Meet Myrtle, Global Protection Corp's chief condom inspector and quality control Queen.

So you want to know more about condom testing? Finally, a subject close to my heart!

If you spend any time looking at condom packages, you'll come across a lot of phrases like "individually electronically tested", "maximum reliability", and so on. What does this all mean, and what is actually required of condom manufacturers? Curious? Good. 

Here is a quick introduction to how condoms are really tested. 

Different manufacturers have different testing equipment. For this reason, the exact methods of performing the tests will vary somewhat from plant to plant. The standards, however, are the same for every company selling condoms in the U.S. Overseas manufacturers must also comply with the standards and they are routinely audited by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure compliance.

First, every condom is visually inspected and tested for pinholes using an electronic test. In this test, the condom is pulled over a metal form called a mandrel. The condom is then placed into the presence of an intense electrical field, which is created in air or water depending on the equipment used by the manufacturer. Because rubber does not conduct electricity, no electricity should reach the metal mandrel under the condom. If the electricity reaches the metal mandrel through a pinhole, it indicates the presence of a pinhole. Any condom failing this test is discarded (machines discard the failures automatically). This is the only test performed on every single condom: this is what manufacturers mean when they refer to "individual" or "electronic" testing. 

Other tests are performed by taking a random sampling of a large manufacturing lot and testing only those condoms in the samples. Using statistical analysis, it is possible to reach accurate conclusions about the large lot by testing a small fraction of the condoms, as long as the samples are chosen at random. This sampling occurs at various points along the manufacturing process. The samples from the lot are tested for dimensions, tensile properties, air burst properties, leakage, and package integrity. Condoms are randomly sampled from each lot in accordance to a sampling plan defined by the standards. Each lot is tested and must comply with the standards passing all specified acceptance criteria before it is released for distribution.

Dimensions Test: The length, width and thickness of the condoms are precisely measured according to standards. If the samples do not meet the acceptance criteria, the entire lot is discarded.
Air Burst Properties Test: Condoms are filled with air until they pop. The air pressure and amount of air inside the condom are measured at the time the condom breaks. If these numbers are too low the entire lot is discarded. The minimum volume and pressure is specified by standards based on the width of the condoms.
Package Integrity Test: The individual condom wrappers are subjected to a vacuum and checked for air leaks in the wrapper seal. If the tests do not meet the acceptance criteria, the condoms fail this test, and the lot is discarded. Condom lots that pass all these tests are now both ready to be boxed and justifiably proud of themselves. 
Tensile Properties Test: Condoms are laid flat, and a section is cut out of the center leaving a latex ring. This ring is placed on a testing device that stretches the ring until it breaks. The equipment measures the force required to break the condom and the amount of stretch or elongation at breakage. This information is recorded and used by manufacturers for their internal quality control. Tensile properties (force at break) tests are only performed when a manufacturer makes a claim for “extra strength”.
Leakage Test:  We refer to this test as the "hang & roll". The "hang" portion is mandated by regulation, but the "roll" portion is optional and helps eliminate any potential for human error in spotting leaks. For the "hang" portion, condoms are filled with water while hanging vertically and inspected for any evidence of leakage; they are also held horizontally and the entire surface is inspected again. For the "roll" portion, the inspector twists closed the open end of the water-filled condom and presses and kneads it on absorbent paper, looking for tiny leaks. Any condoms that show evidence of leaks, including, and I quote the official regulations, "seepage, microdroplets, squirters, etc.", are considered failures (don't you just love engineers? ). If the lot does not meet the acceptance criteria, the lot is discarded. 

Myrtle Condom Testing