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How to clean your vagina and vulva: The do's and don'ts

If you're a regular visitor to our blog, you'll know that we come across ideas for articles from many sources. Sometimes our Trustpilot reviews inspire a post. Often comments on our social media posts such as tiktok.

However this post was inspired by a thread on twitter which had then created this cracker of a post on Mumsnet: AIBU to not wash the inside of my vagina?

AIBU: To not wash the inside of my vagina

In essence, according to the twitterverse, women showering with a tampon in was deemed 'unsanitary' by some who said that it couldn't wash your vagina. This then created significant discourse around what should and shouldn't be washed down below and how!

In fact, it's super important to know how to clean your vagina and vulva properly. This is one instance where less is definitely MORE!

We often hear from prospective customers, suffering with ongoing vaginal health issues. They want to ditch plastic filled disposable period and incontinence products and switch to reusable cloth pads and pants in an effort to improve their symptoms. So we've got a great understanding of how to keep the genitals clean and healthy.

In this guide, we’ll cover the essential do’s and don’ts on how to clean your vagina and vulva:

 

"I suffer from lichen sclerosis and recurrent thrush and Cheeky’s reusable pads are simply life changing! Thank you so much! The organic cotton reusable pads are so safe, soothing and effective I honestly can’t believe it. No itchiness, LS flares or discomfort, and the absorption is second to none. I will never use anything else. I’m so happy too that there is nothing going into my bin at any point. Good for the environment and good for me! I love it! I’d also like to call out the fantastic, knowledgeable and personal customer services who really know what they are talking about! Great company" Fiona, Trustpilot

Key Takeaways

The most important thing to understand here is the difference between your vagina and vulva. Some people use the words interchangeably but in this instance the terms have to be used correctly.

The vulva is the outside area of your genitals, including clitoris and labia.

The vagina is the inside area of your genitals, leading to your cervix. Basically where you can insert a tampon, menstrual cup (or penis from time to time).

Infographic: Do's and don't for cleaning your vagina and vulva

Short on time? Here are the key do’s and don'ts for cleaning your vagina and vulva:

Do

  • Clean your vulva (external areas) with water. Mild, unscented soap or emollients can be used if you're sweaty, bloody, suffering from incontinence or recently had sex
  • Wear unscented period products, such as unscented pads, period pants, or menstrual cups.
  • If possible wear cotton underwear and breathable products such as reusable cloth pads and period pants
  • Use reusable intimate wipes and plain water if you need to freshen up between showers

Don't

  • Clean the inside of your vagina, this includes douching or showering
  • Wear scented period products, such as perfumed pads and tampons.
  • use feminine washes or scented soaps

"Perfect fit. My experience of Cheeky Pants: They are great quality, easy to wash, don't have that 'smell' that seems to come with using disposables & feel so much more comfortable, only a tiny bit thicker than normal undies! Thank you Cheeky. Great products :)" Claire, Trustpilot

How to Wash Your Vagina

It's easy to maintain your vaginal health. Your vagina refers to the canal inside your body, and you don’t need to wash this as it cleans itself! 

'Vaginas, like cats and ovens, are self-cleaning'

Your vagina contains good bacteria which help to maintain the correct vaginal pH levels and flush out bad bacteria naturally.

Overzealous cleaning of this area can upset the ph balance, causing harmful bacteria to grow and urinary tract infections and the like.

 

How to Wash Your Vulva

Your vulva, on the other hand, does need to be washed on a regular basis. Here's how to wash your vulva:

  • Use warm water and a mild, unscented soap or emollient if necessary
  • Keep soap away from the vaginal opening area
  • Gently cleanse the external folds of skin, labia and clitoris
  • Make sure to rinse thoroughly with clean water

How Often to Wash Your Vulva

You should wash your vulva daily, particularly after sweating or using the bathroom. However, avoid over washing as it can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and lead to irritation.

Once a day is usually sufficient for most people, however if you have a lot of vaginal discharge, are sweaty, bloody or have had sex, it's fine to wash more often with just water.

What Should I Use to Clean My Vulva?

To clean your vulva, the best thing you can use is water and in some cases, a mild soap or emollient.

Feminine hygiene products and wipes that are designed to “clean” the vulva can actually upset the natural pH of your vagina and cause vaginal infections such as yeast infections and Bacterial Vaginosis BV. Avoid these products!

How to Keep Your Vulva Clean

Consider the following tips to keep your vulva clean and fresh between showering:

  • Avoid using scented body washes or feminine hygiene products, such as disposable wipes
  • Opt for breathable cotton underwear
  • Change out of sweaty or wet clothes promptly
  • Consider using a pH treatment if you notice any unusual odours or irritation
  • Reusable intimate wipes can be used with just water which makes them perfect for keeping you feeling fresh during your menstrual cycle or if you suffer from incontinence

"I've used Cheeky Wipes reusable period products for around 4 years now and have just bought another pack of day pads. I'll keep my 'old' ones in my bag for spares at work etc in case I'm caught off guard.

They're comfortable, I've never had a problem with any leakage, kinder to skin too - I've never suffered with another bout of thrush since I've stopped using disposable pads. I know some people don't like the thought of washing them etc, but I don't mind. I have a bucket with a lid on, which I fill with cold water and a scoop of soap powder/stain remover and just pop them in there to soak until I'm ready to wash them, although I tend to wash them most days anyway so they're not hanging round for long.

I do prefer the grey fleece top rather than the white/cream bamboo as it shows up less stains and I find them more absorbent (I have both grey and cream ones).

They're well made, last for ages and definitely save money in the long run!" Michelle, Trustpilot

 

What About Vaginal Odour?

Vaginal odours can sometimes indicate an underlying issue such as BV which smells fishy. If your vagina smells unnatural or unpleasant, it might be a sign of infection or other health concerns so check with your GP or sexual health clinic.

How to Prevent Vaginal Odours

To prevent vaginal odour caused by infection, follow these guidelines:

  • Practice safe sex and maintain good hygiene, ideally peeing and washing with water immediately after sex
  • Stay hydrated to encourage regular fluid release
  • Avoid douches, squirting water up your vagina and scented feminine hygiene products
  • Avoid heavily scented bath products and vaginal steaming
  • Don’t put food inside of your vaginal canal! Keep sexy food play EXTERNAL
  • Be mindful about what you put in your bath, such as herbs and aromatics

 

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful and informing.  For more details on period pants and other reusable period products, feel free to drop us a line ( we LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods!) or explore our articles below:

If you're ready to dive into the world of comfortable, healthy periods, check out our recommended products:

 

 

 

About the Author: Helen Rankin founded Cheeky Wipes, the original reusable wipes kit back in 2008 after disposable wipes caused her eczema to flare up. 4 kids later, internal period protection such as tampons or menstrual cups were no longer an option for her and she went on to develop their range of 'Simple Reusables' to include period pants, reusable period kits and reusable sanitary pads.

The Cheeky customer services team pride themselves on providing honest, friendly advice and just LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long, helping people make the switch to reusables! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.