A condom may just be the most versatile tool you have lying around. Some of these are good ideas. Some of them are terrible ideas. But all of them are real and tested. (NOTE: You’ll want to use unlubricated condoms for most of these.)
You can use condoms to …
1. ... STORE WATER.
Compact, super-stretchy, and watertight, condoms are a survivalist’s dream. If you do it right, you can collect and store up to two liters of water in a single condom.
2. ... WRAP UP YOUR WEAPON.
Soldiers love condoms, and not just for the reason you think. GIs have covered their rifle barrels with condoms to keep the guns clean and dry since World War II. During the Gulf War, the British Ministry of Defense shipped 500,000 custom-made camouflage condoms to troops in Saudi Arabia with the express purpose of protecting the guns from filling with sand.
3. ... PLAY BALL.
Children in Chimoio, Mozambique, make soccer balls out of condoms. They scrunch up a few condoms as a lightweight core, tie them together, and cover them with rags. The kids get the condoms from their mothers or swipe them from family planning clinics, much to the consternation of public health officials. "When used consistently and correctly, condoms are an effective means of preventing HIV, gonorrhea and unwanted pregnancies,” one official told IRIN News, “but the results of distribution efforts can be reduced to zero when they're used to make toys instead."
4. ... GO FISHING.
Left your bobber at home? No problem. Simply inflate a condom halfway, tie it off, and add it to your fishing line. Presto: instant bobber.
5. ... LET OFF SOME STEAM.
Feeling a little tense? Have you squeezed the life out of all your stress balls? Never fear: You’ve got the makings of a new one at home.
6. ... OPEN THAT %$*& PICKLE JAR.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, condoms can do pretty much everything. The next time you encounter a jar lid that resists even your mighty grip, try stretching a condom over the top. The rubber should provide enough traction to twist that sucker right open.
7. ... DO SCIENCE.
Scientists and engineers digging up soil samples use condoms to protect both their collections and their equipment [PDF]. Science condoms also had a role in the D-Day invasion. Allied engineers used condoms to collect samples of sand from Normandy Beach, then analyzed the sand to make sure their vehicles could actually run up onto it without sinking.
8. ... WATERPROOF YOUR MICROPHONE (OR YOUR PHONE).
A hydrophone is an instrument for recording underwater noises. But not every sound team has a hydrophone. Those that don’t turn to condoms as a cheap way to waterproof a regular microphone. This same technique works for any other kind of small electronics, including smartphones, as long as you tie the knot very, very tightly. Mike Warren at Instructables says he can even use his touch screen through the condom.
9. ... KEEP YOUR BANDAGE DRY.
Wearing a bandage or a cast is awful enough, but trying to bathe with one on just adds insult to injury. But you can waterproof your arm or leg with, yes, a condom. You should be able to fit a good part of your arm or leg into a condom. For wounds that don’t cover the hand or foot, just snip the tip off your condom, then pull it on like a sleeve.
10. ... FAKE A GUNSHOT WOUND.
Anybody with an army of computer graphics wizards at their disposal can add realistic-looking gunshot wounds to a movie. For the rest of us, there are condoms. Watch and learn as this young special effects guru walks you through the cheap-and-dirty (and kind of gross) process of gunshot-by-condom.
11. ... START A FIRE.
The condom is like the Swiss army knife of fire. You can use the condom to protect your tinder from the elements (dryer lint is a favorite). You can use the condom itself as kindling; it’ll burn super-hot for a few minutes, although the smell will be pretty bad. You can fill the condom with water and use it as a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on something flammable. And if all else fails and you have to resort to the rubbing-two-sticks-together method, you can twist the condom into thumb loops, which will really speed up the process.
12. ... SPEED UP YOUR WEAVING.
Sari weaving is an ancient art that’s been threatened in recent years by an influx of machine-made saris from China. To keep up their pace, weavers in Varanasi, India rub lubricated condoms on their looms’ shuttles to keep them moving fluidly. Weavers estimate that using condoms saves them about four hours per sari. They also use the condoms to polish gold and silver threads in the finished saris. The condoms are a natural choice, weaver Bacche Lal Maurya told Little India, because the lubricant doesn’t stain the silk—and because the condoms are free from local health centers.
13. ... JUMP OFF A BRIDGE.
But don’t, actually. In 2008, South African thrill seeker Carl Dionisio wove a 98-foot bungee cord out of condoms, then jumped off a bridge. Fortunately for Dionisio, the cord held. “I was 99 percent sure it would work,” he told Metro UK.
The cord, made of 18,500 condoms, took four months to make. “It was difficult, as the condoms were slippery,” said Dionisio, who apparently never considered using unlubricated condoms.
14. ... BUILD BETTER ROADS.
India’s health workers are really facing an uphill battle. Hundreds of millions of free condoms are handed out each year, but only one quarter of those ever see the inside of a bedroom. Sari weavers use many of them, but many more are used in construction. Condoms are mixed into tar and cement to smooth out roads and make them more resilient. They’re layered beneath cement plaster to keep monsoon rains from breaking through roofs.
15. ... SEAL UP THAT BAG OF CHIPS.
Fresh out of rubber bands? Get out your condom and a pair of scissors. Lay the condom flat and cut straight vertical lines. If you’re careful, you can get a good 20 stretchy bands out of a single condom.