How to Use a Condom: 9 Steps for Safety

It's not difficult to use a male condom the right way. However, it's very easy to use one the wrong way. Although an instruction sheet is a good place to start, it doesn't detail everything you need to know to make your sex safer.

Below, you will find instructions on how to use male condoms. Included are photos of things you should do and things you should avoid. 

1

Check the Expiration Date

Woman's hands holding a condom
Fabrice Lerouge / Getty Images

The first step to using a condom correctly is making certain it's still usable. It's important to check the expiration date on the condom package before opening it. When a condom is old or stored improperly, the latex breaks down, increasing the risk of failure.

2

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. The easiest way to do this is to gently squeeze the package between your thumb and first finger. 

If the air bubble is there, it means that the package hasn't been punctured. Therefore the condom should also be intact. The air bubble is actually there for just this reason. It's a way to protect condoms against accidental or intentional degradation and damage.

3

Open the Condom Carefully

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

To open a condom package, tear carefully along the corner or edge. Don't use fingernails or scissors to open a condom package. The foil packets that condoms come in are pretty easy to tear. Look for the side tabs to help open the package.

Using a sharp object increases the risk of ripping or tearing the condom along with the package.

4

Check That the Condom Is Right Side Out

Colorful condom
Maciej Toporowicz, NYC / Getty Images

Before putting a condom on, you want to be certain of which way is up. Condoms should go on like a hat, not like a shower cap.

You know the condom is right-side up if you can roll it down easily. You shouldn't have to stick your fingers inside the condom to unroll it.

If you accidentally put the condom on upside down, throw it out and start again.

If the condom has come into contact with the head of the penis, it may be contaminated with secretions. This is also why you should wash your hands before putting on a condom if you've been touching yourself or your partner intimately.

5

Make a Little Room

Man unwrapping condom while girlfriend sitting in bed behind him
Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON. / Getty Images

The reservoir tip of a condom isn't actually large enough to hold the amount of semen contained in an ejaculation. Not all condoms have a reservoir tip, however. If it doesn't have that feature, make sure there's enough space in the tip by pinching the top of the condom to avoid letting air in.

You will, therefore, want to unroll the condom slightly before placing it on the penis. You do not need to do this step if you are using the condom over a sex toy. 

6

Place the Condom On

condom on a banana
Fernando Trabanco Fotografía / Getty Images

When you put a condom on a penis, it's important to leave room at the tip. If you don't, there will not be enough space to contain the ejaculate. This could cause the condom to break.

It is also essential to make sure there is no air trapped in the tip of the condom that could make it more likely to break.

Sometimes putting a little bit of lube in the tip of the condom before putting it on can help to avoid an air bubble. If you don't like that sensation, just check that the air is out of the condom before putting it on.

It shouldn't feel like there is an inflated balloon at the tip. 

7

Unroll the Condom All the Way

Condoms on cucumbers, contraception concept
Oleksiy Maksymenko / Getty Images

Unroll the condom to cover the full shaft of the penis. Doing this will help reduce the risk of transmission of any sexually transmitted diseases that are transferred from skin to skin, such as syphilis. It also makes the condom less likely to slip than if it is only rolled down partway. 

8

Hold the Condom When Withdrawing

After ejaculation, it is important to hold onto the condom at the base while the penis is withdrawn from the vagina, anus, or mouth. This should be done before the penis becomes less erect.

Failing to hold onto the condom makes it more likely that the condom will slide off. It also increases the risk that it will leak.

If a condom remains behind in your partner after withdrawal, twist the end of the condom shut before removing it. That will help contain any secretions.

9

Throw Away the Condom

Condoms go in the trash, not in the toilet. If they go in the toilet, your next date might need to be with a plumber.

When throwing away a condom after sex, it may be a good idea to wrap it in toilet paper or tissue to prevent it from leaking and making a mess. This is particularly true if you're throwing away the condom in a trash can without a liner.

A Word From Verywell

Condoms don't just make your sex life safer. They can make it better as well. When you know you're protecting yourself from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases it does wonders for your peace of mind. Make sure to follow these safety tips for fun without worry.

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Article 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. Gossman W, Shaeffer AD, McNabb DM. Condoms. StatPearls Publishing. Updated July 11, 2019.

  2. Planned Parenthood. How do you know if you have the condom on right? Updated May 4, 2011.

Additional Reading
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Condom Fact Sheet in Brief. 2013.