Back in ye' olden days, when condoms were made of goats' bladders and cost an entire month's paycheck, it might've made sense that you'd use a condom, wash it, and then use it again. But we aren't in such desperate times anymore people, and there's absolutely no reason you should ever reuse a condom. That's the gist of a recent tweet from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC). "We say it because people do it: Don't wash or reuse #condoms! Use a fresh one for each #sex act," the organization stated.
Judging from the comments following the tweet, many people are shocked and, well, disgusted that this even needs to be said. It makes sense that people might need a reminder of the second part of the tweet, that you have to change condoms with every sex act. Maybe someone's in the heat of the moment and isn't thinking about taking off a condom when they switch from vaginal to anal sex. So it's important to remind them that yes, you do have to pause, take off the condom, and put a new one one. But even if you never had Sex Ed, it seems like common knowledge that you can't simply wash a used condom and put it back on for round two. Yet, people apparently do attempt to reuse condoms (or at least, they think about it). So let's just reiterate: Reusing condoms is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.
First, there's the problem of bacteria. Maybe you've washed the condom really well with anti-bacterial soap. But even that can't guarantee that you've gotten rid of all the nasty things no one wants inside their vagina, anus, mouth, or any other orifice. "When I think about washing a condom, it's warm and wet and there's no way you've scrubbed all of the microorganisms away. So a used condom is just a petri dish of bacteria," says sexologist Megan Stubbs, Ed.D. Even if you've taken a sex break to let the condom dry out after washing, it's likely harboring all kinds of bacteria that only grow in numbers as the condom sits on your bedside table.
Then, there's the issue of tearing the condom, or turning it inside out. "Unless you're going after it with some hardcore Scrubbing Bubbles kind of soap, using soap shouldn't ruin the integrity of the condom," Dr. Stubbs says. But, trying to rub away any bacteria, semen, or anything else in the condom could result in "breakage, slippage, or leakage," Elizabeth Torrone, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, told BuzzFeed. What's more, there's a definite chance that in washing your condom, you'll eventually flip it inside out and maybe not remember which side was originally the outside. And if you put it back on with the inside on the outside, the semen that you probably didn't completely wash away is going inside your partner's body as soon as you start having sex. "So that completely ruins the point of using a condom in the first place," Dr. Stubbs says. When used perfectly, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs (but, really, about 85% because nobody's perfect), according to Planned Parenthood. But if bodily fluids make their way in or out of a condom through tiny tears or because you're wearing it the wrong way, that protection doesn't really hold up anymore.
Finally, there's the issue of putting the condom back on. As anyone who's ever had to put a condom on a banana knows, you're supposed to roll the rubber down from tip to base. If you've already used a condom, it's no longer rolled into that neat little package, so it won't be nearly as easy to put on. "What are you going to do? Blow it up like a balloon and stick it on à la The 40-Year-Old Virgin?" Dr. Stubbs says. In case you don't remember that scene in the movie, that strategy really doesn't work.
So, even if you're in desperate times, have only one condom left, and really want to have sex all night, you cannot reuse condoms. Do yourself a solid, and make sure that you have enough condoms in your bedside drawer before you get started. And, if cost is an issue, plenty of health centers, doctor's offices, Planned Parenthood clinics, LGBTQ+ service centers, and other health services offer them for free. So grab a handful next time you're in the area, and throw that used condom in the trash.