How to Use a Condom

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 16, 2019

Condoms go by many different names. Your health teacher calls them "prophylactics." Your friends may say "rubbers."

No matter what you call them, condoms have the same purpose. They prevent STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and pregnancy. That's why you need to wear one every single time you have sex.

Condoms are a good birth control option because they're cheap, easy to get, and you don't have to plan ahead to use them. That's probably why more teens use condoms than any other type of birth control.

Not sure how to use a condom, or exactly how it will protect you? Read through these frequently asked questions.

Are condoms effective at preventing STDs?

Wearing a condom doesn't guarantee that you won't catch an STD. Not having sex is the only way to be 100% sure you won't get a disease.

But if you wear a condom every time you have sex, you will greatly reduce your risk of getting an STD.

Condoms are very effective at preventing STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). These are serious diseases, so you need to protect yourself!

Are condoms good at preventing pregnancy?

Yes, condoms are very good at preventing pregnancy if they're used correctly. They're effective about 85% of the time. That means for every 100 people who have sex using just a condom, 15 will have an accidental pregnancy. The only way to prevent a pregnancy 100% of the time is to not have sex.

What kind of condom is best for preventing STDs?

There are many different types of condoms. Look at the condom display at your local drugstore. You'll see latex condoms, lambskin condoms, and polyurethane condoms. There are ribbed condoms, colored condoms, and even flavored condoms.

It doesn't really matter which texture or color condom you choose. Pick the one you like best.

However, the type of material used to make the condom is important. A condom made from latex is your best bet for preventing STDs. Lambskin and other animal skin condoms don't protect as well.

If you're allergic to latex, you can use a condom made from polyurethane. It's also good at preventing STDs.

Where can I buy condoms?

You can buy condoms at your local drugstore or supermarket. You don't need to be a certain age to buy condoms.

How do I use a condom?

If you are sexually active, keep a few condoms with you so you'll always have one when you need it. Put on a new condom every single time you have sex.

Use a condom when you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Put on a different condom for each type of sex you have.

Keep the condom on the whole time you're having sex. Don't take it off at any point. If it breaks, stop and replace it right away.

How do I put on a condom?

For a condom to protect you and your partner, you need to use it correctly. Otherwise, it might break.

  • Make sure the condom is in good condition. It shouldn't be torn. Look at the date on the package to make sure it hasn't expired.
  • Start by putting the condom on the tip of your erect penis. The rolled side should be facing out. If you are not circumcised, pull your foreskin back before putting on the condom.
  • Leave a half-inch of space at the tip where the semen can collect when you ejaculate. This helps prevent the condom from breaking. Some condoms have reservoir tips that leave the space for you.
  • Holding the tip of the condom, roll the condom all the way to the bottom of your penis.
  • Use enough lubrication so the condom doesn't break. You can use a water-based lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly or Astroglide. Don't use an oil-based lubricant such as Vaseline, body lotion, baby oil, or massage oil because it can weaken the latex and cause the condom to break.

How do I take off a condom?

Taking the condom off the right way is just as important as putting it on the right way. You don't want any of your semen coming in contact with your partner, even after you have sex.

To take off the condom after ejaculating:

  • Before your penis gets soft, grab the rim of the condom.
  • Gently pull out from your partner.
  • Slide the condom off your penis, making sure you don't spill any semen.
  • Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it away in a place where other people won't touch it.

What if the condom breaks while I'm having sex?

If your condom breaks, stop having sex right away and pull out. Remove the broken condom and put on a new one.

WebMD Medical Reference



CDC: "Condom Fact Sheet in Brief."

Nemours Foundation: "Condom."

Avert: "Using Condoms, Condom Types and Sizes."

Kliegman, R. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., Saunders Elsevier, 2011.

Lara-Torre, E. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics, March 2009.

UCSF: "How do you use a condom?"

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