Do Condoms Expire?

3 Things to Do With Out of Date Condoms

Expired Condom

Elizabeth R. Boskey 

Condoms help protect against sexually transmitted diseases. When used correctly every time you have sex, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, few people regularly use them as instructed, which brings that down to 85%.

One common mistake people make is using a condom after its expiration date. The lifespan of a condom is between one and five years, depending on the material it is made from. An expired condom may not provide effective protection against STDs and pregnancy. In addition, using a condom with spermicide after its expiration date may lead to skin irritation.

Where Do I Find a Condom's Expiration Date?

Every condom has an expiration date. The expiration date is stamped on both the outer box and on the individual wrapper. It is typically found on the edges of the foil wrappers. Prior to using any condom, check the packaging to ensure it is not damaged or expired. If it is, do not use it.

Most condoms have a shelf life of one to five years depending on the material used. Condoms made from animal-based material, like lambskin, break down faster than latex or polyurethane ones. When purchasing condoms, it is always a good idea to check the expiration date, especially if you do not expect to use them all soon.

Why Do Condoms Expire?

Most health and medical products have an expiration date, and condoms are no exception. The manufacture determines the expiration date based on the type of materials involved in the production.

Condoms made with natural latex or polyurethane are the most resilient and have a shelf life of up to five years. Condoms made with polyisoprene, a type of artificial rubber, can last up to three years. Condoms made with non-latex, natural materials like lambskin or sheepskin have the shortest shelf life at one year. (These also do not provide protection from STDs.)

Latex or polyurethane condoms with spermicide have a shorter shelf than plain condoms—about three years. Over time, spermicide degrades the integrity of condom material lessening its effectiveness. In addition, the chemicals in spermicide can break down over time and using it past the expiration date may lead to irritation and a burning sensation. 

Can I Still Use an Expired Condom? 

Using an expired condom is not recommended. An expired condom may not provide adequate protection against pregnancy or STDs. However, if the only options are having sex with an expired condom or having unprotected sex, Planned Parenthood recommends using the expired condom.

The one exception to using expired condoms in an emergency is condoms with spermicide. Do not use spermicidal condoms past the expiration date as the chemicals can breakdown and may cause irritation to delicate tissue in and around the vagina and penis.

How to Store Condoms

Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a drawer in your nightstand or dresser. Heat and humidity can degrade the material in both the condom wrapper and the condom itself. and should be stored in a cool, dry place. 

Storing condoms in the bathroom is a bad idea because it is a humid environment due to steam from a shower. It is also not wise to store them in the car, because it can get very hot, especially in the summer months. Keeping a condom in your wallet is also problematic, especially if you wear your wallet in your back pocket. To ensure a condom's effectiveness, keep it away from heat and humidity and always check the packaging to ensure it is sealed before using it. 

What Should I Do With Expired Condoms?

While expired condoms should not be used for sexual intercourse, you don't have to throw them out. Condoms can be handy for other things. Here are three uses for expired condoms.

Make Sex Toy Play Safer

One of the best uses of an expired condom is to make sex toy play safer. If you share sex toys with a partner, such as a dildo or a vibrator, you should never pass them from one person to the next without first ensuring the toy is sanitized and free of possible contagions, including fecal matter.

One way to do so is to "glove up" your toys in the same way you would a penis. The expiration date doesn't matter nearly as much when used in this fashion since there is no significant downside to a breakage (other than having to clean the toy sooner and more thoroughly).

Swapping out a condom is far easier than having to stop and sanitize a toy that you want to share in the heat of the moment.

When using condoms with sex toys, they should be put on the toy before use and discarded and changed between partners.

Waterproof Your Belongings

Most people don't think of condoms as being essential for camping or other outdoor activities, but condoms are meant to provide a water-tight barrier so that fluids cannot enter or leave.

Despite the fact that condoms appear delicate, they are extremely elastic and can easily cover a cell phone to prevent moisture damage when on a boating trip. Just roll it over your electronics and tie a knot to seal it. You can also use them when packing for a trip to store items that may leak, like mouthwash or lotion, or items you want to keep dry, like medications.

Protect Your Hands

Let's say that you dropped your keys into the toilet or need to clean out a really yucky clogged drainpipe or gutter. If you find that you neither had a pair of gloves handy nor the time to run out to buy some, you can protect your hands by tugging out a condom and slipping it over your hand.

Sure, it's not the most robust hand protector you'll ever find, but condoms are far stronger than most people imagine. If needed, you can even double up with two (something you should never do during sex).

Some people will even use them to protect their hands when mixing colored plaster for art projects or preparing raw beets that can readily stain hands.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraception: birth control methods. Updated November 1, 2019

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Class II Special Controls Guidance Document: Labeling for Natural Rubber Latex Condoms Classified Under 21 CFR 884.5300. Updated October 23, 2019.

  3. Planned Parenthood. What happens if you use an expired condom? Updated October 26, 2011.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to use a male condom. Updated July 6, 2016