All You Need to Know About Condoms

ShopInPrivate's Condom Information Page
Executive Summary
Everything you need to know about condoms. How to use them, and how to purchase them.

Hot Facts
  • What are condoms?
  • How and when to use a condom
ShopInPrivate's Condom Information Page

Welcome to ShopInPrivate's condom information page. We have compiled and summarized information from a number of sources to make this page. We hope the information is useful. Sources include:

  • Consumer Reports Article: How reliable are condoms?, May, 1995. It was one of the only objective tests on the major brands of condoms.
  • Trojan Condoms consumer information
  • LifeStyles condoms consumer information
  • Information from the National Institute of Health (a division of the US Government)
  • Information from the Centers for Disease Control (another US Government agency)
  • Planned Parenthood.
  • Of course we have thrown in our own two-cents as young(er) consumers that are condom users we felt that some of the information available is a little too "corporate" and needed some personality.

We feel that these are reliable sources for your information. We hope that the summary is useful.

Condom Information Page (Index)

(Click on these items to go right to that section)

How to use a condom

Before Sex

  • Use a new condom every time you have sex. These guys are not reusable. (There is a joke about that' It goes. How do you reuse a condom? A: Turn it inside out and wash the F**K out of it). Funny? Not really and it isn't true either. Use a new condom every time.
  • Put the condom on the penis as soon as the penis gets hard. Do this before foreplay, before the penis gets anywhere near any body opening (this is to avoid exposure to ANY body fluid that can carry infection).
  • Putting the condom on can be difficult. First gently open the package. Don't tear the condom in half in your haste. If you have properly completed step 2, you should be pretty excited, but remember if you ruin that condom, things could start to shrivel up on you. After you have the condom open figure out which way it needs to face to be put on properly. The rolled-up ring has to go on the outside so that you can roll it down your penis.
  • Squeeze the tip gently so that you don't trap any air inside it, and so that you leave room for the semen after you come. Hold the tip while you unroll the condom. Unroll it all the way down to the hair. For you Italian guys (like your author) going down to the hair first hair isn't going to cut it. Roll it down to near the base of your penis. Don't roll it down far enough to stuff your balls into it, just far enough down so that you will be able to handle it properly after orgasm (see next step).

After Sex

  • While your penis is still hard, right after you come, hold the condom in place (this is possible because you have rolled the condom far enough down your penis) with your fingers and pull out slowly. This will avoid spilling any semen.
  • Turn and move completely away. This is a good time to say, "Time to powder my nose" or something to that effect.
  • Dispose of the condom properly. Unfortunately, they are not flushable. This means you have to throw it away. To prevent an incredible sticky mess, you may want to wrap it in some tissues or toilet paper or something.
  • Wash yourself up. Washing with soap and water can help prevent the spread of disease.
  • Afterplay is an important part of a healthy relationship. Separating yourself from your partner with a thin layer of latex should not mean that you have no attachment. Try to minimize the disruption in your relationship that condoms cause. Doing so can help you maintain a healthy attitude toward their use and can help build a healthy relationship.

Condoms Effectiveness

Birth Control

As a contraceptive, condoms are cheap and easy to obtain, but they are not perfect. The condom's reliability in preventing pregnancies depends on how it's measured. Researchers don't count the number of individual condoms that fail. They define contraceptive failure as the percentage of women who use a given method but who nonetheless become pregnant over a year's time.

For regular condoms, the typical failure rate is about 12% (the rate for the Reality female condom is 21%), somewhat worse than birth control pills (8%), but better than the diaphragm (18%), withdrawal (19%) and rhythm (20%). [Source: "Contraceptive Technology," Irvington Press, and Family Planning Perspectives journal.] Researchers know that, as with other methods, the failure figures include many couples who don't use contraception every time. If couples used condoms consistently and correctly, researchers estimate, the condom's failure rate would be only 2% or 3%, maybe even less (the Reality female condom is predicted to be 5%).

Disease Prevention

Sexually transmitted diseases are virtually 100% preventable with proper condom use. So well do latex condoms block germs that, since 1987, the FDA has allowed condom boxes to list all the diseases condoms help avert. More recently, the FDA told companies that the message was so crucial, they should also print it on the wrappers of individual condoms. Condom boxes warn that the product is intended for vaginal sex, but health officials say it's crucial to use condoms in anal and oral sex, too.

In a European study less than 2% of partners of people that had AIDS contracted the disease when the couple used condoms regularly and correctly. This study and a similar study done in Italy show that condoms are extremely effective in preventing the spread of disease, but only if the latex condoms are used effectively.

Condom Quality

Ways to measure condom quality:

There are a number of ways to measure condom quality including condom strength, elasticity (how much it stretches before it breaks), thickness, and effectiveness (in birth control and in preventing the spread of disease). They even use electrical impulse test to check for leaks. Each of these methods has their pros and cons. Without overstepping our breadth of knowledge we will describe each briefly and then give tips on how to make your condom use the most effective.

Condom Strength:

The strength of condoms can be measured in a couple of ways. One way that they are measured is burst pressure. The condoms are blown up like balloons and the pressure required to burst them is recorded. Higher burst pressures can indicate a stronger condom.


Elasticity is the ability of the condom to stretch like a rubber band. Latex is highly elastic material. Other plastic materials can be stronger, but may not stretch as far before they break. Comparing latex to other plastics is similar to comparing a rubber band to a rope. A rope may be stronger than a rubber band. You make have to pull harder on a rope to break it, but you will have to pull a rubber band farther. Which is more important, strength or elasticity. We don't know. At this point further information is required. For now we will continue to recommend latex condoms.


Thinner condoms, such as some condoms that claim improved sensitivity, generally score worse in strength tests than normal condoms. This is generally related to their decreased thickness. A thinner condom is generally weaker.

Some new condoms made from plastics other than latex promise improve strength and improved sensitivity. When we receive some reliable information about non-latex condoms we will post it here. At this time only manufacturers information is available. We will choose to wait for a third party opinion.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires production testing of condoms. One way that condoms are tested is by using electrical impulse. Electronics are use to measure the thickness of the latex all over the condoms. Any thin spots are shown through the condom because it has less electrical insulation. (note: even though condoms are electrically insulating, this does not allow you to put your Mr. Happy in an electrical socket). It is interesting to note that the FDA, which regulates condoms as medical devices, regularly rejects entire manufacturing lots of condoms because they do not pass this test. In 1993 the FDA rejected 2 of the 44 lots of domestic condoms it checked for leakage. Novelty condoms, which are not regulated, are not tested. Later in this page you will hear my opinions on novelty condoms.

Condom Age

Some condoms may have problems. It is not unheard of for condoms to be defective or to age poorly. One thing to look for is condom that is slightly hard, does not roll smoothly, or may be brittle. If you come across a condom like this, throw it out and use a new one. Speaking from personal experience, don't EVER have only one condom available because if that one condom is one of those brittle, hardened ones you are out of luck. Having a back up available is a good idea. To help prevent this, keep condoms in a cool place. Excess heat isn't good for them. Also look at the expiration date on your condom packages. These things don't last forever.

How to buy and use condoms most effectively:

  • Stick with a good brand.
  • Select the type of condom you want (lubricated, spermicide, ribbed, etc.). More on this in our section on buying condoms.
  • Stay away from novelty condoms as a birth control or disease prevention device
  • Follow the usage instructions properly and consistently.
  • Don't rely on your partner to provide them.
  • Keep them in a cool place (not your wallet).

When to use a condom

  • Regular sex

Yep, use a condom for regular sex. It is good for both birth and disease control. Please be sure to use them properly, though. Misused condoms are not very effective.

  • Oral sex?

Condoms are a great method of disease control. This applies to oral sex. Although the chances of catching some diseases is decreased with oral sex, there are still plenty of sexually transmitted diseases going around and many of them can be transmitted through oral sex. You would be wise to consider condoms for oral sex. You would not be wise to consider lubricated condoms for this purpose (yuck!).

  • Anal sex.

Anal sex is a highly risky practice. There is a higher risk of transfer of bodily fluids (especially blood) during anal sex. Condoms should be used for anal sex to prevent disease transfer. Anal sex should also include a condom safe lubricant. Petroleum jelly, baby oil, and many other products are NOT condom safe. More on this in our lubricant or non-lubricated category.

Condom Etiquette

  • Who is supposed to supply the condoms?

You are supposed to buy condoms. Regardless of whether you are male or female, straight or gay, you are supposed to supply the condoms. Don't be an idiot or a wuss.

  • What to do after orgasm.

It is polite to make sure that you pull out properly. Make sure that you put your finger on the rolled up lip of the condom when you pull out. This will prevent spillage of semen.

  • How to dispose of them

Unfortunately you cannot flush condoms. You have to toss them in the garbage. Wrapping them in tissues and putting them into the kitchen trash is a good idea, because that trash probably gets emptied most often. Putting the condom near the bottom of the trash can prevent embarrassment later.

  • What to do if it breaks

If a condom breaks, both partners should wash themselves with soap and water. Urinating is said to help avoid infections. It certainly couldn't hurt. In fact, you may have peed your pants already. If the breakage is discovered after ejaculation, having a separate spermicide handy to apply quickly may help. A doctor can prescribe an intense dose of birth-control pills or a "morning after pill", which will block most pregnancies if used within 72 hours of intercourse. Prayer can't hurt, but if you're catholic (like your author) it may fall on deaf ears.

How to tips for the guys

  • How to get that bad boy on their as fast as possible.
  • Don't rip the condom pack down the center. This can cause the condom to fall out.
  • Rip the pack near the edge, this prevents you from chasing the condom across the room and keeps you from tearing the condom.
  • Figure out which way the condom unrolls by unrolling it about 1/4 inch.
  • Squeeze the tip with one hand and roll it on with the other. This is definitely a two handed job.
  • How to take it off without the painful pubic hair experience
  • Some guys out there know exactly what I am talking about here. Rolling the condom off of your penis can roll up some stray pubic hairs. As you continue to unroll, the poor pubic hair gets plucked. OUCH! This can be very painful. To prevent this, try to pull the condom off like a glove. If you have a sink, splash some cold(er) water on your penis to encourage shrinkage. Slide it off.

How and what condoms to buy

  • Lubricated or non-lubricated

Lubricated vs. non-lubricated condoms can be a personal choice. For vaginal sex, sometimes lubrication is provided the natural way. Sometimes added lubrication is not unwelcomed. For oral sex, non-lubricated should be chosen to prevent an awful taste in the mouth. For anal sex, you will probably need all the lubricant you can get.

  • Spermicide or non-spermicide

Spermicide on condoms (usually nonoxynol-9) is not provided in enough quantity to work on its own, however, it is present in case of an accident. Apparently, it is present in case of spillage. Although its effectiveness is unproven, it would be difficult to image that it is less effective than no spermicide at all.

Nonoxynol-9 has its drawbacks. It has it's own smell. It can cause allergic reactions in some people. It is probably not for people engaging in oral or anal sex. However, if added pregnancy protection is what you are looking for, nonoxynol-9 provides extra for no inconvenience.

  • Reservoir tip, comfort fit, and the female condom

Some condoms have slightly different shapes. A reservoir tip is designed to hold semen after you orgasm. This is supposed to prevent breakage that could be caused by bursting. By giving the semen an expandable area in which to be deposited, the reservoir tip is designed to prevent breakage.

A comfort fit provides a loose pocket for the head of the penis. The shape of the condom is designed to provide some movement between the head of the penis and the side of the condom. This is supposed to provide more sensation for the man.

The female condom takes this one step further. The female condom is a sort of bag that is used to line the inside of the vagina. This device does not move with the man's penis. It should provide the most sensation for the man. It can also be put in place long before intercourse. The female condom can also provide an added amount of spontaneity.

  • Ribs, Bumps, French tickler, and other things

Not all condoms are smooth. Some have added features and textures. Ribbing is supposedly for the pleasure of the female (sorry gents, the ribs are on the outside). Consumer Reports published an article that measured the thickness of many condoms. The ribbed condoms tended to be thicker. This could contribute to added strength and less chance for breakage.

The French tickler is something I saw in a truck stop vending machine once. I still don't really know what it was. I have doubts that it was French, but am reasonable sure that it could be use to tickle something. I wouldn't trust a condom I bought through a truck stop vending machine, however.

On our condom jokes page there is an interesting rant about ribbed, bumped, etc. condoms told from the female perspective.

  • Novelty condoms (mint, glow in the dark, etc)

Novelty condoms are interesting to look at. I wouldn't be caught dead buying them, however. Any condom that has "not for birth control or disease prevention" on the package isn't really a condom in my opinion. I don't really know what I'd use these for. I don't especially like wearing a condom. I sort of accept it as a responsibility and I feel better about my lover and myself when we use one. I have no interest in wearing a condom that instead of preventing pregnancy the spread of disease, glows in the dark, or tastes like mint.

Am I supposed to wear one of these ON TOP of a normal condom? Two condoms? Am I supposed to put my faith in a company that makes glow in the dark condoms with a warning label on them? If they aren't doing the tests required by the FDA. I am not interested in using their product. Some of them are kind of funny though. I'm just not putting them on my penis.


Holy Cow. I've decided to copy any warning I can find. This is probably good business sense. I apologize for the legalese, but I'm sure you would do the same thing.

  • This product contains the spermicide nonozynol-9. A very small number of users are sensitive or allergic to latex rubber, spermicide, or lubricants. If you or your partner have had any reaction to latex rubber, spermicide, or lubricants, do not use this product. If either partner has any reaction to this product, stop use and see your doctor.
  • Never let a latex condom touch oil in any form. No petroleum jelly, no baby oil, no mineral oil, no vegetable oil, not even talcum powder. Oil rots rubber.
  • If you use condoms when you or your partner is using vaginal products for medical treatment purposes, the condoms may be weakened and their effectiveness may be reduced.
  • For additional lubrication, you may use personal lubricants designed for use with condoms (like KY jelly, KY +, or Astroglide) or other water based lubricants.
  • Wash hands-as well as penis, vagina, and surrounding areas, before and after sex. This cuts the chance of infection.
  • Keep unused condoms in their packs in a cool, dry place (not in a wallet).
  • If a new condom feels sticky or stiff or looks damaged in any way, throw it out &emdash; use a fresh one.