Condoms are considered an important commodity for any dating adult. Not only do they prevent unwanted pregnancies, they also serve to protect people from STDs. Additionally, their affordability and accessibility makes it a good choice for protection. But how long do condoms last, irrespective of whether it’s in your wallet or your drawer?
Condoms have come a long way from the ancient fish bladders into their modern day variety that provides protection, pleasure, or simply eye candy. But despite what your favorite condom manufacturer tells you about their product’s durability, condoms do not last forever.
Like any commodity, their quality degenerates over time. Improper storage and mishandling further decreases their efficiency. Aside from knowing how to put it on, it is important to check if the condom you use is still safe to put on. [Read: 10 birth control options and what they can do for you]
#1 How long do condoms last? The majority of condoms are made of latex which is a rubber-like material. On average, commercial latex condoms last four to five years from its manufacturing date. That is, if the condom is stored properly.
Condoms, even stored properly, degenerate over time. They become brittle after its date of expiration. It is not advisable to use it then.
#2 How long do opened condoms last? Upon opening, the best quality commercially-produced latex condom is still usable for eight to ten hours after opening depending on temperature. Opened condoms dry up and lose their elasticity making them brittle when used some time after opening. [Read: 15 things they don’t teach you in sex ed]
#3 Do certain types of condoms last longer than others? There are different condom types each designed with additive material for a specific purpose. Each of those materials has varying shelf lives which makes certain condoms last longer than others. By far, latex condoms have the longest shelf life amongst other types.
**Condoms with spermicides – lasts two to five years. Its spermicidal content doesn’t last long, shortening its shelf life compared to regular latex condoms.
**Polyurethane condoms – polyurethane is a material used as a latex substitute and caters to those allergic to the latex. Despite a safe alternative, polyurethane condoms are physically less durable and more susceptible to heat damage compared to latex.
**Other non-latex condoms – aside from latex and polyurethane, there are other exotic condoms out there made up of organic material such as animal intestine. These types sacrifice shelf life for a unique sensation during use. That’s why their shelf life is shorter than normal condoms. [Read: The different types of condoms and how each of them can improve your sex life]
#4 Does a condom’s thickness prolong its shelf life? No. A condom’s thickness only matters when it’s subjected to action. Thick condoms are more resistant to tears and burst but are still vulnerable to heat damage and degeneration with time. [Read: The newbies complete guide to buying and using condoms]
#5 What are the usual mistakes people do with condoms that affect their effectiveness? Be sure to take good care of your condoms.
**Store them haphazardly – ideally, condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place in order to extend its shelf life. Random placement near sources of heat such as appliances or sunlight dries up the moisture inside the pack and makes your condoms brittle.
**Placing it inside your wallet – placing it inside the wallet initially seems smart as it allows you to carry those condoms anywhere. In reality, placing it in an area where it is subjected to friction, pressure, and constant changes in temperature causes damage to the condom’s structure.
**Leaving it outside the box – the foil pack may not be as durable as you think. Even if outside your wallet but placed in areas where scratched and punctured by other objects in your bag such as keys, pens, and other sharp items may cause damage that’s hard to identify by the time you use it. Simply said, there’s a reason why it comes in a box.
**Mishandling – the last risk of damage usually comes from the moment of use. Your condom may have survived by being stored properly, but if used improperly and mishandled, it won’t be of much use to you in the end. Mishandling comes from using the wrong lubricant, two layers of condoms, and wearing it improperly. [Read: Unprotected sex and the dangers most people don’t think about]
#6 How can I prolong my condom’s shelf life? The best way to prolong a condom’s shelf life is to emulate the conditions it is kept in the store. Instead of wondering how long do condoms last, focus on safe storage, and store it like you would a bottle of medication.
**Store it in a cool, dry place – don’t store it in your wallet or dump it in the pocket in your bag. Keep it in its box and store it inside your medicine cabinet, or inside the drawer of your nightstand.
**Keep it away from sharp objects – sharp objects puncture the wrapper making it dry and brittle or the condom itself, making it useless.
**Use condoms near its expiration first before the fresh ones – this practice prevents you from storing condoms until expiry.
**Open it properly – not with your teeth please. [Read: How to have safe sex in every single way possible]
#7 How can I tell if a condom is still fit to use? So, you see a random pack of condoms lying around. You wonder if it’s still safe to use. What do you do then?
**Check the expiry date on the box – if your condom is fortunately found inside its box, you still check if it’s within its shelf life. If it isn’t, the only thing to do is to throw it away. Maybe use it as a live sample for sex education demonstrations.
**Check the place it is found – is it a cool and dry place? Or did you happen to find it beneath your car seat or wedged between the bedframe and mattress? If the place you found it is not a conducive area to store condoms, forget about using it.
**If the condom is unboxed, check the wrapper – does it have tears, holes, or wrinkles? If you found it in the aforementioned states, think twice about using it and simply chuck it into the bin.
**Finally, check the condom itself – you may still go through a phase where you’d want to save that lonely pack you casually found somewhere. But if you want to be safe, at least check if it is still flexible and lubricated. A dry and stiff condom is a sign that it’s way past its usable state. It must not be used for your own safety.
[Read: How to become a condom know-it-all in five minutes]
So how long do condoms last? Any condom may boast extra durability, but nothing lasts forever. Over time, condoms lose their durability, and ultimately, their effectiveness in providing protection.
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