A Conversation for Condoms

Testing Condoms

Post 1


Just thought I'd add a bit on some of the tests the manufacturers do on condoms. The tests are mostly destructive so they only test a random sample in each lot, given the reasonable assumption that if a few of the condoms in a batch run (using the same process and raw materials) were okay, then the rest of them probably are too.

Length test - the condom is rolled over a vaguely penis-shaped object with length markings down the side. It is stretched a little bit first (no more than 20mm though) to get any creases or wrinkles out.

Width test - the condom is laid flat over a ruler so that its ends are dangling on either side of the ruler. One side of the condom is lined up to the zero marking on the ruler, and the width is measured on the other side.

Lubrication amount test - the condom is weighed with lubrication on. The lubrication is then removed by washing it in isopropanol, and weighed again. The difference in mass is the amount of lubrication on the condom.

Thickness test - the condom is cut open to a flat shape and at least three samples are die-cut from it. (That is, a press tool is used to cut out three bits of rubber.) These are washed in isopropanol and weighed. A calculation using the area and mass of the samples, and the density of latex rubber is used to determine the thickness.

Stretch test - a sample is cut from the condom in a similar way to the thickness test, and then stretched until it breaks. The length at which it breaks and the force required to do this is recorded.

Burst test - the condom is filled with air until it bursts, and the volume and pressure at the burst point are recorded. This is carried out under a controlled temperature using dry air. If the condom leaks before it bursts, it fails the test.

Hole test - the condom is filled with some volume of water and examined visibly for leaks. If none are seen, it is rolled on absorbant paper, which is examined to see if it picked up any water. Another method used with this one to check for holes is to fill and immerse the condom in an electrolyte, using it to separate two electrodes. If a voltage is measured across the two electrodes the condom must be allowing the electrolyte to conduct, and therefore has holes.

Oven test - the condom, including its packaging, is cooked in an oven for some period of time. It is then removed and tested as above. This is used to determine shelf life by artificially aging the condom.

It's a lot more involved than I've described but if you want to know more read the standards. They're referenced in the article.

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Testing Condoms

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