Collage Dildo: Too Good To Be True?

Several sex bloggers, myself included, received one of the extremely lovely Collage dildos by Icon Brands. These are silicone dildos in varying shapes with unique patterns printed onto them. According to Icon Brands, this is a proprietary method and so they will not reveal how it’s done, but they insist that it’s body safe and won’t peel or chip in use.

I chose the “Goth Girl” pattern because in my heart of hearts, I’m a cutesy goth who spent most of her high school dollars buying striped tights at Hot Topic and swooning over Jack Skellington. Honestly, it’s cute as hell.

[An image of a red dildo with skulls, stars, and storm clouds printed on it, along with some gothy accessories and a copy of The Nightmare Before Christmas.]

Since many of us chat on Twitter and elsewhere, we were all able to make some observations. Like…the seams where the pattern overlapped were sometimes quite pronounced. Like…some of the pattern looked weirdly folded or even crumpled at the tip. Like…sometimes it just. Fucking. Peeled off.

Now, the first person (Meg from Witch of the Wands) who reported this also noted that they did wash it with Dawn soap. The company expressly says not to use “alcohol” or “astringent” soaps…which is weird, because most body-safe toys can withstand any basic soap. (The toy cleaners often sold at various shops aren’t necessary, though you may prefer to just have a separate soap on hand for your toys!) But, okay, so it peels if you don’t follow the rules, but…

That begs the question: can you boil this toy, or bleach it, without damaging the surface? If the toy can’t withstand Dawn, which is literally so gentle it’s used to clean baby fucking ducklings, then it seems unlikely that you’d be able to treat it to anything so harsh as bleach. [NOTE: We later tested this; see the first update below] Which means this toy can’t be sanitized…which means that it is not, despite Icon’s claims, fully body safe.

But, okay, let’s back up a little. Let’s just look at the fact that someone used unapproved soap, and the surface chipped. If you follow directions, surely it’s fine! Silicone is, after all, aquaphobic, so it can’t easily harbor bacteria or fungus, so even if you can’t bleach it, it should be okay. Just don’t use the Bad Soap and it should be fine!

Except…then Izzy of Dildoodler discovered theirs was peeling. They hadn’t washed it. They hadn’t even run it under hot water. [UPDATE: Here’s the full story via their blog.]

[Description: A phone photograph of the head of this dildo, with visible peeling/chipping, along with a lot of wrinkled “paint” texture. Image courtesy of Izzy at Dildoodler.]

As near as anyone can tell, whatever method they used for the pattern had a slight flaw at the top (as Izzy said, near the “pee hole”) where the paint layer was heavily overlapped. It felt gritty and so, experimentally, they poked at it, and that’s where it started to flake off.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m using a dildo I don’t want risks of anything flaking off in use. I don’t care what it’s made out of, I don’t want to find chunks of paint in my vagina after masturbation.

Obviously, we were all collectively concerned and/or horrified, and I proceeded to email the retailer we were all reviewing for to express these concerns. Their affiliate manager wrote back saying that they were familiar with Meg’s situation (to the manager’s credit, they didn’t use their name) but that it should be fine so long as everyone was careful with their soap choices, and that the company insists that it’s body safe.

[Description: The red & black dildo, angled so that you can see the very dramatic seam down the middle/back.]

Well, uh, here’s the thing. Not only did Izzy experience flaking without any soap, but Icon Brands has sort of a funny concept of what body safe mean. Because when Meg wrote to Icon, their representative insisted that not only was it a safe “proprietary” method, comparable to food dye and tattoo ink (neither of which I want in my vagina but okay go on), but mentioned that they also sell pretty TPR toys that Meg might want to review next.

Hold. The fuck. ON.

TPR (thermoplastic rubber) is not body safe, y’all. It doesn’t contain phthalates, which is neat and all, but it’s a porous material that isn’t chemically stable, which means it can break down, and harbor all manner of microbes. Some people consider TPR an acceptable risk since it isn’t itself toxic, but using an item that can’t be fully sanitized runs the risk of introducing microbes to sensitive tissue. I got chronic yeast infections for years due to using questionable toys and I know I’m not alone in that!

So…even if this toy isn’t in and of itself unsafe, I’m not sure I want to take this manufacturer’s word for it.

So how do we find out if this process is truly safe? Well…we can’t. We did a flame test but it isn’t conclusive. The material underneath operates like silicone, producing gray ash. The stuff on the surface yellowed and warped, but did not burn. (It also stayed hot for ages.) So…the surface stuff is decidedly not silicone, but we can’t say what it actually is.

[Description: A close-up of the base of the toy, post-burn test. It shows clear yellowing and warping, as well as a great deal of peeling.]

But what we can do is look at the information we do have, which is as follows:

  • This toy, by the manufacturer’s rules, cannot use normal soap
  • It probably cannot be exposed to bleach or boiling water without damaging the surface, either
  • They recommend against using anything harsh, which means I’d be nervous about even scrubbing it with toothbrush
  • The surface has, at best, harsh seams and sometimes folds in the patterned material, which would be a great place for bacteria or fungus to hide when you can’t clean it thoroughly
  • They will not state what process they use to create the patterned
  • The pattern peels the fuck off the toy

Upon some discussion, Izzy suggested that the material may be made out of temporary tattoo material. Temporary tattoos are made of lacquer or gelatin, along with ink, designed to peel off the paper backing and onto skin, but they can also be applied to other surfaces (doll customizers love using temporary tattoos, usually under sealant to make them permanent) with the same methods. Several of us have plans to pick up some temporary tattoos and test them—Izzy is going to use the base of their Collage dildo, and I’m probably going to pick out a toy I don’t use much and see if I can recreate the whole process—but as of this writing, we have not yet. [EDIT: We have both tried! See both of our results at Dildoodler.]

Now, this would sort of follow their definition of body safe; temporary tattoos are FDA-approved and all. However, they really aren’t designed for long-term use. The peeling pigment would still create a slightly rough surface where microbes could take up residence, and also: flakes of pigment! In your butthole, vagina, or other orifice of choice! No!

This is to say nothing of the fact that a) even testing won’t confirm that this is the method and b) some people are allergic to certain dyes and pigments, and since Icon Brands won’t come clean about the method they use or the contents of the outer layer…that’s still…not ideal.

And for the record, I’m not blaming any of the retailers carrying this toy. The retailer I’ve been working with [see Update #2 for more info] has, so far, been trying to be understanding about the whole situation. They can only go with what the manufacturer is saying, and the manufacturer is saying, “Yes, of course this is safe! No one’s complained to us!” But I mean…who’s going to complain, and would they admit it if people did? And since most people don’t talk about their dildos at all, well…any problems people have with them are going to be swept under the rug, along with all those flakes of paint.

Except sex toy reviewers. We don’t fucking shut up.

[Description: The tip of the dildo. You can see the seam and also a lot of wrinkling, although this particular one is undamaged.]

So, here’s the info we have at this time. What does it mean? Honestly, I don’t know yet! Maybe it’s fine in the long run. My spouse tried it before we had any of this discussion, and…well, they hated it, but they haven’t suffered any ill effects. We did, however, also experience some peeling, without a lot of effort. Attempting to wash the peeling area with a nail brush, unsurprisingly, makes it peel further, so I don’t know how well you could clean that particular area.

The only conclusion I can reach? Because at the very least it cannot be washed with normal soap and cannot withstand typical sanitizing methods, I cannot in good conscience review this toy, let alone recommend it.

I will try to update as more information comes in; these are preliminary findings and experiments by the sex blogging community as a whole and by me (and my spouse) in particular.

UPDATE:

Shortly after putting this post up, my spouse decided to actually boil it and bleach it to see what happened. Uh…nope. It doesn’t withstand either.

The first picture is just after boiling; they didn’t actually submerge it in the boiling pot, but poured boiling water over the dildo, and then very lightly scrubbed it (like you might do to remove, say, a stubborn bit of gunk.) It peeled very easily, and also the pattern is slightly faded, which might be hard to see from the image.

[description: freshly peeled dildo]

This second image is with a splash of bleach in a quart of water; it’s submerged, but you can see that it’s actually spontaneously peeling on the edge.

[description: submerged dildo; squiggles of paint are peeling off on the side.]

Conclusion: you absolutely cannot sanitize this through any of the usual methods. Yikes.

They also noticed that it was already starting to peel anywhere that they bent it, without any chemicals or boiling water or anything.

UPDATE #2

I exchanged some emails with the affiliate manager of Betty’s Toy Box, who sent this toy; I’m mentioning them by name now because they have removed the toy completely from their store very quickly after this post went up, and are now in discussion with reviewers about what to do going forward. The care and swift response to the situation is extremely reassuring to me, as both an affiliate and as a regular customer.

UPDATE #3

Other reviews:


This post is extremely not sponsored. The item was sent to me free to review from Betty’s Toy Box.


Like Queer Earthling? Check out my affiliates or buy me a coffee!


7 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this, especially the pictures showing the results of trying to clean the toy. I had my heart set on the Goth Girl, too, and would have promptly destroyed it since I always boil my dildos as soon as I get them before using.

    Like

  2. Yikes! Icon really doesn’t seem to understand what body safe means! Thanks for giving us such an in depth explanation of this situation, you have probably saved some people from disappointment and/or an infection.

    Like

    • I don’t think they care what body safe means! They straight-up lied to retailers asking if they were safe to sanitize, apparently. I’m really glad this post was able to help some people, and that my fave stores were quick about pulling the toy once this stuff was out.

      Like

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