Last reviewed by Dr. Manish Goyal on August 28th, 2018.
Do condoms expire?
Every material has its own Shelf life that determines its storage limits i.e. becoming fit or unfit for consumption or trade. This phenomenon also imply on condoms as well and therefore after a certain time periods they become no longer be on a pantry shelf or on a supermarket shelf i.e. expire. Before knowing the expiry issue of condoms, it is necessary to know that what they are made of.
Majority of condoms are made up of natural latex material (latex condoms) and synthetic non latex material (non latex condoms made of polyurethane and other synthetic materials). Both latex and synthetic material have their own physical and chemical properties such as elasticity, tensile strength, sensitivity to temperature and ultraviolet light, stability, and storage that determine their shelf life.
The strength, flexibility and elasticity are major properties of the condoms that are greatly affected with the passage of time. After a certain time, condoms loose their strength and flexibility therefore more likely to dry out, weaken and prone to break during a sexual intercourse.
How long does it take for a condom to expire?
Condoms usually have expiration duration around five years. However, the expiration can vary from 3-5 years depending upon condom variants such as, type of the material and lubrication. The best way to know this is to look expiration date printed on the wrapper or box. Each manufacturer mentions expiration dates that is printed on the product.
An expiration date of 2016-10, suggests that condom was possibly manufactured in October 2016 and will expire on October 2021. Besides the expiration dates, the storage conditions also greatly enhance the stability of condoms. Under cool and dry conditions, condoms can last even upto six years while under direct sun light, excessive heat and moisture condoms will last only 1-2 years or even less despite their date of expiration.
The most favourable condition for condoms storage is cool dry place, away from direct sunlight, and moisture and temperatures below 100˚F / 38˚C.
Expired condoms: What happens when a condom expires?
When a condom expires it is more prone to damage during sexual intercourse. Once expiry date pass away, the latex of condoms starts to dry which make condom fragile. Besides this, the expired condom becomes non functional due to less effective substance that kills sperms (also known as spermicides).
Thus, an expired condom is unable to put off the sharing of bodily fluids of both partners i.e. unable to prevent the passage of sperm and other body fluids into the vagina and vice versa. This leads to high risk of conception, and sexually transmitted infections (HIV and other diseases or infections). Following are some common signs of expired condoms.
- It has been observed that expired condoms (lubricated and non lubricated condoms) start to loosen their strength and flexibility for what they are meant, and are more liable to break.
- Commonly condoms are lubricated, but when they expire the lubricating material gets lost which results in dried surface and brittle condoms. However, inversely sometimes condoms are too watery or too sticky to the touch, which implies that condoms are not good and expired or not usable.
- Once condom expires, it looses its consistency and texture and looks sticky, stiff and dry.
- Sometimes condoms get expired well before their date of expiry due to small punctures on the packaging or condom itself due to mishandling during manufacture or transportation. Under such conditions, it is advisable to check the outer packaging of the condom by gentle press on the package to feel in and out of air through the package.
- Sometimes expired condoms give off a very strange unpleasant odour. Using such a faulty condoms may cause allergic reactions.
Can you use expired condoms: Risk of out of date condoms?
No, it’s better to use a newer condom rather than using old crinkled or expired condom. First of all, it is necessary to mention that expired condoms do not have their own serious health issues like expired drugs. It’s their functionality that gets hampered after expiration and therefore they are not being able to do the protection for which they meant for. Using an expired condom has several disadvantages which are listed as follows.
- With an expired condom, there is an increasing risk of breakage or slip off.
- An expired condom can increase the risk of unwanted pregnancy.
- An expired condom can get dry and brittle and therefore can cause irritation and rashes when used.
- Sometimes an expired condom may cause allergy that may lead to Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) or may be associated with nasty symptoms such as burning sensation, itching, redness or swelling, occasionally it can cause uneasiness during urination.
- Use of an expired condom can increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or infections caused by body fluids such as gonorrhea, genital herpes, trichomonads, syphilis, mycoplasma, clamydiae, gardnerella, pointed condyloma, ureaplasma etc.
- Use of expired condom sometimes can cause vaginal dysbiosis also known as vaginal dysbacteriosis, a medical condition which is characterized by vaginal microflora balance disruption.
However, as proclaimed by an old English phrase “something is better than nothing” the use of expired condom is far better when compared with no condom situation. If the condom has been stored properly under cool and dry place, it works longer even after its expiry date, similarly if a condom was not stored properly it tends to loose the durability long before the expiry date.
Conclusively, if you store condoms in a cool and dry place where they won’t get crinkled and avoid use of oil-based lubricants (oil-based lubricants can break down the condom material) they will last long and retain their strength and flexibility.
Therefore, it is necessary to check the expiration date (printed on the packet of condoms) even while using them or purchasing from a store. It is important to pay attention on size, shape, material as well as the expiration date of your condom pack.
If you follow some common rules, you can easily avoid buying the expired condoms.
- It is always recommended that condoms should be bought from medical stores because medical stores routinely check the condoms for expiry date as well as follow the strict storage rules.
- Carefully check the package for information about manufacturing and expiry date. In case if it did not clearly mention on the package avoid to buying it.
- Do not purchases the local and cheap product instead uses the recognized brands such as Durex, Life styles etc.
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