Condoms 101 - Basics

We you need to know about condoms...


Fit is critical

Whatever the size of the penis you either own or enjoy, condom fit is critical. We offer a selection of condom sizes to accommodate the right fit for you or your partner. We offer variety packs that give you a chance to dial in the match for you.


Do they break?

Yes...but only rarely and normally through misuse or mishandling. In fact the FDA requires that under testing, no more than 4 condoms out of 1,000 break but most manufacturers report far fewer than this on average.

  • The combined method failure (slippage plus breakage) of condoms is estimated at 1.6% –3.6%.
  • Factors affecting slippage and breakage are related to user familiarity and knowledge, including user experience, selection of condom size (width), and proper use of additional (exogenous) lubricant.
  • Most studies report that condoms break less than 2% of the time during intercourse or withdrawal.
    It is also important to note that not all condom breaks are equally risky. As many as 24 to 65% occur before intercourse and pose no biological risk of pregnancy or infection if a new condom is used for intercourse.
  • Condoms fall off the penis in 0.6% to 5.4% acts of vaginal intercourse and may slip down the penis without falling off in 3.4% to 13.1% of acts of vaginal intercourse.
  • Breakage rates during anal sex for gay men in four prospective studies ranged from 0.5% to 12%, with rates less than 2% in three of the studies.

Source: SexEd Library, "Breakage and Slippage",


Aren't they all the same?

In a word - No. While they must all meet certain minimum requirements, they are designed for different sizes, sensations, purposes. Check our article Condoms 105 - Condom Design.


How should I use a condom?

  • Keep male condoms in a cool, dry place. Don't keep them in your wallet or in your car. This can cause them to break or tear.

  • Check the wrapper for tears and for the expiration date, to make sure the condom is not too old to use. Carefully open the wrapper. Don't use your teeth or fingernails. Make sure the condom looks okay to use. Don't use a condom that is gummy, brittle, discolored, or has even a tiny hole.

  • Put on the condom as soon as the penis is erect, but before it touches the vagina, mouth, or anus.

  • If the condom does not have a reservoir tip, pinch the tip enough to leave a half-inch space for semen to collect. Holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way to the base of the erect penis.

  • Be sure to use adequate lubrication during vaginal and anal sex. Only use water-based or silicone-based lubricants. Don’t use oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) with latex condoms because they can weaken latex and cause breakage. Put the lubricant on the outside of the condom.

  • After ejaculation and before the penis gets soft, grip the rim of the condom and carefully withdraw. Then gently pull the condom off the penis, making sure that semen doesn't spill out.

  • Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash where others won't handle it.

  • If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity, stop immediately, withdraw, remove the broken condom, and put on a new condom.

  • Use a new condom if you want to have sex again or in a different way.


How should condoms be stored?

You should store condoms in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, perhaps in a drawer or closet. If you want to keep one with you, put it in a loose pocket, wallet, or purse for no more than a few hours at a time.

Extreme temperature -- especially heat -- can make latex brittle or gummy (like an old balloon). So don't keep these latex products in a hot place like a glove compartment


What defects should I look for?

If the condom material sticks to itself or is gummy, the condom is no good. Also check the condom tip for other damage that is obvious (brittleness, tears, and holes). Don't unroll the condom to check it because this could cause damage.

Never use a damaged condom

Source: "Male Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases


I am allergic to latex so I can't use them.

Fear not! LifeStyles a terrific line of condoms made of non-latex polyisoprene that stretches and feels very much like latex but without the allergic reaction. Check out our Non-Latex collection.


Further Reading:

Avert, "Condoms & Lubricants Fact Sheet",