7 Reasons for Condom Failure

Learn how to prevent slippage, breakage, and other accidents

Couple embracing in bed, focus on condom in foreground

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Condoms are one of the most effective means of preventing pregnancy and reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But they are only effective if used consistently and correctly.

Even if you use a condom without fail, there may be times a condom will slip off during sex or spontaneously burst or rupture. There can be many possible explanations for this:

  • The condom was not manufactured properly.
  • The condom was not stored at the right temperature.
  • The condom was used after its expiration date.
  • The condom was torn during removal from its packet.
  • The condom was too small or too large.
  • The wrong lubricant was used.
  • The user didn't know how to properly use condoms.

Studies suggest that the failure rate of the male condom with typical use is no less than 14%. When used properly, male condoms are 97% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.

Proper Condom Use

Proper condom use is not only limited to the time you are having sex; it starts from the moment you buy the condom and ends when you dispose of it after next. To prevent condom failure, there are 10 things you need to do:

  1. Buy the right size condom. To get the right size, measure your penis while it's erect to get the correct length, width, and girth. You can match the measurements to the sizing chart on the condom box.
  2. 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, as it can damage the latex and increase the risk of rupture. Never use lambskin condoms. Only use condoms that are marked as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  3. Store the condom at the right temperature. Condoms should not be stored at temperatures over 100 F or less than 32 F. Condoms should also be kept out of direct sunlight. Never store condoms in your glove compartment.
  4. Check the expiration date. If it is expired, throw it out. No exceptions.
  5. Remove the condom from its packet carefully. Tears often occur when you are rushing and tear the condom package with your teeth. To avoid this, use nail scissors. You can even take a condom out before sex and place it on your bedside.
  6. Learn how to put condoms on correctly. This includes knowing which side of the condom is the up-side 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 in advance of intercourse.
  7. Use plenty of personal lubricant. Rupture can occur from excessive friction during intercourse. To avoid this, use ample lubricant and, if needed, pull out to apply additional lubricant. This is especially true if there are any vaginal or penile piercings.
  8. Remove the condom soon after ejaculation. If you don't, the penis can shrink and slip off as you withdrawal, spilling sperm into the vagina or rectum. After ejaculating, withdraw carefully, remove the condom, tie up the end to prevent spillage, and throw it away.
  9. Avoid reusing condoms. Even if you want to have sex again with the same partner, resist the temptation to reuse a condom. There may not only be residual pre-ejaculate on the outside of the condom, but a used condom is more likely to burst with repeat use.
  10. 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 reschedule or engage in safer sex practices like mutual masturbation.

Other Considerations

It is also important to know what condoms are less able to prevent. For instance, research suggests that 100% consistent condom use translates to a mere 30% reduction in the risk of genital herpes (herpes simplex virus type 2). As such, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of herpes so that you can avoid sex during an acute outbreak.

Similarly, with typical use, condoms are 80% effective in preventing HIV transmission during vaginal sex and 70% during anal sex. To ensure greater protection, a person with HIV should be on antiretroviral therapy to reduce their infectivity, while partners without HIV should consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to reduce their vulnerability to infection.

A Word From Verywell

If you do not protect yourself each time you have sex, you risk an unplanned pregnancy. You also risk contracting—or passing on—a sexually transmitted infection. Always use a new condom each time you have sex.

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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.
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