A quick search of cyberspace will reveal a ton of questionable advice about how to clean your vagina. You’re also certain to find plenty of half-baked, poorly conceived products aimed at convincing you they’ll do the same thing. It’s unfortunate that women have to put up with so much worthless drivel when all they really want to know is what’s the best way to clean their vagina. So in the interest of public service we’ve decided to tackle the question head on and provide you with the best available answer.
Does My Vagina Need My Help to Stay Clean?
This is a question a lot of women don’t stop to ask. But they should. Because the fact is the vagina was doing just fine cleaning itself for about, oh, a million years before anyone decided to come up with artificial ways to do so. Dr. Mary Jane Minkin at Yale Medical School reminds us of that truth. There is in fact “no medical need to do any douching or anything like that,” she says before adding that the problem with trying to clean your lady bits is that you run the risk of upsetting the balance “between good-guy and bad-guy bacteria.” By “good-guy bacteria” she’s referring to the Lactobacilli that helps maintain pH levels inside and thereby ward off infections. Removing too much of this important bacteria through “cleaning” makes your vag susceptible to a host of potential problems.
Dr. Lauren Streicher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is equally adamant. “You never wash your vagina under any circumstances,” she says. “That should never be done.” Well, alright. That really couldn’t be much clearer. Dr. Streicher actually does walk back her stance just a bit however by stating that if you feel a compelling need to clean yourself there you should only do so using plain water. “Any time you use any soap or anything else, there’s a chance of causing irritation.” She says.
The Self-Cleaning Oven You Take Everywhere
While it’s not a perfect analogy health professionals aren’t above comparing the vag to a self-cleaning oven. Those miracles of modern technology somehow find a way to keep themselves more or less squeaky clean and safe to cook in with little or no interference from their owners. Vaginas are quite capable of doing the same thing and in fact were doing so for eons before humankind, in our infinite wisdom, decided we could improve on the process.
Does That Mean Vulva Cleansing Products are a Waste of Money?
If you’re going to use them to clean your vag, then yes. Companies marketing vulva-cleansing products are taking advantage of the fact that many women don’t stop to consider the difference between their vulva and their vagina. They simply assume that if a product works on one, it will work on the other, or that the manufacturer must have meant vagina when they wrote vulva. Don’t be so quick to give these companies the benefit of the doubt. Most have armies of lawyers working for them and know very well the difference between the vulva and the vagina. So if you use a vulva-cleanser to try and eradicate an unpleasant odor emanating from your inner regions you’re going to be disappointed. It’s like trying to solve a bad breath problem by washing your face.
So Does That Mean You Should Never Clean Your Vagina?
As Drs Streicher and Minkin make clear, there is really no compelling reason to clean your vagina. 99% of the time it does a fine job cleaning itself. So put the douche back on the shelf and slowly step away. Great. That said there are plenty of good reasons to clean your vulva and there is also a right way and a wrong way to go about this task. Below we’ll go over the right way.
The Fine Art of Cleaning Your Vulva
Remember, the vulva is that portion of your genital region you can see. That includes the labia, clitoris and perineum. What we’re going to go over is the right way to keep these external components clean and happy because by doing so you can reduce the burden on your self-cleaning oven and reduce the odds of an infection or worse. So here we go:
- Take a clean washcloth and lather it up with a mild soap and warm water. Your soap should not contain perfumes, gels, antiseptics or anything else that could throw off the balance of bacteria in the genital region.
- Gently wash the area around the clitoris making sure you get inside any folds. Don’t force anything or push too hard. Pull the skin back from the clit and give it a gentle wipe then release the skin and wash the rest of the area.
- Then wash the vulva and the exterior of the vaginal opening, never intruding into the inner sanctum. Then wash the area on both sides including the labia and the fold between your crotch and your leg where the bikini goes.
- Gently wash the area between your labia and your anus. This smooth area is known as the perineum, and it’s important not to overlook it.
- Lastly, wash the anal region making sure you don’t touch the washcloth to your vagina after you’ve scrubbed your anus with it. Doing so is an easy way to transfer microbes from your anus to your vag. And you don’t want to do that.
Wash your vulva every time you shower or bath. You may also want to wash it after having sex just to keep everything feeling clean and fresh.
The fact is that many women confuse vagina and vulva and as a result wind up putting soaps and other unnecessary and harmful cleansers into their vaginas. So remember:
- Cleaning the vulva on a regular basis with mild soap in the above-prescribed manner: good.
- Cleaning the inside of your vagina with anything other than fresh water: bad.
Keep those two simple rules in mind and your vagina should do just fine.