Ladies, you’ve probably heard plenty of “advice” from friends, family, and television about how to keep your vagina clean. One of my favorite cringe-worthy nuggets comes from old Lysol commercials – that spraying or douching with the lemon cleaner would leave your lower lady parts squeaky clean.
Ew. No. Wrong.
However, even now, we still find misleading advertisements that promise us the cleanest hoo-haw known to man … if you buy their product.
Let’s look at the real, healthy, and safe ways to maintain your vaginal hygiene.
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR GENITALS
First, we need to clarify that the areas in question come down to two categories … inside and outside.
THE OUTSIDE (your vulva) consists of mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vulval vestibule, the vaginal opening, glands etc. The urethral opening (the part where pee comes out) is also included because it’s there too.
THE INSIDE (your vaginal canal) is the muscular tube that leads to the uterus. It’s the part where the baby comes through and blood comes out when you have your period.
So, when you want to wash, remember this …
You can clean the outside but not the inside.
2. YOUR VAGINA IS SELF CLEANING
When you hit puberty, your vagina starts making lactobacilli which is a “good bacteria” that produces lactic acid. This acid maintains your vaginal PH level and helps create an environment that is inhospitable to many bacteria and other nasties.
Lactobacilli also combine with fluids from your vagina and cervical mucus and sometimes flows out of your vagina, aka “vaginal discharge” – which is the “self-cleaning” we’re talking about and an essential bodily function.
So, any of these cleaning methods people will swear by, are, in fact, doing damage to your body. They’re disrupting the natural and delicate environment that already knows what it’s doing.
Remember, your vagina is an oven … an oven that wants you to leave it alone.
3. AVOID DOUCHING
You’ll see these everywhere – and you should stay away from them (unless your doctor specifically prescribes you something).
Douching for “freshness” means your introducing chemicals and other foreign fluids into an environment that is already doing its job, and then screwing it up. And, aside from f-ing up the natural PH levels, you also run the risk of causing further infections.
As for the products that promise to “work with your body’s PH”, these promises mean nothing.
If your lactobacilli are doing their job, you don’t need to clean or worry about PH. And if you’re PH is off, there’s a problem with your lactobacilli and no amount of douching is going to fix that. You would need to go to a doctor.
4. FORGET STEAMING
Sorry, Gwyneth Paltrow and GP fans. Vagoo steaming does nothing.
For starters, the vagina muscles will scrunch close when nothing is in them (like fingers, a penis, a toy, or a baby coming through etc.). So, steam isn’t really going to get in there, and it certainly can’t get into your uterus (like the product promises). Even if it could, it would be more harmful than helpful.
5. CLEAN THE OUTSIDE NOT INSIDE
The “smell” that bothers some people is the vagina discharge (which has its own distinct scent) mixing with the sweat around your crotch. And, the more someone sweats, the more it might smell.
So, this is the part of the body that you can clean.
WHERE: The vulva area that we mentioned before, also around the vagina opening, the perineum (the part between your vagina and anus), the bikini line, around the folds of your clitoris, and
6. STAY AWAY FROM HARSH SOAPS
Shower gel and other soaps can contain harsh chemicals and scents. The same goes for vaginal deodorants and wipes. These additives that can cause irritation –even irritation that can sometimes be mistaken for the dreaded yeast infection
All your really need is warm water and a washcloth, but if your brain REALLY needs soap, find the most gentle, natural, unscented kind you can (and only soap occasionally rather than daily).
Oh, and on the note of baths, the general consensus is that they’re fine for your lady parts, as long as you don’t use any bubbles or bath bombs etc. (sorry Lush lovers).
7. CHANGE YOUR UNDERWEAR EVERYDAY
You’re going to sweat and there’s going to be some discharge. It’s for this reason alone that you should be changing your underwear daily – not this “front-to-back-and-reverse” BS you hear some men talk about.
Oh, and the same goes for your gym-wear – make sure you change right after your work out.
Bacteria thrive in warm, damp places. Best not to help it along.
8. CHOOSE THE RIGHT UNDERWEAR
While lacey panties and sexy thongs might be tempting, they’re really not practical. G-strings are close-fitting to the skin and run the risk of helping bad bacteria get into the urethra (and then getting a UTI – ugh!) and all these synthetic options aren’t breathable.
And that’s another thing that will help keep your vagina happy and smelling less – breathing.
The best choice is cotton.
9. THE BUTT IS ALWAYS LAST
This applies to many things (which we will get too soon). But the most important thing to remember is that anything that involves the anus is left for last. Which includes cleaning.
We don’t want to pull any bad bacteria into our vagina opening or urethrae – this can lead to infections or (at minimum) an increase in smelliness.
10. WIPE YOUR BUM PROPERLY
Another way you can avoid cross-contamination is to wipe from front to back. It might feel weird to some, but (just like cleaning order and underwear) you don’t want to relocate bacteria into a warm, dark playground.
11. KEEP YOUR SEX TOYS CLEAN
I’m appalled at the state some people keep their sex toys – or the state of the toys themselves.
Aside from buying body-safe materials (such as 100% silicone, stainless steel, or ABS plastic), washing your toys before and after each play session is vital. They should also be stored properly.
NOTE: Things like Jelly are full of chemicals that will damage your vagina.
Also, if you’re going to use anything in the butt – it should only be for the butt. Don’t cross contaminate.
12. BE WISE ABOUT HAIR REMOVAL
No one is saying you can’t go about your normal hair removal processes – in fact, sometimes thick and long pubes can trap sweat and contribute to smell.
It’s quite alright to keep your pubes trimmed.
However, keep in mind that other types of hair removal might cause irritation and possibly infections (especially if the person doing it doesn’t really know what they’re doing).
FOR EXAMPLE: Group A Streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, or Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Unlike the hard-stop on douching, there’s no forbidding hair removal. Just proceed with caution.
13. BE CAREFUL WITH PERIOD PRODUCTS
Some tampons have harsh or dangerous chemicals that are used in their making. For example, some brands might have phthalates, also known as “endocrine disruptors” that can disrupt your hormones.
- Organic, unscented tampons are a better choice
- Try reusable cotton cloth pads
- Look into menstrual cups
Make sure to change your product often enough.
14. CAREFUL WITH CONDOMS & LUBRICANTS
There are some people out there that suffer from a very inconvenient latex allergy. So, if your partner uses one during intercourse, you might end up with a really bad rash or irritation.
Make sure you buy condoms that are compatible with your body.
As for sex lube …
There’s a whole world of bad products out there – things with wrong PH levels, dangerous additives, and/or osmolality problems.
In general, stick to water-based lube (which is best) or a silicone-based lube if you need something longer-lasting.
Avoid anything flavored, cooling, or warming.
NOTE: There’s WAY more to learn about lube. More than I can go over in this article.
15. PROPER SEX HYGIENE
Drinking a glass of water before and after sex will go a long way to maintaining your vagina health the same goes for peeing after intercourse (even sex toy play).
This helps make sure that bad bacteria can’t find its way to your other openings and cause infections.
16. THERE’S SMELL … AND THEN THERE’S SMELL
Keeping all of this in mind…
It’s one thing to have some smell from natural discharge and sweat – a smell that should go away after a simple wash.
However, if you find the scent pungent and consistent, then you should be going to your health care provider.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vaginal cleanliness might sound like a lot, but it’s really just some basic practices, avoiding most products, and common sense.
Also, on top of it all, any woman over 25 should be going for regular vagoo checkups anyway. Ask your doctor on your next visit if you have any concerns.