Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) is a typical surfactant. For more than 30 years that very property of N-9 has been successfully exploited for its spermicidal action. It is available as an over-the-counter, locally acting vaginal spermicide. The suitability of N-9 as a spermicide is elaborated in this article. The reasons why N-9 may fail as a contraceptive are discussed. In spite of many drawbacks, which are mentioned in the article, N-9 is still often resorted to as a locally acting contraceptive. The review ends with suggestions to alter the molecular structure of N-9 and to adjust the dosages.