How to use a condom: the dos and don't of condoms | Play Safe
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Did you know that condoms are the only form of contraception that protect against both unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

When they’re used correctly they’re over 98% effective, but it’s easy to make mistakes that could result in condoms slipping, breaking, or coming off during sex.

To protect yourself and your partner from STIs it’s time to brush up on your condom skills, and follow the dos and don’ts of getting it right. It’s all part of looking after your sexual health and putting your health and wellbeing first.

How can I use a condom safely?

Using condoms correctly is vital if they’re going to keep you safe from STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Follow these easy steps to success.

  1. Always check the expiry date of the condom
  2. Open the packet carefully so you don’t damage the condom
  3. Hold the tip of the condom to remove any air and roll it all the way down to the base of the erect penis
  4. Use water-based lubricant on the outside of the condom to reduce the risk of the condom breaking
  5. Hold onto the base when you remove the condom
  6. Throw away in the bin, not the toilet

Using a condom safely is all about practice, practice, practice. If you’re new to using condoms try practising while you masturbate. That way, when it comes to sex you’ll be ready and prepared.

If you don’t have a penis try practising on something like a banana. We’ve got plenty more information on how to use condoms here.

We’ve spoken a lot about the external condom here – used by people with a penis. But did you know that there is also the internal/female condom too? These are also effective against protecting from unplanned pregnancies and STIs.

Why do condoms fail?

A broken condom is more common than you might think and there are a few reasons this can happen. These include things like using the wrong lubricant, choosing the wrong size condom, putting the condom on incorrectly, or the condom being past its use-by date.

Using the wrong lubricant

During intercourse, it’s normal for friction to occur, but friction can cause the condom to weaken and potentially lead to breakages. To avoid this it’s recommended to use lube to help minimise this friction. Always use a water-based or silicone-based lubricant that’s made specifically for sex. Oil-based lubes (like baby oil or moisturiser) will damage the condom and increase the risk of it breaking even more.

The condom doesn’t fit properly

Did you know that condoms come in lots of different sizes? Finding the right fit can make a huge difference to comfort as well as safety. If a condom is a wrong size it could slip off, split, or break during sex.

If you’re worried about fit, the best thing to do is to practice on your own and try out lots of different sizes and brands so you know what feels best for you. That way, you’ll feel confident in the moment when you’re with a partner.

The condom is past its use-by date

While it might not seem like a big deal if a condom is out of date, an expired condom will be weaker and more prone to breaking. If it’s out of date, throw it out.

The condom hasn’t been removed properly

When you’ve finished having sex it’s important that you remove the condom correctly to avoid any spillages. Hold on to the base of the condom while the penis is still hard and withdraw carefully. This will keep the condom in place. Don’t leave it too long after you’ve finished having sex either – if your penis is no longer hard it can make this step a little tricky.

Not knowing how to use a condom correctly

This is the big one. The most common reason that a condom fails is simply because it hasn’t been used properly in the first place. Follow the tips at the start of this article to make sure you put the condom on correctly. If you’re struggling to roll the condom down, there’s a chance it’s inside out. Throw that one out and start again.

Is it bad to reuse condoms?

We can’t say this enough. NEVER re-use a condom. Condoms are a one-time thing and should be used once and then thrown away.

It’s definitely not okay to wash a condom and re-use it. Most condoms are made from latex and washing it will compromise the integrity (strength) of the condom and make it more likely to split, tear, or come off during sex.

Every time you have sex – vaginal, oral, or anal sex you should use a brand new condom.

What are the dos and don’ts of condoms?

Now you know all the details of why condoms are a must for healthy sex, how they can fail, and how to use them correctly, it’s time for a quick recap of the dos and don’ts.

Condoms – the ‘dos’

  • Do try out lots of different brands and styles of condoms to see what feels and fits best for you
  • Carry condoms with you all the time – it’s great to be prepared
  • Make sure you check the expiry date before you use a condom
  • Be sure to put the condom on before the action starts
  • Use water-based lube to reduce the chance of the condom breaking and to make sex feel even better
  • Try out flavoured condoms for oral sex (yes, you’re at risk of STIs during oral sex too)
  • Put a new condom on each time you switch between oral, vaginal and anal sex
  • Use condoms on sex toys if you’re sharing them with a partner. Make sure you put a new condom on the toy each time you swap

Condoms – the ‘don’ts’

  • Never open the condom packet with your teeth or scissors as you might tear it
  • Don’t keep condoms in hot places like your car glove-box or wallet as this can weaken them
  • Never use more than one condom at a time. More condoms doesn’t mean more protection
  • Don’t use oil-based products (moisturisers, body lotions, cooking oils and Vaseline etc) as lube as they’ll damage the condom
  • Don’t use animal skin condoms (such as lambskin) as they don’t protect against STIs. If you have an allergy to latex try polyurethane condoms instead
  • Don’t flush used condoms down the toilet. Instead, tie a knot in the end to stop anything spilling out, wrap it in tissue paper and dispose of it in the bin
  • NEVER re-use a condom

If you want to know more, phone the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 between 9:00am and 5:30pm Monday to Friday to talk with a sexual health nurse. It’s confidential and free if you call from a landline.

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