Despite what commercials are telling you, your vagina isn’t supposed to smell like “fresh blossoms.” Taking care of your vagina is very simple, and won’t require fancy products — but do you really need to wash your vagina? No, but your vulva needs to get washed.
The vagina and vulva
So what’s the difference? The vagina refers to the inner canal inside your body. The vulva involves the female genitals outside the vagina, such as the:
- Clitoral hood
- Inner and outer labia
It’s a good idea to wash these parts, but you don’t have to worry about your vagina; it can take care of itself.
The vagina’s natural environment
The vagina produces its own healthy bacteria and natural secretions that help keep it clean. Washing your vagina with feminine hygiene products can hinder it from doing its own cleaning duties and throw off its natural balance. If you want a healthy vagina, let it do its own job.
Washing your vulva
Society and culture have always made us think that the female genital is dirty, but it really doesn’t really need intense scrubbing or harsh products to make it clean. So how do you really clean your vulva?
- Use warm water and mild soap. Warm water is enough to clean the vulva; but if you feel more comfortable with using a hygiene product, use a mild, unscented soap. The water shouldn’t be too hot and the soap should be rinsed off well.
- Be gentle. Gently spread the labia apart using your fingers, and just let the warm, soapy water flow around the clitoral hood and between the labia — no need for scrubbing! The skin is delicate and won’t need a washcloth or loofah. Also, make sure the soap doesn’t get in the vagina. It’s also a good idea to wash the anus and the area between the anus and vulva. If you do so, remember to wash from front to back to keep the anus’ bacteria away from the urethra and vagina.
- Pat dry. After completely rinsing your vulva, pat it dry using a soft towel.
- Wear fresh, cotton underwear. After taking a bath or washing your vulva, make sure that the underwear you are about to wear is fresh and washed. Cotton underwear is the best choice because this kind of material lets your genitals “breathe.”
Regularly change your sanitary pad or tampon when you have your period. You might also want to wash your vulva more than once a day if you want to feel fresh or you’re worried about potential odor.
What To Avoid
- Douching. Vaginal douching involves flushing water into the vagina to “clean” it and clear out its natural secretions. It disrupts the vagina’s natural environment and the bacteria protecting it, making it difficult for the vagina to clean itself. It’s better to leave the cleaning to the vagina — it knows what to do.
- Feminine sprays and washes. Products such as feminine sprays and hygiene washes usually have fragrances and chemicals that may cause irritation to the delicate skin of your genitals. If you’re worried about odor, wash your vulva regularly with warm water, or use mild, unscented soap.
- Vaginal steaming. Vaginal steaming is done by steeping herbs in hot water and sitting over the water to let the steam enter the vagina. There are claims that it helps in cramps, bloating, and other conditions, but there are no scientific studies to prove that vaginal steaming helps improve vaginal health. The hot steam can burn the vagina’s delicate tissue, and disrupt its natural environment, which is why it’s not recommended to do vaginal steaming.
- Tight clothes. Tight clothes can restrict natural ventilation, and may make your vagina itch, warm, and moist — this is the kind of environment where bacteria usually thrives. Avoid wearing tight and damp clothes for a long time to keep your vagina fresh.