Finger Cots for Safer Sex

How to Properly Use a "Finger Condom"

A finger cot, also known as a finger condom or finger glove, is a flexible tube-like cap that covers a finger. Finger cots are often used to keep finger wounds dry but can also be used for safer sex when fingering or performing an anal massage. Finger cots can be purchased online and in some drugstores. You can also make them by cutting a finger off a latex or nitrile glove.

A finger cot can be an effective barrier device if you're only using only one finger. They can reduce the risk of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs, formerly referred to as sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs) like HPV (human papillomavirus, which can affect fingers and other exposed areas of skin). Finger cots are often more comfortable than gloves for people with large or unusually shaped hands.

Finger cots can even be stretched over smaller sex toys or vibrators to prevent fomite infection (transmission of an STI from an object).

Someone putting on a finger cot on their partner’s finger
hphimagelibrary / Getty Images

Pros and Cons

Although finger cots were a standard part of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) education in the 1980s and 1990s, they're not as commonly used today. However, they are available in most drugstores, typically in the wound care section, and can be purchased online.

For most people, gloves are easier to use. They cover all of the hand and, if sized correctly, fit like a second skin. With gloves, you don't have to think as much during sex or worry about exposed skin. If nothing else, gloves are less likely to roll up or fall off during sex.

Another downside is that finger cots are small and easy to lose during sex. While frustrating, this is not a major concern in the vagina. As a closed system, a woman can usually fish around and pull it out herself.

A finger cot can be more problematic if lost in the rectum. Although it will usually come out during a bowel movement, there have been rare cases where medical treatment is needed to locate and remove a "stuck" cot.

On the other hand, gloves take away some of the tactile sensitivity that many people enjoy during sex. When used properly, a finger cot allows you to finger genitals without feeling like you are wrapped in cling film. Some people will even put them on all five fingers, providing protection without the constriction one can have with gloves.

If you have rough skin or burrs on your fingernail or cuticle, a finger cot can help smooth things over and reduce the risk of scratches and abrasions.

How to Use a Finger Cot

Unlike condoms, finger cots are not individually wrapped but are sold in a dispenser box with anywhere from 36–300 cots per box. The rules governing their use are similar to those used for condoms, including:

  1. Before applying the cot, trim and file your fingernail so that it won't rip the latex. The skin should also be dry and not covered with lubricant to reduce the risk of slippage.
  2. Each finger cot looks like a rolled-up beanie. To apply the cot, place it on your finger with the rolled rim exposed. (If the rim is tucked under, you're putting it on the wrong way.)
  3. Roll the cot all the way down toward the base of the finger. Smooth out any air pockets and check that there are no rips and holes. If there are, throw the cot away and use another one.
  4. Use a lubricant to reduce friction and the risk of breakage. If the finger cot is made of latex, use only water-based or silicone-based lubes. Oil-based lubes can degrade the latex and cause breakage.
  5. After use, remove the finger cot and dispose of it in a wastebasket (not the toilet). Wash your hands with warm water and soap.

Never place a finger cot in the vagina if it was previously used on the anus or rectum. Finger cots should never be reused. This applied to all barrier devices, including fem-doms and dental dams.

Finger cots can be safely stored at room temperature but are damaged by excessive heat or direct sun exposure. Keep them in a cool, dry cabinet or drawer.

If the finger cots have expired, look damaged or discolored, or smell funny, throw them away. Finger cots are relatively cheap and easy to replace.

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2 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. PlannedParenthood. Surgical gloves and finger cots: Not just for doctors and not just for fingers

  2. Virginia Commonwealth University. Condoms & other barrier methods: A guide to safer sex. Updated June 2015.

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