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All the Things Condoms Have Been Used for Besides Birth Control

From bungee cords to reheating meatloaf

Women often complain that a pricey downside of applying foundation is that much of it is wasted on a sponge. Beauty vlogger Laila Tahri recently found internet fame proposing a hack for this conundrum: wrapping the Beauty Blender — a small egg-shaped sponge — in a non-absorbent condom first and then applying foundation as usual. “It’s blending out so beautifully!” she exclaims in a YouTube video while dabbing her forehead via prophylactic. “And I’m not wasting any product!”

She’s not the first person to use condoms for something other than safe sex. Because condoms are waterproof, elastic and durable, they’ve been employed in a variety of nonsexual ways — including for espionage and psychological warfare. In The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890–2010, Mary Nolan writes that during the Cold War the CIA batted around an idea of dropping huge condoms labeled “Made in the USA: Medium” over the USSR to demoralize them against an anatomically superior American army.

Here are 11 other SFW ways condoms have been rolled out over the years:

Firestarter: Camping experts and wilderness survival educators Willow Haven Outdoor believe there are 11 ways a condom can save your life, one of which is using them as kindling in a pinch. “A latex condom will ignite almost instantaneously and burn furiously for several minutes, allowing you plenty of time to build your fire,” they explain.

Fishing bobber: In Cuba, it’s too expensive for most people to afford a boat, fuel and fishing tackle. And fishing from the overcrowded jetties won’t reel in a fish large enough to feed a whole family. So instead, some Cuban fisherman blow into condoms and put them at the end of their poles; the improvised floating devices can carry lines as far as 900 feet off the coastline. The inflated condoms also keep bait closer to the water’s surface, giving fisherman more strength as they reel in a catch.

Image: CBS News

Reheating meatloaf: The folks over at, a place that lets engineers explore, document and share their creations, advocate warming up cooked meat by shoving it in a condom, topping it off with sauce and simmering it for a few minutes. “Though the human body is warm and can get warmer during condom activities, it’s not advised to put the condom in water temperatures above 100ºF (38ºC),” they caution. “Think of it more like a sous vide rather than a boiling bag.”

Drug smuggling: When using “internal carriers,” drug smugglers numb their throats, swallow condoms filled with drugs and remove them on the other end — from the other end.

India’s vast latex recycling program: Millions of condoms are handed out every year in India to check population growth and the spread of AIDS. However, a report by doctors at King George’s Medical University in Lucknow found only a quarter of the free 1.5 billion condoms are used for sex. They’re mostly fashioned as:

  • Portable bidets: Rural villagers use condoms to wash after making a number two in the fields.
  • Artillery sealant: Soldiers cover gun and tank barrels with condoms as protection against dust.
  • Toys and balloons: Health activists say millions of condoms have been melted down and the latex is dyed to make various children’s sundries.
  • Better roads: Contractors mix them with concrete and tar and use the mixture to construct road surfaces that are smooth and resistant to cracks.
  • Saris: Weavers place condoms on their spools; the lubricant rubs off on the thread, making it move faster through their sewing machines. The weavers also turn the condoms inside-out, place them on their fingers and use the lubricant to polish gold and silver threads.

Soccer balls: Women in Mozambique regularly receive condoms from health facilities when they go to family-planning meetings. Afraid jealous husbands might find them in their purses, they often give them to their children to make toys. One of the most popular is soccer balls, which kids make by tying a few condoms together and covering them with rags.

Bungee jumping: To recreate “the virgin buzz” of his very first bungee, veteran jumper Carl Dionisio spent four months creating a 30-meter rope with a string of 18,500 condoms. He lived to tell the tale.

And then there are all those things — like sandwich bags — that have been employed as substitutes for condoms, but we’ll save that for another day…