Rubbers, Johnnys, love gloves - whatever you call them, let’s talk about the risks of expired condoms.
You’d think these plastic contraceptives would last forever, right? Think again.
That lucky condom that’s been sitting in your wallet for far too long is totally expired.
So, do condoms expire?
Yes! Any kind of condom will expire eventually. (Lubricant expires too!)
How fast they will expire will depend on the type of material they’re made of, any additives, and the environment they are stored in.
The shelf life of condoms can range from less than 12 months to 5 years.
Why do condoms expire?
It’s simple: they lose integrity.
Think of an old stretchy hairband. Over time the plastic within begins to lose its stretch and structure. The plastic becomes brittle, dry, and liable to crack when stretched.
The same goes for condoms.
Some condoms expire faster than others
Most condoms on the market are latex. These are the longest-lasting condoms given they are kept in ideal conditions.
But, if the same latex condom is coated in spermicide (a great option), the shelf life drops considerably. Over time, this additive degrades the latex.
If you’ve stored condoms in your car, bathroom, or wallet – your condoms may expire even faster. (More on that later.)
List of general shelf life by condom type
Here is a list of the most common types of condoms and their shelf life based on proper storage.
How you store your condoms is important
Even if your box of latex condoms with spermicide is set to last 3 years, if you store them improperly –their integrity will not last that long.
Heat, sunlight, freezing temperatures, compression, and moisture can degrade condoms.
If you store your condoms in your car, wallet, or steamy bathroom your lot is at risk for integrity loss and breakage. This puts you at risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancies.
What about storing condoms in a wallet?
A super common storage place for condoms is a wallet. It's discreet and easy to access. We get it.
But, wallets are folded, opened, closed, zipped up, and sat on. The frequent stress and compression could cause your condom to degrade quicker or cause a seal break.
If you must do this, just don't leave a condom in your wallet for too long. Before a date, slip a fresh condom from your bedside table into your wallet, and if you don’t get to use it that night, take it back out.
Proper condom storage
Store condoms in a cool, dry place at room temperature. A great place to store condoms is the bedside table or an underwear drawer.
If you need to conceal them from prying eyes, try putting them in a sock in your sock drawer.
4 ways to tell if your condom is expired
Let's go through some ways to tell if your condom is expired.
#1 Check the packaging for a date
On each condom box and condom wrapper, there is a stamped expiration date. Normally, they won’t offer an exact date, but a specific month.
But, also, be honest with yourself. If your condom expiration date is still a year out, consider if the condom has been exposed to extreme temperatures or has been sitting in your wallet for two years.
#2 Lightly squeeze the unopened condom package
When a condom foil package is properly sealed, you should be able to create a small air bubble within it by lightly squeezing it. This is a good indicator that the condom has not been damaged in any way.
#3 Inspect for gooeyness, dryness, stiffness, or brittleness
Make sure the package isn’t discolored, broken, or leaking.
When you’ve opened the condom make sure it’s not: gooey, sticky, dry, stiff, brittle, or has any micro-tears. Seeing just one of these would indicate condom degradation.
#4 Smell it
Give it a whiff. If the condom stills rancid or foul, it’s past its prime.
Is it safe to use an expired condom?
There are considerable risks to using expired condoms.
When an unexpired condom is used perfectly, (PERFECTLY) they are 95% effective at preventing STIs and pregnancies.
But, typical use is not perfect. In reality, the typical effectiveness of male condoms is around 85%.
When you use an expired condom, the effectiveness bottoms out. The risk of condom breakage is very high.
When you use an expired or damaged condom you’re putting you and your partner at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
If for some reason your only option is an expired condom or no condom, Planned Parenthood says to use the expired condom. Some protection is better than no protection.
The bottom line
Yes, condoms do expire.
How long they will last will depend on the type of material, any additives, and how you’ve stored the contraceptive.
Using an expired condom exposes you to exactly what you’re trying to avoid by using a condom in the first place. Old, heat-exposed, or frequently squished condoms are very likely to break during sex. This exposes you to STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
When in doubt, buy a fresh box.