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How to Clean Your Vagina and Vulva: The Ultimate Guide

Are you wondering how to wash your vagina? Believe it or not, you don’t need to. First, let’s review some basic anatomy. Although “vagina” is often used to refer to all of a woman’s sexual organs, the truth is, the term “vagina” only refers to the canal inside your body. So, there’s no need to clean your vagina, it's only vulva that needs to be washed. 

Why there’s no need to wash your vagina

Think of your vagina as a house where the maid comes over once a week, automatically, to do the cleaning. You don’t have to worry about it; you just know that when you come home on Wednesdays, your house is clean. Your vagina is the same way. It literally cleans itself. How does it do this?

It maintains a natural pH balance and cleans itself with natural secretions. Your vagina contains a lot of good bacteria. These bacteria help maintain the correct pH for your vagina, which is slightly acidic. This acidic pH makes it difficult for other, harmful bacteria to invade your vagina and cause problems.

You may be wondering if you are supposed to wash your vagina with soap. The answer is no. When you use other products, such as scented soaps, feminine washes, and douches, to clean your vagina, you can alter its natural pH. The best way to keep your vagina clean is to leave it alone.

How to wash your vulva

Washing your vulva, on the other hand, is another matter altogether. It’s a very good idea to wash your vulva to maintain proper hygiene.

Wash your vulva with warm water. Use plain, unperfumed soaps to wash the area around the vagina gently every day.

Spread your lips apart and gently clean around the folds with a clean washcloth or your hands. Remember to avoid getting water or soap inside your vagina. 

Let the area dry naturally or pat it dry with a towel.

Remember to also wash the area between your vulva and your anus every day. Wash front to back, from your vulva to your anus, as this prevents bacteria from spreading from your anus to your vagina.

What is the best feminine wash to clean your vulva?

The truth is, the best feminine wash to clean your vulva is no feminine wash at all. The best options are water and (maybe) mild soap.

It’s important to minimize ingredients such as scents, which can cause dryness or upset the natural pH of the vagina.

However, there are products you can use to moisturize or freshen up between showers. But be careful before you buy. It’s important to minimize ingredients such as scents, which can cause dryness or upset the natural pH of the vagina. Since your vulva is so close to your vagina, it’s possible some of it may get inside. Besides, it’s not necessary to cover up your vagina’s natural smell with perfumes.

If you do decide to invest in a product to help clean your vulva, make sure it has these characteristics:

  • Scent-free
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Hypoallergenic

How often do you need to wash the vulva during your period?

Some women feel terrible during their period, but maintaining good vaginal hygiene is important and might make you feel a little more comfortable. 

How to Properly Clean Your Vaginal Area During Your Period

Any blood smeared on your pubic area or inner thighs can be cleaned with soap and water. If you’re using a feminine hygiene product, it might be okay to use it on your thighs, but be careful about using it on your vulva. It can enter your nearby vagina and upset its pH balance. It may also cause something called vulvitis, which can cause itching, burning, or even pain during sex. 

Instead, when washing your vulva, opt for just plain water or water with mild soap.

How to cope with vaginal odor

Getting rid of vaginal odor goes beyond just making sure your vulva is clean. Even though some vaginal odor is natural, you may also experience some unpleasant smells. Your vagina’s odor changes frequently, sometimes with your period or after sex, for instance. And if you notice a stark difference in how your vagina smells, perhaps accompanied by vaginal discharge, it could be an indication of a bigger problem, like an infection. You may want to consider visiting a doctor in this case.

Even though some vaginal odor is natural, you may also experience some unpleasant smells. Your vagina’s odor changes frequently, sometimes with your period or after sex, for instance.

Once you’ve eliminated the source of vaginal odor, keep these tips in mind for future prevention:

  • Practice safe sex. Use condoms to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and regularly check for STIs.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eating lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables helps keep your vagina healthy as well as the rest of your body.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water during the day helps encourage fluid release and healthy sweating.
  • Avoid douches and other feminine washes. These products can upset your vagina’s natural pH levels and do more harm than good.
  • Wash your vulva before and after intercourse. Sex can introduce bacteria and other foreign substances such as lubricants, so it’s important to wash your vulva and pubic area before and after sex.

Ways to maintain good vaginal and vulvar hygiene

If you’ve ruled out a medical issue and still need help getting rid of unpleasant vaginal odor, consider these options.

How to Keep Your Vagina Fresh

  • Practice good vaginal and vulvar hygiene. Clean the outside of your vagina regularly with a washcloth and plain water and/or mild soap. Remember not to use scented body washes or other specialty feminine products, as these can alter your vagina’s natural pH.
  • Wear cotton underwear. Panties made of silk, satin, or polyester are not nearly as breathable as cotton. Cotton also does a better job of wicking away sweat and other fluids from your body. Excess moisture can increase bacteria levels and lead to other problems, such as yeast infections. 
  • Consider a pH product. Some over-the-counter products may help make your vagina’s pH more acidic. 
  • If these treatments don’t fix the problem, your doctor may be able to help.

The takeaway

While it’s not necessary to clean your vagina — it cleans itself — it is necessary to keep your vulva clean. You can do this with warm water and some soap. Maintain good vaginal and vulvar hygiene by wearing cotton panties, eating a healthy diet, and washing the outside of your vagina regularly.


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