A hand holds a few segments of orange that are reminiscent of a vulva

How exactly should you clean your vulva and vagina?

3 min read

The world sends us confusing signals sometimes. One weekend it’s full-blown summer, and the next you step out of your front door in a lovely cotton dress only to find yourself in gale-force wind. One year low-carb diets are a dangerous fad, the next they’re the new cure for diabetes. It’s all too much to keep up with.

We feel much the same about the delicate issue of cleaning your vulva. Most of the advice you hear these days tells us that our genitals are self-cleaning, that too much faffing is a bad idea and douching might actually wreck the joint entirely. But then we walk into the pharmacy and see shelves of ‘intimate wash’ and special wipes, and THEN we go home and stumble upon a Reddit thread all about women not washing properly before a bikini wax. It makes us feel paranoid. What the hell is going on? What exactly are we supposed to be doing to keep our vaginas clean?

Rejoice, friends, for here are the answers to your queries.

A wet hand holds a soap bubble

1) Do I need to wash my vagina?

No! Your vagina – as we all know really but sometimes forget because our language reflects the patriarchal and ultimately quite prudish society in which we live – is the canal inside your body, not the external part of your genitals. Your vagina produces its own secretions to keep itself clean; you can often see this in your underwear in the form of discharge. This is all perfectly normal and well designed by nature. You don’t need to wash inside yourself, and you don’t need to douche. 

2) What about my vulva?

Your vulva, the outside bit of your genitals, does need a bit of a helping hand to stay clean. Use a gentle, unperfumed soap to do this. Wash all around the outside of your vulva where the skin meets your thighs and bum as you would any part of your body, then use your fingers to part the lips and give the inside bits (as in, inside your vulva, not your vagina!) a gentle clean. Don’t use harsh soaps or fragranced shower gel for this bit of your body, as this way infections lie. Your hands are fine, or a cotton flannel.

3) Do I need to clean underneath my clitoral hood?

Everyone is built slightly differently and you should always be led by what your own body needs. Generally speaking, your clitoris should be perfectly happy just to get a gentle rinse along with the rest of your vulval area. But if you notice a lot of build-up of stuff around there and it bothers you, you could use your fingers to expose your clitoris and give it a gentle wipe. If you’re a true genital perfectionist, you can use a cotton bud. For the rest of us, the occasional bath with a gentle oil or mild bubbles should suffice.

4) Are special intimate washes and wipes a good idea

There’s no need to spend any of your hard-earned cash on special products for your vulva. Any mild soap or wash (use baby products if you already have them in the house) will do. And for your vagina, plain water is best. We don’t recommend dedicated ‘intimate’ products because they’re an unnecessary expense, a waste of resources and they encourage women to feel like their genitals are somehow unclean or unusual. When was the last time you saw a man shelling out £2.99 for a special pink packet of scrotal wipes? Exactly.

5) Do I need to do anything particular to prepare for a wax?

Whenever you’re anticipating another human having close contact with your vulva, the first thing to remember is that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Vaginas and vulvas are supposed to smell slightly – that’s actually part of what makes them attractive – and they’re allowed to have as much or as little hair as they want. With that said, your waxer is probably not in love with you and just wants to get on with their job, so you should be considerate just as you probably are by cleaning your teeth before the dentist. If you’re off for a wax straight from work, you can use a baby wipe to make sure you’ve cleaned away any buildup from the day – do your bum as well, while you’re down there. You can trim your pubic hair so the wax is less painful and there’s no sticky stuff for your beauty therapist to clean off before they get going. It’s generally no problem to get a wax while you’re on your period if you’re using tampons, cups or discs – just tuck any string inside your labia to keep it out of the way, and let your waxer know. If you’re a pad enthusiast, you’ll need to wait until you’ve finished bleeding.

Any other questions? DM us on Instagram and we’ll answer them in a future article or post.

 

Why we’re telling The Whole Bloody Truth

Why we’re telling The Whole Bloody Truth

We’re setting out our specific commitments to improve inclusivity and representation, and we’re calling on the rest of the period care industry to join us in making this change.

Read more 2 min read
Would you use a vibrator, razor or tampon that was designed 90 years ago?

Would you use a vibrator, razor or tampon that was designed 90 years ago?

We asked seven women to unbox products from the 1930s and guess what they were used for. Most were unrecognisable, but one had barely changed at all...

Read more 2 min read
“Soon, my period would start… so mama performed the ritual”
First Person Periods

Soon, my period would start… so mama performed the ritual”

Nala writes about the experience of her excruciatingly painful and prolonged periods, and how feeling ashamed led her to feeling liberated and wanting to empower others.

Read more 4 min read
“I liked a lot of conventionally ‘girly’ things, so I had to be a girl, right?”
First Person Periods

I liked a lot of conventionally ‘girly’ things, so I had to be a girl, right?”

Naoise writes about the experience of starting periods and navigating chronic pain as a trans person, and how shame slowly made way for compassion.

Read more 4 min read

Currents is a place where interested people with periods come to get the real lowdown on menstruation and bodies. We explain the things nobody else does, normalising every experience of periods no matter how weird it might feel. We’ll leave you informed, unashamed and ready to expect more for yourself.

Ask an expert! 👇

Like all websites everywhere, we use cookies. Check out our privacy policy to learn more. Got it