How to Clean Vagina After Sex

Keeping your vulva, or labia, clean is a crucial part of good hygiene, but washing it the wrong way can upset its pH balance and increase your risk for infections like yeast or urinary tract infections. Douching isn’t helpful either, and actually may cause more bacterial infections.

So how do you keep it squeaky clean? Here are 5 healthy ways to do so.

Washing

When your genitals get all sweaty and smelly after a steamy session with your lover, it’s time to clean up. Washing your penis and vulva on the reg is actually a good idea from a sexual health perspective, but don’t worry about cleaning the inside of your anus (it can’t handle that). Instead, go for a quick rinse with a non-fragranced soap and a washcloth or baby wipes, and make sure you’re using gentle and natural products. Avoid those that contain added fragrances, petroleum and parabens, as these can disrupt your vulva’s natural pH balance.

You should also avoid douching, as this can transfer bacteria between the anus and vagina and lead to yeast infections. Lastly, wear loose and breathable underwear that allow your vulva to breathe. Moisture encourages the growth of unwanted bacteria, which is why cotton underwear is your friend.

Don’t be scared to wash your anus, though — it can handle that. Just make sure to use a non-fragranced, mild soap and a washcloth or baby wipes. Then, gently rinse from front to back. Just don’t squirt water up there like you do on the rest of your body, as this can disrupt your anus’s natural pH balance. That’s why it’s important to avoid douches, too. Adding a TUSHY bidet attachment to your bathroom can help, as it can gently spray away excess semen and lube after sex without disturbing your anus’s natural bacterial balance.

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Wiping

If you don’t feel like getting in the shower right after sex, or it’s too early in the morning to wash your bits (you can get a UTI if you pee right after sex), you can use unscented baby wipes until you’re ready to rinse. That’s OK—just don’t rely on them for too long, or you could irritate your vulva, which can be sensitive after sex.

Even though the vagina is self-cleaning, you should clean your vulva, or external female genitalia, with warm water and mild soap, says Horton. The area can be cleaned using your hands or a washcloth, and you should be sure not to scrub hard, she adds. Doing so can change the natural pH of your vulva and encourage an overgrowth of bacteria, which can lead to yeast infections and irritations.

Unless your doctor advises you to do otherwise, you should also avoid using sexy products, like boric acid suppositories, to treat yeast or other vaginal conditions, because the chemicals can be toxic.

If you’re feeling particularly yucky after sex, many women like to do a quick “douche” or crotch spray with water. This can be a little messy, and it’s not necessary for your vulva to feel clean. Instead, just shower or use TUSHY to bidet gently and clean off excess semen, lube, and sweat.

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Peeing

The vagina is a self-cleaning unicorn (we think). However, the external female genitalia can get dirty, too. It’s a good idea to wash this area regularly with warm water and a gentle, unscented soap (not body wash) to avoid irritation.

You can do this in the shower or with a washcloth. Just remember to use an unscented cleanser or you could cause vaginal irritation by disrupting the normal pH level. And don’t use any products that contain boric acid, such as suppositories, unless on your doctor’s advice.

If you’re a woman who uses sex toys, make sure to clean them after each use. These items can harbor bacteria and increase your risk of a yeast infection or urinary tract infections, says gynecologist Sherry Ross. You can use non-fragrant liquid antibacterial soap and warm water to do the trick, she says. Just make sure to clean the outside of the toy as well as the inside, and pay special attention to areas that can harbor bacteria from lube and saliva.

For the penis, a quick rinse with warm water is also recommended. You can also use pH-balanced wet wipes, such as Promescent Before and After Wipes. But be wary of using products with added fragrances and dyes, as they can cause the vulva to become more sensitive and knock the natural pH balance out of whack.

Drying

When the outside of the vulva becomes squelchy after sex, some women may feel inclined to “douche” (spray water or even a mixture of water and other ingredients into the vagina) in an effort to clean up. Douching can actually make the problem worse, though, by disrupting the delicate balance of bacteria that lives inside the vulva. Douching can also lead to infections, including bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

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If you find yourself needing to wipe after sex, it’s best to stick with a washcloth and warm water or, better yet, unscented baby wipes. Avoid scented options, as they can be irritating to the sensitive vulva area.

You should also consider giving the outside of your genitals (the vaginal lips, labia, and urethra) a quick rinse in the shower with warm water and, if desired, mild soap. The vulva is self-cleaning, but it doesn’t hurt to keep the area around the external genitalia washed to help prevent any infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), that could occur if semen is allowed to pool up in there.

And, if you’re a guy, rinsing the penis can also be a good idea to help reduce the risk of an STD or yeast infection. If you’re worried about it being too dry, you can use a little bit of lube on the area before sexual penetration to improve comfort and enhance your pleasure.

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