When it comes to sexual health, protection is paramount. Condoms are widely known as one of the most effective means of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.

However, a common question often arises: can condoms fail without breaking?

In this blog, we’ll explore the various factors that can lead to condom failure without visible damage, and the potential risks involved. Understanding these factors will empower you to make informed decisions about your sexual health.

Why condoms can fail without breaking

Condoms are made from latex or polyurethane and are designed to create a barrier between sexual partners. While they are highly effective when used correctly, several factors can lead to condom failure even if the condom doesn’t visibly tear or break:

Size and fit

Condoms that are too large or too small for the wearer can be prone to slipping off or breaking at the base. It’s essential to choose the right size for a secure fit.

Improper storage

Storing condoms in a hot or humid environment can weaken the latex, making them more susceptible to tearing.


Using expired condoms can compromise their integrity, increasing the risk of failure.


Lubrication is essential for a comfortable and safe sexual experience, but using the wrong type of lubricant can weaken condoms. Only water-based or silicone-based lubricants are safe to use with latex condoms.

Incorrect application

Carefully putting on a condom is crucial. If not unrolled completely or if there is air trapped at the tip, the condom can slip off during intercourse.

Multiple condoms

Using two condoms at once may seem like a good idea for added protection, but it actually increases the risk of condom failure.

The STI risks

The main concern when condoms fail without breaking is the potential transmission of STIs. Condoms serve as a barrier to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids, which is how many STIs are transmitted. When a condom fails, there is a risk that infectious bodily fluids can come into contact with the skin and mucous membranes, increasing the chances of infection.

The risk of STI transmission depends on various factors, including the type of STI, the infected partner’s viral load, and the timing of the sexual encounter concerning the infection’s incubation period. Some STIs, such as Herpes and Syphilis, can be transmitted even when there are no visible symptoms.

What to do if a condom fails

If you suspect that a condom has failed during intercourse, it’s essential to take action promptly. Here are the steps to follow:

Stop intercourse

Immediately cease any sexual activity to minimise the risk of further exposure.

Check the condom

Examine the condom to ensure it hasn’t broken. Even if it hasn’t, it’s still essential to address the situation.

Get tested

Both partners should get tested for STIs after the discovery of a broken condom. It’s essential to know your status and take any necessary precautions.

Preventing condom failure

While condom failure without visible damage can occur, it should not deter you from using condoms. They remain a highly effective method for preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancies. To reduce the risk of failure, consider the following tips:

  • Choose the right size: make sure the condom fits properly.
  • Store condoms correctly: keep them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
  • Check the expiration date: ensure the condoms are not expired.
  • Use appropriate lubrication: only use water-based or silicone-based lubricants.
  • Follow the correct application: learn how to put on a condom correctly and practice it.

Final thoughts

Condoms are a valuable tool for protecting your sexual health, but it’s crucial to understand that they can fail without breaking. By being informed and practising safe sex, you can minimise the risks associated with condom failure. Remember that sexual health is a shared responsibility, so open and honest communication with your partner is key.

If you think you’ve been exposed to an STI, get tested with Better2Know. Call the number to speak to one of our Sexual Health Advisors, who can help you choose a test and STI clinic that’s right for you.

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