Structural integrity of the polyurethane female condom after multiple cycles of disinfection, washing, drying and relubrication

Contraception. 2003 Jan;67(1):65-72. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(02)00418-3.


The female condom provides an important alternative means of protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for women, particularly in situations where partners are reluctant or refuse to use male condoms. The relatively high cost of the device, however, is a barrier to its use in resource-poor environments. This has led to some reuse of the product and two studies have demonstrated that female condoms can withstand a limited level of reuse without an excessive loss of structural integrity when washed with soap and water. A consultation on female condom reuse convened by the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS in June 2000 recommended that all used female condoms should be disinfected immediately after use, before washing. The effect of such treatments on the female condom was not known. This study was undertaken to assess the effect of the disinfection, washing, drying and relubrication on the properties of the condom. Samples from three batches of female condoms were subjected to seven treatment cycles before being tested for structural integrity. In all cases the batches of condoms complied with the manufacturer's release specification for the product after treatment. Some minor changes in properties were seen but these were not considered important. There was evidence of a small increase in the number of condoms with holes following repeated disinfection and washing cycles, suggesting that excessive or rough handling can damage the condom. Condoms should therefore be handled carefully and inspected thoroughly for signs of damage after washing and drying before being stored with the intention of subsequently reusing the device.

MeSH terms

  • Condoms, Female*
  • Detergents
  • Disinfection
  • Equipment Failure
  • Equipment Reuse
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lubrication
  • Polyurethanes


  • Detergents
  • Polyurethanes