It's been a minute since you brought someone back to your place to hook up. You dust off your stash of condoms in your beside table and realize that the only ones left claim to have expired sometime last year. Should you take your chances like it's a (probably harmless but sketchy) jar of expired salsa? Or do you have to throw your expired condoms in the trash along with your hopes of penetrative sex tonight?
Here's the thing: Condoms have expiration dates for a reason. Over time, condom materials (including latex, polyurethane, and lambskin) will degrade and become brittle, says Nerys Benfield, MD, MPH, a gynecologist from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center. When condoms are less flexible, they break or tear more easily. So, using an expired condom leaves you at greater risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or getting pregnant, Dr. Benfield says.
The best way to check the expiration date is to just read what's printed on the wrapper of the condom you're using. In general, most latex and polyurethane condoms will have an expiration date of about five years past the manufacture date, says Deborah Arrindell, vice president of health policy for the American Sexual Health Association. Polyisoprene condoms tend to have a shorter shelf life, but are still good for about three years, she says. And if you use non-latex natural condoms, like ones made out of sheepskin, keep in mind that they tend to have the shortest lifespan (and won't protect against STIs), Dr. Benfield says.
Despite all the risks, both partners will benefit from using an expired condom versus no condom at all.
Nerys Benfield, MD, MPH, a gynecologist from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center.
Besides double-checking the date, be sure to inspect the wrapper for any holes or tears, Dr. Banfield says. (One easy way you can check is by pressing down on the wrapper; if you feel an air cushion, it means it hasn't been damaged.) "Once you open the condom, if it feels dry, has a foul odor or you see any holes, you should throw it out and get a new one," she says. And if you don't see an expiration date on the packaging, or if it's illegible, follow the adage, "When in doubt, toss it out," Arrindell says.
Lets say you don't have any other condoms in your house, and you go for the expired one anyway. "Despite all the risks, both partners will benefit from using an expired condom versus no condom at all," Dr. Banfield says. If the expired condom was stored in a cool, dry place, it may work better than nothing, she says. That said, if you can get new condoms, that's your best bet, Arrindell says. (You can even order them ASAP on TaskRabbit or Postmates if you don't want to leave the house!)
Discovering a condom past its prime might be one small roadblock in your hookup, but there are so many other pleasurable sexual activities that don't involve penetrative intercourse or oral sex, like touching or mutual masturbation, Arrindell says. And hey, if you go on another date with this person, you'll be sure to be, you know, covered.