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How do I use a condom?

See our tips and tricks for using condoms effectively to protect against unplanned pregnancy and STIs.

Putting on a condom can feel a bit awkward at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly. It can help to practise on your own in private first, so that you feel comfortable before you actually use it for sex.

Check out this five step guide to using condoms.


There are 4 things you need to look for before opening the condom packet:

  1. Expiry date
    If the condom has expired it might not work properly.
  2. Rips or holes
    If there are rips or holes in the packaging then the condom might be damaged as well.
  3. European CE mark or the UKCA mark
    If the packaging has either of these marks, this means that the condom has been tested to high safety standards.
  4. Size
    Make sure you have the right size for your penis or toy. If it’s too big it might fall off, and if it’s too small it might tear. More about how to find the right condom for you


Before opening, 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 using scissors or anything sharp.

Check which way to roll it down before it touches the penis and unroll the condom a bit to check it is the right way round. If you put the condom on the wrong way round, get a new one and start again.


Pinch the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger to get rid of any air, and then place the condom on the tip of the penis.


Using your other hand, roll the condom all the way to the base of the penis. Once it is on, slide your fingers along the side to get rid of any air bubbles. You can some lube to the outside of the condom for extra pleasure.


After ejaculation, withdraw the penis before it gets soft. To do this, hold the condom on at the base until the penis is withdrawn from your partner’s mouth, vagina or anus, and then take it off (away from your partner), wrap it in tissue and throw it in the bin (not down the toilet).

Remember to…

Replace any condoms that have been in your wallet, pocket or bag longer than a month, as this might damage them. If the wrappers look damaged throw them away and get new ones.

Put the condom the penis as soon as it is erect (hard), and before it goes near anyone’s mouth, vagina or anus, to help protect against unplanned pregnancy and STIs. 

More about pregnancy
More about STIs

Top tips for using lube with condoms

  • Don’t use products such as Vaseline/baby oil/coconut oil as these should not be used with condoms because they can cause them to tear. Make sure you wash your hands before touching a condom.
  • Avoid using spermicide lubricated condoms as these are being phased out because research has shown that a spermicide called nonoxynol 9 doesn’t protect against some STIs (and may even increase the risk).
  • If you are having anal sex, use additional water-based lube which you can apply directly to the anus or on the outside of the condom. But be careful because too much lube can make the condom slip off.

Struggling to know how to talk about condoms? Read our guide to talking about condoms.

Get free condoms

The C-Card scheme allows you to pick up free condoms from local outlets like pharmacies, youth services and shops. Find your local C-Card provider to access free condoms and lube.

Unsure which contraception method is best for you?
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