Here are some key things you need to know about condoms.
Only use condoms with the European CE mark or UKCA mark
Always buy condoms that have the European CE mark or the UKCA mark on the packet. This means they have been tested to high safety standards.
Don't use novelty condoms, unless they carry the European CE mark or the UKCA mark.
Condom before contact
Always put on the condom correctly before there's any contact between the penis and the vagina, mouth or anus.
Open the packet carefully at the correct corner. Do not tear the packet with teeth or fingernails, as this may damage the condom and make it unsafe.
New sex, new condom
Use a new condom every time you have sex.
The 30-minute condom rule
If you're having a long sex session, change condoms after 30 minutes.
Friction can weaken the condom, making it more likely to break or fail.
1 condom at a time
Never use 2 condoms together, whether that's 2 male condoms or a female and a male condom.
They'll rub against each other, and this friction can weaken them and make them more likely to break or fail.
Keep condoms cool
Heat can damage condoms, so store them somewhere cool and dry.
Condoms don't last forever
Check the expiry date on the packet, as condoms don't last forever and may be past the point at which they work.
Safer sex on holiday
Buy condoms before going on holiday to avoid problems with language and trying to find somewhere to buy them.
Don't use lotion or oils with condoms
Don't use body lotions, moisturiser, massage oil, body oil, lipstick or any other oil-based product (such as petroleum jelly, or Vaseline) with latex, polyisoprene or lambskin condoms.
This is because they can weaken the condom, making it less effective.
Use plenty of water-based lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly (available from pharmacies), especially for anal sex.
Oral sex and condoms
Using a condom (apart from lambskin condoms) during oral sex may reduce the risk of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and syphilis, and those that affect the mouth or throat, such as genital herpes, gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
You could try using flavoured condoms for variety.
Don't put condoms down the toilet
Wrap used condoms in a tissue or piece of paper and put them in a dustbin.
Don't flush used condoms down the toilet.
Buying condoms online
If you buy condoms online, choose a website that you can trust.
Make sure any condoms you buy have the European CE mark or the UKCA mark on the packet and haven't gone past the use-by date.
If you don't want to get pregnant
To reduce the chances of getting pregnant, use another form of contraceptive as well, such as longer-acting methods (the implant, injection, intrauterine system (IUS) or intrauterine device (IUD) or the combined pill, contraceptive patch or vaginal ring).
For more information on sexual health (including HIV), call the national sexual health line for free on 0300 123 7123 or find a sexual health clinic.
Page last reviewed: 28 April 2022
Next review due: 28 April 2025