Do Condoms Expire?
Condoms do have an expiry date, and using one that is past its expiry date can significantly reduce its effectiveness.
Expired condoms are often drier and weaker, making them more likely to break during sexual contact. This puts you and your partner at risk of STIs or unintended pregnancy.
Male condoms that have not expired are approximately 98% effective if used perfectly every time you have sex. Because no one is perfect, male condoms that haven't expired are actually about 85% effective.
These figures will drop drastically if the condoms expired.
The average shelf life of a condom is three to five years, depending on the manufacturer and how it’s stored. Continue reading to find out why they expire, how to tell if a condom is safe to use, how to store them properly, and more.
Why Do Condoms Expire?
Condoms, like many other medical products, have an expiration date. However, certain factors influence why and how quickly they expire.
Wear and tear from years spent in a pocket, purse, wallet, or glove box can work at a condom’s strength. That’s why it’s important to keep condoms stored in a safe place — preferably not your bathroom — away from heat, humidity, and any sharp objects.
Chemical additives such as spermicide can reduce the life of a condom by several years. Spermicide reduces the lifespan of latex and polyurethane condoms by up to two years.
It's unclear whether lube or flavourings affect expiration, so proceed with caution. If you notice any signs of wear and tear or an unusual odour, discard the condom and replace it.
The type of material you prefer influences how quickly they expire. Natural materials, such as lambskin, degrade faster than synthetic materials, such as latex and polyurethane.
Does the Type of Condom Matter?
Even if a condom is perfectly stored, its rate of expiration is still influenced by the material it is made of and whether it was manufactured with any additives that reduce its life span.
1. Latex and polyurethane
Natural latex and polyurethane condoms have the longest shelf life. They can last up to five years and are more resistant to wear and tear than other condoms.
When packaged with spermicide, these condoms have a slightly shorter shelf life — just three years. Although spermicide is an excellent tool for preventing unwanted pregnancy, it causes latex and polyurethane to degrade more quickly.
Latex condoms are followed by polyisoprene condoms. Condoms made of this type of synthetic rubber can last up to three years if properly stored. Spermicide and other additives can also shorten the lifespan of this condom.
3. Natural and non-latex
Natural condoms made of non-latex materials, such as lambskin or sheepskin, have the shortest shelf life. They are only good for one year from the date of manufacture. It is unknown whether spermicide or other additives affect expiration. It is also worth noting that these condoms do not protect against STIs.
How Can You Tell Whether a Condom Has Expired?
A condom’s expiration date can usually be found on both the box and the individual foil wrapper. It is usually something like 2022-10. In this case, the condom should provide protection against STIs or pregnancy until October 2022.
The majority of packaging includes the second date of manufacture. Although you can use this information to help determine a condom's shelf life, you should always use the expiration date as the default.
It's a good idea to inspect condoms when you first buy them and to re-inspect them every six months if they've been stored for more than six months.
Is Using an Expired Condom Safe?
If an expired condom has been properly stored in a cool, dry place, it may still be safe to use. If you have a choice between an expired and an unexpired condom, always go with the unexpired condom.
If you use an expired condom with minuscule tears or holes, it won’t be an effective barrier between bodily fluids. This increases your and your partner's risk of STIs or unintended pregnancy.
Is It Safer to Use An Expired Condom Than Not to Use One at All?
Using an expired or damaged condom is still preferable to not using a condom at all because it protects against STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
Sex without the use of a condom provides no protection against STIs. You're also not protected against unwanted pregnancy unless you or your partner use another form of birth control.
Nonetheless, it is preferable to discard condoms that have passed their expiration date and replace them with new condoms. Using a new condom provides you and your partner with the best protection against STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
While an expired condom is preferable to none at all, only a condom that has not reached its expiration date and is used perfectly typically provides 98 per cent protection against STIs or unwanted pregnancy.
You might also want to keep emergency contraception (EC) on hand. Although EC should not be used as your primary method of birth control, it can help prevent pregnancy if you used an expired condom or your condom broke during use.
Using a secondary form of birth control can also lower your chances of becoming pregnant.
Amy W. Anzilotti, MD, How Can You Tell if a Condom Has Expired? - https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/condom-check.html