Why you should care about sex toy porosity
There are a few phrases that you see again and again when you look for body-safe toys. “Phthalate-free,” for example. “Non-toxic.” “Medical-grade.” One that comes up often is “non-porous” – and it’s just as important as the others listed here.
Some common porous materials in the sex toy industry include jelly, rubber, elastomer, vinyl, PVC, and CyberSkin. These are best avoided, not only because they’re porous (the downsides of which are listed below) but also because they often contain phthalates: toxic chemicals that can give you chemical burns on your skin and in your orifices, and can have long-term negative effects on your health.
Instead, you should look for toys made of non-porous materials, like silicone, stainless steel, glass, hard plastic, ceramic, and properly varnished wood. Here are some of the reasons non-porous toys are safer and better...
Porous toys can’t ever be truly cleaned
This is the main reason savvy sex toy consumers avoid them. The pores in porous sex toy materials cling onto whatever they come into contact with, whether that’s vaginal bacteria, fecal matter, STI bacteria, or anything else. It could therefore theoretically be fine to use a porous toy if you’re the only one using it and you only ever use it in one orifice, but if you ever get (for example) a vaginal infection, you risk re-infecting yourself each time you use the toy thereafter.
Mildew and mould can also make a home inside the pores of these toys, which – as you might imagine – can have negative health effects, many of which we don’t even know about because sex and masturbation don’t get as much attention from the scientific community as they ought to.
Staining & Odors
The porosity of these toys also causes them to stain permanently if you get menstrual blood, fecal matter, or any other stain-prone substance on them. And their porosity causes them to cling onto smells and tastes – not ideal for a toy you plan to use anally and then orally, for example!
Many people recommend putting a fresh condom on your porous toy every time you use it, as a stopgap measure until you can upgrade to a higher-quality toy. Condoms can theoretically protect you from toxic chemicals that might be in your cheap toys, and keep the toys from absorbing bacteria from your body. This solution is probably better than nothing, though there’s some evidence that it doesn’t even work. This is why it’s best to buy a non-porous toy in the first place. They don’t even necessarily have to be expensive: plastic and glass toys are usually fairly affordable, and are non-porous.
Compared to the unhygienic hassle of a porous toy, non-porous ones are blissfully easy to clean. The ones without mechanical parts can typically be placed in boiling water for a few minutes or run through a dishwasher cycle. More fragile toys, or items like vibrators that can’t withstand being submersed in water or boiled, can be wiped down with a mixture of 10% bleach to 90% water. These measures will keep a non-porous toy clean and safe for your personal use, and for sharing with a partner (or more than one partner, if you like!).
Have you made the switch to non-porous toys?