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During adolescence, teens are often taught to not store condoms in their wallet because it causes the condom to deteriorate. In fact, the National Institute of Health claims:

Do not carry condoms in your wallet for long periods of time. Replace them every once in a while. Friction from opening and closing your wallet, and from walking (if you carry your wallet in your pocket) can lead to tiny holes in the condom. Nevertheless, it is better to use a condom that has been in your wallet for a long time than to not use one at all.

However the NIH does not quantify "long periods of time." While the intuition behind the adverse affects of carrying a condom in a wallet makes sense, the NIH does not back its claim with any additional evidence.

Is there any research done on how storing a condom in a wallet deteriorates the success rate of the condom?

  • 2
    Evidence: holes in socks resulting from friction when wearing :) – user5341 Jun 1 '11 at 20:58
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    The manufacturer also advises you to store your condom NOT in a wallet, but in a cool, dry place. Storing it in your wallet exposes it to mechanical stress. I don't think there is much need for a sophisticated study. You also wouldn't need a study to know that pinching holes in it is a stupid idea, would you? – Lagerbaer Jun 1 '11 at 21:13
  • I looked around a bit but did not find anything. Wikipedia does not list elevated temperature or low friction in the package for a long time in the causes of failure section of their article HERE. I can't find anything else verifying this, either. You may want to just contact a few manufacturers and ask for test methods they use to determine expiration dates (this might include latex deterioration studies and in-package friction effects)? – Hendy Jun 1 '11 at 21:23
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    @Lagerbaer: I don't think the question is that out of the blue -- what intuitively seems to make sense isn't always the case. This strikes me as a potential for hindsight bias. Of course temperature and friction make sense as failure accelerants once mentioned... but it's still reasonable to want to see the data that played a part in making that clear -- temperature vs. time breakdown studies, small friction repetitions studies, coefficient of friction values between the foil liner and lubricated latex, etc. I think it's quite a valid question as is not just solved by "common sense." – Hendy Jun 1 '11 at 21:27
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    @xiaohouzi79: I disagree. "Thimerosal causes brain disorders" is an analog (bear with me). You might say, "No, it doesn't." Then I respond by saying that any compound directly injected into the brain causes disorders -- I didn't mean in small amounts in vaccines. You'd be puzzled. Thus "friction causes breakage" is something we need to look at in this specific case, as in "Is the amount of friction and type/duration in a wallet enough to warrant the cautionary address"? Just like, "Is the amount of thimerosal and delivery method used in vaccines enough to warrant anti-vaccine cautions? – Hendy Jun 1 '11 at 23:59
21

I emailed every manufacturer listed HERE (except Trojan -- could not find an email contact method on their site) the email found HERE. I received one bounced email, one instruction to actually call the company (which I didn't really feel like doing), but I just got a written response today that I think is quite helpful!

The email is from a Regulatory Affairs / Quality Assurance Manager at Global Protection Corporation. Now, I don't actually know which brand uses this company -- they appear to be a manufacturer and perhaps they are re-branded and sold under one of the more common names at the link above. In any case, here was the response:

Dear Mr. _,

Condoms are a medical device regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada and other regulatory bodies. Guidelines are provided that outline labeling and language requirements, storage, and testing.

Physical testing is performed on each lot of condoms and includes:

  • Dimensional Testing for length, width and thickness
  • Air Inflation Testing for volume and pressure at burst
  • Leakage Testing
  • Visible Defects
  • Freedom From Holes testing
  • Package Integrity Testing
  • Colour fastness (for color condoms only)

Please note that every condom is electronically tested for reliability and safety.

Prior to receiving approval to sell condoms in the United States or International Markets, biological testing is required to assure the safety of the materials. Additionally, stability studies have been conducted and demonstrate the shelf-life of condoms to be 5 years.

Storage of condoms in a wallet is not recommended as damage to the product could occur. Short-term storage in a wallet is less of a concern than longer-term storage. Degradation will occur at higher temperatures, and continued pressure or folding of the condoms can weaken the latex. There is no study that I am aware of that specifically tests condoms in wallets. The warning comes from general knowledge that

  • Higher temperatures for extended periods degrades latex and
  • Pressure on the condom for extended periods can degrade the latex.

It is recommended that condoms be stored in a cool, dry place (below 100° F) and avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

So, my takeaway is that the recommendation is due to materials science factors and degredation of the latex. I don't know that I buy the "pinholes from rubbing" explanation, though I suppose these could come about -- we'd need to know what failure mechanism latex degredation leads to. Pinholes might be it, but it could simply be breakage once the condom is actually used vs. a failure before hand. Not sure!

I'll update the answer if I hear back from any other manufacturers I emailed!

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  • 8
    +1 for making use of emails. Users here should do that more often. A lot can be gained by contacting experts on the topic. – Borror0 Jun 7 '11 at 17:37
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    @Borror0: Thanks! Yes, after all the back and forth up above under the actual question, I figured asking those who might actually know rather than all of us speculating might be the ticket. – Hendy Jun 7 '11 at 18:10

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