Ask Lilly: “My sex toy stinks – what should I do?”

A few weeks ago I got this question in my Formspring inbox and only now got around to answering it. All I know is what the person asked me, which was:

My vibrator has a lingering rubbery smell to it, how can I get rid of that? What should I wash it with?

Here’s my plain and simple answer:


The smell is coming from any number of things, and any one of those things has the potential to act like a toxic substance to the delicate mucus membranes of your genitalia. It could be that the toy is jelly and even if the packaging says “no phthalates” that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of other irritating chemicals that are leaching out. True Pleasures once wrote about her worrisome time as a CalExotics Sexpert and the dodgy toys (and responses) she’d receive from them1. She received items that were claimed to be TPR (CalExotics actually claims on their Product Information sheet on their site that their TPR & TPE is non-porous. I call bullshit and do not believe them one bit. Most TPR’s are porous; after all they’re the cheaper version of the material and CalExotics isn’t famed for their expensive toys) but smelled so badly they gave her a headache. Response? Oops, we think you managed to get a rare manufacturing error and it’s actually PVC. Oh we’re so distressed about this, we’re as upset as you, we paid for TPR! (I’m paraphrasing here). Again she received other TPR material toys that had funny, lingering odors. The ole “oh let it air out a day” response didn’t fly, as the smell was still there. She got one email that said the smell might be from an accelerant that helps release the toy from it’s production mold; then he say no, it was the glue, it didn’t cure long enough2. But all the while she is assured that these culprits are all non-toxic, phthalates-free, etc.

Every time True Pleasures would get a dodgy toy, her respondents (even Al Bloom) claimed to have gone out to the warehouse, opened up other toys like the one she had (even cutting them open, as she did) to see if others of the same toy had the same problem as hers. Of course, they were all ok. She just happened to get the one oddball. Also, they went out and ruined a case of toys? I’m sure their profit margin is high enough that it’s a drop in the bucket butt again I call bullshit.

Back to the issue at hand. We don’t even know what brand the toy is that the person is asking about.

A well-made toy shouldn’t have any lingering odors. A slight odor when you first open up the packaging – ok, I’ll consent to that. But it should not linger on the toy for very long if it is truly just part of the cleaning process or something to do with the packaging. Your supposed TPR toy could actually be PVC, or jelly/rubber. Who the hell knows. It’s not like there’s any real regulations out there. They can say what they want. Or it could be TPR, but what you’re smelling is indeed another chemical or glue or whatever. They say it’s non-toxic. Really? Show me the MSDS sheet then on all the materials and I’ll decide for myself.


Or you could attempt to contact the manufacturer and tell them your problem, be told it’s a one-off and maybe they’ll send you a new one that doesn’t stink. Maybe. Small chance the reseller will let you return it, depends on who you bought it from. But the bottom line is that you don’t actually know what’s causing the smell (unless of course it IS a jelly toy and I wasn’t told that the rubber-like smell is actually coming from a fucking rubber toy) and you don’t know what it might do to your body. You could use it once with no immediate repercussions and sometime down the line after a few more uses have this strange thing goin on down there and not know what’s up.

Buy from reputable manufacturers.
Buy hard plastic, pure silicone, glass, ceramic, metal, wood, and TPR only from trust-worthy manufacturers3.
If your sex toy stinks, there’s a decent chance that the stink is a warning: HEED THAT WARNING. THROW IT OUT.

If you actually do insist on using the damn thing, please use a toy cover or a condom on it. (use larger condoms for girthier toys, and if you have latex allergies shell out for the newer non-latex condoms).

Here’s another “test”: Would you put it in your mouth with that smell? Would you gag from the smell and taste? If yes, then why the hell put it in your vagina or ass?? There’s a million other sex toys out there that are not unsafe. Go buy one of those.

  1. Yes I’ve linked to it before, but I’m going to link to it again, because in my eyes it really shows that you just can’t trust CalExotics and the more of their shitty stuff I see, the more I want to steer people away from the company as a whole
  2. Dodgy overseas manufacturing that they just blindly trust to be doing things the right way
  3. Trust-worthy manufacturers are not synonymous with well-known manufacturers. I would consider many small companies trust worthy and would consider many big name untrustworthy like CalExotics, definitely Doc Johnson and Pipedreams, Topco is iffy, Hustler ehh