T3's ultimate lube FAQ: everything you need to know about getting slick in the sack

Which lube should you use? Can you use it with toys? Can you eat lube without worry? Well, you do you...

Couple embracing
(Image credit: We-Vibe Toys / Unsplash)

Good sex and good lube go hand in, well, wherever you want that hand to go. It's kind of a no brainer: wetter is better. But if you have questions about lube and don't know where to turn, perhaps we can help, like some kind of sexual A-Team. 

Start by checking out our full guide to the best lubes to find the sexual lubricant to match your particular desires. Then, whether you're using a lube to spice up regular sex or trying to get the best out of the best sex toys, the best dildos, the best Fleshlights or any other kind of top toy, read on for the answers to all of your most pressing and slippery questions.

When do you need lube?

There's no one definitive answer. You need lube when you want things to be slipperier or silkier: whether that's because you're experiencing a little dryness during PIV sex, you're cramming things in tighter spots that don't create their own lubrication, you're just looking for a little slip-and-slide fun, whatever the case may be. There's essentially no reason not to use lube, or at least have some on hand. Lube makes sex more enjoyable.

What kinds of lube are there?

There are countless kinds of lube, with a vast array of formulations. At their core, though, they can be split up based on their base. Water-based lube tends to be the most neutral, versatile, and easy to clean, with a variety of different thicknesses, but it can turn sticky over time. Silicone lube is the silkiest, and lasts a whole lot longer than any other kind, but you can't use it in every situation and its long-lasting effects can make cleanup more difficult. Oil-based lube is the third place contender - it's not necessarily as widely used, and tends to absorb into the skin more quickly than others, but if you're getting super playful (and perhaps someone needs a little massage as well as a good time between the sheets) it's great to have on hand. You can also find hybrid lubes out there which mix a water and silicone base; these can be slightly more flexible than either, theoretically negating the drawbacks of both.

Want to know more about the benefits and drawbacks of each kind? Check out our full guide to oil vs silicone vs water-based lubes

What is warming lube?

Some lubes can (deliberately) generate a warming sensation when they're applied, by using ingredients like glycerol, cinnamon or, in some cases, capsaicin. You may even find warming lube which contains honey, though this isn't meant for application to sensitive areas, and you should opt for a water-based warming lube if you're going beyond a little dribble on the stomach.

Warming lube can be intensely enjoyable, particularly if you apply a little moving air to the area, but it's definitely worth a little test before you go slathering it on. Try it on a nipple or lip first - adding warming ingredients is essentially asking for trouble if you already have sensitive skin or a tendency towards bacterial infections. Most people will be fine, some will not. Just be careful.

What is cooling lube?

Cooling lube switches out the warming agent for, yes, a cooling one - something like menthol or similar. The sensation can be somewhat more extreme with cooling lubes, though they'll be formulated to only use a little of the cooling ingredient. If you don't think you'll like it, we'd recommend steering clear - but if everyone's on board, there's no harm in trying.

What is a delay lube?

A small amount of lubes employ extra ingredients to make things more numb. Ingredients like benzocaine may be helpful in situations where penetration may be more painful, and it can help reduce stimulation on the penis to make sex last longer. They're not common in lubes, though - you'll find numbing agents more often in topical gels and on the inside of certain condoms.

Is lube vegan?

The vast majority of lube is entirely vegan, but as with most products it pays to check the ingredients. Certain lubes may slip in ingredients like beeswax or animal-derived enzymes, though it's not super-common. Perhaps the more important thing to check is how that lube has been tested; if you're worried about avoiding animal-tested lubricants, look for organic lubes (System JO has some good options) or those which explicitly state that they're vegan, like Sliquid's range.

Can you use lube with condoms?

You can use lube with condoms. Heck, the majority of the best condoms come pre-lubed, and adding extra is just going to make things smoother. But it's important to point out that you can't use every kind of lube with condoms. Water-based and silicone lubes are fine, oil-based is absolutely verboten. It can cause both latex and polyisoprene condoms to degrade, massively reducing their effectiveness and increasing the likelihood of breakage.

Do bear in mind that the lube goes on the outside. Reducing a condom's grip on the penis isn't the best idea.

Can you use lube with toys?

You should use lube with toys, particularly if they're destined to go somewhere which doesn't lubricate itself. If you're using metal or glass, go crazy, use any lube you like. If you're using a silicone or silicone-coated toy - and this would include something like a fleshlight - it's important not to use silicone lube. It can cause the silicone on your toy to degrade, potentially leaving a sticky finish and ruining your toy.

If you're using lube with your toys, it's doubly important to get them clean afterwards. A lingering lube is a fantastic harbour for bacteria, even though they generally contain some kind of antimicrobial ingredient.

Is lube safe to eat?

While tipping your head back and dribbling a good stream of lube down your throat is not our idea of a delicious snack, some lubes are fine to put in your body. A small amount of silicone lube is no problem, because it's not absorbed by your body and will pass straight through. Water-based lubes may contain certain ingredients that aren't so pleasant, but they'll generally be OK – water tends to be the base for flavoured lubes, so pick these if you think it's likely you'll be chowing down. You probably shouldn't consume most oil-based lubes, but in very small amounts you'll likely be OK.

James is T3's sex toy and male wellness expert who's been exploring the topic of sexual happiness for a decade. He knows it's not what you've got, it's how you use it – and how clean you keep it.