When preparing to use one, you’re usually not thinking too much about it, but for the sake of knowing what you’re getting into, it can be helpful to know how that condom has come to be. Today, most condoms are made from latex-a milky white liquid extracted from rubber trees grown in Malaysia and Indonesia. Once collected, the latex is tested by technicians, who reserve only the highest grade for condom production. This “cream of the crop” is then mixed with a variety of chemicals to preserve it, stabilize it, and given. Next, the condoms are formed by the dipping of hundreds of penis shaped shafts into the latex. The shafts-appropriately called “mandrills”- come in different shapes and sizes and dangle from a conveyor belt that then passes the condoms-to-be-through an oven to be dried. Next, a machine creates the “lip” at each condom’s open end, then a leaching process removes residue and odor, before a final dunk into a tank of powder made from corn starch, magnesium carbonate, and chemicals to fight bacteria.
The final phase: Before entering the marketplace to combat unwanted pregnancy and disease, condoms must pass some torturous tests. Randomly selected representatives from each batch are stretched until they snap, pumped full of air until they explode, filled with water until they break, and baked in an aging chamber to assure they can withstand the test of time. If any condom fails to pass these federally and internationally mandated trials, it’s “bye-bye”-for the entire batch.
International testing guidelines are stricter than the FDA’s, so look for the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) stamp, as well as the FDA’s, if you’re looking for optimal reliability. “Novelty” condoms? No similar tests-so they could play some dirty tricks on you.