Ask Lilly: How do I know if a sex toy has phthalates in it?

Another Formspring question here!

When looking for a new toy how do you know if it does or does not have pthalates? asked by mydnitebyte

First, a definition from Wikipedia: Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity).1

The sex toy review community and sex-positive toy shops are all buzzing about phthalates and how bad they are for you. Phthalates are found in many plastic items that have been chemically softened. The studies going around are saying that phthalate exposure can damage all sorts of organs, and can possibly cause cancer. There are a lot of harmful things in our world these days that we can’t avoid – so when we CAN avoid something like toxins in our sex toys, we should. Not to mention, toys that contain phthalates are also porous and can harbor bacteria if not cleaned properly; they also cannot be sterilized for 100% safety against transmission of STD’s.

 So how DO you know if a sex toy has phthalates in it?

You don’t. The better question would be: How do I make sure I don’t buy a sex toy with phthalates in it? I previously had a list up of various major sex toy retailers and what it looks like on their site if a sex toy is phthalates free. But, since the industry is not at all regulated and sex toy manufacturers can lie, we can’t really trust them. Avoid materials such as:

  • Jelly
  • Rubber (even “Skin safe” rubber)
  • PVC
  • Vinyl
  • Cyberskin
  • UR3
  • “Mystery Meat” – the retailer or manufacturer uses a weird trademarked name for their ultra-realistic sex toy – there are some exceptions for this one, but you won’t know til you see the material in person.

Stick with materials that are known to be safe. This includes:

a. 100% pure medical-grade silicone
b. Hard plastic/acrylic
c. Glass, metal, wood, ceramic, and other natural materials
Grey area: Elastomer, TPE, TPR – these are phthalates free, but are still porous.

Can condoms keep you safe from phthalates?

Researchers/scientists haven’t come to a conclusive yes/no result yet, but they say it depends on numerous condom factors such as:

a. The thickness of the latex.
b. The integrity of the condom.
c. Additives in latex condoms could also influence whether phthalates pass through. For example Nonoxynol-9, which used to be used as a spermicide in condoms, could actually increase the risk of phthalate exposure (Nonoxynol-9 is no longer commonly used on condoms or personal lubricants though).
d. The personal lubricant in pre-lubricated condoms could (but doesn’t necessarily) facilitate the leaching phthalates out of a sex toy.2

There is also a chance that the oils used to soften these toys could cause a condom to break down, making it utterly useless to protect you.



1 – Definition of phthalates from Wikipedia
2 – Phthalates and condoms fom

8 Responses

  1. Dick says:

    Good, quality information! Thanks Lilly!

  2. nitebyrd says:

    I would have loved to have had this very easy to understand response when I was selling sex-toys. This is really excellent information, Lilly. Thanks!

  3. Meg says:

    Why are phthalates bad/dangerous/undesirable?

    ~ The explanation is best found here: and the links within. Basically they can be bad for your body and might possibly harm your reproductive organs or even cause cancer. since they leach out of sex toys made of the “bad materials”, during use, thats how they get in our bodies.

  4. Meg says:

    Wow… I had no idea. Thanks for explaining and informing me!

  5. Pegbird says:

    Hey there! Your website has a mine of really good information, have learnt a fair bit! Thank-you! My question- one of the first dildos I bought had the description of ‘Firm Jelly Rubber (TPR)’ ( the rest are tantus)

    After reading this, I am mildly suspect of it, It doesn’t get used any more as it doesn’t meet requirements, but should I be considering the bin? Many thanks :)

  6. Yes, it is because they are porous and if it’s PVC, sometimes has an additive that can be irritating (at the least – toxic? who knows). I consider silicone to be safe. There are any dual-density silicone sex toys that feel quite realistic.

  7. sbmor says:

    So we should be looking for the words “dual-density silicone”? Do these dual-density silicone products go by brand or marketing names? What would really be nice is if your site created a list of all such safe products and then grow that list over time.

  8. Silicone doesn’t need a brand or gimmick, it’s just silicone. Manufacturers know by now that silicone Means Something and stands for safety, luxury, and all sorts of good things.

    It’s called dual-density because that’s literally what it is. A firm density and a soft density together in one.

    This page here:
    specifically has a section titled “Which sex toy materials are safe?” And I also have a not-complete list of brands (also on that page) that have shown to actually make silicone toys that are what they say they are. However, because the sex toy industry is still growing fast, I can’t possibly keep up with just a list of manufacturers, much less a list of all safe sex toys on the market. I do not have enough time in the day to devote to creating such a list, plus I wouldn’t feel right putting out a list naming things as definitely safe when I’ve not personally had them in my hands. What would be really nice would be if I had the free time to embark on such a labor-of-love project. Instead, I give all the guidelines I can: Look for These Certain Materials, buy brand names from reputable sites, avoid Amazon, Ebay, Groupon and other similar sites.