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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

It’s 2019, which means most everyone you know has at least thought about buying a sex toy. Who needs Tinder when you have a good vibrator? Why should orgasms be difficult when there are so many products out there that make them easier? On the flip side, why are there so many options? Trying to buy any sort of sex toy can be overwhelming when you don’t know where to start, and if you don’t know what is and isn’t safe or what will and won’t feel good, you could end up dropping a lot of money on something that’s really only sub-par. Here are all the things that are helpful to know to start, straight from the keyboard of your local sex shop worker:


1. Body-safe materials and non-toxicity

In general, four materials are 100% body-safe, non-toxic and suitable for sex toys: medical-grade silicone, hard ABS plastic, stainless steel, and glass. These materials are all non-porous, which means they’re not going to secrete any harmful chemicals or absorb and grow harmful bacteria. This is important for anything that’s going to be near your nether regions, but especially for people with vaginas. Vaginas are made of a mucosal membrane, which means they’ll absorb anything that they come in contact with. Stay away from anything you’re not sure is made of these materials. If you’re not sure about silicone, you can also try a flame test.


2. Waterproof vs. splash-proof vs. submergible

It’s become more and more common for sex toys to be waterproof, which is great because it means they can be used in even more places! That said, there’s a very important difference between splash-proof and submersible, and you might not be able to tell the difference just from the packaging. (This is why I think it’s great to go to an in-person sex store so the employees can help you out). Splash-proof means the toy won’t be damaged from getting a little water on it from a spilled drink or cleaning, but probably shouldn’t be taken in, say, a bath or shower or hot tub. Submergible, on the other hand, means the toy is safe to use completely submerged in the water. There’s variation on how deep they’ll be safe in, so be sure to do a little research to maintain the quality of your toy.


3. Cleaning

For the most part, you’re good to clean sex toys with soap and warm water, though I recommend any soap is as unscented and all-natural as you can get. Alternatively, a lot of stores and manufacturers recommend specific cleaners. Cleaners are nice because they’re a quick way to get any grime off, but they are an extra expense that you don’t necessarily need to take. To sanitize toys, you can use a bleach solution (1:10 bleach:water) for toys with a motor, or just boil any toys without electronic parts. Sanitization is most important if the toy is going to be used by someone that you’re not fluid-bonded with, so you’re not sharing anything unintentionally.


4. Lube

Lube is, in my opinion, the most important part of having fun and safe sex when toys are involved. There are three types of lube you can usually find, and they serve different purposes and have a range of quality.

  • Water-based lube is safe to use with pretty much any sex toy, has easy clean up as it’s water-soluble, and comes in a variety of variations from standard, heating and cooling, to flavored. Water-based lube doesn’t last as long as other types but can be reactivated by adding more or using a little water.
  • Silicone lube is usually made from a couple of different types of silicone and occasionally other additives like Vitamin E. It lasts a long time and is super slick, but it isn’t recommended to use with silicone toys as the silicone lubricant can sometimes damage the silicone toy. Poor-quality silicone lubricant can also stain sheets, so it’s important to be aware of that.
  • Hybrid lubricant is, as the name suggests, a hybrid of water and silicone lubes, with the ratio usually around 20% silicone and 80% water. It lasts a little longer than water-based and is usually safe with silicone toys, plus it sometimes feels more “realistic.”

When buying lube, the most important thing is to make sure it’s free of any glycerin, parabens, or sugars. Those ingredients are usually okay for anyone with a penis but can cause serious yeast infections for vagina-owners. Please don’t use lotion or Vaseline, and always listen to what your body’s saying if you use coconut oil. 


5. Where to buy

When it comes to buying sex toys, going to an in-person store is always my preference as it gives you the option of talking to someone knowledgeable about products. That said, buying online is easier and more discreet for a lot of people, and there’s a lot of places that are great to buy from. My favorite is SheVibe, which is comics-themed and carries a huge variety of options. If you’re buying toys online, though, it’s best to stay away from Amazon. Very few companies sell through Amazon, and there’s no real way to verify if the product you’re getting is genuine and body-safe or counterfeit and even used. Most packaging from online sex retailers is going to be just as discreet as Amazon, and you know what you’re getting.


There’s a lot of information to absorb when it comes to the sex industry, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. At the end of the day, as long as you’re being safe and receiving enthusiastic consent from anyone who may be using your toys, you’re golden.


Emily is studying English and Strategic Communications at the University of Utah, where she's also an editor for Her Campus. She cares a lot about feminism, period dramas, sunsets, cooking, and The X Files. When she's not writing for Her Campus, you can find her work at her food blog pancakesandporridge.com