We Made Victorian Condoms and It Was Much Grosser Than We Expected

Diane Kelly and Katharine Trendacosta

Way back in September, our very own Esther Inglis-Arkell found a recipe for condoms from 1844. It was only two paragraphs long, so we thought, how hard can it be? Really hard, it turns out. Also gross and potentially dangerous.

Here’s the recipe:

Take the caecum of the sheep; soak it first in water, turn it on both sides, then repeat the operation in a weak ley of soda, which must be changed every four or five hours for five or six successive times; then remove the mucus membrane with the nail; sulphur, wash in clean water, and then in soap and water; rinse, inflate, and dry.

Next cut it to the required length and attach a piece of ribbon to the open end. Used to prevent infection or pregnancy. The different qualities consist of extra pains being taken in the above process, and in polishing, scenting, &c.


We got the sheep caecums from a butcher. Soaked in lye for a good long while, used a butter knife instead of a nail, and used a very dilute solution of Potassium metabisulfite instead of sulphur. Also, we put ours on a banana, which we’re betting the 1844 makers didn’t do.

Contact the author at katharine@io9.com.

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