Thursday, September 6, 2018

Prepping with Condoms

It seems that Scott and I are running into some of the same idea generators. Last month he wrote a piece about the multiple uses of condoms, and I found an article about how they are used for various non-traditional purposes in a third-world country this week. I'll see if I can elaborate on that and add to his post.

First, I need to point out that condoms come in a variety of materials now. Since so many people are sensitive or allergic to natural latex (the most common material for making condoms for many years), there are now several options on the market. I first ran into this about 15 years ago while discussing birth control with a younger friend who is acutely allergic to latex. She was looking for an alternative and I did some research for her, finding several brands that offer natural (usually made from the intestines of sheep) and non-latex plastic (polyurethane or polyisoprene) versions.

Natural Condoms
This is the oldest type of condom, dating back to the early Roman Empire.
  • Will not stretch very much and may have a narrower section or draw-string near the opening to help it stay put when used in its intended manner. 
  • Being made of a layer of animal gut, they are also not completely water-tight.
  • While helpful at preventing pregnancy, they will not stop the spread of STDs nor will they hold water for very long. 

Non-Latex Plastic Condoms
  • Polyisoprene is made by taking natural latex and reformulating it to exclude the chemicals that trigger latex allergies. 
  • Polyurethane is made from petroleum.
  • Both are water-tight plastics, but don't have the elasticity of latex. 
  • They won't expand to near the size of a latex condom, so their carrying capacity is greatly reduced. 

Secondly, we are specifying non-lubricated condoms for a reason. The condoms you'll find in most drug stores are lubricated with a non-petroleum (latex will dissolve in petroleum-based lubes), often “dry” lubricant that may be laced with a spermicide as a back-up form of birth control. The most common lubricant/spermicide I've seen in my research is nonoxynol-9 (N-9), a non-ionic surfactant (soap) which shortens the shelf-life of the condom. I haven't found any major side-effects to N-9, but you may not want it in contact with food or water because it is a detergent and will affect taste.

For the purposes of prepping, we'll stick to the more common (and much cheaper) latex condoms.*

Scott mentioned using a condom to protect electronics from moisture. This is an old stage-hand trick that has been used for decades; musicians and performers tend to sweat a lot on stage and electronic microphones don't like water, so it has been standard practice to wrap the electronics in a condom. Amazon even sells condom-like covers* specifically for this purpose, about $0.11 apiece in bulk.

Inflating a condom like a balloon will show you how much they can actually stretch. If you've never tried it, you'll be surprised at how much they can expand. The article I read mentioned fishermen using them as floats to carry their lines away from shore to get the baited hooks out where the bigger fish are. I know we've covered jug-fishing here before, and condoms would serve the same purpose as an empty milk/bleach jug.

If you've ever picked up a nail in a car tire, you may have seen the guys at the repair shop use a tire plug to fix the hole without taking the tire off of the rim. This is a quick and cheap solution, but it won't last as long as a patch placed on the inside of the tire, nor will it work if you have an antique with tube-style tires. This is a subject for a complete article on its own, but the simple procedure is:
  1. Remove the nail
  2. Clean the hole
  3. Insert the plug
  4. Air up the tire
For a small hole, a latex condom will suffice. Use a wooden dowel or rounded metal rod to get it into the hole; the rubber of the tire should spread enough to allow insertion, then snap back to original size around the condom, sealing the hole. Folding the condom will add thickness if you have a good-sized nail hole.

If you know anything about wine-making, you know that you need to use an air-lock to allow gasses formed during fermentation to escape while keeping outside air away from the fermenting juice. Sticking a condom over the (open) neck of a jug will cause the condom to expand as the gasses are produced. When the condom deflates, you know the fermentation is complete.

Being very elastic and water-tight, condoms can also be used to cover an open can or jar of food if there is no lid available. Opening a jar of something that will take a few days to consume (like jam or peanut butter) and losing the lid usually means that the food gets contaminated or spoils rapidly.

For something that is cheap and easy to store, the common condom is a multi-purpose prepping supply that is limited in its usefulness only by your imagination. Think about it for a while, and when you finish giggling, let us know what uses you can come up with.

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