Do I keep my condoms on my nightstand or in my pocket? Should I put one on my partner or should I let them put it on themselves? Wait, how do I actually put this thing on?

If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions, you’re not alone!

Most people don’t get adequate condom education. It’s also totally normal to feel awkward and nervous, especially if you’re new to it. But we’re happy to you made it here because using a condom the right way makes all the difference for protecting against unwanted pregnancy and STIs.

Share on Pinterest
Illustrations by Wenzdai Figeuroa

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to correctly use a condom, including step-by-step instructions (for both internal and external condoms), do’s and don’ts, and tips for avoiding awkwardness.

How to put on an external condom

External condoms or outside condoms are made to be worn on penises and sex toys that are inserting into the mouth, vagina, or anus.

How to put one on

  1. Check the expiration date on the package. If it’s expired, get rid of it and use a newer one.
  2. Carefully open the condom wrapper with your hands. (You may get style points for using your teeth, but this risks tearing the condom.)
  3. Make sure it’s not inside out. The condom is facing the right direction when the reservoir tip looks like a little hat and rolled rim is facing outward.
  4. Make sure your penis is fully erect, aka hard (if putting it on a penis).
  5. Pinch the tip of the condom and unroll it all the way down the shaft of the penis (or as far down the sex toy as it will reach) to the base.
  6. Rub a generous amount of lube around the whole penis or sex toy (this helps prevent the condom from breaking).

How to take one off

  1. If you’ve just finished having penile-vaginal or anal sex, secure the base of the condom with your hand before you pull out of your partner so that no cum leaks out. (It’s safest to do this while you’re still hard.)
  2. If using a sex toy, carefully remove the condom and clean and dry the toy afterward.
  3. Tie a little knot in the condom and throw it in a trash can. (Don’t flush it down the toilet, it could mess with your pipes!)

Note: If the condom falls off or slips down at any point, throw it away and get another one. Never reuse condoms!

How to put on an internal condom

Internal condoms are made to be worn by people with vaginas. Since internal condoms are less common, people often get intimidated by using them. But they’re actually super straightforward to use.

Note: Internal condoms have rings on either end. The closed end with the thicker ring goes inside your vagina. The open end with the thinner ring sits on the outside of your vagina (aka your vulva).

How to put one on

  • Check the expiration date on the package. If it’s expired, get rid of it and use a newer one.
  • Carefully open the package, making sure you don’t tear the condom.
  • Squeeze the ring on the closed end of the condom into an oval and push it into your vagina (it’s kind of like inserting a tampon without an applicator).
  • Then use two fingers to push the condom as far as you can into your vagina. The inner ring should rest on your cervix, which is at the very back of your vagina.
  • The condom should expand on its own, and just like a tampon or menstrual cup, you may not feel it inside of you.

Note: If you’re having penile-vaginal sex, make sure the penis or sex toy (i.e. dildo) doesn’t go in between the condom and the walls of your vagina. And if the outer ring gets pushed into the vagina, stop having sex and readjust.

How to take it out

  • Gently twist the thin, outer ring of the condom and slide it out of your vagina.
  • Tie a little knot in the condom and throw it in a trash can. (Don’t flush it down the toilet, it could mess with your pipes!)

Using the wrong size condom makes it more susceptible to breaking, falling off, or not being comfortable. Studies show that using the wrong condom size can even make it harder to orgasm or get an erection.

Although there’s no universally agreed upon sizing guidelines for condoms, most companies make external condoms is three sizes: snug, regular, and large.

You can find your size by measuring the length, girth, and width of your penis. (Just make sure to measure when your penis is erect.)

Tip: It’s easier to measure with a string and then measure the string.

  • For length: Measure from the base of the penis to the tip.
  • For girth: Wrap the string around the widest point of the penis. This is the most important measurement for finding your size.
  • For width: Divide the measurement of the girth by 3.14 (with a calculator!)
Snug RegularLarger
less than 4.7 inches4.7–5.1 inchesmore than 5.1 inches

*Internal condoms only come in one size.

Now that you’ve got the size down, how do you decide what condom to buy? We put together a buying guide for the best condoms, that speaks to all your condom-related wants and needs.

Follow these good condom practices to make sure condoms are as effective as possible.

Do’s

  • Store condoms a cool, dry place.
  • Put the condom on before your penis or sex toy makes contact with your partner’s mouth or genitals.
  • Check for tears before using your condom.
  • Use a water or silicone-based lube (if you’re using latex condoms).
  • Put on a new condom if it breaks or falls off.

Don’ts

  • Store them in your wallet or purse. (You don’t want to store condoms anywhere that’s too hot because they might dry out and break easier.)
  • Use it inside out (you can tell it’s inside out if it doesn’t easily roll down the penis when you’re putting it on.)
  • Use an internal and external condom at the same time (rubbing the two materials together can cause them to break or tear).
  • Use with latex condoms with oils (that means no coconut oil!) or oil-based lube.
  • Use more than one condom at a time.
  • Reuse condoms.

What if the condom breaks or comes off?

First things first, don’t panic. Pull out as soon as you notice it’s broken or missing. This can be stressful, so be compassionate with one another.

If this happens with a partner with a vagina, and they’re not on birth control, Danielle Simpson-Baker, a sex coach and educator recommends using the Plan B pill to decrease the chance of getting pregnant. Just make sure to take it ASAP, as it’s more effective the sooner you take it.

Next, both partners schedule an STI test. Since there’s an incubation period for STIs, make the appointment a few weeks after the condom breaks. (And it’s good practice to get tested for STIs once a year if you’re having sex with multiple partners, or if your partner is.)

Can you still get pregnant when using a condom?

Yes. Even if used perfectly, there’s still roughly a 2 percent chance of getting pregnant with an external condom (for internal condoms, it’s around a 5 percent).

If you’re worried about getting pregnant, consider also using a long-term form of birth control, which can even further decrease your chances of getting pregnant.

Do I need to use a condom during oral sex?

It’s a good idea if you’re concerned about STIs, since they can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, says Simpson-Baker. There isn’t definitive research on exactly how common oral transmission is for STIs, but if you have sores or symptoms, definitely use a condom with your partner.

If you don’t like the taste of condoms, Simpson-Baker recommends trying a flavored condom. Just make sure not to use flavored condoms during vaginal sex because it can cause infection.

What about anal sex?

Once again, it’s a good idea because while you can’t get pregnant through anal sex, you can still get STIs, including HIV. Studies have found that condoms are about 70 percent effective in stopping the transmission of HIV.

Not to mention, using a condom can help make anal sex feel better and prevent against getting an UTI. Simpson-Baker notes that because the anus isn’t self-lubricating, using a pre-lubricated condom (along with tons of lube) can help make entry smoother and more enjoyable (for both people!).

The most common condom material is latex. As stated before, with perfect use, external latex condoms are 98 percent effective. However, as many as 7 percent of people are allergic or sensitive to latex.

If you fall in that number, opt for polyurethane condoms (which are just as effective as latex condoms). Polyurethane condoms are generally thinner and can be used with oil-based lubricants.

Note: Internal condoms are made out of either polyurethane or synthetic latex.

There are also lambskin condoms (which aren’t actually made of lambkin; it’s made of lamb cecum), which are often described as feeling more natural and pleasurable during sex. However, they’re generally not recommended because don’t protect against STIs.

Even if you’re prepped with all the information in the world, putting on a condom can still feel awkward as hell. You may be worried about embarrassing yourself or that you’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Practice by yourself

When it comes keeping calm, practice is the name of the game. Simpson-Baker recommends envisioning how you want the situation to go, and practicing for that.

Make it sexy

Simpson-Baker also recommends incorporating the condom into foreplay. For example, try dirty talking while you do it. The other person can also keep the momentum building by masturbating while they get the condom ready.

Have sex with a supportive partner

Know that feeling vulnerable around sex is super normal. Sex is a vulnerable act! That’s why it’s a good idea to have sex with someone you feel comfortable around, including comfortable enough to look silly putting on a condom.