Dear Alice,

I have a question about sex in swimming pools and hot tubs. Will the chemicals deteriorate a condom? Also, can spermicide be used in water or will it be washed away? Please answer. Thank you.

— Curious

Dear Curious,

Condoms aren't typically tested in pools or hot tubs, or with chemicals found in these hot, wet places. But even without testing underwater sex — whether in the pool, hot tub, ocean, lake, river, shower, or bath — isn't considered a safer sex option. Here's why:

  • Hot tub or pool water does not kill or immobilize sperm; women who have sex with men can get pregnant in a hot tub.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be passed between sexual partners in a hot tub.
  • Spermicide is likely to "wash off" or wash away in water.
  • Water containing chemicals, salt, or bacteria can be forced into the vagina or rectum during sex, possibly causing irritation, infection, or temporary dryness.
  • Since it's recommended to store latex condoms away from direct sunlight, it's possible that the heated water of a hot tub may have a similar effect in breaking down latex.
  • Water can seep between the condom and the penis, possibly causing the condom to slip off.
  • Oil-based products that come off in water — such as sun screen, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, and soap — and possibly even chlorine can cause latex condoms to deteriorate.

Of course, using a condom in a pool or hot tub or other body of water is better than not using one at all, but it's effectiveness may be seriously compromised. Rather than springing for a roll in the tub, you may want to consider the hot tub as a location for relaxing pre- or post-action.


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