How To Choose a Dildo

by The Tool Shed

What is a Dildo?
Customers frequently come in to the store and ask, "what is the difference between a vibrator and a dildo?" Broadly speaking, a dildo is an insertable toy usually used for some kind of penetration-- vaginal, anal, and even sometimes oral (during the act of giving a blow-job to a strap-on dildo, for example). Vibrators are toys that-- you guessed it-- vibrate. A vibrator can be placed against the clitoris or vulva, against the nipples, against the anus, inside the body either vaginally or anally, or virtually anywhere on the body that vibration might feel pleasurable.

While some insertable toys do vibrate, many do not. Likewise, many vibrators are not designed to be used as insertable toys. Of course, there are insertable vibrators that are designed for penetration--technically, they could be classified as either dildos or vibrators!

Dildos come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, and can be made from a variety materials. Some dildos are designed to be worn with a strap-on harness to enable one partner to penetrate another hands-free. Other dildos are designed to be manipulated by hand. Still others are designed with a suction cup-type base to enable hands-free penetration. Finally, there are uniquely shaped double-ended dildos that can be worn by one partner while penetrating another. Figuring out which dildo may be right for you is the focus of the next section.

What should I look for in a dildo?

One of the most important considerations when considering a dildo is overall size. If you are buying the dildo for yourself, think about what girth and length would be most comfortable and pleasurable for your body. If you are buying a dildo to use with a partner, it would be good to talk to that person about what size would be best for their body. Shopping together for a dildo can often be the best way to find a good fit!

If you are unsure about what size might be appropriate, consider how many fingers you can comfortably insert into yourself or your partner during play. For introductory anal play, for example, a single finger might be the limit-- in that case, look for a toy that is similar in girth to your finger.

Length is also an important consideration-- a toy that is too long can be controlled somewhat by not inserting it all the way, but too much length can be tricky when wearing a strap-on if the thrusting becomes hot and heavy. A toy that is too short can cause frustration if it slips out during strap-on play, or if it is not quite hitting your favorite spot!

Are you looking for a toy that you can strap on with a harness? Would you like a toy with a suction cup to use in the shower or against another hard surface? Or would you like a toy that you can easily hold in your hand? How about a toy that can penetrate both partners at the same time? Choose a toy that is best designed to meet your needs. You may find you'll want different toys for different purposes.

If you are looking for a dildo that can be strapped on, will it fit a harness you currently have, or will you need to choose a new harness? Take some measurements and notes about the harness setup you are considering and then determine if a particular toy will be a good pairing. If your harness has interchangeable O-rings, a new toy might simply require purchasing a suitably-sized ring to go with it. (For more on choosing a harness, see our "How to Choose a Harness" guide.)

Dildos come in many shapes-- some are very smooth while some have ridges, bumps or swirls. Some are quite straight while others have curves. Sometimes curves are built in for a specific purpose-- to help aim a toy at the prostate or G-spot, for example.

For some people, finding a dildo that looks and feels like a penis is very important! Others prefer their dildos to be far-removed from the penis in design and feel. Fortunately, there are many different dildo designs and colors to choose from.

The overall firmness of a toy is really a matter of personal preference, though firmness can can sometimes effect functionality. In general, softer toys may require more lubrication for ease of penetration, especially during strap-on use. Some may enjoy firmer toys for certain types of stimulation, including prostate and G-spot play, but by no means is this true for everyone. You may find you prefer different toys for different types of play.

Dildos can be made from various materials, including silicone, glass, metal, wood, hard plastics, and many kinds of soft plastics and rubber. Each material has its own special qualities and pros/cons.

100% medical grade silicone is non-porous, hypoallergenic, body safe, easy to clean and sterilize, and very durable. Silicone can be cast in varying degrees of firmness; you can find very firm silicone toys as well as very soft ones. (When choosing a toy that has a "silicone" label, ask if it is 100% silicone-- some toy companies use the word silicone in their marketing when their toys are actually made of silicone blended with other porous materials that are not able to be sterilized.) Silicone toys are usually incompatible with silicone lubricants, which may damaged their surface.

Glass and metal are both very smooth and firm materials that require only a small amount of lubrication. Both are recyclable. Glass can be warmed or cooled easily by placing a toy in water of the desired temperature. Metal toys can be quite weighty. Both are non-porous and very easy to clean.

Wood is another firm material that is fully renewable and earth-friendly. Wood toys offer the firmness of glass and metal without the weight. Most wood dildos are finished with a water-based sealant that makes them non-porous and easy to clean-- be sure to inquire about the specific wood toys you may be considering.

Various types of plastic and rubber dildos are widely available, both hard and soft in consistency. The advantage of plastic and rubber toys is that they can often be quite inexpensive. The disadvantage of some types of these toys, especially soft toys, is that they can be difficult to clean, are often not very durable, and can sometimes contain questionable ingredients.

In general, hard plastic toys are easier to clean and more durable than soft toys. Soft plastic toys can be made of many materials-- rubber, elastomer, cyberskin, softskin, jelly, or other unique trade names. These names usually do not fully describe the toy's ingredients-- though some companies might list if certain ingredients are not used in the toy, such a latex or phthalates (chemicals used to soften plastics that have been linked to possible health issues).

Most soft toys (excluding 100% silicone toys as mentioned above) are porous, meaning that dirt and bacteria will become trapped on their surface and not easily washed away. Cleaning wipes and antibacterial soaps are not fully effective in cleaning non-silicone soft toys, so if such toys are shared between people, it is best to use a new condom before each use to avoid passing any possible infection or STI from one user to another. Similarly, if a toy is used anally and then used on another orifice (vagina, mouth, or a partner's anus), it is best to place a new condom over the toy before each use.

When choosing a soft toy, ask what it is made of. As mentioned previously, some toy companies use the word "silicone" in their marketing when their toys are actually made of silicone blended with other porous materials that are not able to be sterilized. Many toy companies refuse to state what they toys are made of-- check with the Tool Shed for a list of reputable companies and toys. When in doubt, assess any risk factors and use a condom as needed for safety.

The vast majority of the soft dildos we offer at the Tool Shed are made from 100% silicone, due to its body-safe and hygienic qualities, as well as its durability. 100% solid silicone dildos (without any electronic parts) can be boiled for 3-5 minutes in water to fully disinfect, or placed on the top rack of a dishwasher. They may also be disinfected using a 10% bleach solution (provided they are carefully rinsed afterward). While 100% silicone toys may cost a bit more than jelly rubber or other soft toys, they are far more hygienic, body safe, and durable.

The Tool Shed does offer a few non-silicone soft toys made from phthalate-free elastomers or other phthalate-free plastics, though we strive to find 100% silicone alternatives whenever possible.

Visit our store or contact us for assistance
If you're in the area, feel free to stop by the Tool Shed, where we can show you the dildos we carry in person.  If you can't make it in, feel free to give us a call or email with any specific questions you may have about dildos, or any of the other items we carry.  We're always happy to help, and we want you to find a toy that serves you well!

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