Go to Content Go to Navigation Go to Navigation Go to Site Search Homepage

Sex educators hear this urban legend all the time: “condoms you get for free from clinics or schools can’t be trusted because they don’t work as well and break easier.” But this is absolutely NOT true — free condoms are the same condoms you buy in stores, and they work just as well.

It’s understandable why people think free condoms are less reliable. Usually we tend to think free = crappy, and expensive = quality, right? Not in this case. Condoms are tested and FDA approved, whether you buy them or get them for free — they’re all effective and safe, as long as you use them correctly.

So how do free condoms even exist in the first place? Who are these magic condom fairies sprinkling free rubbers across the land? The truth is “free” condoms are only free to the public. Government programs, health departments, non-profits, clinics, and schools actually do buy these condoms — the same condoms you can buy in stores — and give them away to anyone who needs them. 

The logic behind these programs is that giving people condoms is easier and cheaper than treating them for STDs and dealing with high rates of infections. Think about it: a condom costs much less than a doctor’s appointment. It’s a basic public health thing — EVERYONE benefits from safer sex. Giving away free condoms is an investment in the community.

The one downside to free condom programs is there’s usually not much variety available. If you prefer a certain style or need a special size, type, or material (like non-latex), you might have to buy your protection. But if the free ones work for you, go ahead and use them with confidence. Just make sure to store them correctly (away from extreme temperatures and any sharp objects that can damage them), and check the expiration date. What really keeps condoms from breaking is taking proper care of them and using them correctly every single time you have sex — not paying for them.

There are a few condoms you should avoid, free or not. Condoms marked “novelty” or “for entertainment purposes” are not cleared by the FDA to prevent STDs or pregnancy, so you can’t rely on them to keep you safe. And remember that animal skin (AKA lambskin) condoms don’t protect against HIV or other STDs, so stick to latex or plastics like polyurethane, nitrile, or polyisoprene for full protection.


Tags: condoms, safer sex, #CondomWeek, sexual health, Public Health, sex education

Explore more on


This website uses cookies

Planned Parenthood cares about your data privacy. We and our third-party vendors use cookies and other tools to collect, store, monitor, and analyze information about your interaction with our site to improve performance, analyze your use of our sites and assist in our marketing efforts. You may opt out of the use of these cookies and other tools at any time by visiting Cookie Settings. By clicking “Allow All Cookies” you consent to our collection and use of such data, and our Terms of Use. For more information, see our Privacy Notice.

Cookie Settings

Planned Parenthood cares about your data privacy. We and our third-party vendors, use cookies, pixels, and other tracking technologies to collect, store, monitor, and process certain information about you when you access and use our services, read our emails, or otherwise engage with us. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences, or your device. We use that information to make the site work, analyze performance and traffic on our website, to provide a more personalized web experience, and assist in our marketing efforts. We also share information with our social media, advertising, and analytics partners. You can change your default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of required cookies when utilizing our site; this includes necessary cookies that help our site to function (such as remembering your cookie preference settings). For more information, please see our Privacy Notice.



We use online advertising to promote our mission and help constituents find our services. Marketing pixels help us measure the success of our campaigns.



We use qualitative data, including session replay, to learn about your user experience and improve our products and services.



We use web analytics to help us understand user engagement with our website, trends, and overall reach of our products.