How Condoms Are Tested

condom testing
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If condoms aren’t tested right, they can break or leak. And that can cause a lot of different problems, like sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy. To prevent these issues from happening, each condom needs to be looked at and undergo quality-control testing. If the condoms don’t meet regulatory standards, then they’ll be disposed of.

Condom manufacturers need to test for holes in condoms. To do that, every condom is filled with 300ml of water. If the water leaks out, that means that there’s a defect in the condom. People may not be able to see the holes, so the water helps reveal what the human eye can’t see. And certain factories go further to eliminate human error. Inspectors pinches together the open end of the condom and pushes it against an absorbent cloth. If the cloth gets wet, then the condom has a leak.

Condoms then go through a wet and dry test involving electricity. For the wet test, the condoms are put on a metal rod that is covered in a conductive solution. Then electricity is passed through the rod. If there are hole then the electricity will go through the areas. A computer then measures the current and picks out any condom that fails. For the dry test, the voltage is increased. A conductive material goes over condoms that are on electrified metal rods. Any holes or thin areas allow the current to go through, which causes the condom to burn or melt.

Another test the condoms go through is air inflation tests (or burst tests). This allows manufacturers to see how elastic the condom is. The condom is inflated to a certain volume and if it bursts before that then the sample fails. Any lots that are connected to the sample are also destroyed. The condoms’ tensile strength is also tested. This measures the condom’s ability to stretch out.

Dimensional testing is performed on random condoms in the same lot. The width, length and thickness are measured and compared to the published standards. If they deviate and don’t meet the acceptance criteria, then the whole lot has failed and are discarded.

The condom packing is also tested. The packaging needs to stay sealed until it is opened. The test ensures that the seal remains intact. A number of condoms from the same lot are put into a vacuum. This makes sure that there aren’t any leaks in the wrapper seal. If these condoms fail, then the entire batch is discarded.

What isn’t normally used are human models. Humans are the most accurate models when testing condoms, as they can describe how much sensation is lost or if diseases are transmitted. However, human models aren’t convenient. There are ethical concerns that need to be taken into account, such as unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. Human volunteers get rid of the ethical complications, but creates new ones. Human volunteers aren’t uniform, as they are inconsistent in how they use condoms. They also may mistreat the condoms by coating them in oils. The final issue with humans is time. When testing condoms on transmitting diseases or stopping pregnancy, the results won’t come in for weeks to months. Therefore, most testers tend to avoid using humans when testing condoms.

There are many tests that manufacturers use to test condoms. While most of the tests are universal, some condom manufacturers may have unique tests to ensure that their condoms are up to task. But the tests described are ones that most companies use to ensure the same standards. Be sure to research when buying condoms if they have undergone these tests. If they have, then the condoms are ready to be used.

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Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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