Anal beads are available in many sizes, with individual beads measuring from 25 mm in diameter to 125 mm diameter or larger. Most users enjoy beads of approximately 45 mm, but some will become more adventurous with experience, and try larger sizes. Anal beads are commonly made of silicone, plastic, rubber, latex, glass or metal and end with a ring or similar handle designed for pulling. The purpose of this ring is to prevent the beads from becoming fully lodged in the rectum, and to ease removal. The beads may either be joined flexibly, requiring individual insertion, or by a semi-rigid thin shaft, allowing anal insertion in a single motion.
The many nerve endings of the sphincter provide arousal both during insertion and removal, and larger beads may create feelings of pressure while in the rectum.
Some anal beads are enhanced with vibration technology.
As with all anal sexual activity, the anal beads and the rectum should be well-lubricated with a sexual lubricant intended for anal sex. It is important to do this as the rectum can be easily ripped, torn or injured. Anal sex toys should be well washed with warm soapy water and left to dry naturally after use. Alternatively, they can be placed inside a condom, which is recommended if they are shared with a partner.
Care must also be taken to count the beads before and after use to ensure they are all removed from the anus. Strings have reportedly broken during intense rectal movements. If a bead gets stuck in the rectum and cannot be expelled naturally, medical intervention may be necessary.
If the beads are threaded onto a string, which is a porous material, they cannot be fully disinfected. They should not be shared between partners without using a physical barrier such as a latex or neoprene condom to prevent the transfer of faeces. Sharing unsterilized anal toys can expose users to various sexually transmitted diseases.