Why Double Wrapping Condoms Can Be Risky

Close-Up Of Woman Holding Condom Packet
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One of the most common questions about condom use is whether or not wearing two external condoms during sex provides better pregnancy protection than using just one. Along the same lines, many people also wonder if wearing both an external condom and an internal condom lowers your chances of getting pregnant.

Wearing Two Condoms May Seem Like a Good Idea

When you think about it, wearing two external condoms at the same time (also known as double bagging condoms) may seem like a good idea. But, this practice is really not recommended. There is no scientific evidence that suggests that wearing two external condoms works better than one external condom if you are correctly wearing an external condom. So this means that it is fine to rely on wearing just one external condom as your birth control method. After all, external condoms are 85% to 98% effective for preventing pregnancy.

Also, keep in mind that an external condom should never be used at the same time as an internal condom. When used alone, internal condoms are 79% to 95% effective. Plus both external and internal condoms are the only birth control methods that can also help protect you against sexually transmitted infections.

Why Double Bagging Isn't Recommended

Medical professionals (like OB/GYNs, nurse practitioners, etc.) caution that wearing two external condoms together can increase the friction between the condoms during sex. This can make them more likely to rip or tear. Because it is difficult to design research studies that look into the practice of double bagging external condoms, there is not a lot of scientific literature that explains why wearing two condoms is not a safe practice.

That being said, most members of the medical community agree that wearing two external condoms at the same time is likely to create too much friction, and this can increase the chance that either one or both of the condoms will break.

What Else Does the Medical Community Say?

External condoms are not designed for double bagging, so many condom manufacturers also advise against this practice. Here are what some other reputable organizations are saying:

  • The National Health Service, the world’s largest publicly funded health service, cautions that it is safer to only use one condom (external or internal) at a time and that wearing two external condoms is “a really bad idea.”
  • The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services advises, "don’t use an internal and an external condom at the same time, as this may cause both condoms to break or tear."

Scientific Research

As already mentioned, there is very little medical research on this topic. The following are the results from three different studies that investigated the practice of wearing two external condoms:

  • A study published in The Journal of Human Sexuality says that wearing two external condoms at the same time can lead to increased friction, increasing the likelihood of a condom ripping.
  • The researchers of another study concluded that the probability of breakage when wearing two external condoms at the same time was 3.4% and when this occurs, the majority of the tears happen near the tip of the external condom.
  • The final study claims that the effectiveness and acceptability of double bagging external condoms are not known. The results of this research showed that of the 83 people with penises who had practiced double-bagging condoms, 19.3% (1 in 5) reported that wearing two external condoms caused the condom to break. The researchers also write that, "although overall breakage rates were slightly higher when two condoms were used compared with when a single condom was used, it was extremely rare for both condoms to break when double-bagging was practiced.

Why Be Concerned About This?

It may be more helpful to focus your thinking on why you feel the need to wear two external condoms during sex. Do you want to double bag condoms because you believe this will give you better protection? If you are nervous about only relying upon external or internal condoms, you could explore the use of an additional birth control method. For excellent protection against pregnancy and STIs, how about using a condom (external or internal) along with a hormonal contraceptive method like:

  • The Pill
  • The Patch
  • Depo Provera shot
  • Nexplanon
  • NuvaRing

If hormonal birth control is not an option, external or internal condom effectiveness can also be increased by using a condom with spermicide. Spermicides are also available over the counter. Although spermicide is 72% to 82% effective when used alone, it is most effective when used with another method of birth control (like a condom). A person with a vagina can also consider combining external or internal condom use with the use of a diaphragm or cervical cap.

Using a personal lubricant can also help decrease external condom friction and lower the chances that your condom will break. When choosing a lubricant, pick a water-soluble brand, not an oil-based one. Many couples report great satisfaction with silicone-based lubricants. These tend to stay slippery longer than those that are water-based and are safe to use with external and internal condoms. Because they typically do not cause allergic reactions or skin irritations, silicone-based lubricants are also a great alternative if you have sensitive skin.

Bottom Line

Researchers, for some reason or another, are not scientifically examining the use of double bagging external condoms. Because of this, there is a lack of reputable medical data on this topic. Even though there is not a lot of data on the subject, remember that both the medical community and condom manufacturers say that it is not a good idea to wear two condoms (external or internal) at the same time. We admit that there is not any convincing scientific data that suggests that you should not wear two condoms at the same time—but there is also no research that has really tested this practice and supports the use of double bagging external condoms.

So the bottom line... the practice of not double bagging external condoms falls more under that category of a "recommended practice" rather than "scientific proof." And really, if you are correctly using a condom, then there really is no reason to wear two of them—one works just fine. It may also be helpful to know that the chance of one condom breaking during sex is relatively low; the CDC indicates that 2 out of every 100 condoms break during use (2% breakage rate).

This is a topic where doctors and health educators have come up with their best recommendations based on limited research and what we know about condom failure. And from what we know: it is reasonable to think that the rubber on rubber action that occurs when using two condoms (or the plastic on the rubber with external and internal condoms) will cause added friction. We also know that added friction has been linked to condom tearing—and this can make a condom less effective. So even without any solid "scientific data" to back this up, common sense offers a good reason as to why double bagging external condoms may not be such a great practice.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Munoz K, Davtyan M, Brown B. Revisiting the condom riddle: Solutions and implications. Electronic J Hum Sex. 2014;17.

  2. Planned Parenthood. How effective are condoms?

  3. Planned Parenthood. How effective are internal condoms?

  4. Rugpao S, Pruithithada N, Yutabootr Y, Prasertwitayakij W, Tovanabutra S. Condom breakage during commercial sex in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Contraception. 1993;48(6):537-547. doi:10.1016/0010-7824(93)90116-o

Additional Reading

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.