Posted: December 2, 2015 Contributor: PRJKT RUBY

Condoms 101: Here’s What You Need to Know

When used perfectly, condoms are amazingly effective in preventing pregnancy and STD transmission…like 98% effective! So what takes away from their efficacy? Many times lack of proper knowledge and negligence are to blame.

Using a barrier method is the best way to prevent the passing of sexually transmitted diseases (aside from abstinence of course). So follow these simple rules for condom safety and you should be good to go!

1. Putting a Condom on Wrong is the Number One Mistake

Fortunately, the most common condom mistake can be avoided with a little effort. Often in the heat of the moment, haste makes waste and many people begin to put the condom on wrong (inside out) and then turn it over. Especially when pre-ejaculate is present, this is not a good thing. The second and third most common mistakes (according to WebMD) are putting the condom on too late or taking it off too soon.

You likely saw the correct way to put a condom on in one of those cringe-worthy sex ed classes in high school (probably using a banana to demonstrate).  Let’s face it, you were too embarrassed to pay full attention at the time so here is a little refresher course.

Always be sure to put the condom on before your has any contact with your partners genitals. Simply open the condom wrapper along the perforated edge. Ripping it open anywhere else on the package could lead to damaging the condom. Next, check which way the condom is rolled. Test this with your finger rather than trial and error on the penis. After you have determined which way it goes in, simply roll it onto the penis and pinch the reservoir tip. Add lubrication if needed and check frequently to make sure the condom has not become damaged. Add lubrication if the condom begins to dry out as this can lead to tearing from friction.

2. Condom Size is Important

Unfortunately, condoms are not ‘one-size-fits-all.’ While most men are just fine with regular sized condoms, some men need a larger size. If the entire penis is not covered, or it is stretched too tightly over the skin, it’s not going to be as effective as a properly fitting condom. If it’s too short, there is a greater chance that STDs can be spread. According to WebMD, if you or your partner measure more than 7 inches in length or more than 4.5 to 5 increase around, you will likely need a larger condom size.

3. Don’t Use Oil-Based Lubrication that is Not Marketed For Sexual Activity

Using other forms of lube that aren’t marketed for sex can lead to condom failure. Anything oil-based, like petroleum jelly or even baby oil, can break down the latex. Instead, use marketed forms of water or silicone based  lubricants. If you want to skip the step of adding lubrication, get a condom that already has lubrication on it. Many times they also include spermicide as well.

4. Not all Condoms are Created Equally 

A condom is a condom, right? Not exactly. The three main types of condoms you will encounter include latex, polyurethane and animal skin. These are all pretty good at preventing pregnancy but when it comes to STD protection the porous quality of animal skin condoms can allow viruses to get through them. If you don’t have any issues with latex, these are the most common and effective. For those with latex allergies, polyurethane is effective as well but they tend to be thinner and often fit a bit looser than latex.

5. Wearing Two Condoms is NOT Better Than Wearing One

For some reason, there is a rumor that putting two condoms on will add double assurance that you won’t get an STD or become pregnant. This is actually one way to lower the efficacy of the condom. The two condoms actually result in excess friction and makes a rip or tear more likely to occur.

6. Human Error Lowers Efficacy of Condoms from 98% to 85%

As mentioned earlier, putting a condom on the wrong way can cause major problems and increase the probability of a mishap. Always be sure to use caution when putting on the condom and don’t pull it too tight to the tip. Allow room at the end for the reservoir tip to collect the semen.

7. Storage Plays a Big Role in Condom Safety

We see it all the time in movies and TV shows. The guy reaches into his back pocket for his wallet and suddenly a condom appears from within. When exposed to heat for an extended period of time, the condom becomes weak and the chances of it ripping are higher. The same goes for storing condoms in your car’s glove box. Your wallet and your car may seem like good places to stash condoms but they actually can render them practically useless. The best place to put them is in your nightstand.

8. Don’t Open Condom Wrappers with Scissors or Your Teeth

Struggling to get a condom wrapper open can put a damper on things but if you resort to using your teeth or scissors rather than your hands to open the package, you could be destroying the contents within.