If standard butt plugs aren’t enough of a challenge – or if you enjoy feeling a gradual increase in size – inflatable plugs are worth a closer look. These products use expandable rubber or silicone, and they grow in size when you activate an air pump. They’re great for testing your limits, and when used properly, they’re completely safe.

That’s not to say that you can dive in headfirst without a little preparation, of course. In order to safely use an inflatable pump, it’s important to take things slow. Gradually increase the air, stopping every few minutes to let your body adapt to the changes. Only add more air when you’re completely comfortable. If you’re using your pump with a partner, make sure that he or she understands your limits. It can help to establish a safe word (especially if you’re role playing).

You’ll also need to learn a little about your new plug before you get started. Here are a few things to consider:

Materials – Most inflatable plugs use natural rubber, which can cause reactions for people with latex allergies. If you’re sensitive at all to rubber, make sure you know what you’re putting into your body.

You can also find plugs made from pure silicone. These are a great alternative, although they’re usually slightly more expensive than the rubber options. Silicone has an incredibly smooth surface, and like rubber, it’s compatible with water-based lubricants (more on lubes in a minute).

Shape – While a tapered tip will make your plug easier to insert, you should make sure that the base of the plug won’t slip completely into your body. The bottom should flare out substantially to prevent accidents. If it connects to a hand pump, check that the air hose doesn’t come disconnected too easily.

High-quality pumps will also have safety valves, which allow you to quickly release air if you suddenly feel like you’ve gone too far. Play around with the pump before inserting it into your body so that you understand its features and controls.

Lube – Assuming that your pump is made of rubber or silicone, you should only use water-based lube. Using the wrong lube could weaken the material, potentially allowing for breakage (definitely something to avoid).

Any water-based lubricant should work, but thicker lubes will usually make penetration easier, since the lube will stay in place; you can coat the plug more easily. We do not recommend lotions and lubricants with numbing ingredients. By preventing your body from sending pain signals, you could raise your chances of an injury.

Extra Features – There are dozens of great inflatable plugs on the market, and many have extra features to appeal to certain users. Like textures? Go for a plug with ridges. There are also options with automatic pumps and built-in vibrators. Of course, make sure to check for safety features first, and if you’re a beginner, look for a plug with a fairly small initial size and a smooth, tapered shape.

Inflatable plugs can be safe, and they’re definitely a lot of fun for anal play. A few quick precautions will give you peace of mind as you explore (and expand) your limits.