to be 100% fact? No. Again, a lack of specific medical studies but enough people who know more about

To most bloggers, educators, and retailers, though, a body-safe sex toy is something that is both non-toxic and non-porous.

The Exceptions to Body-Safe Sex Toy Materials

Taken a step further a body-safe sex toy means being certain that the metal alloys in metal toys are considered surgical-grade or marine-grade, like njoy’s 316 grade stainless steel or Crowned Jewels’ body-safe aluminum and titanium. Good stainless steel shouldn’t be highly magnetic. It also means that the glass has not been painted and non-toxic pigments in frit are the only pigments used. It means that the wood has been sealed with food-grade sealant (or medical-grade) that will not wash away. It means that only non-toxic food-grade pigments are used in ABS plastic or silicone.

The tricky part, then, is knowing the answers to those exceptions for every brand you buy. You can get to a safe and trusting place by only buying from brands endorsed by sex toy reviewers, sold by trustworthy retailers also endorsed by sex toy reviewers. I am always very wary of recommending unknown brands of metal sex toys especially if the brands are only found on sites like Amazon, AliExpress, and so on; I can also tell you that you are very unlikely to get a body-safe metal butt plug for under $25 – especially the jeweled kind.

I’ve given you the tools to know more about the safety of your glass sex toys but there are no easy, fool-proof home tests yet for metal. Wood sex toys are usually easier because, for the most part, manufacturers/crafters know what they’re putting on the wood as a sealant and are up front about this. This article talks about the sealants you should avoid. You can try your hand at flame-testing to determine if something is silicone or not – not all PVC and TPR looks like “jelly” so at first glance you may be unable to tell visually.

 

A body-safe sex toy doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Buy from a trusted retailer – not Amazon, AliExpress, Groupon, Ebay – and you can find many options to fit your budget. You can’t find many body-safe sex toys under $10, for example, but you can find hundreds under $35. I want you to have the best, safest experience possible and that starts by knowing your materials, the risks, and how to shop.

 

 

  1. clean it immediately before and after use with a mild soap, let it air-dry 100% before storing it in a dark environment, storing it by itself in unbleached cotton bags/wrapping
Mar 132017
 

When we talk about the many benefits of body-safe silicone for sex toys, we have to talk about how folks can tell the difference between silicone and well, not silicone. There are clues if it’s a translucent material or we can do the flame test, but what if it passes all of that and you still worry? Readers come to me all the time with concerns about a chemical odor despite the material being silicone so hopefully this will lay some fears to rest.

PVC is notorious for having a bad odor right out of the package, due to the plastic softening agents used – phthalates, or not, it seems. Therefore many folks use this odor, or lack of it, to help them determine if something is, or is not, silicone. They believe that a silicone sex toy shouldn’t have any chemical odors and many folks become immediately suspicious of perfectly good silicone sex toys when they open their packaging only to be hit with a chemical scent.

It should also be noted that one way to tell the difference between a really-bad porous material like PVC and a semi-bad porous material like TPR is also odor – generally speaking, TPR/TPE doesn’t have a bad odor. But it could, for many of the reasons listed below. In my personal past experience, the stench of toxic chemicals or cover-up perfumes won’t “air out” in a day or so.  The last time I received a toxic, stinky PVC realistic dildo accidentally for review the smell never abated, never went away. I lasted a week and a half before I took it to the dumpster.

Silicone Does Retain Odors

Because silicone isn’t completely non-porous, it can hang on to odors. We’ve learned this about anal toys (and those odors linger because they’re oil-soluble), but chemical odors that are water-soluble should dissipate a lot easier with a quick wash and some airing out.  The mild soap and water wash (or baby wipes swab, followed up by a “rinse” with a damp cloth for toys not water-resistant) will remove any lingering chemicals – something you should do no matter what with a brand new sex toy – but the most important step is simply letting it air out, free from packaging.

Trapped!

Any of the odor-causing methods below will make the silicone sex toy stink if it still stinks when they package it up. Then, the odors are trapped in the airtight packaging and not releasing until you open it. Items packaged only in cardboard, that are never then shrink-wrapped in plastic, will probably have no-to-low odor because of the cardboard. But if the item is put in a plastic bag and then packaged, or the entire packaging is shrink-wrapped, a chemical odor upon unboxing isn’t something to be immediately concerned about.

The odors can also be trapped, so to speak, from inside the toy, too. Yes, that’s right, the smell is coming from inside the house. Er, toy. How? Why? Well, lubrication of interior parts is one reason, and you can read about that in the next section. Another, manufacturer-specific, reason is the squishy under-layer in Tenga Iroha vibrators. The initial line had a very strong chemical odor that took a long time to dissipate – it reminded me of latex paint. The material under the thin silicone skin was a polyurethane-based squishy foam emitting VOCs. More recent Iroha squishy lines seem to have fixed this. And let’s not forget Lelo’s cringe-worthy scented-on-purpose vibrators – the scent is under the silicone skin, and comes out through the silicone’s pores.

Common Reasons for Silicone Sex Toys Having a Chemical Smell

There are so many factors that can cause a lingering chemical odor. This is actually a lot more common than you may realize. There’s a difference in the curing style and manufacturing process of silicone sex toys between say, the hand-poured RTV platinum-cured silicone that Tantus uses for their dildos and the silicone that goes over vibrators – like HTV (high-temperature vulcanization vs room-temperature).  I’ve read that there can be more curing odors associated with peroxide-cure than platinum-cure, but I don’t know which companies may be using peroxide-cure HTV silicone.

  1. Mold release agent – Basically, PAM for silicone. It’s a lubricant that helps get the sex toy out of the mold. This should get washed off, but cheaper companies may not do a good job of that
  2. Cleaning chemicals – Or, they did get rid of the mold release agent, but didn’t let the product air dry to release the VOCs from the cleaning chemicals
  3. The plastic packaging – if the item is in a plastic molded tray or clamshell, that plastic could be releasing VOCs as well
  4. Glue or dye in the packaging – sometimes instead of a plastic tray, your sex toy is in a foam tray. Maybe it’s dyed a color to match the packaging. Maybe there are multiple layers glued together. Again we have VOCs!
  5. Chemicals released during cure – When talking to numerous vibrator manufacturers they confirmed that during silicone cure a chemical reaction occurs and a strong odor comes with it. It’ll go away with 24-48 hours to air out, and good companies let their products air out before packaging. A cheap company will want to crank production up as much as possible and won’t give their products time to air out.
  6. Lubricants – Not the kind you’ll be using, but the kind used during production. I can’t accurately speculate what any given company would use to lubricate moving parts, but it could be anything from an alcohol-based spray to white lithium grease. If there’s no hard plastic barrier between the greased vibrator guts and the silicone skin of a vibrator, you might be smelling that odor for quite some time. One sex toy that comes to mind is this cheap bendable silicone vibrator – I had one complaint of it smelling so bad that I had to investigate and when I cut it open I noticed a little bit of a machine-shop odor and could tell it was from the lubricant used inside. Since it’s bendable, there was nothing in between the guts and the silicone.

What are VOCs?

Some of you may be wondering – VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. When you smell a chemical odor? That’s a VOC. Paint, new shower curtains, sex toys, cleaning products – we can’t escape them. They’re trying to regulate them, but it’s going to be a tough battle. If your new sex toy has a chemical odor, try to let it air out in a non-living-space room *if possible* since many VOCs can cause headaches, or more.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

The bottom line? Fear not! A chemical odor doesn’t indicate anything bad on its own. Much appreciation to Vibratex, L’amourose, Doxy and Funkit for answering my questions in my research for this article.

 Posted by at 12:51 pm
Nov 272016
 

Remember when I thought that “Womanizer” was the worst name for a sex toy? “Tracy’s Dog” is worse, and it’s the brand name. It might be the worst brand name I’ve ever heard. Stick with me here; I know you may be wondering if it’s April 1st already but you’ll soon see this isn’t your average sex toy review.

Tracy’s Dog – A Brand I Do Not Trust

You won’t find “Tracy’s Dog” at the retailer I trust most, SheVibe, or other retailers I trust like Come as You Are, Early to Bed, Smitten Kitten, Babeland, and more. Where will you find it? The retailer I trust least – Amazon. Tracy’s Dog has been trying to get me to review their sex toys for ages now. They’ve sent a bunch of emails. I’ve always refused because I won’t review sex toys that come from Amazon and only Amazon because reasons. Some reviewers have tried out the brand, and not everyone hated it. There was a really eyebrow-raising issue with Cara Sutra’s Pleasure Panel reviewers and their “Liquid Silicone” dildos – two people received a “Liquid Silicone” dildo with a “Materials Test” result paper which supposedly came from a testing lab and claims the material is SILICA GEL – links and photos further down. Not silicone, for they are not the same thing. And as I’ve reported before, silica gel is a desiccant – not a sex toy material!

The Tracy’s Dog Flirt Rabbit sells for $13.98 at Amazon, is not made from silicone, and is a nightmare. I bought this stupid thing from Amazon for that piece I wrote illustrating water-clear TPR and cloudy-clear silicone. I also bought this because on the Amazon listing, in amidst all the SEO words, Tracy’s Dog claims it is silicone in the title. The “highlights” bullet list calls it silicone. The fucking packaging calls it silicone. Multiple places throughout the page call it silicone. Finally way down under “Product Description”, it’s called TPR. Most people will not see this, though, and think they’re buying affordable silicone. This. Is. Not. Silicone. This is why I avoid “white label” sex toy brands, and brands that you only see on sites like Amazon, Ebay, AliExpress and Groupon. The “branding” on this piece of junk is literally a fucking sticker. So yeah, be prepared to see this godawful thing from other “brands”, too.

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“Tracy’s Dog® Flirt Rotating Bullet 36-frequency Thrusting Soft Silicone Powerful Rabbit Vibratoir G-spot Stimulation Vibe Clit Masturbation Dildo (Purple)”

*sigh*

  1. It’s not silicone.
  2. What is 36-frequency?
  3. Vibratoir?
  4. Not a Dildo
  5. SUITABLE FOR BAR FLIRTING

AND THEN. Oh because the listing gets better. We’re still up at the top here – just under the image where they bullet-list the highlights and say:

The rabbit vibrator is made of healthy senior silicone, crystal clear,vivid skin touch feeling

What, pray tell, is “healthy senior silicone”? Also, no, not “skin touch” feeling. It feels like goddamn softened plastic. I’ve felt TPR that does feel realistic-ish, but not this!

Realistic big glans,telescopic bead design, 36-frequency vibrating,adjustable power,can auto thrust to you body, direct sexual desire,like a fire burning all your passion

Oh, you’ll feel a fire, alright, after you’ve used it too many times and the itsy bitsies living in the pores give you a yeast infection.

“Rotating, Vibrating, Thrusting, knock the door of your heart.”

  • The design of this product bases on in-depth analysis of the Europe and the United States female’s sexual-mind. Its size and appearance according with human body engineering design can let a female fondle admiringly.
  • Thrusting soft silicone combined with strong power motor creates infinite fun. ..Powerful rotating bullets coupled with the unique flapping wings make you passionate.
  • Built-in the most advanced motor, provide a steady stream of power for the strong speed.

The two long cute antennas and wings vibrating with36 frequency tender massage your body, releasing all of your sexual desire and pleasure. The realistic soft big glans can thrust into your body slowly, conducting you into a wonderful happy world. Under the glans penis, the large raised silica gel points stimulate the right place, making you excited. The 101 pleasure floating-point around the stick, surrounding the passion of thread, give you a good friction.12 adjustable speed,36 frequency and 360 ° rotation can fully satisfy you.

1. For couples: This toy can satisfy curiosity and increase the newness.

2. For solo: No longer lonely with it in the night.

3. For the senior players: It helps you explore new things.

4. For beginner: It provides the instant resource for love.

tracysdogbox tracysdogbox2

Note: Text appearing in dark red is directly from the Amazon listing, and written by the brand. There’s just so much to unpack here, and this is only the fucking Amazon listing. So, it’s right there on the Amazon page, why did I copy it, you’re wondering? In case they change it – plus it’s funny (and sad).”No longer lonely in the night” – now, if we were talking about an actual dog, providing actual companionship, sure. But a vibrator? A vibrator will not ease your lonliness, nor is it meant to. Vibrators are also not there for love. The orgasms you get from a really great sex toy that makes you come harder than you thought possible, the kind of sex toy that makes you want to give them as gifts to everyone you meet – sure, those may produce endorphins that mimic love and if you try to steal my Pure Wand or Kate’s Double Trouble you will be hurt. But love? Ehhh, you’re pushing it.

Sure, we can absolutely chalk a lot of this up to “lost in translation”. After all, the vibrator is made for Asian women. Not kidding.  In amongst all of the typos and bad translation it says on the back of the packaging: “the product Dimensions boby [sic] feature based on Asian design, tailored specifically for Asian women”.  Also on the back of the package is where they say that it is “crystal clear silicone”. Um, no, no it’s not. You want proof beyond this post? It failed the flame test spectacularly.

tracysdogburn tracysdogburn2 tracysdogburn3

Anyway. Since this post is about this particular vibrator, I want to tell you a few things about it.

  1. Yes, it thrusts. Poorly.
  2. Yes, it rotates. However the rotating section of “beads” has sharp points on it and can be felt through the thin material.
  3. The only part that vibrates is the clitoral arm, which is, of course, buzzy and mediocre at best. Not powerful.
  4. It’s shit. Even if it were silicone, it’d be shit. Don’t fucking buy it!

I Won’t Trust a Brand Who Lies

Here’s the thing. Yes, there are products from this brand that are indeed silicone. There are positive reviews for these products from sex toy reviewers. But I will never endorse ANY Tracy’s Dog product, ever, despite it being affordable silicone because they lie. They’ve lied in 16 ways about this rabbit vibe; they’ve lied about those “Liquid Silicone” dildos – even though that 2016-dated product material test affidavit went out with multiple dildos they claim it was a TYPO and sent out another test report from a different lab DATED 2010. SIX FUCKING YEARS AGO.  Below you can see the two test papers that were sent to the reviewer and originally appeared at carasutra.com in this review, used with permission from Cara. At the left is the 2016 report, which doesn’t name any specific sex toy, listing the material as “silica gel”. At the right is the 2010 report, again not naming any specific sex toy. You can see what an actual materials test report looks like from a reliable lab by visiting BadVibes.org. I’ve also sent out an item for testing to a lab and received the same test report styling as BadVibes did. No decent lab would put forth such strange, vague test result papers.

Tracy's Dog material test paper from a lab reads: Sample Name - Sex toy. Sample Material: Silica Gel. Tracy's Dog Materials Test Report from a different lab, offered up as the "real" lab test. No sex toy name is defined, material is "liquid silicone rubber" and the report is dated 2010

Update: A review of the “Tracy’s Dog Double Silicone Thick Dildo” brought yet another atrocity to my attention. As the reviewer states, the company lists it as having a soft TPE exterior and a silicone interior. This just isn’t done. There’s no reason for it, and the silicone (if there is any) is hidden under a layer of porous material. Again, I don’t trust this at all. More lies!

I can’t recommend this company, at all, for any product, full stop. Even the items rated well by other bloggers can be found in similar form from more reputable companies. The brand Tracy’s Dog now live on my Blacklist. If you need an affordable sex toy, check out my list of sex toys under $35.

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ETA: At the suggestion of others I decided to contact Amazon. Their A-to-Z thing wasn’t activated (when looking at orders history, you should see a “help with this order” button or something, and I didn’t) so I ventured into Live Chat. I’m sharing the chat, but I want to point out: the way to get dodgy sellers/brands like Tracy’s Dog off Amazon is for CONSUMERS to file reports the way I’ve done. If enough people who’ve purchased the item report it as misleading ad copy, etc to an Amazon associate, then an investigation may be opened.  There is also a “report incorrect product information” link to click on the page, which can be done by anybody. It took me a little looking to find it, but it’s up at the top, after the item photos, on the right side. 

In my chat with an Amazon associate, once I explained what the situation is and showed them the link to Cara’s review with the shady lab test reports, etc, I was told that the person was filing a claim so that the item page can be taken down for review. I confirmed that I personally didn’t want a replacement, that I wanted to report the brand & seller. The helpful associate let me know she was asking her supervisor for any other steps that can be taken to report the problem. I was told: “I have submitted your claim. You may also leave feedback on the products review page for others to see. Hopefully we will get more claims and that will speed up the priority of the investigation.” and when I asked about others reporting: “Those that have bought it from Amazon should definitely contact us as well because it brings the problem to our attention sooner than the reviews. The reviews are more for customers to have an idea as to what others think.”

 

Save

Oct 232016
 

Silicone sex toys have come a long way, baby. I often am asked to give someone my opinion on whether or not a sex toy is actually the silicone it claims to be. When the material is opaque it’s hard to tell visually but the proliferation of clear jelly/TPR material in sex toys gives me a leg up in making a call. I’ve frequently warned on my blog that “clear silicone sex toys won’t be crystal-clear, they’ll be cloudy-clear”. Yet earlier this year I was reassuring multiple people that a new guy on the block, Funkit, was definitely creating clear silicone sex toys. Why the panic? Probably because my differentiation between “crystal clear” and “cloudy clear” is skimmed over and the focus is on “clear”. Today I’m hopefully going to give you better tools, and a better understanding, of the differences between clear silicone sex toys and clear TPR sex toys if you don’t want to, or can’t, do a flame test.  And while Funkit isn’t the only brand to use clear silicone it is the brand people have asked me about the most lately. Other brands that have used a clear silicone include Vixen and Vamp; you’ll notice Vixen using it in their Hitachi Wand caps. Vamp uses a clear silicone but heavily infuses it with glitter. A brand that has been around awhile, quit, moved to Etsy, quit again was Jollie/Chavez Dezignz – they made the polka-dot dildo many of you would remember.

Clear As….Water?

In many past posts I’d used the terms “crystal clear” to describe what PVC/TPR/Jelly toys look like and “Cloudy Clear” to describe what clear silicone toys look like. Kenton, the ingenious person behind Funkit, graciously allowed me to pick his brain to help better explain things to y’all. According to Kenton the term “water-clear” is a better descriptor to use, and he’s right (unless your water isn’t clear…). While both materials are certainly translucent (and thin samples of clear TPR might even be considered transparent), the silicone we would want our sex toys to be made of can never be water-clear. There is water-clear silicone, something Kenton reminded me of that Metis told me a long time ago; but it isn’t a sex toy material, because it gets brittle and doesn’t hold up well, plus is very hard.

Cloudy-Clear vs Water-Clear

When it comes to a relatively thick chunk of translucent silicone, like the head of the Funkit dildo shown below, you can see that it wouldn’t be called water-clear. This is the perfect example of “cloudy clear”. Even with the Funkit silicone paddles, as thin as they are, you can still tell that it’s kinda cloudy. But as you can see below the head of the TPR vibrator is as thick as the head of the Funkit dildo – And as thick as it is, it’s still a lot more translucent than the clear silicone.

Most clear silicone sex toys will never be any less cloudy than this, which is considerably less water-clear than translucent TPR

If you’re still unsure, and you can see it in person Kenton told me about the light trick, which is pretty neat:

Visually, cloudy clear, but highly transparent silicones often lend an amber hue to light that passes through them, especially thick parts. This is true of my toys, at least, and all the silicones I’ve worked with, including many Wacker samples and Reynolds Advanced Materials. That’s a pretty good test, but flame testing is still important.

When I just held my LED light up to it I didn’t really notice what he was talking about but the moment I shone the light through the material onto a white surface, the answer was clear. Below this paragraph in the photo on the left I’m shining my light through a Funkit Swing dildo; you can see the light that passes through is very amber-yellow. The photo on the right shows the same light shining through the head of the Tracy’s Dog not-silicone rabbit vibrator. There’s no color distortion to the light as it passes through.  I don’t know how this test would fare if the clear silicone were tinted, like many water-clear TPR toys, such as this. Kenton has said that it is possible to all-over tint the clear silicone like that, he just doesn’t do it.

Shining a bright light through clear silicone sex toys distorts the white light to a warm amber Shining a light through a clear TPR sex toy won't distory the light color

Price, Brand, Feel

Price, and brand reputability, will give you many clues. The brands you will see claiming their water-clear material is silicone are nearly never being sold through reputable retailers and are almost always under-$40. One brand that I’ve only seen on Amazon, the terribly-named Tracy’s Dog, is one example. While the company does produce silicone items that are indeed silicone, they also sell items like the rabbit vibrator in my pictures – priced at $13.98, you won’t find clear silicone sex toys for that price. But what if it’s a frosty translucent material, from an Amazon brand, and cheap? Is it silicone? I think I’ll have to purchase it and do a flame test. I do know from my trials with items listed on Amazon as “silica gel” that you can have a soft, nice-feeling frosty translucent item that is NOT silicone. The “guess by looking” isn’t fool proof, obviously, but we have to start somewhere. However, the more clear the silicone is, the better the quality of the silicone, the higher the price.

Another clue is confusing listings with poorly-translated ad copy. As you’ll see from these Amazon listings the material can be described as silicone, TPR, and medical silica gel all in the same listing. “Medical silica gel” is not a sex toy material so when in doubt always assume the lesser material if you can’t tell just by the level of transparency.

I mentioned price up there when I talked about the cheap items you might find on Groupon, Amazon, AliExpress or Ebay. But not all PVC/TPR rabbit vibrators are cheap. For reasons I’ll never understand companies like Doc Johnson and CalExotics, or Evolved Novelties sometimes charge a pretty penny for TPR rabbit vibes – but at least they’re honest now in the materials description, and call it TPR – so long as you’re shopping with a reputable retailer.

Often when you see bigger brand clear silicone sex toys, like this silicone rabbit vibe, the silicone is more cloudy (frosted?) than the stuff used by Funkit, Vixen, Vamp, etc. It could be down to a difference in shore, silicone type & quality (medical, food grade1, etc) or silicone price (the more clear, the more expensive). It could also be a difference between RTV silicone that is hand-poured and LIM or liquid injection molding.

Feel – this one is harder to put into words, for me. Often a TPR or PVC clear material can feel a bit oily, but not always. When I was trying to find a word to describe what I was feeling, what came to mind was “squeaky” but that’s a sound, not a word. I can rub my thumb over these materials and I actually kinda can hear a sound. When I’m done rubbing my hands over these materials, if they don’t feel obviously oily, my the skin on hands still is left feeling strange – like there’s a chemical residue. I don’t experience any of this with silicone. The only residue that’s been left on my hands after fondling some silicone is a silky feeling. I think that once you can feel both materials side by side, you’ll always know how to tell in the future.

Thanks Kenton!!

Kenton Johnston is the man behind Funkit, and he’s creating some pretty amazing stuff. Yes, the vivid swirls of pigment suspended in translucent silicone is different and gorgeous but he also is thinking way outside the box – from his unique suction-cup-and-butt-friendly base design to these really cool hand sex silicone texture rings he’s trying to get funded on Indiegogo – I’ve seen them in person and I definitely think they’ll work as advertised. He’s a big sex geek, like us, and fortunately was happy to let him pester him with all sorts of questions to help me easily show you how to tell if these clear silicone sex toys are really true to their advertising. For now you can buy Funkit products direct, but I hope that soon he’ll get his stuff into the hands of progressive retailers like Early to Bed, Smitten Kitten, and Shevibe.

 

Clear silicone sex toys, even when the material is thin like the base of this Funkit dildo, are still more cloudy than transparent TPR

Find Funkit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  1. Medical grade isn’t everything, and I feel confident now recommending other grades especially when it’s listed as food grade. Kenton told me that “Food grade silicone is tested to FDA standards for food safety, which involves submerging a sample on ethyl alcohol, water, oil, and acetone and seeing if anything leaches out in any of these. If harmful substances come out of the material, it is bad, and should feel bad. Medical grade silicone has to be able to be implanted for a certain amount of time, and is tested differently for different duration. There’s also medical silicone for prosthetics, and this has its own tests as well. Medical grade silicone is also made in cleanroom settings. The thing is, a sex toy is something that is most likely going to come in contact with mucous membranes. It is not going to be implanted into your body. Anything that is safe for food necessarily has to be safe for mucous membranes like your mouth and anus, so food grade is a perfect fit for sex toys. While medical grade sounds better, it’s really overkill for the cost it adds, considering the extra effort in testing doesn’t add anything for a simply sexual  purpose.”
 Posted by at 9:55 pm