Expired condoms can put a damper on your sex life, making them less effective at protecting against STIs and pregnancy. But should you save that lonely pack in your bedside drawer that’s past its prime?
How long a condom lasts depends on the material it’s made from and how well you store it. Expired condoms that have been properly stored can still offer 98 percent protection against unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
1. Check the Date
Condoms come with a printed date on both the box and individual foil wrappers. The date looks something like 2025-11-01, and it indicates the expiration date. Some condom packages also include a second date, which indicates the date of manufacture, but it’s important to always use the expiration date when determining whether a condom is safe to use.
Expired condoms are often drier and weaker than new ones, so they’re more likely to break during sexual intercourse or fall off before then. Using expired condoms can lead to unintended pregnancy or STIs, so it’s best to get in the habit of checking their dates regularly and replacing them before they expire.
The type of condom you choose also affects how quickly it expires. For example, natural materials like lambskin break down much more quickly than synthetic materials like latex or polyurethane. Additionally, chemical additives like spermicide can shorten a condom’s life span.
It’s worth noting that storing a condom in a warm place can also accelerate its decomposition. So, it’s a good idea to keep them in a cool, dark spot like a bedroom drawer.
2. Check the Wrapper
Whether you’re using barrier contraceptives, spermicide or hormonal birth control, it’s important to keep track of their expiration dates. Using birth control past its date can render it ineffective, putting you at risk of unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
To figure out how old your condoms are, look for a code on the package or wrapper that corresponds to the month and year they were manufactured. Generally, latex and polyurethane condoms are good for five years from the date of manufacture; lambskin or spermicidal condoms have a three-year shelf life.
Condoms can expire even before they’re a few years past the printed date, however, depending on how they are stored and what they’re made of. For example, storing your condoms in a warm wallet or purse can cause them to degrade faster than they would in a cool, dark drawer. In addition, extreme heat can make latex condoms weak and sticky, so it’s best to avoid storing them in places where the temperature can easily fluctuate like near your window or furnace.
When you’re preparing to use a condom, it’s also important to check the packaging for tiny rips or holes that can compromise its effectiveness. You should also squeeze the tip to ensure that it’s lubricated before you insert it down your penis. Lastly, don’t open the package with your teeth. Doing so can cause tiny rips that may not be visible until you go to use the condom.
3. Check the Material
When it comes to condoms, there’s definitely such a thing as “too late.” And using one after its expiration date can put you at risk for unintended pregnancy and STIs. Expired condoms are drier and weaker, which can lead to them breaking during penetration or even falling off during sexual activity. They’re also less likely to contain spermicide and lubrication, which means they may not be as effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies or STIs as their fresher counterparts.
If you’re not sure whether a condom is too old to be used, check for holes or tears in the wrapper. It’s also important to remember that condoms can become damaged during transit, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution and get fresh ones before they’re too late.
What’s more, the type of condom you use can have a significant impact on how long it will last. For example, natural materials such as lambskin and those that contain spermicide tend to break down faster than synthetic ones like latex and polyurethane, which means they can lose their effectiveness much sooner. Also, storing them in hot or cold environments or placing them near sharp objects can also shorten their lifespan.
4. Check the Size
Condoms don’t last forever, and they can break down much faster than people think. Whether it’s heat, sunlight, or lots of wear and tear from being in a wallet or purse, condoms can start to expire before their time, which puts women at risk for unintended pregnancies and STIs.
While many brands offer a longer lifespan than others, the overall life of a condom depends on how well it’s stored and what material it is. For example, latex condoms can last up to five years while lambskin and sheepskin condoms usually last about a year.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a condom’s size can change over time, which is why it’s so important to always check the label for a specific number. If you’re worried that a condom has gone bad, try squeezing it lightly and checking for air bubbles, which means there are no holes in the wrapper.
The main takeaway is that if a condom has expired, it should be thrown out and replaced. But, if you’re short on options and have to use an expired condom for protection, remember that it’s still better than nothing! And if you’re ready to ditch the pharmacy line and get your birth control delivered right to your door, sign up for Nurx. It’s free with insurance, or $15/month without.