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What causes a condom to tear?

Andrea Taylor
Profile Picture of Andrea Taylor Andrea Taylor is a social worker in Edmonton, Alberta.  She works as an abortion and birth control counselor at a women's clinic.  Full Bio
Q:I know that condoms can tear, but why does it happen? What can I do to avoid it?
A: Condoms are not as intuitive as people seem to think. There are lots of ways to use one incorrectly, and even if you do everything right, once in awhile, you might have a break. Here are some things you can do to reduce the chances that this will happen to you:

  • Lubricate: Most condoms come lubricated but you should keep some lubricant around in case the condom's own lubricant isn't sufficient.
  • Put it on right: Ejaculate is pretty powerful, so it’s going to need some space. If there isn’t any room at the tip of the condom for ejaculate, that condom could break. That's why you should pinch the tip of a condom as it's being put on. This prevents the tip of the condom from filling with air, leaving room for what that little reservoir is really designed for.

  • Check it over: Expired or damaged condoms are (obviously) more likely to fail. Don’t keep condoms in your wallet or the glove compartment of your car. Heat can weaken the rubber. Also, before you open a condom package, push down the middle to feel for air - it should be a little bouncy if it’s airtight. Slide the condom down into the package with your fingers before you rip the package to make sure you don’t rip the condom at the same time.

  • Don't reuse: If you try to put on a condom and realize that it’s upside down (in which case you'll be unable to roll it down), throw it out and use a new one. It's always possible there's some semen on the end of the penis. Flip that baby over, and it'll now be on the outside of the condom (and inside your partner).

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