Structural integrity of the female condom after a single use, washing, and disinfection

Contraception. 2000 Aug;62(2):63-72. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(00)00142-6.


The Reality(R) female condom is approved for use during a single act of intercourse, but is expensive relative to other barrier methods. Re-use is a potential strategy to reduce its per-use cost. We tested the structural integrity of female condoms (n = 318) after a single act of vaginal intercourse. We also measured the impact of laboratory washing (1, 5, or 10 times) with and without disinfection on the structural integrity of unused condoms. Structural integrity was measured via 5 tests: seam tensile strength, water leakage, air-burst, tear propagation, and device dimensions. No degradation in device structural integrity occurred after a single use when compared to control for seam tensile (16.0 vs.15.7 mPa; p = 0.558); water leakage (1.9% vs. 0.9%; p = 0.618); air burst (3.9 vs. 3.6 kPa; p <0.001); or tear propagation (344.6 vs. 336.8 psi; p = 0.313). Mean length was slightly increased [single use vs. control (177.9 vs. 172.5 mm; p <0.001)]. No consistent pattern of structural degradation emerged across all wash/disinfection groups. Our data suggest the structural integrity of the female condom remains intact after a single use and cleaning.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Coitus
  • Condoms, Female* / standards
  • Disinfection*
  • Equipment Reuse
  • Female
  • Humans