Why Are Condoms Not 100% Safe?

Condoms create a potent physical barrier, preventing any exchange of sperms and other body fluids when used accurately.

Theoretically, they must be almost 100% safe. However, in practice, that is not the case. It is because, in real-life conditions, there could be many unforeseen reasons for their failure.

Studies confirm that condoms are one of the most dependable ways of preventing unplanned pregnancies. If used properly, it has a failure rate of merely 2%.

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However, studies also show that situation is far from ideal. In practice, almost half of all condom users are pretty careless, and thus, in reality, it has a much higher failure rate of about 12-13% [1].

The above-mentioned failure rate only shows how vital it is to use condoms correctly. As it is evident from the above data that condom failure is primarily due to negligence.

Before looking deeper into the most common causes of condom failure, it is also essential to understand that condoms are also good for preventing sexually transmitted diseases, unlike pills or other contraceptives.

Some of the leading causes for condom failure

  • Manufacturing defect – fortunately, it is one of the uncommon causes, nevertheless, a relevant cause in a small number of cases. There are still many low-quality condom manufacturers in the market who do not test their final product adequately. It only underlines the importance of choosing the right brand and avoiding low-cost brands.
  • Improper storage– this may be especially an important reason for condom failure in hot and humid climatic zones. Latex, polyurethane, or other materials lose their tensile strength if stored at extremely high temperatures. On the other hand, storage at extremely low temperatures may also have a damaging impact on condoms. Most buyers would perhaps store their condoms at the right temperature. However, condoms might be exposed to sub-optimal temperatures during transportation, storage by wholesalers, and so on.
  • Using after expiry date– every material has a stability period; thus, if condoms are used after the expiry date, they are more likely to fail.
  • The condom was torn while removing from the packet – less probable cause, yet a possibility. After all, during episodes of intense excitement, people tend to be less careful.
  • Use of wrong lubricants– interestingly enough, it could be a common cause of condom failure for many. Condoms are generally well lubricated; however, some individuals need to use lubricants with them. Oil-based lubricants must be avoided at any cost as they are known to weaken latex.
  • Using wrong-sized condoms- some of the buyers rarely pay attention to the most vital fact, that is, the size of the condom, or they might have a wrong understanding about it. If it is too small, there are higher chances of tearing during sexual acts. If too large, then it may simply slip away.
  • Improper use- it means some other issues not discussed above. Since close to 50% of users do not know how to use condoms correctly, many other issues are possible, like not leaving enough space at the tip, and so on1.

How to prevent condom failure?

Below are some of the tips that can considerably reduce condom failure rates:

  • Choose the right size– starting point should be measuring the length and girth of the penis while erect. Always check the sizing chart on the condom box, and choose accordingly. If still unsure, a little bit of experimenting with various sizes can help. It is vital to understand that the right size will not only prevent unwanted pregnancies or diseases but may add to the sexual pleasures considerably. It is common for men to complain that they do not enjoy sex with condoms. However, they do not realize that they are merely choosing the wrong size of the condom in many cases.
  • Avoid lubricants or buy the right one- as condoms are lubricated, it is better to avoid using them with condoms. Nevertheless, certain situations require the use of lubricants. Never use coconut oil, baby oil, or similar things with latex condoms. Use water-based lubricants created explicitly for use along with condoms.
  • Store condoms at the right temperature– that must not be an issue for most people, as storing them at room temperature is fine. There is no need to store them in refrigerators. Keep them away from direct sunlight.
  • Learn to use condoms properly – it means learning to open the packet carefully. Never use scissors or similar sharp objects to open the packet. It also involves knowing which is the right side of the condom. Do not use a condom at the last minute. Using condoms frequently can help understand many things.
  • Remove condom after ejaculation – as, after ejaculation, penis shrinks, and there is a high risk of condom slipping while withdrawing. Accidental spillage of sperms may happen during this phase.
  • Use condoms regularly- it will help master the art of using condoms. Moreover, those who use condoms regularly feel much more comfortable using them.

It is vital to understand that condom is one of the most effective contraception methods and the only widely available contraceptive for men. It can be used regularly or when and as required.

It is highly safe, does not cause adverse effects, unlike hormonal contraceptives. The failure rate of condoms can be considerably reduced with proper knowledge and practice.

Additionally, it is worth keeping in mind that they can prevent sexually transmitted diseases in more than 80% of cases. They can help prevent HIV, genital warts, herpes, and even certain types of hepatitis.

To conclude, condoms have a failure rate of less than 2% for those who use them accurately and regularly. However, the failure rate is much higher for casual users who do not use them as needed. Thus, the failure rate of condom is more dependent on the way it is used.


  1. Majra J. Use of Condoms: Clarifying the Message. Indian J Community Med. 2010;35(2):362. doi:10.4103/0970-0218.66860

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