Latex rubber is a natural substance and as such, is subject to deterioration over time. But let’s be honest, most of us don’t worry about the freshness of our condoms. We’re slightly more worried about their structural integrity, aren’t we?

The old cliché goes: Guy carries around a condom in his wallet, "just in case" he gets lucky, and then, when that lucky night comes around, the condom package is so worn out from months or maybe even YEARS of being in said wallet that it's no longer functional.

Think of how many times a wallet is shoved in and out of pants pockets, left on various surfaces in various climatic conditions, scanned by electronic surveillance devices in libraries, airports and shopping malls...the list goes on. Given that many individuals keep their condoms in their wallets, it's easy to see why the above cliché is such a common story.

Moral of the story: if you’re not sure how long you've had your condom, chuck it and get a new one. And be happy you live in a democratic country where condoms are pretty darn easy to get, day or night.

In Cuba this year, there was an outcry concerning an (unusual but serious) problem with the supply of condoms: the current shortage of prophylactics is forcing the sale of expired rubbers.

Of course this is troublesome but do we really understand WHY it is a problem? What actually happens when a condom expires?

Have no fear, Marie Claire magazine has the answer.

Basically, old latex rubber loses its flexibility and strength (hmm, like old people) and is thus more prone to breakage (hmm, also like old people). Also, if a condom contains spermicide (as many do), that medication loses its potency over time; so it may be rendered ineffective if the condom is not used by the date indicated (or if the condom is stored in less than optimum conditions, like extreme heat or cold).

However, Marie Claire says using an expired condom is better than using no condom at all! Odds are, they say, that it won’t break.
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This website sponsored by the Idaho state government (I know, right??) also offers some good solid advice about condom use. Their take on expired condoms is that, because they can break more easily, it’s best not to use them. But they also offer other tips on using condoms effectively.

I know, I know. You’ve been using these things since you were four (or so it may seem) and you know what you’re doing but hey, sometimes we get stuck in our ways and refuse to change how we do things. So brush up on your rubber skills!

OK, here’s one you may not have thought of. Opening the package, it turns out, should be done in a calm and humble fashion; in other words, don’t use your teeth, Casanova! Not only can you tear the condom this way, you might also get a nasty taste of spermicide which can spoil the mood and make your tongue all tingly (not in a good way).

Remember, also, to use only water-based lubricants. Although they're okay for when you're on your own, baby oil, olive oil, petroleum jelly, hand lotion or anything with an oil base can weaken latex and make a condom more likely to break. Spring for some lubricant meant for use with condoms, or spend more time on foreplay. Applying a drop of lube into the tip of the condom before putting it on can also help prevent breakage if things get a bit, uh, frisky.

Now go forth, be safe, and have fun!