Condoms are one of the most common, inexpensive and accessible ways to prevent not only HIV
but also many other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
That’s why AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has been promoting them for nearly 25 years.
The organization has numerous campaigns that all promote the same clear message —
If you’re having sex, you need to use a condom, consistently — every time.

10 Totally Wrong Ways to Use a Condom


  • 10. Get The Wrong Size.

    That huge box of extra-large rubbers can be a big ego boost for people shopping for themselves or a flattering gesture for people buying them for a partner. But there are three big problems with using condoms that are too big. Ever worn a pair of shoes that’s just a shade too big and suffered the consequences later? Then you already know one of them – friction. Fortunately, blisters aren’t the problem here, but condoms can break when there’s too much friction. Since they don’t fit as snugly, too-big condoms can also leak. And, worst of all, a condom that’s too loose may come off completely during sex. Then, the whole scenario moves from protected to unprotected  in one fell swoop. Latex condoms are stretchy and should fit snugly, so, while it’s fine to comparison shop for a favorite, in most cases, standard sizes do the job.
  • 9. Use a Wallet as Condom Storage.

    The wallet: home to money, ID and other useful stuff that most people don’t leave home without – which makes it seem like a brilliant place to stow an emergency condom. But walking around with a wallet full of condoms isn’t smart. Especially if they’re in a back pocket, wallets are also home to friction, heat and pressure. All three make latex weaker, so wallet-stored condoms are some of the least reliable.

    This rule goes double for glove compartments (and anyplace else that’s subject to extreme temperatures). Just like candles, red wine and oral contraceptives, condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place.

  • 8. Use an Old Condom.

    Remember that thing on the previous page about how condoms and wallets don’t mix? It’s not just the heat-friction combo … there’s also the out-of-sight, out-of-mind factor. That sad, lonely condom, tucked between old receipts and tattered bills, may be long past its prime by the time anyone has a need for it. Condoms have expiration dates for a reason – old latex becomes brittle, even if it’s been stored somewhere with much better climate control than a back pocket.

    First step: Check the date on the package. If it’s in the past, pitch it. Second step: Look at the condom itself. If it’s dried out, sticky or brittle, it’s too old to use. Throw it away.

  • 7. Open With Teeth.

    In a hurry? Hoping to look cool? Tied to something? None of these is a good excuse for using teeth to tear open a condom. Latex is a good barrier against STDs, but not against teeth. Even if it’s not visibly punctured, a bitten condom may still be damaged enough to break.

    Scissors, knives, long fingernails and basically anything else that’s sharper than fingertips are also on the “Do Not Use” list.

    A run-of-the-mill condom wrapper has serrated edges to make it easier to open, and the foil or plastic material tears easily once it’s started. It’s a two-handed – but zero-toothed – operation.

  • 6. Put It On Wrong.

    There are plenty of wrong ways to put on a condom, such as:

    • Inside out: It will unroll only with extreme (and possibly damaging) difficulty, and stuff that should stay on the inside will be on the outside.
    • Too tight: The end of the condom needs some space for semen to go. Up to 45% of people mess this up.
    • Too airy: Friction against air bubbles makes condoms more likely to break. About 40% of people don’t squeeze out the air.
    • Partial unroll: A condom that isn’t unrolled all the way can come off during sex – and it can’t do a great job of preventing contact between people’s parts while it’s on.
  • 5. Fail to Fix a Fail.

    With so many wrong ways to put on condoms, everyone who uses them will probably slip up at some point during their sexual history. The worst thing to do when it happens, whether the condom’s inside out, broken or on too tight, is just to ignore it and keep going.

    The best thing to do any time something goes wrong while putting on a condom is to throw that condom away and get a new one. It’s a pretty good reason to keep extra condoms around (as long as they’re not in a wallet, in a glove box or right next to the heating vent).

  • 4. Use the Wrong Lube.

    Latex pro: It’s basically rubber, so it’s stretchy. Latex con: It’s basically rubber, so it’s grippy. What it has in stretch, it lacks in slide.

    Lots of rubbers are pre-lubricated but many people want it slipperier. But most of the slick substances likely to be around the house – like petroleum jelly or vegetable oil – don’t mix well with condoms.

    There are almost as many lubes to choose from as there are condoms, but water-soluble lubricants are the only ones that team up well with latex. Lubricants made with oil or petroleum products will weaken latex condoms, making them likelier to break.

  • 3. Put It On Too Late.

    Condoms are a barrier method: They physically keep people’s parts from touching. As a commonly cited (and complained-about) side effect, they can also reduce pleasure and sensation, so it can be tempting to put off putting one on.

    Sadly, procrastination rarely works out well for anybody. The longer the rubber stays off, the more time people’s bodily fluids have to accidentally tangle up with each other. Studies vary, but somewhere between 17 and 50 percent of people wait even later than the last possible minute, putting a condom on after starting sex [source: Sanders et al.]. That unprotected contact increases the risk of pregnancy and STI transmission. The right time to put a condom on is before sex, not during.

  • 2. Take it Off Too Late.

    Procrastination can waylay more than just putting a condom on. Waiting too long to take a condom off has its own set of problems. An erection can begin to fade immediately after ejaculation, meaning a condom that was snug at the start can go baggy right after the finish. The softer the penis gets, the more likely it is for semen to leak out of the condom.

    Immediately after ejaculation, remove the penis, holding the rim of the condom to keep it secure. Then, carefully remove the condom to avoid spilling its contents. Wrap it in tissue or toilet paper, and throw it away.

  • 1. Reuse It.

    This wrong way is No. 1 not because it’s the worst wrong way – although it is pretty bad – but because it’s hard to believe there are people who do it. After all, everybody knows condoms are disposable … right?

    Apart from the yuck factor of reapplying a used condom, condoms just aren’t safe to reuse. There’s not enough scrubbing to make a condom OK to use again. Any treatment that would kill every sperm and every potential pathogen would also make the condom weaker.

    Condom reuse is a bad idea. Use each one – correctly – once and only once, and then wrap it up and throw it away.

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