set of five measuring spoons in a variety of colors, gradually increasing in sizeShare on Pinterest
Anthony Rosenberg / Getty Images

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Whether you want to use one for pleasure or for medical reasons, we’re covering everything you need to know about anal dilators here.

An anal dilator is a device used to stretch the anus.

Although styles may differ a bit depending on whether they’re used for medical purposes or pleasure, most are smooth and tubular.

They’re typically available in sets of varying sizes so that you can work your way up gradually.

We believe pleasure is a fundamental aspect of a safe and healthy sex life. That’s why we rely on experienced writers, educators, and other experts to share their suggestions on everything from the technique you use to the sex toy you buy.

We only recommend something that we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched — if you know what we mean. Wink.

As mentioned, dilators can be used for medical reasons or erotic pleasure.

Medically, dilators are used to help stretch the rectum to an ideal size to improve function and comfort after anorectal procedures. This can be anything from hemorrhoid surgery to prostate cancer treatment.

Dilators are also used to prepare the anus for butt play.

Gradually stretching your anus can make all kinds of anal penetration more enjoyable without the ouch factor of trying to jump right in. And by all kinds we’re talking P-in-A sex, strap-on sex, butt plugs, gaping, or fisting.

Dilators are generally safe when used as directed and with the necessary precautions.

Results aren’t quick or permanent, and getting the stretch you want will take time and some trial and error.

Patience — not to mention good prep — is your BFF when using dilators.

It could hurt if you aren’t careful. But if you take your time, you shouldn’t feel more than some minor discomfort as your anus gets used to the sensation of being penetrated.

It needs to be mentioned that inserting anything into your butt can bring on the sensation of needing to poop.

Don’t worry — you aren’t going to poo yourself. This is just a normal response triggered by stimulating the same nerves and muscles that play a role in the pooping process.

So many! And which one you choose boils down to why you’re using a dilator and personal preference.

True anal dilators, which were originally intended for medical use, are smooth and straight. Not that you can’t use these for prepping for butt play, but those made for pleasure are a little different.

For starters, they’re usually referred to as anal trainers. They’re also available in varying shapes. Some have a wider tip and some are butt plugs, which have a tapered end and flared base.

Then there’s the cost: Medical dilator kits can be quite pricey compared to those used as sex toys.

We’re not saying you need to risk bankruptcy or anything, but choosing a quality dilator is important.

Whether your dilator’s for medical purposes or for bottom fun, it’s going to be inside your body.

Here are some things to look for when shopping for dilators.

Size

If a healthcare provider has recommended you use dilators, chances are they’ve also provided some guidance as far as size.

Otherwise, the general rule of thumb is to start with the smallest you can find and work your way up gradually.

Resist the urge to start bigger because you’re liable to tear yourself a new one, for real.

Most dilator kits, like this one from VuVatech, start at around 0.5 inches in diameter, which is a good starting point for most.

Length isn’t a factor if your goal is dilation. However, you’ll want to be sure anything you use has a flared base. You should never insert anything into your anus that doesn’t have a flared base as it could become lodged and lead to a medical emergency.

Material

Not all materials are safe for your special place so you’ll definitely want to be mindful of what your device is made of.

Look for dilators made from body-safe materials, such as medical-grade silicone, that are free of phthalates and BPA.

Your options generally include:

  • silicone
  • polycarbonate
  • stainless steel

If you’re entirely new to anal penetration or have a medical condition that causes rectal pain, silicone is softer and more flexible than other materials.

It also adapts to your body heat faster than other materials, making for a comfier experience.

Here are some options in different materials:

Weight

Weight isn’t as big a factor when it comes to traditional dilators as it is with plugs.

Butt plugs are designed to stay in place and the extra weight helps.

This means you don’t need to worry about it blasting out of your tush should you happen to bear down, which is a natural instinct when something’s in your butt.

Here are a couple of options if you want to go the plug route in your quest to stretch:

Yes yes! A hundred times yes!

Preparation is key anytime you’re inserting anything in your butt. It can make or break your experience… and your anus.

Use these tips to prep before an anal dilation sesh.

Try to have a bowel movement

Fecal matter sits high up in the rectum, but inserting the dilator can bring on the urge to poop. The worry alone can make you clench, so try to have a BM first to put your fears — and hole — at ease.

Pick the right time

Anal dilation isn’t something you want to rush, so choose a time when you’re sure you can relax and go slow without interruptions.

Help yourself unwind

Relaxing your anus requires a relaxed mind and muscles. Try a hot bath or deep breathing before attempting dilation. If pleasure’s the goal, some solo play should do just fine.

Use lots of lube

Lube is a must to help ease the dilator in and prevent tearing. Apply a liberal amount of lube to the tip of the dilator and around your anal opening.

Silicone lube, like this one from Überlube, is best for anal play because it’s thick and long lasting.

If you’re using a silicone dilator, use a water-based lube like #LubeLife instead. Remember: Silicone breaks down silicone.

Choose the best position

Pick a position that’s comfortable and allows you — or your partner — straight-in access. If working solo, lying on your back or side might work best. With a partner, being on all fours is the way to go.

Very carefully! But here are the specifics.

How to insert

Slow and steady wins the race here, along with a generous amount of lube.

Once your hole and dilator are lubed up, assume whatever position is most comfortable for you.

Then:

  1. Place the tip of the dilator against your anus with minimal pressure.
  2. Take a deep breath and begin to increase the pressure as you exhale.
  3. Insert the dilator slowly, aiming for around an inch or so inserted over the course of 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. If met with resistance — which is totally normal — gently remove the dilator, reapply more lube, and try again.
  5. If it goes in easily, you can start again, repeating these steps with the next size up in your kit.

While it’s in

What you do while it’s in depends on how you feel and what you’re after as far as results.

If dilation is the only goal, there’s no reason to keep it inside once you’ve managed to get it in all the way.

If pleasure is your focus, you can try a gentle in and out or circular motion as long as it feels good.

If you’re using a butt plug, consider keeping it in for a few minutes. You can enjoy the feeling of fullness or kick it up a notch with some simultaneous stimulation by way of clit action, a hand job, oral, or some erogenous play.

How to remove

Removal should be slow and steady. Try to keep the dilator in line with your anus and rectum as you gently pull it out.

What should you do if…?

If you’re new to this, then your mind’s bound to race with all the “what if’s.” We’ve got your, ahem, back.

Here’s how to handle different scenarios.

If there’s poop:

It’s really NBD and not exactly surprising given that your rectum is home to the stuff. Just clean the dilator, wash your hands thoroughly, and try again.

If you have a full-on bowel movement, wash yourself, the dilator, and any affected surfaces thoroughly.

You can try again once your bowels are empty.

If it hurts:

Minor discomfort is normal, but more than that means it’s time to slowly pull out and try again when you’re ready.

Next time, be sure to use even more lube, try a different position, or even a smaller device.

If there’s blood:

First, try not to freak out. Stop what you’re doing, remove the dilator very gently, and head to the mirror to assess the situation.

Light spotting that resolves quickly probably isn’t a big deal.

See a doctor if there’s a lot of blood, the bleeding lasts more than a couple minutes, or is accompanied by severe pain.

Your backdoor is home to all kinds of bacteria, so a thorough clean up after dilation — any butt contact for that matter — is crucial to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Wash the dilator as directed or with fragrance-free soap and warm water.

Next, hop in the shower to get yourself (gently!) cleaned up.

Once clean, a nice soak in a hot bath can help you unwind and release any tension.

Adding a cup of Epsom salt to the bath can help with any soreness.

If your doctor has recommended dilation, stick to the prescribed schedule and talk to them about any concerns.

Otherwise, use it three or four times per week for a week or two before sizing up.

Be sure to listen to your butt before sizing up. Once there’s no discomfort or resistance, you can size up.

Whatever your reason for using a dilator, take your time and listen to your body.


Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.