How to Clean Your Vagina & Vulva Safely
All forms of hygiene are important for maintaining and caring for your health, but all forms of hygiene are different. For example, you wouldn’t use shampoo as a face wash, and you wouldn’t use lotion to brush your teeth. So, as a person with female genitalia, what should you use to clean your vagina and vulva? Because, let’s face it, sometimes things can feel like they could use a bit of freshening up down there. Not only that, but it is just as important for your health to ensure that your genitals are maintained with regular feminine hygiene, so you should know how to clean your vagina and vulva properly. In this article, learn more about how to clean your vulva and understand how your vagina is self-cleaning.
Does the vagina or vulva need cleaning?
First of all, let’s cover the difference between the vagina and the vulva. The vulva consists of the external genital parts, which are the inner and outer labia, clitoris, urethra, and mons pubis (the rounded mass of fatty tissue over the pubic bones). The vagina is the internal genitalia, which includes the vaginal canal and cervix, which separates the vagina from the uterus.
Your vagina is a self-cleaning organ. Ever notice how your vagina often excretes discharge, which may be clear to whitish in color and range from thin to thick, throughout the day? That’s how the vagina cleans itself. Hormones signal the vagina to excrete cervical mucus throughout the day, and the vulva is packed with sweat glands. This is how the female genitals perform their own flushing out of biological waste and unwanted bacteria. This vaginal discharge and moisture contributes to the healthy smell of the vagina, as well as maintaining a consistent, naturally acidic pH balance. The slightly acidic pH of the vagina keeps a healthy microbiome, or level of good bacteria, in balance. This microbiome and acidic environment keep bad bacteria and yeast from causing infection.
If you notice a smell that is unlike your normal scent, or it becomes particularly strong and unpleasant or has a “fishy” smell, you should consult with a healthcare provider. Otherwise, it is best to just let things be with your vagina.
Cleaning your vulva is recommended, as it is exposed to more contaminants such as toilet paper particles, touching sanitary pads for several hours, wet swimwear, and so on. It also produces sweat and is affected by hormonal changes, so vulvar odor, although normal and healthy, may be a little stronger than you are comfortable with sometimes. So, while cleaning the vulva is recommended, it’s important to know how often to clean it and how to do so in order to maintain a healthy vagina.
How to clean your vulva safely
The best way to clean your vulva is simply with warm water. You can use a small amount of mild soap if desired, but this is not necessary. You can use a soft washcloth or just your hands to gently wash the area. Remember to wash the vulva only and do not get anything inside the vagina. Using antibacterial or perfumed soap is not recommended because it can disrupt the microbiome and put you at risk for vaginal infection or irritation. Showers are preferential over baths for vaginal health because bathwater can expose the vulvar and vaginal tissue to soaps and oils. If you do opt for a bath, rinse the vulvar area thoroughly with fresh, warm water afterwards.
How often should you clean your vulva?
You should wash the vulva at least once a day, even if you don’t shower daily. If you use a washcloth, be sure to use a clean one each time, and remember to be gentle with scrubbing the area, as the tissue is delicate and sensitive. If you opt to use a mild soap, less is more, both in amount and in scent. Remember, it is normal and healthy for this area to have a mild odor and there is no need to eliminate the natural scent if it does not have a strong, “fishy,” foul, or putrid odor. Heavily scented soaps and gels can also mask or worsen the actual issue that may be causing odor that may need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider.
When washing the vulva or wiping after using the bathroom, wash or wipe from front to back. You want to avoid contaminating the vulva and vaginal opening with fecal matter.
It’s also not recommended to shave the pubic hair with a razor around the labia, because this can create small cuts, ingrown hairs, razor burn, or irritation to the skin, making it susceptible to infection and irritation. To keep the hair short around the vulva, use scissors or clippers instead of a razor. Do not use hair removal creams or gels, as the chemicals in these products can be very harsh on the skin, especially in this delicate, sensitive area.
Best products for washing the vulva
pH-D Feminine Health offers several holistic products for vaginal health and hygiene that are available on the market at over 45,000 commercial retailers nationwide and are the #1 doctor recommended products to use for vaginal health and wellness. These products can be used with other feminine hygiene and menstruation hygiene products.
pH-D has a selection of pH-balanced boric acid products, including foam washes that can be used in the shower, vaginal deodorants, body sprays, and body wipes. Each feminine hygiene product is safe for sensitive skin and supports your most intimate areas and overall vaginal health.
For those unfamiliar, boric acid is a natural compound that is found in seawater and has been used for over 100 years by physicians for neutralizing odor. In its purest form, boric acid is a white powder that is both colorless and odorless. Boric acid is a common and safe ingredient. It is used in a variety of cosmetic products as well as feminine care products to help control vaginal odor.
Boric acid has many uses and is a weak acid that is water soluble. It is a very common, accessible product with many uses because it is a natural compound found in seawater.
How to address vaginal odor
One of the most common issues surrounding vaginal health and wellness is managing vaginal odor. Because the vaginal area is generally moist, warm, and not exposed to much light and covered by some layers of clothing, it is normal that it may have a natural, mild odor that is mostly unnoticeable. But certain triggers can cause the odor to be stronger at times, such as heavy sweating, hormonal shifts during menstruation or pregnancy, or during or after sex.
Odor is one of the most common feminine care concerns women bring to their healthcare providers, and pH-D’s goal is to normalize the conversation about vaginal odor because many women feel shame about it. If you have a stronger vaginal smell than normal and want to know how to get rid of vaginal odor at home, pH-D Feminine Health offers several holistic products for vaginal health and odor control such as a vaginal odor rinse.
One of pH-D’s most popular products on the market is Boric Acid Vaginal Suppositories. These suppositories are small capsules of dissolvable bovine gelatin containing the recommended 600 mg of boric acid to be inserted into the vagina as a holistic solution for vaginal odor and overall vaginal wellness. Use the suppositories until you are odor free. If you are prone to vaginal odor, you can insert 2-4 suppositories per week. It is safe to use boric acid suppositories on a regular basis for vaginal odor.
Using boric acid is not the same as internal vaginal cleansing. Certain methods, such as using heavily scented soap to mask odors instead of neutralizing them, may alter the microbiome. Boric acid suppositories contain one simple ingredient: boric acid, which is proven to control vaginal odor. Different feminine products containing boric acid have different uses, but all involve assisting in controlling vaginal odor. Boric Acid Moisturizing Suppositories include Vitamin E and coconut oil for the added benefit of moisture and aid in feeling comfortable. They are most commonly used by women going through hormonal changes such as menopause.
Ways to maintain feminine hygiene
Among the guidance and recommendations already covered in this article, other typical hygiene routines to maintain a healthy vagina should include the following:
- Make yearly appointments with your gynecologist for important preventative healthcare. Find a doctor you feel comfortable seeing and addressing all questions and concerns you have about your reproductive health.
- Wearing breathable, comfortably fitting underwear. Plain white cotton underwear is the best option.
- Underwear should be changed daily and washed in a mild detergent.
- Use water-based lubricants for sexual activity.
- Urinate after any vaginal sexual activity, as urine cleanses the area around the urethra and vagina.
- When working out or swimming, change out of sweaty workout clothes or a wet swimsuit as soon as you can. If possible, head over to the shower at the gym or your home and wash off the sweat or pool water residue from your body so that your pores can be fresh and clean and vaginal odor and risk of bacterial or yeast infection can be prevented.
- During menstruation, change the sanitary item you use as directed.
o Tampons should be changed every 4-8 hours. A tampon should always be removed within eight hours and the minimal absorption for your flow should be used.
o Menstrual cups or discs can be changed every 4-12 hours and must be thoroughly washed between uses. Some cups and discs are disposable.
o Sanitary pads and panty liners should be changed every 4-8 hours.
- Diet plays a significant role in good vaginal hygiene. Avoid sugary foods and drinks in excess because sugar creates a higher risk for bacteria and yeast to negatively affect the microbiome (the good bacteria that live in the vagina). Taking a probiotic supplement can prove beneficial to supporting your digestive tract, urinary tract, and vaginal microbiome. pH-D has a women’s health probiotic and holistic support oral supplements that can be taken daily to promote digestive, urinary, and vaginal health. A diet that supports vaginal health includes a variety of foods or supplements rich in:
o Vitamins C and E
o Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
It’s important to evaluate and change your feminine hygiene routine through different ages and stages of life. Managing our care and hygiene throughout life is nothing to be ashamed of and can be empowering when we consider all that our bodies are capable of doing!