Top 10 tips for using a condom
Reviewed by our clinical team
Condoms are one of the most common forms of contraception. You may have used them dozens of times, but are you doing it properly? Correct technique is important here – any mistakes in using a condom could lead to some pretty major consequences.
Here are ten tips to ensure you avoid the risks of STIs or having to buy baby clothes.
Most of us like to check the quality of a product before we buy it – and condoms should be no different. Check the packet for the European CE mark, a recognised safety standard. No CE, no safe. So while on the night itself you may use whatever is thrust into your hand, in nine months’ time you could easily be kicking yourself.
Check the expiry date
Using an out-of-date condom could land you in some serious deep water. The shelf-life is generally around five years (less for spermicidal condoms), but you should always check the packet. Once expired, the condom starts to lose strength and flexibility, increasing the chance of a break.
So you’re all ready for a trip of a lifetime: young, free and single! Obviously a holiday hook-up is a tantalising possibility. That’s great. Just make sure you buy your condoms before departing, condoms hawked at an all-night beach rave probably aren’t the safest bet. Pack protection beforehand or grab some in duty free. It won’t jinx anything, honest.
Don’t tear the pack
Opening a condom packet is never easy – let alone in a state of sweaty excitement, often in darkness, often somewhat inebriated. After a couple of failed attempts the temptation is to simply go full beast-mode on the thing, ripping the foil apart like Hulk on steroids. Teeth are also frequently utilised. But the less careful you are tearing the packet, the more likely you tear the condom as well. Finger nails can also perforate condoms. While at times the packet might seem unbreakable, the condom most certainly isn’t. Take a deep breath, look for the right corner, and try again. Carefully.
One at a time please!
A common myth surrounds the practice of ‘doubling bagging’ – that is, wearing two condoms at once for extra protection. Twice the condom equals twice the safety, right? Wrong. Quite frankly this is a terrible idea. Wearing two condoms is actually riskier than just wearing one as they will rub against each other, creating potentially condom-breaking friction. Ditto if you use a male condom in tandem with a female condom. Sometimes you really can be too careful.
Put the condom on correctly
This should be straightforward but is easily rushed in the heat of the moment. Simple steps:
- Check the condom is going on the right way – you want the teat pointing upwards.
- Then place over the tip of the erect penis and roll down the base.
Wearing the condom the wrong way up increases the chance of it coming off. Make sure it isn’t too tight as this increases the possibility of breakage. Which brings us onto…
Leave space at the tip
That teat is there for a reason. It catches the ejaculate and provides a safe haven until the condom is removed and disposed of. If the condom is pulled too tight over the end of the penis then there is nowhere for the ejaculate to go – other than down the sides of the penis or, occasionally, through the condom. We all need a bit of space. Semen is no different.
You should also make sure there are no air bubbles inside the condom, as these can burst it.
Careful with the lube
Certain lubricants do not agree with latex. Always check what your lube is made from before you start applying it. Water-based lube is fine. Oil-based or petroleum-based lube should never be used. Avoid body lotions, moisturiser, massage oil and body oil. These can weaken the latex, causing the condom to break. And, like half a maggot in an apple, a broken condom is never a welcome sight.
30 minutes per condom
This probably comes under the bracket of ‘a good problem to have’. Still, if you’ve been going for half an hour and aren’t ready to stop – change the condom! Friction weakens the condom, increasing the chances of a break. Under 30 minutes and you’re fine. Over 30 minutes and it’s best to play safe. Obviously the amount of friction depends on how vigorous your intercourse is but this judgement we leave to you.
Remove after using
Even after ejaculation you aren’t entirely home and hosed. As mentioned previously, semen can potentially seep down your penis and out into the world. If you are engaged in a post-coital cuddle ‘the world’ could easily be ‘the vagina’. Equally, even if you put the condom on correctly it could easily come off during sleep – and who knows where the semen might end up? Better to remove after use, holding the condom at the base to ensure nothing slips out. Throw in a bin, don’t flush down the toilet.
One condom per ejaculation
Take the condom off once you’ve finished. Don’t leave it on for another round of action. A condom is a strictly one shot deal. Using it twice increases the chance of breakage and seeping. There’s a reason they sell condoms in multipacks.
Condoms come in all shapes and sizes
If you are concerned you haven’t used a condom correctly and you could be at risk of catching an STI, you can visit our STI test kit clinic.