How to Use a Condom Correctly

9 steps to follow when using an external condom for protection

It is important to know how to use a condom correctly to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This not only includes knowing how to put an external condom—rolling it down correctly and pinching the tip of the condom—but also how to properly open the packet and dispose of the used condom afterward.

This can be tricky if you're using a condom for the first time and challenging for anyone who hasn't taken the time to practice. And it pays to practice because, when used correctly and consistently, condoms are an effective form of contraception (birth control) and STI prevention.

This article reviews how to put on a condom properly, including photos of things you should and shouldn't do.


Check the Expiration Date

Pile of different condoms

robertelyov / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The first step to using a condom correctly is making certain it's still usable. Always check the expiration date on the condom package before using it.

When condoms are old or stored improperly, the latex breaks down. This increases the risk that the condom will be less effective, which can leave you with an unintended pregnancy or STI.

Be sure the packaging hasn't been damaged, too. If you notice a tear, hole, or signs of wear, throw it out—regardless of its expiration date.


Feel for the Air Bubble

Person holding condom, close-up of hands
Doug Menuez / Getty Images

Another way to check the freshness of a condom package is to feel for the air bubble.

An air bubble is intentionally put in the package to protect condoms from damage. Its presence means there aren't holes in the packaging and the condom should be intact.

The easiest way to check for the bubble is to gently squeeze the package between your thumb and first finger. 


Open the Package Carefully

Torn packaging of wrapper containing a condom
Rafe Swan / Getty Images

The foil packets that condoms come in are pretty easy to open, but it's important to be careful with it.

First, wash your hands. This is especially important if you could have bodily fluids on your hands from foreplay, which can contaminate the condom.

Then, carefully tear open the package along the corner or edge (most packaging indicates where you should tear). Don't use your fingernails, scissors, or any other sharp object, as you may rip or tear the condom along with the wrapper.

Preserving the Mood

Wondering how to put on a condom without losing the mood? One way is to practice beforehand so you can do it quickly and easily. You can also teach your partner to do it and make it part of the foreplay.


Find the Correct Side of the Condom

Hand holding a condom

Tatyana Azarova / Getty Images

Hold the condom up and make sure the side you will place on the penis is the correct one.

The rim should be rolled up on the outside, rather than tucked underneath.

You can unroll the condom a bit to check for this, if needed. You shouldn't have to stick your fingers inside the condom to do this.

You'll know you have the correct side if you can easily roll the condom down over the penis.

If you accidentally put the condom on inside out, throw it out and start again with a fresh one, as the outside may have come into contact with fluids.


Make Room and Put the Condom On

Reservoir tip of condom

Koldunova_Anna / Getty Images

Pinch the tip of the condom with the pads of your fingers and place it on the penis.

Doing this will ensure that there's a space for fluid released during ejaculation (climax). Without it, the condom could break.

This can also help keep air from getting trapped inside the condom. Most condoms have what's called a reservoir tip for this purpose.

(You can skip this step if you're using the condom over a sex toy.)


Unroll the Condom All the Way

Condoms on cucumbers, contraception concept
Oleksiy Maksymenko / Getty Images

Once you have the condom in place, unroll it so it covers the full shaft of the penis.

Doing this will help reduce the risk of transmission of any STIs that are transferred from skin to skin contact, such as syphilis. It also makes the condom less likely to slip than if it's only rolled down part of the way. 

If the condom does not fully cover the shaft of the penis, or if it feels tight, the condom is too small. Using a condom that is too small or too large increases the risk that it could fail.

What Size Condom Do I Need?

It's important to find the right size of condom for you or your partner. That makes it more comfortable and more effective, as it's less likely to slide off. Typically, it takes trying a few different sizes to determine what you need.


Check for Trapped Air

If the tip of the condom feels like an inflated balloon, there's air inside. Leaving it there could make the condom more likely to break during sex.

Release the air by placing your hands around the penis and gently smoothing out the condom from tip to base.

Sometimes putting a little bit of lube in the tip of the condom before putting it on can help prevent this.


Hold the Condom When Withdrawing

After ejaculation, condoms should be removed carefully before the penis becomes less erect.

As the penis is withdrawn from the vagina, anus, or mouth, hold onto the base to keep the ejaculate inside. If the condom slides off inside your partner, twist the open end of the condom shut before removing it.

If you don't do this, the condom may slide off or leak.


Throw Away the Condom

Condoms should be put in the trash, not the toilet. (They can clog pipes).

It's a good idea to wrap the condom in toilet paper or a paper towel to prevent it from leaking and making a mess. It also protects your privacy better.


Condoms are an important form of birth control and an easy way to avoid disease. However, in order to work properly, they must be used correctly.

Always check the expiration date and packaging, and open it carefully. When you're putting it on, leave room for the ejaculate and make sure you unroll it right side out. Always hold it in place when withdrawing from your partner and throw away the condom when you're done.

Following these best practices can help ensure that the condom you're using is as effective as possible.

A Word From Verywell

Condoms make your sex life safer. They also offer some peace of mind that may help you and your partner feel more relaxed. That alone can help make sex more enjoyable.

Condoms come in a wide variety of styles—including different colors, textures, and even flavors—to add to the experience.

Also remember that internal condoms are available and it's helpful for everyone to learn how to use them.

3 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. Nemours TeensHealth. How can you tell if a condom has expired?

  2. Planned Parenthood. How do you know if you have the condom on right?

  3. Crosby RA, Milhausen RR, Mark KP, Yarber WL, Sanders SA, Graham CA. Understanding problems with condom fit and feel: an important opportunity for improving clinic-based safer sex programsJ Prim Prev. 2013;34(1-2):109‐115. doi:10.1007/s10935-013-0294-3

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.