Can the female condom be reused?

One other possible solution to the expense of female condoms in resource-poor settings is to reuse them. Although the FC female condom is designed as a single-use product, there have been reports of reuse. In Zimbabwe, 2.2% of users in a study reported reusing the female condom for reasons of cost, inadequate supply, saving time and mere experimentation.1

It is unclear how much reuse currently takes place worldwide, and whether there is any increased risk for the woman and/or her partner—but more research on this option, including simplified disinfection protocols and the potential for reuse of the new FC2, are needed.

In 2002, the World Health Organization issued a statement saying it does not recommend or promote reuse of female condoms, but it did publish a draft protocol that includes guidance on disinfecting, washing, drying, storing and relubricating female condoms intended for reuse.2

This advice includes:

  • Soaking the condom in a 1:20 solution of household bleach for between two and five minutes.

  • Washing the condom in soap and water to remove all traces of bleach, lubricant and ejaculate.

  • Air-drying the condom, turning it inside out to ensure both sides are dry.

  • Relubricating, preferably with silicone or water-based lubricants, though with the polyurethane condom alone oil-based ones such as petroleum jelly, baby oil, and vegetable oil or fat.

  • Condoms should be reused no more than five times.

References

  1. Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Zimbabwe Piloting the Female Condom in Zimbabwe: A National Survey. MOHCW, Harare, Zimbabwe, 1998
  2. World Health Organization The Safety and Feasibility of Female Condom Reuse: Report of a WHO Consultation. WHO, 2002
This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.