Frequently Asked Questions
Now that the muddling of the terms Platinum Grade and Medical Grade silicone has been discussed (see previous blog post) the newest promotional hook by some has been to label products as being made with a certified “skin-safe” silicone. On the surface this is misleading in that virtually all cured platinum grade silicones are already inherently “skin-safe”. Furthermore, this certification only refers to the silicone in its uncured, raw state so that it might be used directly on the skin for life casting purposes, something a toy user will never need to consider. But even if the skin-safe designation were relevant to toy choice, once pigments or release agents that aren’t “skin-safe” are added to the silicone during production, the designation is automatically invalidated unless those ingredients are certified “skin-safe” as well, which they won’t be by their very nature.
I’m trying to think of a comparison here to make it more relatable… I guess it could be something like advertising your brand of french fries were only made with “cholesterol free potatoes low in sodium” (which they already are by nature) to make them sound healthy, but then before serving them frying them in duck fat and adding salt.
It might not be a perfect analogy, but hopefully it works enough to make the point.
The question of medical grade silicone comes up quite a bit, like if I use it in my production, and which is better, medical or platinum grade?
The answer to this question isn’t as straight forward as you’d think it would be…
Some background first. It’s not called Platinum because it sounds good like you would rate something bronze, silver, gold, platinum. The reason it’s called Platinum Grade refers to the catalyst used in the curing of the raw material to become the finished product, in this case the catalyst is the metal platinum.
What kind of lube is best and will any of them harm my toys?
I formulate my silicone to have a nice ‘cushiony’ spring to it but still be firm enough so it can stand up on its own for handsfree play and make it easy to handle. My toys are definitely softer than most of the hard rubber or vinyl ones, and even more importantly, they don’t harden with age either.
Silicone is a synthetic elastomer (technical name for rubber) derived from the complex processing of silica or quartz. It is a non-organic material in that its molecular “backbone” is made up of bonded Silicon and Oxygen atoms, rather than the organic model, which is Carbon – Carbon. In part due to this lack of hydrocarbons, silicone is not flammable. It also will not melt under a flame, but please don’t try this, it will still turn to ash and harm your toy. It is also the non-organic nature of Silicone that makes it so prefered by most toy afficiondos.
Most of the toys on the marketplace today are made from sort of vinyl. Why? Because it is a byproduct of petroleum and therefore available in abundance. You can pick out vinyl by its strong plastic like, or sometimes, burnt smoky odor. Any of the super soft materials like jelly or the pink flesh-like feeling ones are all vinyl based.
Latex, although much cheaper as a raw material, is an organic substance and will react with oils, mild acidic substances, even water and body fluids and will quickly deteriorate. Anyone who has had experience with latex toys knows that you can’t expect them to last for very long.
The nature of Silicone being a manufactured substance makes it considerably more expensive than latex or vinyl as a raw material (upwards of 7 to 10 times more expensive). Casting silicone is also a very labor intensive process and requires a certain level of technical know-how. But Silicone is unsurpassed in its quality and suitability to making toys, namely durability, sterility and imperviousness to water and oils, which more than justified the expense for me.
Silicone is an extremely difficult elastomer to work with and requires some specialized industrial equipment, technical and practical experience, and vacuum processing to get a successful result. Something I could not recommend just anyone attempt.
Silicone runs in the range of $100 per gallon and mistakes quickly become costly. The combination of the initial investment in research and equipment combined with the high cost of the raw material is probably why there just aren’t that many studios creating toys in silicone. The reason why I think I am the only producer of large silicone toys on the market today is my very personal interest in the product.