7 Reasons for Condom Failure

Learn how to prevent slippage, breakage, and other accidents

Condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent and lower the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But they're only effective if you use them consistently and correctly.

Even if you use a condom without fail, there may be times it slips off during sex or spontaneously bursts or ruptures. This can happen if the condom:

  • Wasn't made properly
  • Wasn't stored at the right temperature
  • Was used after its expiration date
  • Was torn when taken out of the packet
  • Was too small or too large
  • Was used with the wrong lubricant
  • Wasn't put on or used properly

Studies suggest that typical use of male condoms can still have a 14% failure rate. However, when you use male condoms properly, they are 97% effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.

This article reviews the possible ways a condom can fail and how you can use a condom the right way to prevent condom failure.

Proper Condom Use

Proper condom use isn't limited to the time you're having sex. It starts from the moment you buy the condom and ends when you dispose of it. To prevent condom failure, there are 10 things you need to do:

Buy the Right-Sized Condom

To get the right size, measure your penis while it's erect. This helps you know the right length, width, and girth. You can match the measurements to the sizing chart on the condom box.

Buy the Right Lubricant

Always use water-based or silicone-based lube with latex condoms.

Never use oil-based lube, including baby oil or coconut oil. This can damage the latex and increase the risk of rupture.

Never use lambskin condoms. Only use condoms that are marked as approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Store the Condom at the Right Temperature

You should not store condoms at temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep condoms out of direct sunlight and never store them in the glove compartment of your car.

Check the Expiration Date

If the condom is expired, throw it out—no exceptions. There's no guarantee of how effective it will be if it's past the expiration date.

Remove the Condom From Its Packet Carefully

Tears often happen when you're rushing and rip the condom package with your teeth. To avoid this, use nail scissors instead.

You can even take a condom out before sex and put it by your bed.

Learn How to Put Condoms on Correctly

Know what side of the condom is up and how to roll it on correctly with an open reservoir tip. Don't wait until the last minute to learn how to use a condom. Practice either alone or with your partner to get it right before having sex.

Use Plenty of Personal Lubricant

Rupture can occur when there's a lot of friction during sex.

Avoid this by using plenty of lubricant. If you need to, pull out to put on more lubricant. This is especially true if you or your partner have any vagina or penis piercings.

Remove the Condom Soon After Ejaculation

If you don't take a condom off right away, your penis can shrink and the condom can slip off as you pull out. This can spill sperm into the vagina or rectum.

After ejaculating, pull out carefully, remove the condom, tie up the end to prevent it from spilling, and throw it away.

Don't Reuse Condoms

Even if you want to have sex again with the same partner, resist the temptation to reuse a condom. There may be ejaculate on the outside of the condom. Plus, a used condom is more likely to burst.

Use Condoms Consistently

You can't tell if someone has an STI by looking at them. Don't let anyone talk you out of using condoms or suggest that pulling out early is safe. If you don't have condoms, you can either wait until another time or engage in safer sex practices like mutual masturbation.

Other Considerations

It's also good to know what condoms can't effectively protect you from.

For example, research suggests using condoms 100% of the time only reduces your risk of genital herpes (herpes simplex virus type 2) by 30%. For that reason, you should know the signs and symptoms of herpes and avoid sex during an acute outbreak.

Also, typical use of condoms is 80% effective in preventing HIV transmission during vaginal sex and 70% during anal sex.

For more protection, someone with HIV should be on antiretroviral therapy to lower the chance of spreading their infection to their sexual partners. At the same time, their partners who don't have HIV should consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. This will help lower their chance of infection.

Summary

Using condoms the right way can help prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But certain factors can lead to condom failure, like using expired condoms, storing at the wrong temperature, or using an oil-based lubricant.

A Word From Verywell

If you don't protect yourself each time you have sex, you risk an unplanned pregnancy. You also risk getting or passing on a sexually transmitted infection. Always use a new condom every time you have sex.

Frequently Asked Questions

10 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Contraception.

  2. Marfatia YS, Pandya I, Mehta K. Condoms: past, present, and future. Indian J Sex Transm Dis AIDS. 2015 Jul-Dec;36(2):133-9. doi:10.4103/2589-0557.167135

  3. Martin ET, Krantz E, Gottlieb SL, et al. A pooled analysis of the effect of condoms in preventing HSV-2 acquisition. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(13):1233-40. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.177

  4. United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Condom and lubricant programming in high HIV prevalence countries.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraception: birth control methods.

  6. Planned Parenthood. How effective are condoms?

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Condom effectiveness: external (sometimes called male) condom use.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's your future. You can protect it.

  9. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Emergency contraception.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated guidelines for antiretroviral postexposure prophylaxis after sexual, injecting drug use, or other nonoccupational exposure to HIV—United States, 2016.

By Jerry Kennard
 Jerry Kennard, PhD, is a psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society.