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12 common mistakes when using condoms

Check out some common mistakes when using condoms, and make sure you know how to use them correctly. 

Condoms are the only method of contraception that protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but it’s important for them to be used correctly.

It’s easy to make simple mistakes, here are 12 of the most common mistakes people make…

1. Not checking the condom packet for damage

Condoms can get damaged so make sure you check the condom packet for damage such as holes or tears. Condoms can also be damaged from getting warm when in a wallet, bag or pocket. It’s a great idea to carry condoms with you in your wallet or bag but make sure that you’re replacing them every month else they’re not safe to use and won’t protect you from STIs and pregnancy.

2. Not checking the expiry date

All condoms should have an expiry date printed on the wrapper. If the date has passed, the condom is no good and won’t offer protection. Make sure you only use condoms that have the European CE mark or UKCA mark on as this tells you they have been tested to high safety standards.

3. Not being careful when opening the condom wrapper

Before opening the wrapper, feel for the rib of the condom inside the packaging. Push this to the side so that when you tear it open you don’t tear the condom as well. Never open a condom wrapper using scissors or anything sharp (including your teeth!).

4. Putting the condom on after sex has started

You need to wear a condom before you start having sex/before your genitals come into contact with your partners. If you only put a condom on just before you come (ejaculate) you’re not protected from STIs or pregnancy as fluids are likely to have already been exchanged.

5. Not holding the tip when applying the condom

When you put a condom on, it’s important to squeeze the tip, to get rid of any air. If you don’t, the condom is likely to break.

6. Putting the condom on the wrong way up, then turning it over

Putting the condom on the wrong way round (so it won’t roll down) is a common mistake. But it’s really important that you bin that condom and start again with a new one because the outside of the condom will have touched the penis, which leaves your partner exposed to the risk of pregnancy and/or STIs.

7. Taking the condom off too soon

Whenever your genital or anal areas are in contact, you should use a condom, to prevent the risk of STIs or pregnancy. This includes after you’ve come (ejaculated). It is never ok to remove a condom in the middle of sex without telling your partner. This practice is known as ‘stealthing’ or non-consensual condom removal, and is a form of sexual assault. 

More about sexual assault

8. Not holding the base of the condom when withdrawing the penis

This can cause the condom to come off, which means there  could be a risk of pregnancy and/or STIs. Use your fingers to gentle hold the condom in place as the penis is withdrawn.

9. Using oil-based lubricants with condoms (such as Vaseline or moisturiser)

Using lubricant is a great idea, but make sure it’s water-based. Other products, especially those not intended for sex, are often oil-based and can cause them to break.

10. Using a condom that’s too big or too small

It’s important to wear the correct size condom. Too big and it might slip off, too small and it might tear. Condoms come in lots of sizes so you should be able to find one that suits you or your partner.

11. Not changing condoms during sex

If you are switching from anal sex to vaginal sex, or vice versa, you should use a new condom. Introducing bacteria from the rectum into the vagina can cause infection. 

12. Not using condoms on sex toys

If you and your partner(s) share sex toys, such as vibrators, you should use a new condom for each person. Sex toys can pass on STIs if they are left uncovered and shared.

If something goes wrong…

Even if you follow all the guidance about how to use condoms safely, sometimes things might go wrong and the condom could break or come off during sex.

If this happens, it’s important that your partner is aware so you can both take necessary steps to keep safe. This may include accessing emergency contraception or getting tested for STIs.

More about emergency contraception More about STI testing

Get free condoms

The C-Card scheme allows you to pick up free condoms from local outlets like pharmacies, youth services and shops. See if you can join C-Card in your area to access free condoms and lube.

Find your local C-Card provider

Page last reviewed: May 2024

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