How do I use a condom?

Putting on a condom can feel a bit awkward at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly. It can help to practise until you feel comfortable before you actually use it for sex.

Five steps to using condoms


There are 3 things you need to look for:

  • Make sure the condom hasn’t expired.
  • Make sure there are no rips or holes in the pack.
  • Make sure it has a BSI kite mark or a CE mark on the package. This means that the condom has been tested and is very good quality.


Before opening, feel for the rib of the condom inside the packaging. Push this to the side so that when you tear it open you don’t tear the condom as well. Check which way to roll it down BEFORE it touches the penis and unroll the condom a bit to check it is the right way round. Check which way to roll it down before it touches the penis.


Make sure the condom is put on the penis as soon as it is erect (hard), and before it goes near anyone’s mouth, vagina or anus. Use your other hand to roll the condom down the penis all the way to the base. You can place a small drop of lube on the condom for extra pleasure.

If you are having anal sex, you should use additional water-based lubricant which you can apply directly to the anus or on the outside of the condom. But be careful because too much lube can make the condom slip off.


When you put it on the penis, pinch the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger to get rid of any air and allow for a little space at the top as you roll it down the shaft. Once it is on, slide your fingers along side to get rid of any air bubbles. You can apply some lube to the outside as well.


After sex is finished, withdraw the penis before it gets soft. To do this, hold the condom on at the base until the penis is withdrawn from your partner’s mouth, vagina or anus, and then take it off, wrap it in tissue and throw it in the bin (not down the toilet).


NEVER reuse a condom. Always use a brand new condom if you have any sexual contact again – they can only be used once.

NEVER use two condoms together. This increases the chances of them splitting or tearing.

AVOID using spermicide lubricated condoms. These are being phased out because research has shown that a spermicide called nonoxynol 9 doesn’t protect against some STIs (and may even increase the risk).

Common mistakes when using condoms


Not checking the condom packet for damage

Condoms can easily get damaged, especially if they’ve been kept in a wallet, pocket, or bag. Condoms that are damaged won’t protect you from STIs and pregnancy.


Not checking the expiry date

Condoms that are out of date won’t protect you from STIs and unintended pregnancy.


Putting the condom on after sex has started

You need to wear a condom before you start having sex/before your genitals come into contact with your partners. If you only put a condom on just before you come (ejaculate) you’re not protected from STIs or pregnancy as fluids are likely to have already been exchanged.


Not holding the tip when applying the condom

When you put a condom on, it’s important to squeeze the tip, to get rid of any air. If you don’t, the condom is likely to break.


Putting the condom on the wrong way up, then turning it over

Putting the condom on the wrong way round (so it won’t roll down) is a common mistake. But it’s really important that you bin that condom and start again with a new one because the outside of the condom will have touched the penis so leaves your partner exposed to the risk of pregnancy and/or STIs.


Taking the condom off too soon

Whenever your genital or anal areas are in contact, you should use a condom, to prevent the risk of STIs or pregnancy. This includes after you’ve come (ejaculated).


Using a condom that’s been in a wallet or bag for more than one month

Condoms can get warm when in a wallet or bag and this damages them. If they’ve been in there for more than one month, they are not safe to use. Carrying them with you is a great habit though, so just make sure you replace it at least once a month!


Not holding the base of the condom when withdrawing the penis

This can cause the condom to come off, which means there could be a risk of pregnancy and/or STIs.


Using oil-based lubricants with condoms (such as Vaseline or moisturiser)

Using lubricant is a great idea, but make sure it’s water-based (such as K.Y. Jelly or Durex Play). Other products, not intended for sex, are often oil-based and can eat into condoms, causing them to break.


Using a condom that’s too big or too small

It’s important to wear the correct size condom. Too big and it might slip off, too small and it might tear.


Not changing condoms during sex

If you are switching from anal sex to vaginal sex, or vice versa, you should use a new condom. Introducing bacteria from the rectum into the vagina can cause infection. 


Not using condoms on sex toys

If you and your partner(s) share sex toys, such as vibrators, you should use a new condom for each person. Sex toys can pass on STIs if they are left uncovered and shared.