How Long Do Condoms Last?

How Long Do Condoms Last?

Everything You Need to Know About When & How Condoms Expire

Are you still holding onto those “just in case” condoms you kept in your wallet back in high school? If you’re doing it for any reason other than nostalgia, it’s probably high time you threw them out. 

Yes, it turns out condoms are a bit like fruit or meat, at least in one respect: they do have an expiration date, and you probably don’t want to take any chances with it. 

Speaking of high school, if you weren’t sleeping through Sex Ed., you probably already know that condoms, used properly, are extremely effective contraceptives, a key tool in the defence against unwanted pregnancies and equally unwanted STDs. But if you put on a condom that’s past its expiration date, you’re taking a major gamble.

RELATED: How to Choose the Best Condoms

And while the expiration date is definitely something to be aware of, it isn’t the only consideration when determining if your condom is good to go. Read on to learn some key facts about condom quality and safety.

6 Key Condom Safety Facts You Need to Know

Let’s start with an obvious disclaimer: if you want to keep sex enjoyable, you probably want to take into consideration all of the following well in advance of the actual deed. Yes, safe sex is important, but if you’re inspecting the condom, holding it up to the light or filling it with water to stress test it, you’re probably going to kill the vibe. Do your due diligence early and you’ll have greater peace of mind in the bedroom. 

Condom Expiration Dates

Every condom sold comes with an expiration date. If you ever find a condom package in the store and it doesn’t include an expiration date, you should consider that a major red flag and not purchase it. 

The expiration date should be listed both on the box of condoms itself (so you can tell when you’re buying it when they expire) and on each individual condom, since you may throw away the box and just hold on to the individual condom wrappers.

How Long Do Condoms Last Before Expiring?

You may, however, notice that some condoms have much shorter expiry dates than others. Latex, polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms tend to last between four and five years from their date of manufacturing, while natural condoms (lambskin, for example) have much shorter shelf lives. 

In addition, if a condom advertises itself as containing spermicide, know that almost all spermicidal agents expire after three years, so even if the condom itself is good for longer, its spermicide is no longer active.

What Happens If You Use an Expired Condom?

Bad things! Seriously, don’t risk it. It defeats the purpose of using a condom to begin with (and you definitely should be using a condom!), so practice some self-restraint, at least for the length of time it takes you to buy new condoms. 

What Should I Do With My Expired Condoms?

You can dispose of them in the trash with no issue, but don’t throw them in a toilet; that’s a recipe for a terrible clog and an embarrassing conversation with a plumber. 

One other big no-no: don’t use them on sex toys. Lots of people assume you can safely use an expired condom on sex toys, especially in solo play where there’s no danger of pregnancy or STD infection between partners, but expired condoms are also much more likely to carry germs and bacteria.

Are Non-Expired Condoms Safe?

The expiration date is just one of many potential disqualifying issues a condom can have, and just because your condom is well within the expiry date doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe to use.

Because condoms are designed to be as thin (and therefore as pleasurable) as possible, they’re also highly susceptible to damage from heat, friction, and sun exposure, as well as micro-tears

What Are the Signs of an Expired or Broken Condom?

An expired condom is likely to feel different than a regular condom. It will be stiffer, dryer and less pliable, and may even smell bad. However, just because you don’t notice any of these symptoms, if the condom in question is still past its expiration date, throw it out. Seriously, fellas, they’re so cheap to begin with, so why take the risk?

Broken condoms can be a bit trickier to spot, unless you’re willing to turn it upside down and fill it with water to see if it leaks. Still, you can generally spot tears or punctures if you look closely in a brightly lit room. 

How Should I Store My Condoms?

If you want to maximize the shelf life of your condoms and minimize the risk of tears or flaws, stop storing condoms in your wallet or in your pants pockets or, worst of all, in a cellphone case. You want to find a dry, dark place where they won’t get jostled or squished. In your home, that probably means a desk or nightstand drawer, or maybe a medicine cabinet. If you want to carry a condom on your person (because why not be optimistic?), consider keeping them in a hard shell case (an empty sunglass case, for example) in a coat or blazer pocket. 

The best way to feel confident about the condom you’re using is to know where and when you bought it and exactly how it was stored. Put a little effort into taking care of your condoms; after all, they’re made to take care of you.

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