Genital hygiene
Shutterstock/Holyshyn Oleh

Genital hygiene: do's and don'ts

How do you keep your vagina or penis clean and fresh? We all know about washing our hands, but many of us are less sure when it comes to washing our genitals.

What products should you use? How often is enough, and what's too much? And do you really need to smell like roses ‘down there’? Don’t sweat it, we have all the answers!




  • Be thorough but gentle On the inside the vagina can actually look after itself – it’s a self-cleansing organ. But let's face it, only a shower or bath really makes you feel clean 'down there' – on the outside at least. If you feel the need to use soaps, use very gentle products, nothing harsh or with too much perfume. Only clean the outside, and don't scrub the inside of the vagina with soap. This can cause infections and irritation. The same goes for men. Use lots of water and gentle soaps and be very thorough. There are lots of little skin folds and wrinkles around the penis – make sure you gently get to all of them. If you’re not circumcised, pull back your foreskin to wash the head of your penis and get rid of any smegma – the white stuff that collects under the foreskin. Just like the inside of the vagina, the head of the penis is a bit like the inside of your mouth, and it doesn’t really need soap. If you do use soap, keep it gentle. For both men and women, clean your anus last. The same rules apply: lots of water, a bit of gentle soap and no excessive scrubbing. Finally, make sure that you rinse of any leftover soap around the genital area with lots of water, and then gently dry your genital area.
  • Avoid urinary tract and vagina infections Good genital hygiene is important to staying healthy. Urinary tract and vaginal infections are something that affects mostly the ladies, because their urethra is shorter and their vaginas are more at risk of infections. Sometimes, infections aren't avoidable, but some women get them more often than others. If that happens to you, consider changing your hygiene routine. Again, don't use harsh cleaning products, as they can irritate your genital area. You should also avoid dampness, so change into clean, dry underwear after you’ve worked out or sweated a lot. And on the toilet, after you’ve finished your business, always remember to wash or wipe from the front to the back. This is to avoid getting harmful bacteria from your anus near your vagina and urinary tract.
  • Notice changes While you are cleaning your genital area, it's the best time to look for and notice any changes. Unusual smells or discharge, pimples and bumps or painful areas could all be signs that something is going wrong. Maybe you have an STD or you were overly enthusiastic with cleaning. If you notice any changes, keep an eye on them for a day or two, and if they don't improve or get worse, see a doctor to make sure that everything is still healthy around your genitals.


  • Be afraid of smells, embrace the pheromones Every vagina and every penis has a certain smell. That's natural and normal. There are sweat glands around your genitals that cause that smell. They are similar to the ones found in your armpits. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of a smell, and you certainly shouldn't try to cover it with deodorants or excessive cleaning. Cleaning once a day is enough. And an extra wash before sex – especially oral! But… instead of using over-perfumed genital wipes or smelly soaps, embrace your natural clean scent. It contains pheromones, which are chemical messengers in part responsible for the attraction between men and women. Which sounds and smells so much sexier than fake scents. But, if you start smelling fishy or unpleasantly different, go see a doctor. It could be a sign of infection.
  • Douche or bleach Ladies, don't douche. Douching can seriously disturbed your vaginal balance and cause itching, irritation and infections. And once you have an infection, more douching can push the bacteria that's causing it into and up your vagina. That can lead to problems with your uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes. And stay away from creams and lotions that promise to make your genital or anal area whiter. They, too, can cause irritations and infections.
  • Forget the rest of your body There is more to hygiene than just genital hygiene. You won't do yourself or your partner and everybody else any favours if your genitals are clean and well-taken care of but your breath and armpits haven't had any attention for weeks. So make sure you brush your teeth twice a day, shower or bath regularly and use deodorant if you sweat a lot or tend to smell underneath your arms. Clean dirt from underneath your nails. Some people like to remove or trim their body hair – whether you like this or not is up to you, but it can be a bit easier to keep clean and smell nice if your body hair is under control.

Did you find this useful?

Add new comment


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang>