Trusted for 23+ Years
Avoid Toxic Sex Toys
Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert
The Health Conscious Consumer
Many people today are looking for ways to be more healthy and choose things such as organic products and natural ingredients. Yet, most are in the dark regarding the safety of their personal lubricants and sex toys. There is an assumption that they are all safe when in reality, many sexual products are unsafe, and even if they are nontoxic, they are often used, cleaned, and stored improperly.
Furthermore, the information on the internet is often riddled with a lot of misinformation that scares consumers unnecessarily. Thus, when you try to learn about what sexual products are healthy, you can end up with many false claims and become even more confused than before.
Sex toys have come a long way from their origins, and there are now many reputable brands from which to choose. There are also various notable trends in the sexual health industry with sex toys that can be recycled or offer eco-friendly packaging with safer materials. There are also sex toys designed not just for pleasure but also provide sexual health benefits.
However, because the market is saturated with misinformation, counterfeit sex toys, and toxins that still linger in poor-quality sex toys, it is vital to be educated about these things that may harm your health. That is why our mission is to provide the most up-to-date, factual information on sex toys along with detailed explanations of how to use and care for them properly.
Our Fight Against Unsafe Sex Toys
When we first started Holistic Wisdom, Inc., in June of 2000, we did so to sell quality products, emphasizing education and empowerment regarding health and sexuality. We made it our focus only to sell body-safe sex toys and lubricants. We were one of the first retail companies to ban toxins in sex toys and lubricants (such as phthalates, lead, and parabens). After over two decades, we are still the dominant industry leader in educating the public about this vital issue. We work with chemists through an ISO 17025 accredited and FDA registered independent testing lab to ensure that the information we provide is verified and that the products we sell are body-safe.
As our activism in sexual health issues has grown, we have become increasingly concerned for consumers about the safety of sex toys and misinformation in the industry. We began deepening our research into the myths and facts about potential toxins in sex toys. In looking at what consumers see on the internet, we found an absolute mess in the mainstream media about them as well as problems with some sex toy manufacturers.
Sexual Product Toxins Vs. Toxicants
When referencing unsafe substances in sex toys or lubricants, typically, the correct word is toxicants, not toxins. Toxicants are found in manufactured products, and toxins are found in natural products (poisons found in poison ivy, mushrooms, snake venom, etc.). However, because most people call them toxins and have no idea what a toxicant is, we will use the word that most people are familiar with so as not to cause confusion.
Why Are Toxins In Sex Toys A Big Deal?
After using a toxic sex toy, many people experience health issues with symptoms like headaches, painful sex, numbness, rashes, blisters, nausea, cramping, vaginal or rectal burning. The sad part is that they often do not make the connection that it may be their sex toy that is making them sick and when they go into get medical care to rule out STDs or other ailments; they are often left without answers when their doctor can't find what is wrong with them. This is why accurate education and using a reliable and reputable retailer are so important.
The Ever-Changing Sex Toy Industry
Websites with old, outdated information or a great deal of misinformation are rampant on the internet. In some cases, this outdated or misinformation can harm consumers; in others, it can harm ethical companies undeserving of false accusations. Because of ever-changing trends in sexual products and chemistry advancements, we will always be continually updating our educational resources and products so that you can have access to the latest in sex toy developments.
An example of outdated information on the internet pertains to the sex toy material PVC (polyvinyl chloride). In the past, PVC materials required harmful plasticizers such as phthalates to be softened into stretchy, flexible sex toys. However, now there are new softeners that are nontoxic that have made many of them safe to use. We will cover recent advancements like this in more detail in this and other educational guides on our website so that you can have the most current facts in sex toy education.
Why Are Sex Toys Called Adult Novelties?
To better understand why there are so many health concerns with sex toys, it is crucial to understand that they are classified as adult novelties and are not medical devices. This impacts how they are regulated concerning health as well as how they are regulated regarding shipping via exports, tariffs, customs fees, duties, and certifications.
Depending on the manufacturer, some use the words "for novelty use only," while others are registered but not approved by the FDA. The FDA does not currently have a category for sex toys outside of being a toy, novelty, or medical device. Unless manufactured for therapeutic use, a sex toy does not qualify to be called a medical device. Thus, the majority fall under the category of adult novelty.
This does not mean a consumer can not use an adult novelty for therapeutic use; it just means it cannot be labeled as such. Classifying it as a medical device is a costly and time-consuming endeavor in addition to making customs fees, taxes, and duties more expensive and challenging. Thus, it is not usually considered a reasonable option for most sex toy manufacturers who want to provide affordable sex toys to consumers.
To learn more about this, please see our guide: Why Are Sex Toys Called Adult Novelties?
Why Are Toxic Sex Toys Sold?
The sad answer to the question of why are toxic sex toys sold, this is because they can. Consumers typically assume that a sex toy they buy is somehow regulated to be made with body-safe materials and that retailers would not sell them something that could be harmful. This is not always the case. Furthermore, consumers assume retailers would let them know if they should not use a certain lubricant with a sex toy they are using or if they need to follow special cleaning and storage instructions to keep a sex toy from melting or harboring unsafe levels of bacteria, etc. This, too, is not typically the case. Unfortunately, the responsibility falls on the consumer to be educated about all of this, and most retailers are not educating them about these things, let alone selling safe sexual products.
One of the largest and most popular sex toy retailers today had a phthalates information page that urged consumers not to panic about them. It encouraged them to use condoms over potentially toxic sex toys until it was determined if they were harmful rather than just making sure that what they were selling was safe in the first place. We know phthalates are unhealthy, and once they saw that experts like us were calling them out on this, they removed the page, but they did not remove all the sex toys with phthalates.
Unfortunately, many sex toy retailers and manufacturers still sell sex toys that contain harmful toxins. Many have not researched the impact on health that their products have. Furthermore, they limit the information they give consumers about what materials are in their sex toys by calling them overly general names such as soft plastic rather than indicating whether it is TPE or TPR and phthalate-free.
Counterfeit Sex Toys
Cheap knock-offs and counterfeit sex toys are flooding the market through Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and other websites. Consumers think they are getting a great deal on a sex toy or lubricant when, in reality, they are getting a product that may not only break quickly but contain harmful materials and ingredients.
The counterfeits are so real-looking that they can even fool experts that work in the sex toy industry. For example, a sex toy professional recently made us aware of a brand-name sex toy that was cloned entirely, including the packaging. At first, they suspected that this brand was possibly deceiving customers and claiming it was silicone when it was not. When they did some initial tests on the sex toy, it did not perform like real silicone, so they sent it to an independent lab to be tested, and it came back as fake silicone (a TPR blend). When they confronted the manufacturer about it, they were shocked to learn that it was counterfeit. An overseas manufacturer was stealing the identity of the brand and selling counterfeit sex toys which is happening at a shocking rate.
This counterfeit sex toy fooled someone who works with sex toys professionally. This goes to show how real these fake sex toys look. Consumers who are not educated about sex toys and their materials are especially vulnerable to these sex toy scams. They typically find out the hard way when the sex toy malfunctions and they try to get it replaced under the manufacturer's warranty and find out it is a fake. This does not even address the toxins they may have been exposed to while using it and the related health risks.
We cannot emphasize using caution enough for your health and safety; it is imperative to only buy sex toys through a reputable retailer. Even if you think you are getting a great deal, you may end up spending more money on replacing a sex toy that only lasts a short time before it breaks, and more importantly, your health may be adversely affected.
False Information About Sex Toys & Lubricants
In all of our research of what is out there for consumers, we uncovered websites and adult stores making all types of errors in the information they were providing consumers. Some were either not talking about sex toy safety or were incorrect in what they were sharing. Let's explore two of the most common myths out there:
True or False: If It Is Not Silicone, It's Toxic
False. Many sex toy materials beyond silicone can be nontoxic and body-safe such as TPE, TPR, PVC, glass, metal, wood, and ABS plastics. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet regarding adult toys that contain a great deal of cognitive bias. One health-focused site claimed that a sex toy is not safe unless the label on the box explicitly claims a sex toy is made from medical-grade silicone. This is absolutely not true. In fact, there are so many reasons that this is incorrect that we put together a guide outlining everything you need to know about body-safe silicone sex toys: Silicone Sex Toys: Is Yours Real?
However, let's review just a few reasons of why it is false:
- Medical-grade silicone is not a type of silicone; rather, it is a category of silicone based on testing. Just because silicone is not tested as medical-grade does not mean it is not the same quality as silicone that is tested.
- No reputable sex toy company will label their silicone sex toy as medical-grade. Even if a manufacturer were using medical-grade silicone as the base of their product material, as soon as they add any pigmentation (color) to the silicone, they will have made it unable to be labeled as medical-grade silicone. It does not matter if the pigmentation they are using is entirely body-safe and non-toxic. As soon as medical-grade silicone is altered in any way, it can no longer be called medical grade. This means that sex toy manufacturers would have to do costly, long-term testing and human trials for each color and batch variation they used to make a sex toy. Instead, reputable manufacturers can use a high-quality silicone comparable to medical grade that is perfectly body-safe and sell it to you at a reasonable cost.
- How silicone is cured when it comes to sex toys is more critical than testing it as medical-grade or food-grade silicone. Silicone can be cured using platinum, peroxide, and tin. Platinum silicone is the best that you will see on the sex toy market, and it is why when sex toy companies label their silicone, they will often label it that way. Peroxide is also a safe way to cure silicone if it is post-baked and can easily produce nontoxic sex toys as well. Tin cured silicone is what you want to avoid. Unfortunately, unless a sex toy company requests that the manufacturer of their products do not use tin to cure their silicone sex toys, there is a fifty-fifty chance they may be using it. Most factories overseas don't know or care about what they are doing regarding health and safety with the manufacturing of sex toys. Thus, the responsibility often falls on the sex toy company branding the sex toys to either produce their sex toys in an in-house manufacturing plant where they have complete control or have strict guidelines and testing to ensure their products meet their safety standards.
- Food grade silicone is perfectly safe as a sex toy material as it is tested safe to ingest. It seems many uneducated sex toy activists fail to mention this other body-safe silicone testing.
- Because most manufacturers do not indicate the type of silicone on their sex toy packaging, you have to work with a reputable retailer who has researched what type of silicone was used. The problem is that most retailers do not understand basic information, such as what the differences are in platinum, peroxide, or tin cured silicone, so how can you trust them to choose body-safe products to sell you?
- Some sex toy purists on the internet claimed that a flame test could determine if a sex toy is silicone conclusively. This is not true and something that we go into great detail about in our guide mentioned above: Silicone Sex Toys: Is Yours Real?
Sometimes, in the name of health, well-meaning but uneducated writers put out false information. They warn consumers to only use medical-grade silicone without knowing what that terminology means or how manufacturers label their sex toys. That is why part of our mission is to debunk myths and provide facts so that consumers can get accurate information and have a safe place to shop. You do not need to worry about the safety and quality of our sex toys because everything we sell is with your sexual wellness in mind.
True or False: Parabens In Lubricants Maybe Harmful To Health
True. We found claims on the internet that parabens in lubricants were nothing to be concerned about, with accusations that it is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, calling it paraben paranoia. In truth, there are valid health risks. Our Paraben-Free Lubricants Guide discusses why it was banned in multiple countries, the health concerns, and the myths surrounding parabens.
Without doing an independent lab test on a sex toy, it is very challenging, if not impossible, to know what is in a sex toy. Even experts in sex toys have a hard time knowing for sure. We will outline essential things you should watch for throughout this guide and others, but ultimately, the most important thing you can do is buy from an educated, reputable retailer.
Beyond looking for a sex toy store that will protect your credit card information, won't sell your information, or who will not send you promotions in the mail without your consent; you should do business with a sex toy retailer that is educated about the chemical makeup of sex toy materials, lubricants, and other sexual products and understands how they interact with one another.
This is why our website is rich with resources and information that is well researched and verified. Every member of our staff is well trained, and we welcome you to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. We value your trust in our company, and we work hard to be the best in providing sexual wellness resources and products.
Are Porous Sex Toys Toxic?
When sex toy experts talk about porous sex toys they are typically talking about TPE and TPR (thermoplastic elastomers) used to make soft sex toys like dildos, masturbation sleeves, penis rings, bumpers, and penis extenders. TPR is an SBS-based material, and TPE is a SEBS based material. Of the two, TPE is typically a better sex toy material. Both can contain BPA or plasticizers like phthalates, but there are body-safe, nontoxic TPE and TPR materials. TPE, in particular, can be made with very low porosity that is medical grade and used in medical devices and baby products. Because many sex toy activists are not well educated in chemistry, they may not be aware that TPE can also be nonporous and that many TPE materials are phthalate-free and body-safe.
TPE & TPR Elastomer Material Durability
Elastomers such as TPE or TPR sex toys do break down over time, and typically, you will see them start to degrade within several months. It is essential to examine them closely for tears, holes, mold, and strong odors. An elastomer sex toy, depending on the frequency of use and decompensation, should not be used for more than six months to a year.
There have been some claims from sex toy bloggers that all porous sex toys made from TPE & TPR (thermoplastic elastomers) are toxic. This is a complicated topic as there are some health concerns consumers should be aware of, but many are not toxic. There are three concerns voiced by sex toy purists regarding using them: the possibility of containing harmful phthalates, the inability to thoroughly clean and disinfect them, and the oil they contain. Let's address each of these concerns:
Phthalates In TPE/TPR
Most TPR and TPE sex toys made by reputable sex toy companies are phthalate-free, so this is typically not a concern unless you buy it from an untrustworthy source.
Porous Sex Toys
Because some sex toys have pores that can harbor bacterial, mold, etc., some sex toy activists refer to body-safe sex toys as nonporous and only consider the following materials to be safe to use:
- ABS Plastic (with or without a PU cote)
- Glass, Wood, Stone, and Ceramic (under certain conditions)
- Silicone (usually platinum-cured, the most chemically stable silicone)
- Stainless Steel, Aluminum, and Titanium (when finished properly)
The problem with these claims is that not all TPE elastomers are porous. Medical-grade TPE can be nonporous, and because it is often sold without pigmentation, it is an ideal sex toy material because it could, in fact, be labeled as medical-grade, unlike silicone that typically would require some pigmentation be added. Furthermore, if TPE is porous, these materials tend to have very low porosity and low pore density. TPR on the other hand, does tend to be more porous. However, in the end it depends on the softeners used.
So what is the big deal about a sex toy being porous? The ability to clean it. When a sex toy has pores it is challenging to disinfect because, much like a sponge, it has places for bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses to grow. While you can clean a sponge in boiling water or the microwave to kill bacteria, you cannot expose either TPR or TPE to heat because it will melt.
While a TPR or TPE material is not usually considered a harmful sex toy when it is brand new, it can become unsafe because of its porosity and ability to harbor bacteria, fungi, mold, viruses, etc. Even if you clean a TPR/TPE sex toy properly, most consumers still have no way to disinfect it completely. While medical-grade TPE is sterilizable by autoclave, ethylene oxide, and gamma radiation methods, consumers will not typically have access to these types of cleaning methods.
This is why we recommend using the proper cleaning and storage methods as outlined in our How To Clean Sex Toys Guide and only using TPR and TPE sex toys for short-term periods or as single-use sex toys. We also do not recommend these types of sex toys internally for those who have compromised immune systems, are prone to yeast infections, have an autoimmune disease, or have other health conditions that would make them sensitive to such exposure.
TPE & TPR Oil Residue
There is much debate around the oils in elastomer (TPR, TPE) sex toys. Some bloggers erroneously tell consumers that they are all made out of petroleum and toxic for vaginal or rectal use, which is not correct. Most of the elastomers contain food-grade mineral oil, which is nontoxic, colorless, and odorless. In fact, mineral oil is endorsed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and is recommended as a vaginal lubricant to increase the chances of conceiving.
For more information on this, please see our Elastomers & Porous Sex Toys Guide.
Myths About PVC
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) has been a sex toy material of concern for sex toy purists for many years. This was warranted because older versions of it contained harmful plasticizers like phthalates. However, newer versions contain healthier softeners such as epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO) or proprietary softeners such as Hytrel® by Dupont, designed to be used with medical devices. There are more healthy and body-safe options on the sex toy market now, and sex toy activists should be educated about these changes because, like silicone, PVC is nonporous and can make an excellent sex toy material.
Melting Sex Toys
There was a sex toy myth that silicone sex toys would chemically melt if you stored them together. This is incorrect, they will not melt, but porous sex toys, including silicone blends with a low durometer (high amount of softeners), will melt one another. This includes sex toys marketed under TPR silicone, soft plastic, and others.
DISCUSS HEAT WILL MELT
See Our Sex Toy Materials Guide for more specific information on sex toy materials.
The Need For Proper Care & Storage
Even if sex toys are not toxic, they can cause chemical reactions when used and stored with other sex toys (depending on the materials). This can also happen when a sex toy is used with inappropriate lubricants for a sex toy's material type. Thus, we provide educational articles and information on each product page to educate what material the product is made out of, how to store it, and what lubricant you should use with it.
For more information, please see our How To Store Sex Toys Guide.
Toxins in Lubricants
Personal lubricants are products that most people use at some point in their lives, even if it is to have a medical exam. There are many important factors to consider when choosing a lubricant, such as the pH level, osmolality levels, the quality of ingredients, and their safety. In addition to the makeup of lubricants, there are also the interactions they can have with safe sex barriers (condoms, dental dams) and sex toys.
Choosing a lubricant should also include considerations of sensitivities, allergies, and health conditions that can impact how they will affect one's sexual health. This includes fertility and pregnancy concerns as well as immunocompromised conditions. Because there is so much to consider, we have put together The Ultimate Personal Lubricant Guide for you to learn more about lubricants so that you can find the right one for you.
Toxins In Sex Toys
Unfortunately, despite many advancements in the sex toy industry, there are a great deal of toxins in sex toys. We see that most offenders are cheap knock-offs and counterfeit sex toys. You often see these in mainstream online stores with no quality control who sell unhealthy products such as Amazon, eBay, and many others. Even, many sex toy retailers sell toxic sex toys. Because of this, there have been increasing studies and 3rd-party lab testing initiated by concerned sexual health experts to find out what is in sex toys.
In a study done in 2000, Hans Ulrich Krieg, a German chemist, tested sex toys and found ten toxic chemicals in them, including diethylhexyl phthalates. Some sex toys had phthalate concentrations as high as 243,000 parts per million. This is so high that he was quoted as having said: "I have been doing this analysis of consumer goods for more than ten years, and I've never seen such high results."
Below are examples of chemicals found in just a handful of products that were tested:
Can cause a skin rash, blisters, dryness, and redness.
May cause cracking of the skin with redness and watery blisters.
Toxic endocrine disruptor that the skin can absorb.
Easily absorbed through the skin and can cause liver damage.
Irritating to skin and mucous membranes with symptoms of swelling, redness, and pain.
May cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and nervous system.
Can severely irritate and burn the skin.
May cause skin irritation or rashes.
Examples of Common Toxins in Sexual Products
Found in many personal lubricants.
Possible Health Risks:
Various studies have reported the following health concerns:
- May alter estrogen in women, increasing related diseases such as breast tumors.
- May heighten allergic reactions like contact dermatitis and rosacea.
- May decrease sperm cell count in males.
- May spur the development of skin cancer.
- May cause problems to fetal development for pregnant women.
Found in sexual products such as dildos and vibrators and some fragranced products, phthalates were banned in the US in children's toys through the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) by Congress. However, they have not been banned from other products, including sex toys. Because of many vocal sex toy activists, reputable sex toy manufacturers now produce only phthalate-free sex toys. However, cheaply made sexual products and counterfeit sex toys may still contain them.
As of January 1, 2025, the AB-2762 bill bans toxins in cosmetics and personal care products manufactured or sold in California. It indicates that these products may not contain intentionally added various phthalates, formaldehyde, mercury, parabens, PFAs, and other harmful chemicals. This will impact sexual health products in California but leave many states open to trade such products.
A common myth about phthalates is that you can tell by the new car smell they produce. The problem with this myth is that phthalates do not always have a scent and cannot necessarily be detected by smell.
Endocrine disruptors that have been linked to diabetes, breast cancer, reduced sperm count, ADHD, liver damage, insulin resistance, metabolic interference (contributing to obesity), asthma and allergies, premature breast development in girls, abnormal genital development in males (small penis, undescended testicles), autism and low birth weight in infants.
Found in sexual products such as sex toy cleaners, genital hygiene products. Commonly found in many antibacterial and antifungal products.
Endocrine disruptors that have been linked to - allergies, creating bacterial resistance, abnormal thyroid functioning, disrupt average growth. When combined with chlorine in tap water, it forms chloroform which has been linked to cancer.
Found in sexual products such as dildos and vibrators with latex paints, sex toy cleaners in the form of liquid soaps, and cosmetics.
Irritation of mucous membranes of the throat, nose, and eyes. Heavy exposure through breathing, getting it on your skin, or eating it can lead to pulmonary edema, metabolic acidosis, hypotension, hemolysis, and coma.
Found in sexual products such as glass dildos and vibrators.
Causes damage to the nervous system, stunted growth, and delayed development. It can also cause kidney damage.
Pigmentation: The Colors In Your Sex Toys
Beyond the material and components of a sex toy, safety concerns surround the pigmentation that creates the color in sex toys. When sex toys have been tested, the chemicals revealed indicate a variety of concerns, and some of those are found in colors derived from harmful chemicals. For example, cadmium is a heavy metal that can accumulate in your body as you are exposed to it, or in this case, the more you use your sex toy. Cadmium is used as a softener and found in yellow pigmentation, which was determined to be in some yellow sex toys.
Sex Toy Testing For Consumers
The Smell Test
Generally, it has been said that you can smell some toxins through what is commonly referred to as that new shower curtain smell. Some experts claim that it is the smell of poisonous chemicals that are off-gassing from the PVC.
However, that does not mean that it is always unsafe if you smell something, and it does not mean that all sex toys that smell are toxic. Harmful phthalates, for example, may not have a smell yet are considered unhealthy. Some phthalates have more odor than others and have a variety of odors. Thus it is difficult to determine if something has toxins based on merely smelling it.
In addition, there are safe polymers that are used in sex toys that do smell initially but are not toxic. This is called off-gassing, which is not an indicator of toxicity. However, many may think that it is toxic because it has a smell. So something with an amine within it ( a type of digestible drug used in condoms and the bags used today for breast implants) may make it smell until it is done off-gassing. Sex toys off-gas for a week to about a month after they're produced and aired outside of the packaging.
Shower Curtain Smell Study
A recent study released by the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) on shower curtains received a great deal of media attention, giving erroneous information about phthalates. It was not shocking that they found phthalates in the shower curtains, as phthalate esters are a key ingredient in soft vinyl (often found in shower curtains). The error was in saying that it is the phthalates that cause the smell when in fact, phthalates can be, in some cases, near odorless. Even more interesting was that the CHEJ failed to detect phthalates off-gassing from the shower curtains in its lab test. The other issue in this study that was overlooked is that phthalate exposure levels can vary, and shower curtains and reports show that those in the U.S. are well within safe levels, as verified by data from the U.S. Government Centers for Disease Control. Furthermore, some shower curtain plastics are no longer made with phthalates.
The Lick Test
Some sex toy experts have suggested that if you lick a sex toy and your lips or mouth feel numb or tingly sensations, the sex toy may contain toxins, and you should avoid it. The theory is that if your mouth is giving you a warning, it may be one to heed since the mucus membranes in your mouth are similar to that of the vagina and rectum. While no studies show the validity of this claim, it may be a good tip but not one to depend on too heavily.
Why Not Just Regulate Sex Toys?
Unless a sex toy is certified by the FDA as a medical device, it is never intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This is why most sex toy manufacturers will, in some form or another, provide disclaimers that their products are not for medical use or are medical devices. This does not mean that sex toys can't address health issues, but it does mean that consumers must be made aware of the intention of the product. In the case of sex toys, the main focus will always be on pleasure due to the nature of the legal categorization.
If sex toy manufacturers began stating that these products were medical devices or treated medical issues, they would have to classify it with the FDA. The cost of bringing a medical device to market by registering it through the FDA can range an average of $5,000 - $300,000 per product and, in some cases, much more. This does include FDA testing, retesting (which can take years), and other related costs. In addition, US Customs rates are much higher on medical devices than on pleasure products. These costs make bringing consumers an affordable sex toy such as a dildo, vibrator, etc., to market quite challenging, if not impossible. Thus, consumers would lose out on choice, affordability, and simply having access to sex toys.
Reputable Manufacturers & Materials
You may notice that the term reputable is significantly used on our site when we talk about what to look for in a seller. Sadly, many untrustworthy sex toy manufacturers and retailers do not adhere to safety and integrity when it comes to their sex toys. Thus, when we speak about certain responsible practices in sex toy production, education and sales, we qualify our statements by specifying reputable companies.
Proper sex toy safety should be marketed to consumers by labeling products phthalate-free or promoting platinum grade silicone. Safety seals for hygienic packaging as well as certifications may also be on the packaging. Sex toy motors and internal wiring may adhere to strict testing using European Union guidelines for RoHS and WEEE. In addition, many manufacturers may use materials and components that have already received FDA approval, although the sex toy as a whole is not. In these cases, you may see that the manufacturers put labels such as 100% body-safe or FDA-approved materials.
Sex Toys Made In China & Other Countries
A brand-name company does not make most of its own products. For example, let's say you have a sex toy company called Best Sex Toys, Inc. Many consumers may assume that Best Sex Toys, Inc. manufactures their sex toys in their own facility. In most cases, this would not be correct. What is typically happening is that manufacturing plants make those products in other countries like China. Then those products are privately labeled with Best Sex Toys, Inc. packaging and sent to the Best Sex Toys, Inc. headquarters. Once the sex toys are in stock, they are sent out to sex toy distributors and/or sex toy retailers, who sell the sex toys to consumers. In some cases, Best Sex Toys, Inc. will also sell its products directly to consumers.
Furthermore, most mechanical sex toys are manufactured in other countries, even if Best Sex Toys, Inc. is based in the United States. The brand company Best Sex Toys, Inc. controls the quality of their products even though a third-party manufacturer is making them. They have the ability to determine the quality of materials, mechanical components and even independently lab test them to ensure that the manufacturer in another country is delivering the quality of products that they are ordering on behalf of their company. This means that just because a sex toy is made in China does not mean it is a bad sex toy made of cheap materials or of poor quality. What makes the difference is the brand of the sex toy, not the origins.
China makes 70% of the world's sex toys, with over 1,000 manufacturers nationwide, most of which are in Guangdong (southern China). Other countries that produce sex toys include South Korea, Thailand, and Germany. Very few sex toys are made in the United States, and when they are, they are primarily hand-poured silicone dildos with no mechanical components.
Health & Safety Testing For Sex Toys
You may see articles on the internet telling you that consumers are on their own because there is no regulation of sex toys in the United States. However, many certifications and safety checks are provided by reputable sex toy manufacturers.
The three most common forms of sex toy safety testing are:
Electrical Safety Test Reports
Chemicals & Heavy Metals Test Reports
Flammability Test Reports
ISO Safety Standards
In September 2021, the International Standards Organization (ISO) approved the development of new safety standards (ISO 3533:2021) for the quality of sex toys. Specifically, it pertains to products that directly contact the genitals, anus, or both. It does not pertain to medical devices, cosmetics, lubricants, massage oils, and food supplements.
The ISO is a non-governmental organization that develops standards that companies can voluntarily comply with to show that they meet them. This means that there will still be no required regulations in the United States for sex toys, but sex toy companies can volunteer to set their standards to meet what the ISO outlines as safe, reliable, and of good quality. Bottom line, ISO 3533: 2020 is simply a list of suggestions for sex manufacturers.
Reputable sex toy brands with high quality and safety standards will simply be reaffirmed in what they have been doing. In contrast, other sex toy manufacturers that do not have safety standards will not face any repercussions.
The new suggestions address things like making anal and vaginal sex toys more easily retrieved and free of anything that may be sharp or abrasive. Penis rings will be required to be easily removed with household tools, and sex toys that offer warming features will not exceed 118 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, packaging materials will be better made with safety seal protections for consumers.
Additional Safety Certifications & Measures
On a rare occasion, sex toys have medical device certification by the FDA. This is typically quite costly and can take over two years to get per product. In addition, some sex toy manufacturers use independent labs to test their sex toys. Some go as far as having the sex toy prototype tested before manufacturing and again after the product has been produced in double-tiered testing.
In addition, some sex toy manufacturers own their facilities and manufacture their sex toys in-house (including locations in other countries such as China). This allows them to perform pre-testing and post-testing during production.
If sex toy manufacturers are diligent, they will also have their products independently tested through agencies for additional health and safety. Examples of these agencies are Intertek, a global assurance, inspection, product testing, and certification company headquartered in London, England, and SGS, which also provides inspection, verification, testing, and certification and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Any quality sex toy brand will ensure that the materials and components comply with REACH, the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use, and RoHS and electronics standards to reduce hazardous materials found in electric components. Sex toys that pass these regulations affix the CE mark on their products.
In addition, Prop 65, instituted in 1986 as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, requires that California release a list of chemicals that have been linked to causing cancer, congenital disabilities, or harm the reproductive system. The list currently has over 900 chemicals and is updated at least once per year. Prop 65 is intended to help Californians make knowledgeable purchasing decisions, as well as ban any company that does business in California from releasing toxic chemicals into consumer products. Fortunately, it has influenced the materials in many sex toys that quality manufacturers make regardless of where they do business.
In the European Union, many phthalates are classified as hazardous to human health and the environment, and several phthalates are included in the EU chemicals legislation known as REACH. This impacts many companies across Europe including sex toy production.
As mentioned, many reputable sex toy manufacturers in the US use FDA-approved materials and components to make their sex toys, so while the sex toy itself is not FDA approved, many of the parts are FDA approved.
Fake Certifications For Sex Toys
While there are valid safety testing and certifications sex toys can have, companies can fake them. Some unscrupulous companies put certification stickers on their products when they have never been tested or certified. They rely on the customs offices to be so bogged down that they may not have the time to verify certifications. A reputable manufacturer will not risk doing something like this because it can mean the end of their company, but cheap knock-offs and counterfeits that come into the country can absolutely get away with doing this.
Red flags are improper certification logos and sequencing of numbers that can identify fake certification labels. Thus, if you see a safety certification on a sex toy, in some cases, you can verify the certification to ensure that it is real. For example, a UL label can be verified through the online Product iQ database to prove its UL Guide Documentation.
There are also loopholes that savvy manufacturers can use around certifying products and incorrectly labeling them as body-safe, nontoxic, or even medical grade. However, ethical sex toy brands have a great deal invested in their business, so it is improbable that those companies would partake in these practices.
Combating Fake Certifications
In an attempt to fight against fake certifications in the sex toy industry, using blockchain technology would be beneficial. This is a system of recording information that uses a QR code which allows consumers to see where the product materials came from, what they are, and who manufactured the sex toys. This system makes it nearly impossible to cheat the system. Currently, it is not used by most sex toy manufacturers, but it could become a viable way for consumers to better understand what they are getting in a product.
Finding Safe Sex Toys
We hope to raise the bar on this issue of sex toy safety and to provide truthful, responsible information to consumers. We have gone straight to the manufacturers and consulted with multiple chemists about every sex toy we carry. We have researched each product to determine what it is constructed of and if it falls under what we know to be safe. We have also decided that until there is more information on some of the questionable materials, we will err on caution and refuse to carry products containing them.
We avoid bringing on any questionable products (which could not be verified as safe and nontoxic sex toys) in addition to providing recycling information on the materials in the products we sell. We are also a green company that practices what we preach when it comes to helping the environment and empowering people about their health.
We have done this so that those who visit our store can feel comfortable knowing that no matter what they purchase, it is body-safe. After all, having peace of mind when it comes to sexual health is our specialty. Sex toys should be fun and pleasurable, as should shopping for them. If you have any questions or feedback about this article, please feel free to contact us as we are happy to hear from you.