In the US, the Food and Drug Administration requires that each individual condom have an expiration date printed on its wrapper. But why?
"[Condom] materials degrade and deteriorate over time, making the condom less strong and less flexible," says Deborah Arrindell, vice president of health policy at the American Sexual Health Association. "Think of an old rubber band and how dry and brittle it becomes. As a result, the condom will be more prone to break or tear during sex, and is then, of course, less effective."
While latex and polyurethane—the primary materials in most condoms—are strong on their own, it’s the chemical additives that cause them to weaken over time. For example spermicide can shorten the lifespan of a condom by about two years. It’s unclear whether other additives such as lube, flavorings, or colorings also accelerate the expiration of condoms.
Bottom line: condoms expire just like other medical products, so don’t do the dirty with a defective condom—Doctor DUDE’s orders.
Is an Expired Condom Better Than No Condom?
Condoms are about 98% effective at protecting you from STIs (and parenthood) if you use them correctly. But if you’re parting the pink sea with an expired condom, that number can plummet.
That said, if you have to decide between an expired or damaged condom and raw dogging it, always opt for any protection you can get. It’s like walking through a snowstorm in a windbreaker instead of bare-chested.
Expired condoms won’t damage your dick, but they’re prone to break—and that’s just as tragic.
How Can You Tell If a Condom Is Expired?