Safely Sexual logo
Search icon Search icon User account icon Shopping cart icon

The History of Rubber

The History of Rubber


Rubbers……. just one of the many slang words for condoms.  Some we may question where they come from but this one is obvious!  Most of the world’s condoms are made with latex rubber.  How does a runny sap like liquid become a condom?  The story is centuries old and filled with unique, and sometimes accidental, discoveries.


Where Does Rubber Come From?


Natural Latex rubber is from the milky white liquid that comes from over 200 plant species around the world including the common dandelion.  But it would take a lot of dandelions to harvest enough latex to be usable. The bulk of the world’s natural latex comes from the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis).  Latex is a plant’s defense system against injury and disease.  If damaged, a plant oozes the latex liquid to seal the wound.  Natural Latex coagulates when exposed to air, forming a type of natural bandage on the plant.  Natural latex is a complex mixture of proteins, starches, sugars, resins, oils, tannin, alkaloids, and gums.  This mixture is what makes latex unique in its properties.


Growing Natural Latex


Rubber Trees have a very specific set of parameters for them to flourish. The lifespan of rubber trees in a plantation setting is roughly thirty-two years. The first seven year are just growing, leaving twenty-five years for harvest. Well drained soil is required, and the optimum climatic conditions are:


  • Rainfall of about 2500 mm per year, and with at least 100 rainy days.
  • Temperature range of between 20 degrees to 34 degrees Celsius, with a monthly average temperature of 25 degrees to 28 degrees Celsius.
  • Humidity level of around 80%.
  • Around two thousand hours of sunshine per year, at a rate of six hours per day.
  • The absence of strong winds.


Harvesting Natural Latex


The harvesting of natural latex is similar to maple syrup collection. Both are even called tapping!  The rubber tree bark is cut or scored in a V type mark, so the latex runs down the scoring.  The liquid is collected in a metal bucket or cup.  It is quite a process as the natural reaction of latex once exposed to the air is to congeal. So, the trees need to be monitored.  There is quite an art to the scoring of rubber trees to ensure the longevity of the tree. The latex is then collected and brought to a processing plant.  There are many different processes to get the natural latex to a rubber state. Those processes are dependent upon what the product will be.  Latex rubber used for a tire is different than the latex for condoms. 


Charles Goodyear and Condoms


The process of vulcanization is where rubber is made soft and malleable.  Charles Goodyear, an inventor from the 1800s, accidentally discovered this process.  This resulted in the advent of rubber condoms, making them accessible to the masses.  And the name rubbers have stuck.  The 1920s saw further changes with latex overtaking rubber as the material of choice.  And latex condoms have remained the most popular material for production today.


Latex Allergy


Latex allergies are the result of the protein that is present in latex. Some people have a natural sensitivity or allergy to latex and others develop one after repeated exposure.  There are alternatives to latex with many items such as condoms and dams.  The removal of the protein from the latex and subsequent processing of the liquid results in polyisoprene.  This product has the same characteristics for use without the allergy and sensitivity issues of latex.



Rubber has been around for centuries.  It is used in recreational, automotive, health, stationary, and many other products we use every day.  Today it is produced both naturally and synthetically to meet the global demand due to the number of products manufactured with it. And that includes over 5 billion condoms worldwide! 

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn