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Vulva Care - A Guide to Vaginal Care and Cleanliness

How to Care for Your Vulva

Vaginal Care & Cleanliness

Your Questions … 

What is the best way to clean my vagina?

What should a vagina smell like?

Should I be douching?

What is “vaginal discharge”? 

Should I use a special vaginal wash?

Answered. 

 

Vulva Care 

 

Welcome back, our sexy friends! Let’s talk about how to clean and care for your vulva and vagina!

A semi-awkward topic to discuss with a female-bodied caregiver, many of us weren’t taught how to tend to our most delicate areas. 

In almost any chemist, you’ll find a large selection of “feminine hygiene” products that pledge to make your vagina smell like a fresh summer’s day. 

Wait a minute, what?

Why would a vagina ever smell like a “fresh summer’s day”? 

We’re not entirely sure either. 

***Pro-Tip*** People of every gender on the spectrum should always pee after having intercourse.

 

A Healthy Vagina

 

First of all, we want to clarify that your vulva is the visible part of your female genitals. All the lips, the pubic mound, the clitoris, and all those other beautiful parts. 

The vagina refers to the actual vaginal canal, that being the area where babies may eventually pass through. 

Our vaginas are like a fingerprint, they are unique to every person in every way. 

Therefore, we will need to speak in some broad strokes here that will apply to most but maybe not all of you.

A healthy vulva will usually have a little bit of an odour, but not much. Basically, it should smell like a vulva, not a fresh summer’s day. 

If you have a “fishy” odour or a big change in these smells could indicate that there may be an issue and you should talk to your doctor or OBGYN.

Vulvas and vaginas are pretty magical. 

They clean themselves throughout the day! When you take off your panties, you’ll often find a sort of milky fluid on the inside, this is called vaginal discharge and it is what your body uses to keep the vagina clean.

That discharge can take on many different colours, textures and smells that change daily. These changes are due to ebbs and flows of your menstrual cycle. 

Normal discharge (i.e. not during menstruation) varies from clear to white. Variation in this is 100% normal. Normal, healthy discharge usually doesn’t have much of a smell.

The vagina also contains a lot of healthy bacteria that are critical for maintaining your pH balance, meaning that it is somewhere along the scale of acidic to alkaline. This pH level determines a lot about the health of your vagina. 

A normal, healthy vagina has a slightly acidic pH level. This creates a protective environment that acts as a barrier for unwanted and unhealthy bacteria. 

This pH can be thrown off if you’re not taking care of your health. However, things like having unprotected sex, douching, using lubricants with sugar in them and using antibiotics can change the pH in your vagina. 

***Pro-Tip*** Douching or using water and (usually)  vinegar to clean out the vagina, is talked about a lot these days but is generally not recommended. While many women do it and report they feel cleaner, it can lead to vaginal infections, pelvic inflammatory disease among other things. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise against douching.

 

How do I Clean my Vulva and Vagina?

 

What a fabulous question and we’re so happy that you want to learn how to take care of yourself better! 

First of all, when going to the toilet always wipe from front to back then don’t go back! You don’t want to drag any icky poo particles into your lady bits, do you? 

This is going to be super complicated. 

Are you ready?

Use your hands, a LOT of water and (maybe) a mild, plain, unscented soap. Then pat dry.

P.S. the soap is optional

That’s it. 

Since your vagina cleans itself, you don’t need to do much. You also shouldn’t do much. 

You should wash your vulva every day.  When you take a bath or a shower, open up your lips cleaning all the folds thoroughly, rinse the clitoral hood and the clitoris as well. Sometimes debris or bits of discharge can get stuck in the beautiful folds. 

It’s also a good idea to wash your anus and the area between your anus and vulva daily. 

During your menstrual cycle, washing twice a day can be a good idea but isn’t necessary. 

If you are thinking of using scented wipes or vaginal deodorants, put away the credit card. If mother nature wanted your vagina to smell like a summer’s day, she would have figured out how to do that by now. 

Also, the smell and discharge are there as your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. It’s like an early warning system. 

If you have persistently bad smells coming from down there or there is a worrying change in your discharge, go visit your doctor or talk to an OBGYN. It can’t hurt! 

 

Anything Else I Should Know?

 

One last piece that is probably the most important in this article. You should have a pap-smear and general gynaecological exam at least once a year. Every six months is ideal and highly recommended. 

During the exams, your doctor will check for a myriad of things such as pelvic inflammatory disease, many STIs (sexually transmitted infections) as well as breast cancer. 

Preventative care is always the way to go! 

If you’re scared or unsure of what to expect or want someone to come with you, ask a friend, a family member or even a sex coach! Everyone wants to keep you happy and healthy. 

To summarise, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep you smiling! 

 

Vaginal Care Do’s

Vaginal Care Don’ts

  • Clean your vulva with your hands, unscented soap and water
  • Pat your vulva dry
  • Wear cotton underwear to help your lady breathe
  • Clean your sex toys! (see our article on How to Clean Sex Toys) 
  • If you do sport, change out of your sweaty clothes and wash them with pure soap
  • Use water-based lubes without many sugar-based products in them (see our article on How to Choose a Lubricant)
  • Get checked regularly by your doctor or OBGYN
  • If you shave, use a fresh razor (wash with a mild soap before and after)
  • Don’t use a cloth, sponge or washcloth to help clean yourself
  • Avoid soaps that could be irritating such as ones that have a fragrance
  • Don’t rub the vulva dry (please, handle gently) 
  • Don’t use any scented “feminine” perfumes, wipes, sprays or deodorants
  • Don’t douche
  • Sleep without underwear (woohoo!)
  • Avoid any underwear or clothes that are tight and made out of synthetic materials
  • Don’t share razors
  • Don’t get any genital piercings at a sketchy shop

 

Congratulations on making it through another self-improvement article, folks! We’re so proud of our brilliant, curious, sexy friends *wipes tear*

If you liked this article, feel free to share it with friends or on social media. Don’t forget to give us a little shout out @myamorashop

 

Get out there, get in there and get off there,

 

Elaine S. Turner

Sex Coach, Clinical Sexologist & Sexuality Educator

Sydney, Australia

August 2020

 

P.S. 

Keep in mind, as much research and fact checking as we do, we are not medical professionals nor do we pretend to be. If you have anything that is concerning to you or anything that may require medical attention, get to a medical professional! 

 

Works Cited

Ferguson, S., & Ernst, H., PA-C. (2019, February 05). How to Clean Your Vagina and Vulva. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-clean-your-vagina

How can I stay healthy down there? (n.d.). Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/vulva-vagina/your-vulva-vagina/how-can-i-stay-healthy-down-there

Keeping Your vagina clean and healthy. (2018, October 18). Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/keeping-your-vagina-clean-and-healthy/

M. (2020, March 20). Symptoms Vaginal Odor. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-odor/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050664?p=1

Pagano, T., MD (Ed.). (2018, September 19). Vaginal Douching: Helpful or Harmful? Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-douching-helpful-or-harmful

Villines, Z. (2020, February 25). Should you clean your vagina? (D. R. Wilson Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT, Ed.). Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-to-clean-your-vagina

Watson, S. (2019, July 11). Everything You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Vaginal pH Balance (D. Weatherspoon PhD, RN, CRNA, Ed.). Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/vaginal-ph-balance

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