Condoms 102 - How effective are condoms?

Condoms are still the go-to contraceptive device not only because they can help prevent unwanted pregnancy but they also help to protect against sexually transmitted infections. Condoms have been standard issue for military personnel deploying overseas, college students heading out from home or even teenagers on prom night.

Understand however that you can have the best made condom in the world but if you do not use or handle it properly, it is effectively worthless.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using personal lubricant with condoms.

"Water-based and silicon-based lubricants are safe to use with all condoms. Oil-based lubricants and products containing oil, such as hand lotion, Vaseline, or Crisco, should not be used with latex condoms because they can weaken the condom and cause it to break. It is safe to use any kind of lubricant with nitrile female condoms. But lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 should not be used because nonoxynol-9 irritates the lining of the vagina and anus and increases the risk of getting HIV."

So what is proper handling? Our friends at LifeStyles have a terrific summary for you.

Condom Storage Information

  • Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place. Preferably at or below room temperature. Condoms should NOT be stored in excess of 100 degrees or below 32 degrees F.
  • Care should be taken to protect latex and polyisoprene condoms against prolonged periods of exposure to extreme low or high temperatures, moisture, direct sunlight and fluorescent light.
  • Improper storage can lead to premature aging and deterioration of the product.
  • Storage information is marked on every case of LifeStyles® condoms.
  • Hints:Do not keep condoms in the trunk of a car.
    Do cover the windows in your storage area so product is not exposed to direct rays of the sun.
  • Practice rotation of inventory: FIFO – first in, first out.
  • Expiration dates are clearly marked on cases and product.

Condom Facts from LifeStyles

Our favorite one is FIFO. Did you ever realize that you needed to treat condoms like produce?

How do they compare to the Pill? Or an IUD?

The numbers speak for themselves. As always however you should consult with your physician when trying to determine what is best for you.

The following chart, courtesy of one of our distributors, details results are from a widely regarded 2004 study that compared the effectiveness of multiple types of contraception. You can find a copy of this summary from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals here.

Comparison of Contraceptives

How are they tested?

Believe it or not, there are standards for testing condoms. Whether they are latex or polyisoprene/polypropylene, there are methods to testing them.

"For condoms, the FDA standards include systematic 'water leak' tests to ensure that no fluid can leak out of the condoms. To meet standards, all condoms must have at least 996 out of 1,000 condoms, on average, pass this test. This means that FDA-approved condoms must be at least 99.6% effective in laboratory tests to be available to consumers.

In a 2004 publication, Walsh and colleagues used condom use data from trials of three bands of condoms, including Trojan, LifeStyles and Ramses – all of which are FDA-approved condom brands. Out of 3,677 condom-protected sex acts analyzed in the study, the authors found that 55 condom acts failed, either due to breaking (16 condoms broke; break rate = 0.04%) or slipping (39 condoms slipped; slip rate = 1%). The likelihood of condoms breaking during sex was not statistically associated with condom brand."

UNC Healthy Heels



Further Reading

  • University of North Carolina, "Condom effectiveness: What’s brand name got to do with it?",
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, "Effectiveness of Family Planning Methods",
  • American Sexual Health Association, "Birth Control Method Comparison Chart",
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), "Condom Fact Sheet",
  • Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, "Summary Table of Contraceptive Efficacy",
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS Prevention,