How to use an external (male) condom

Male condom illustration

What is a condom?

A condom is a form of contraception, usually made from latex, that is used during foreplay or sexual intercourse to help protect against STIs (including HIV) and unintended pregnancies. 

Why use a condom?

Condoms are the only form of contraception that prevents unintended pregnancies and protects you from STIs, including HIV.  

External (male) condoms are 87-98% effective, depending on what type you use and if you use them correctly and consistently.

Condoms are recommended alongside another form of short or long form contraception, like an IUD or contraceptive pill.

Learn more about other forms of contraception

How to put on an external (male) condom

Packs of condoms will always come with instructions, so be sure to read them beforehand. But if you’re in a rush, here are a few things to remember:

  • Always check the expiry date on the condom. If it’s out of date then do not use it, as it is more likely to break.

male / external condom illustration

  • Check the packet has a certification mark, usually FDA, BSI, CE, ISO or Kitemark. A certification mark means they have been tested and have passed the required safety standards. The marks look like this:

certification marks for condoms

  • Be careful when you or your sexual partner open the condom. Avoid using your teeth or a sharp object as you risk tearing the condom.

use your hands to open the condom packet not a sharp object

  • The condom should be put on the penis when it is erect (hard) and before the penis comes into contact with a sexual partner (vaginally, anally or orally).

make sure the penis is erect

  • Once the condom has been removed from the packet, place it on the tip of the erect penis. Squeezing the tip of the condom, carefully roll it down to the base of the penis.

unroll the condom to the base of the penis

  • If the condom will not unroll easily, it may be on the wrong way. If this happens, start again with a new condom as pre-ejaculatory fluid (aka "pre-cum") can contain sperm.

Once it’s on properly, you’re good to go!

good to go

Learn more about pre-cum and if it can cause pregnancy

How to remove a male condom

  • After ejaculation and with the penis still erect (hard), hold the condom at the base and carefully remove your penis from your partner’s body – if you do not remove your penis from your partner whilst it is still erect, there is a risk of sperm leaking or the condom falling off.
  • Only completely remove the condom when you are no longer in contact with your partner’s body.
  • Wrap the used condom in some tissue and dispose of it in the bin.
  • Do not flush your condom down the toilet as this can have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Remember you cannot use the same condom twice (even if you rinse it)!

Learn more about some of the types of condoms available

Using lubricant with a condom

If you want to use lubricant (also known as lube), used a water-based one as oil-based lubricants can cause condoms to break. 

Remember to use it on the external area of the condom and/or on your partner’s genitals. 

Do not place lubricant directly onto the penis as this can cause the condom to slip off.

Learn more about lubricant