Frisky Guide to Toy Materials

What are little toys made of?
Snakes and snails, puppy dog tails, thermo-plastic elastomers, silicone, and…?

There are so many materials used for sex toys, you’d need a degree in chemistry to understand it all. But fear not, your friends at Frisky Business have done our homework so we can break it down for you:

100% Silicone:
Also sometimes called medical grade or platinum silicone, the best silicone toys are completely hypoallergenic, nonporous, and will not break down chemically. This means they are safe for anyone to use, never harbor bacteria, and will last a lifetime (At least the silicone will, though the same can’t really be said for motors or electronics). Additionally, true silicone has no odor, whereas most rubbers have some smell to them. Since silicone absorbs and holds heat, they will quickly warm to body temperature or can be warmed before use with hot water.

  • Pros: Safe, easy to clean, nonporous, hypoallergenic, odor-free, long-lasting. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: High quality silicone is higher priced than other materials, leading to pricey, but long-lasting, toys.
  • Recommended lubricant: Water-based. Silicone lubricants may react with silicone toys and damage them.
  • Cleaning: Soap and water, antibacterial toy cleaner, alcohol, boiling, or a 10% bleach solution are all acceptable cleaning methods. Silicone dildos can even be put in the dishwasher.  Note: Do not boil or use the dishwasher for vibrators, as the electronics can be damaged by water or excessive heat.

Real Feel Silicone: A special silicone formula gives these toys a luxuriously realistic feel, with all the advantages of pure silicone. They may be powdered with corn starch to maintain their silky texture, though it is not necessary and will not effect the use of or durability of the toy.

  • Pros: Nonporous, hypoallergenic, odor-free. Unbelievably realistic, sensual texture. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: Hard on the budget. The realistic feel comes with a higher price tag.
  • Recommended lubricant: Water-based. Silicone lubricant may react with silicone toys and damage them.
  • Cleaning: Soap and water, antibacterial toy cleaner, alcohol, boiling, or a 10% bleach solution are all acceptable cleaning methods. A light dusting of corn starch will make Vixskin toys silky smooth.

Silicone Mixes: If a toy is not labeled 100% silicone, it typically means there are other chemicals in the mix, which unfortunately negates some of the advantages that silicone promises. Since we, and in some cases the manufacturer, do not have information as to the exact makeup of these toys, we recommend treating them like Soft Porous Rubber toys (see below), though they are typically on the higher side of rubber quality.

  • Pros: Less expensive than pure silicone. Typically better quality than other rubber toys.
  • Cons: May still contain irritants. May also be porous. Condoms recommended. May contain phthalates if not labeled phthalate-free.
  • Recommended lubricant: Water-based lubricant only. Silicone lubricants will likely damage the toy.
  • Cleaning: A mild soap or dish detergent and warm water work well. Otherwise, an alcohol-free toy cleaner is effective for disinfection.

Soft Porous Rubbers: There are goodness knows how many formulas of rubber used for today’s toys. Chemists have adjusted for every variation of texture, firmness, and color. Most modern toy rubbers do not contain latex, though other chemicals may irritate some users. They are typically porous, which means they must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to avoid harboring bacteria that could cause yeast or urinary tract infections. Phthalates are commonly used as chemical softeners, which may be a cause for concern (look for phthalate-free in the product description). As a general rule, we recommend the use of condoms with porous toys, which will prevent the toy from absorbing any bacteria, provide a barrier against chemicals being released by the toy, and will extend the life of the toy significantly. Keep rubber toys individually wrapped in bags or other wrapping, since they might bond to other toys if left in contact with them.

  • Pros: Limitless shapes, colors, and textures available. Inexpensive.
  • Cons: Depending on chemical mix, they may irritate some users. Use condoms over these toys to keep them clean and prolong their life. Even so, they do not last nearly as long as silicone. May contain latex.
  • Recommended lubricant: Water-based lubricants are suggested.
  • Cleaning: A mild soap or dish detergent and warm water work well. Otherwise, an alcohol-free toy cleaner is effective for disinfection.

Elastomer: Phthalate-free, soft, and very stretchy, elastomer is an upscale but much less expensive alternative to silicone when greater elasticity is desired. It’s a great material for cock rings and other devices that need to stretch. Minimally porous, sunlight will degrade its appearance and it does not last as long as silicone, but is an excellent toy material. Elastomer toys should be individually wrapped or stored separately from other toys, as they may bond if left in contact. Though it is still porous, we consider condoms optional with elastomer, due to its improved safety.

  • Pros: Soft, elastic, very pleasing texture. Low porosity. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: Not as durable as silicone.
  • Recommended lubricant: Safe with water-based or silicone lubricants.
  • Cleaning: Mild soap or dish detergent and warm water or toy cleaner.


Real-Feel Rubber:
Commonly marketed under such brand names as Cyberskin, UR3, or Futurotic, they mimic the feel of genuine skin. However, they are very porous and all but impossible to sterilize. Though some people feel it contradicts the whole point of the real-feel rubber, we recommend condoms for ultimate safety. Real-feel toys should be cleaned thoroughly and air dried, after which they should be powdered lightly with corn starch to maintain their soft texture. Talc should never be used, as it has been linked to cervical cancer. Of the three main brands, only Cyberskin is verified to be phthalate-free.

  • Pros: Luxurious, realistic texture.
  • Cons: Very porous, not particularly durable. Difficult to disinfect. Require powdering with corn starch to maintain texture. Some brands may contain phthalates.
  • Recommended lubricant: Use water-based lubricant only.
  • Cleaning: Mild soap or detergent with warm water or an alcohol-free toy cleaner. Always powder with corn starch after air drying.

*Real Feel Silicone toys have a very similar texture to Real Feel Rubber toys, but are nonporous, phthalate-free, and much more durable. They are more expensive, but well worth it.

Hard Plastic: Durable and safe, hard plastic is nonporous and phthalate-free. It is easily cared for, and plastic toys last until the motors run out or you manage to crack them (which is fairly difficult). If you like hard toys, which are particularly effective for g-spot or prostate use, hard plastic is a truly excellent material.

  • Pros: Non-porous, Easy to clean and care for. Inexpensive. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: None, unless you don’t like hard toys.
  • Recommended lubricant: All lubricants are safe to use.
  • Cleaning: Soap and water, toy cleaner, or alcohol can be used for cleaning.

Glass: Beautiful, durable, and much safer than you’d think, glass is actually a very fine material for making toys. All toys use borosilicate glass, the same glass used for cookware. They are very hard; we accidentally dropped one on a concrete floor without breaking it. Due to their smooth texture they need very little lubricant and are nonporous, phthalate-free, easy to clean, and can be heated or cooled by putting in hot water or the refrigerator or freezer (only briefly, please; we all know what happens if one touches a tongue to a flagpole in winter). A great deal of artistry typically goes into the making of glass toys, so they are usually as lovely to look at as they are pleasurable to use.

  • Pros: Non-porous, durable, can be used for temperature play. Available at various price points. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: Cracks are rare, but a toy should be discarded if one is found.
  • Recommended lubricant: All lubricants are safe to use with glass, although silicone will make them extremely slippery.
  • Cleaning: Soap or detergent, toy cleaner, alcohol, boiling, dishwasher, or 10% bleach solution.

Stainless Steel: Beautiful, smooth, and obviously very firm, steel toys have a weight to them that no other toy matches. Extremely elegant, they are visually striking and a thrill to hold. They are also phthalate-free, hypoallergenic, nonporous, and made from one of the most durable materials on Earth. Heat or cool them to your heart’s content (again, keeping within safe temperatures to avoid freezing or burning yourself), as they are all but indestructible.

  • Pros: Nonporous, durable, can be heated or cooled. Will outlive you. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: Expensive. Heavy. May be intimidating for beginners.
  • Recommended lubricant: All lubricants are safe to use.
  • Cleaning: Soap or detergent, toy cleaner, alcohol, boiling, or 10% bleach solution.

Aluminum: Smooth and elegant, nonporous, phthalate-free, and easy to care for. Much lighter than steel, but commonly available in colors, aluminum is a surprising and unique material for toys. Though softer than steel, the aluminum toys we have encountered are so well designed, we think denting or damaging them would be a challenge.

  • Pros: Unique, less expensive than steel. Nonporous, and durable. Phthalate-free.
  • Cons: Still fairly expensive.
  • Recommended lubricant: All lubricants are safe to use.
  • Cleaning: Soap or detergent, toy cleaner, alcohol, boiling, or 10% bleach solution.

 Related article: What exactly are phthalates, and why should I be afraid of them?