Heads up: Your crotch isn’t supposed to smell like roses or taste like peaches and cream. Every vag has its own special aroma, and all you really have to do is keep it fresh.
So, how should you clean your vagina?
You don’t need to clean your actual vagina. The vagina — the inner canal — is a well-oiled (erm, lubed?), self-cleaning machine.
Your vulva — the outside bits — should be cleaned regularly with warm water. No soap required!
Wondering how to clean your vagina the *right* way? Let’s dive in.
First, an anatomy lesson: Your vagina is literally inside your body. It’s the canal that leads to the cervix, which is like the gateway to your uterus.
Your vulva refers to all the external bits…
- labia, aka “lips”
- clitoral hood
So, how often should you clean your vagina? The answer is never.
The vaginal canal has a hyper-specific pH (it’s actually a little acidic!), and healthy bodies do a bang-up job of self-cleaning. Research says soap can disrupt the natural bacterial balance, leading to infection and inflammation. (The more you know 💫.)
Cleaning your vulva, on the other hand, is a good idea. But there’s a right and wrong way to do it.
Ready to give this thing a [super gentle] wash?
Here’s how to do it.
- Grab a washcloth. Though it’s possible to use your fingers alone, a washcloth or unscented wet wipe (not a scrubby loofah!) will make thorough cleaning easier.
- Rinse with warm water. This is easiest in the shower, obvi. If you feel the need to use soap, grab something mild and unscented.
- Spread the love. Gently spread your labia to clean in and around the folds. Try not to get any soap or water inside your box.
- Don’t forget the back. Wash your perineum — the part that “taint” your bits or butt — and anus *after* you’ve used the washcloth on your vulva. You don’t want to accidentally swipe bum bacteria into your bits!
- Pat yourself dry. Science says yeast infections love humidity, and we say, “Not today, yeasty.”
Here’s what not to do.
- use scented soap
- use an exfoliating scrub
- wipe from the back (butthole) to front (vag)
Wait, so why shouldn’t I clean inside again?
Because your vagina is a magical, self-cleaning unicorn!
For real, please don’t squirt soap in there because it 👏 doesn’t 👏 need 👏 it 👏.
Yeah, you should totally ditch the douche.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 women of childbearing age still douche. Squirting cleaning fluid into your box might sound harmless, but has been linked to a higher risk of:
- vaginal irritation
- vaginal pH imbalance
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- ectopic pregnancy or preterm labor
- stripping away good bacteria
- infection and human papillomavirus (HPV)
In one study of 2,432 women, those who regularly douched had a higher whole blood concentration of chemicals like dichlorobenzene and ethylbenzene.
Douches and scented “feminine” products are unnecessary and can:
- irritate your skin
- potentially leach chemicals into your bloodstream
- increase your risk of gynecological complications
Just because Gwyneth Paltrow loves it doesn’t mean your vajayjay does!
Vaginal steaming involves squatting over hot, herb-infused water to “deep clean” your vag.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that this works. Hot steam could also burn the delicate skin and tissue around your lady bits.
The verdict? Avoid.
If you mean cleaning your vulva with warm water and a washcloth, sure! Otherwise, maybe not. Those “feminine” washes, sprays, and wipes at the store are total marketing ploys.
- They’re unnecessary. They’re designed to do one thing: make you feel bad about the way your bits naturally smell. Body shaming is, like, so uncool.
- They’re potentially harmful. Scented products — including condoms and lubes — can irritate the delicate skin and tissue of your vulva and vagina.
TBH, everything from spin class to last night’s dinner can make your vagina smell some kind of way. Most funky vaginal odors are harmless and dissipate after 1 to 2 days.
And it’s unlikely that anyone else can smell your vagina unless you’re having sex with them. In that case, they probably like it!
But what if it smells *bad* or really off?
Once in a while, funk indicates infection. Here are some aromas that warrant a chat with your doc:
- rotten eggs or meat
- soggy bread
- candy-shop sweet
- super fishy
- pungent period accompanied by a fever and chills
If you have a vagina, you’ll have discharge. It’s part of your body’s self-cleaning, self-lubricating processes.
Normal, healthy discharge can range from creamy to sticky, white to yellow. It’s also pretty odorless.
Sometimes your discharge gets pink or reddish-brown around your period. You might even be able to smell a tinge of iron from the blood. That’s nothing to be concerned about.
When to call the doc
Funky discharge could be a sign of infection. Tell your doctor if you notice…
- chunky, cottage-cheese texture
- green or gray discharge
- blood spots between periods
- excessive, foul-smelling discharge
- smelly discharge accompanied by pain or itching
Remember, your vagina is self-cleaning, so all the blood will flow out without your help.
If you feel extra icky because of your period, just wash with warm water 2 to 3 times a day instead of daily.
Nope! Remember, you *never* need to clean out your actual vagina.
Peeing after sex is one of the best ways to flush out lingering bacteria. One 2013 research review suggested that holding pee in just gives bacteria time to multiply, potentially triggering an infection.
Best way to clean up after sex (with humans or toys!)?
- Give your bits a gentle wash.
- Pat yourself dry.
Just wipe yourself dry from front to back to avoid pushing bacteria in the wrong direction. Easy-“pee”sy 🤷♀️.
Pushing a baby out into the world can be messy and — let’s be honest — a little traumatic for your body. You’ll need to be extra gentle with your vagina and vulva afterward.
Experts recommend peeing after labor to help flush out bacteria from your vagina. Do not douche, insert soap, or clean up inside your vag at all. Remember, your body cleans itself! And it’s super, super sensitive after childbirth.
Some tips for washing up after labor:
- Wiping can be painful, so consider using bathing or using a spray bottle with warm water to gently wash the area.
- Wash your hands before and after using the bathroom or cleaning your vulva.
- Wash your perineum — remember, that’s the area between your anus and vagina — daily and after pooping.
- Carefully follow instructions from your postpartum care team. Many hospitals will offer pads, disposable panties, and wipes to help you stay clean with minimal scrubbing.
Wanna keep your body happy and healthy? Follow these tips.
- Wash regularly. A couple of washcloth swipes with warm water (mild soap = optional) during your daily shower will do!
- Wipe front to back. TP swipes should be a one-way street. One study found that wiping the wrong way boosted your chance of a UTI by 64 percent. 😬
- Pee after sex. Flush out any wayward bacteria stat!
- Clean your sex toys. Cuz no one wants to rub a dirty vibe on their vag.
- Wear breathable undies. Cotton is best. The idea is to avoid trapping sweat and bacteria against your bits all day.
- Don’t douche! Remember, it’s unnecessary and potentially harmful.
- Skip the scents. You don’t need to smell like roses. And scented products tend to irritate your delicate flower of a vulva.
- Avoid anus-to-vag contact. Bacterial infections are such party poopers.
- Ditch sweaty, wet clothes. Yeast infections thrive in humidity. Keep your bits dry whenever possible!
There’s a bonus benefit to washing your bits on the reg: You’ll get more familiar with your body, which can help you spot a health problem more quickly.
These vag symptoms warrant a call to your doc:
- clumpy, green, or gray discharge
- excessive, foul smelling discharge
- redness and itching around your vag or vulva
- lighting crotch
- burning or pain after peeing or sex
- bleeding between periods
You should also aim to visit your primary care doctor or gyno once a year for a checkup and routine health screenings.
Daily hygiene and yearly wellness visits are key to a happy, healthy vagina!