You can never be too thorough when it comes to maintaining hygiene. But there is one organ that needs no extra help – the vagina. It’s important to learn the right way to clean the vagina.
A woman’s vagina is a self-cleaning organ that produces natural secretions, which help move dead cells and bacteria out of the body.
These secretions are fluids that come from the vaginal walls, the mucus from the cervix, and the naturally good bacteria present in the vagina. The good bacteria, or lactobacilli, is responsible for maintaining the healthy bacterial balance inside the vagina, and helps to protect the woman from sexually transmitted infections (STI) and diseases.
These fluids are removed from the body as discharge. Healthy discharge is usually white or clear, and does not have a strong smell. It is normal for women to have discharge as long as it does not have a strong odor or color. This is usually harmless, especially if it is not accompanied by itchiness or soreness around the vagina.
If the vagina is able to clean itself, what can you do to take better care of it?
Is there a right way to clean the vagina?
Clean only the external part of the vagina
While the vagina has a system to clean its internal parts, you can focus on washing the external genitalia, also called the vulva.
The vulva is the external part of the vagina composed of the outer lips (the labia), the mons pubis, the clitoris, and the openings of the vagina and urethra. The right way to clean the vagina is to avoid using harsh soaps, antiseptics, and chemical cleansers to clean the vagina.
Use mild, unscented soap to clean the vagina
It is normal for the vagina to have a musky smell, even when clean. Its natural scent may change over the course of the menstrual cycle as hormone levels fluctuate. The odor may not always be due to the discharge as it can also be caused by sweat, which accumulates around the groin.
The pubic area has numerous sweat glands, and pubic hair may harbor bacteria, which may cause odor. This is why it is important to keep the vagina clean.
It is not recommended to use scented soaps and perfumed feminine washes to mask the smell, as these may irritate the skin and disrupt the fine bacterial balance.
Douching, which flushes water into the vagina to clean it, is also not recommended by medical professionals. Douching flushes out the good bacteria, and disrupts the bacterial balance of the vagina. This imbalance may result in infection and inflammation, and may leave the vagina vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections.
Pat your vagina dry and wipe from front to back
After relieving yourself in the bathroom and giving yourself a thorough cleanse, the right way to clean the vagina is to use a tissue to pat it dry. Avoid wiping from the back to the front to prevent the bacteria from spreading and entering the vagina, which may cause infection. Make sure to clean the area between your vagina and anus as well .
Clean the vagina regularly
Avoid the buildup of discharge and sweat, which may lead to itching, yeast infection, and bacterial imbalances. Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding overly tight clothing helps to keep your vagina cool and healthy. You may also consider wearing panty liners, particularly the unscented kind.
While cleaning your vagina regularly is highly encouraged, avoid over-cleaning as well. This may lead to vaginal dryness. During menstruation, clean as often as needed. Knowing the right way to clean the vagina and how to maintain proper hygiene is important especially when on your period.
Practice safe sex
During sexual intercourse, some bacteria and viruses can enter the vagina. These may cause diseases such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, syphilis and herpes. Prevent infection and transmission of STIs by using a condom during sex.
What should vaginal discharge look like?
While healthy discharge is white or clear, it may change in color, amount, consistency, and odor at different times of the month. These changes are caused by the progesterone and estrogen in the blood. These two hormones are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and fluctuate during that period.
If the discharge begins to look like cottage cheese, it may be a sign of a yeast infection. Yeast infections may also be accompanied by itching.
If vaginal discharge turns yellow or green, or even gray, it may be a symptom of trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis also causes vaginal discharge to have a strong, fishy odor.
Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, may also affect vaginal discharge, and may be accompanied by fever, abdominal pain, or pain during sex.
When to see your doctor
Discharge differs from woman to woman, and changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Keep track of your daily discharge to determine what is normal and healthy for you.
Take note of unusual changes in your discharge, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased urination
If the odor of your vaginal discharge changes and becomes stronger than usual, or if there are changes in the color or amount of the discharge, it’s worth calling your doctor or gynecologist. These changes may point to a possible vaginal infection. The most common type of vaginal infection is bacterial vaginosis, which can be treated with antibiotics.
You don’t have to worry too much about the vagina as it can clean itself. To maintain good physical hygiene, focus on washing the outer part of the vagina regularly and use a mild cleanser. Remember to follow these tips on the right way to clean the vagina and achieve better vaginal health.
Learn more about general hygiene, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.