By Lacy Windham, M.D.
Condoms have been used since the late 1950s to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs or STDs). However, condoms are subject to deterioration, damage, and wear and tear that can reduce their effectiveness. If you want to know how to check a condom to ensure safer sex, follow these steps.
Check the expiration date on the box at the store. Look before you buy to make sure that the condoms you're about to purchase haven't expired. Do not purchase or use expire condoms.
Store the condoms properly. Keep your condoms in a cool, dry place, away from heat and sunshine. Also, don't shove them in your wallet where they can be crumpled and bent.
Keep condoms out of the glove compartment of your car. The temperature in your car may range from hot, to cold, to humid and this can cause damage to condoms.
Use a new condom each time. Never reuse a condom. Repeated use can cause breakage and leftover bodily fluids may also leak out. Throw away the condom after you use it and get a new one the next time you need one.
Check the expiration date of the individually wrapped condom. Even if you purchased the condoms recently, check the expiration date before you use one. If the condom has expired, then do not use it. An expired condom is more likely to break than one that is in date.
Look at the condition of the packaging. There should be no tears or holes in the package. If there is a hole in the wrapper, the condom may have dried out, rendering it ineffective and likely to break.
Press on the wrapper. You should feel a little bit of air resistance from inside the package. This means the package has not been torn or punctured and your condom is good to go.
Squish and slide the wrapper to the side. While still pressing on the wrapper, gently push it the condom inside for a side-slide motion. This slight movement indicates that the lubricant inside has not dried out and, as long as the expiry date has not been passed, is still good.
Do not use your teeth. Opening a package with your teeth might be convenient, but tiny rips in the condom can happen that you might not notice before you put it on. Instead, tear open the wrapper by pulling apart the premade notch on one of the corners.
Keep the package away from sharp objects. Never use scissors, knives, or other sharp objects to open the package or you may accidentally puncture the condom.
Feel the condom. If it feels dry, stiff, or extra sticky when it comes out of the package, it might not have been stored properly. Discard a dry, sticky, and/or stiff condom and get a new one.
Remove jewelry if it is in the way. Rings and genital piercings can tear a condom, so you may want to remove them before putting on a condom. Also, be careful when putting on a condom if you have sharp nails.
Pinch the tip. Make sure you have squeezed the air out of the tip. Air in the tip of the condom can cause it to burst open and break during use.
Check your fit. There are a couple of reasons why you need to make sure you have the right sized condom. Your condom should be neither too small nor too big and shouldn't roll back up from the base once you have it on an erect penis. Measure your erect penis to ensure you buy the right size - it might take a few tries to make sure you have the best fit.
Use a water-based lubricant. Oil-based lubricants can weaken the condom and make it break. Choose a water-based lubricant instead.
Sources and Citations
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