When I first began selling sex toys over a decade ago, I learned that you can’t use silicone lube with silicone sex toys because it will ruin the toy. What a conundrum this creates! Silicone is one of the safest sex toy materials and silicone lube feels slippery rather than wet, and stays slick so much longer! As someone who doesn’t get particularly wet, that staying power is priceless.
Then I started hearing folx say that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t the whole story. I chatted with a few silicone experts to get the low-down on silicone-on-silicone fun.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Most sex educators and sex toy companies teach that you cannot use silicone lube with silicone toys and that doing so will ruin your toy. Is this true?
Kind of. But if you imagine your toy melting immediately upon contact, that’s not the case.
“The most accurate answer I can give is that this is sort of true, sometimes,” says Aly Oseth, Community Outreach Manager at Lotus Blooms, a feminist sex shop in VA, “…but it won’t ‘ruin’ a toy, exactly.”
Goddess Cecilia, a sexuality and pleasure educator elaborates, “From what I remember learning, I imagined that the toy would begin to melt immediately to become more viscous like the lube. At least, that’s what folks made it seem like. While that’s not exactly what happens, there is a change in the toy’s structure from what I’ve observed.”
What about “high quality” toys and lube?
More recently, some manufacturers have made this silicone-on-silicone conversation more nuanced: silicone toys and lube made from “high quality” ingredients shouldn’t experience compatibility issues. Sounds great, right? According to Oseth, this introduces some new issues: “…it is not easy for consumers to define what exactly is ‘high quality’ and what is not. This is due to both the lack of transparency from manufacturers regarding materials/material sourcing as well as, again, the lack of [large scale, controlled] research being done on the issue.”
Thanks to activism from sex educators and retailers, as well as increasingly educated consumers, manufacturers are becoming more transparent; however, there’s nothing stopping them from mislabeling products, a practice notoriously followed by prevalent companies for a long time.
Where did this concept start?
No one is certain.
According to Oseth, it’s thought there was a lawsuit in which someone was hospitalized and blamed lube melting their toy as the culprit. The manufacturer claimed incompatibility of the products, and other companies followed suit.
Cecilia echoes the idea that manufactures perpetuated the myth. “Perhaps the reps didn’t know enough about silicone, maybe the manufacturers were erring on the side of caution, maybe the manufacturers weren’t completely honest about the make-up of the products they created.”
Regardless, of its origin, the myth has staying power, even amongst sexuality professionals.
So, what actually happens when silicone lube and silicone toys mix?
The silicones bond together and transfer between products. Oseth says this happens slowly but isn’t much of a concern. “They toy might swell up a bit, but it won’t be ruined.”
Cecilia concurs. “From the little experiment I did, the silicone toy (it was an anal plug in this case) seemed to swell where it was submerged in silicone lube. When I touch the toy, it still feels firm, so it hasn’t fallen apart. The swelling is relatively minuscule, however. I thought the toy would potentially absorb all the lube. But it seems barely noticeable unless you knew what the toy looked like before.
Why does this information persist?
Several reasons. First, as evidenced by my experience as well as Oseth and Cecilia’s, this information is passed on from educator to educator as part of both formal and informal training.
Second, “no silicone with silicone” is easy to communicate and share. It’s safer and easier to stick to that adage than do the additional educating—and hope that consumers remember and don’t blame you if things don’t work. Selling sex toys is already classified as a “high risk” endeavor, so it’s understandable that many retailers, manufacturers, and educators want to reduce the risk of complaints and chargebacks as much as possible.
Thirdly, many sex education programs, whether for adults or youth, are limited in duration. One has to prioritize which information is shared. Busting this myth may not make the cut alongside conversations about consent, communication, and pleasure, so there’s less unlearning happening.
Lastly, there remains no regulatory body for sex toys. On the plus side, this means they aren’t all labeled as medical devices and cost thousands of dollars. On the downside, Oseth tells us that manufacturers can—and do— “mislabel products as silicone or label them with misleading names that cause consumers to believe the item is silicone. Some of these materials react with silicone lube.”
And the myth beats on.
How can you be sure your silicone sex toy won’t react with silicone lube?
Do a patch test on a part of the toy that doesn’t see as much action. For long and/or insertable toys, do this on the handle. For smaller ones, choose a spot away from the main surface.
Oseth elaborates, “If two silicone products are going to have a negative reaction to each other it should happen quickly. The surface will become gummy-like/sticky. If you do a spot test, you should be able to scrape this off with your finger.”
Of course, you can opt out of this entire situation by avoiding silicone lubes all together. Cecilia says, “In general, using water-based lube that works for one’s body can be the best during [toy] play.”
Are there any other ways to protect your silicone sex toys when using silicone lube?
Clean your toy quickly. Both Oseth and Cecilia recommend using a simple, fragrance-free soap and water or sex toy cleaners. The toy cleaner is best if your bits are sensitive or if you enjoy having specialized products. Personally, I adore these all-natural, aloe-based sex toy cleansing wipes for a quick bedside cleanup. They’re soft and durable, and free of perfume, parabens, alcohol, glycerin, and other irritating ingredients.
Do what works best for you! Use the products that support your sex life and desires, and lifestyle. If you love the feel of silicone lube, patch test your toys and be mindful of cleaning them ASAP after use. And, if all of this sounds like more of a headache than you want in your bedroom? Stick to your favorite water-based lube (this is mine). At the end of the day, the most important part is that you use lube. After all, by doing so, you protect yourself, enhance every sensation, and find freedom in pleasure.