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Vaginal cleaning and vaginal health are important for a woman’s overall health. There are a lot of misconceptions and taboos associated with the vagina. If you too feel paranoid about the musky smell down there or are just wondering about the right way to clean and wash your vagina, you would be glad to know that vaginal care is not at all difficult.

For starters, you need to accept that the vagina is like any other organ of your body, albeit a bit delicate. It has an odour of its own and unless it is sharp and pungent or associated with the peculiar discharge, you don’t really have to worry about it. Secondly, vagina is a self-cleaning organ. Your vaginal discharge washes away all the microbes and debris from the vaginal area.

But that does not mean that it doesn't need some tender care. According to the NHS, washing your vagina once a day along with your daily bathing routine is enough to keep it clean and healthy. And you don’t need specialized perfumes or soaps for that either.

  1. What if you don’t clean your vagina properly?
  2. Things to remember
  3. How to wash your vagina: steps
  4. Why clean front to back?
  5. Female hygiene products for vaginal care: how effective are they?
  6. Vaginal douches
  7. Know your vagina

Improper cleaning of your vagina is as bad as not cleaning it at all. Here is what happens if you don’t clean your vagina properly:

  • Accumulation of sweat and vaginal discharge leads to itching and rashes near the vagina and the inside of your thighs.
  • Excessive moistures lead way for microbial growth and infections that manifest in the form of vaginal odour, excessive or foul discharge and in severe cases inflammation.
  • Rashes and bacterial growth may also cause acne.

To avoid all of these problems, it is best you take proper vaginal care.

  • Wash your vagina regularly but not too much. Cleaning your vagina once a day is enough.
  • You don't need to be harsh with your vagina. Rubbing the sponge softly on and around your vagina will do the trick. Apart from washing, remove your pubic hair regularly. This will ensure ease of cleaning and reduction in moisture. Less hair also means fewer chances of dermatophyte infection. You can just shave the extra hairs off or trim them a bit or just get them waxed. The growth of pubic hair differs from woman to woman. So, there is no exact duration to clean your pubes. You need to know your growth and fix your time for waxing.
  • Wear cotton underwears and wash them daily. Cotton underwears allow air to pass through them and prevents sweating and moisture down there. During periods, change your tampons or pads regularly. No matter how much is your flow, it is best to apply a new pad every 3-4 hrs and put in a fresh tampon every 4-5 hrs. This not just helps to keep off bacteria and odour but also prevents accidental stains. 

Cleaning your vagina is as easy as washing any other part of your body and it can be done with some lukewarm water with a super gentle soap. Though there are some facts you need to keep in mind to prevent infections. Here are some easy steps that will tell you the right way to clean and wash your vagina:

  •  Avoid scrubbing with a loofah in your vaginal area. It might scrape off your skin and cause itching. Opt for a soft sponge instead.
  • If you absolutely want to use soap. Opt for a mild non-scented soap with the least amount of chemicals. Avoid all those scented body washes as it may kick off the healthy bacteria like lactobacilli, which help in maintaining the pH of the vagina. With the help of a sponge, apply a lather of soap around the clitoris. You can pull the labia away with the help of your fingers and gently rub the sponge all around the clitoris. Wash all the area properly, separating the folds.
  • The inner canal of the vagina is self-cleaning so don't put soap inside but you need to wash your vaginal opening along with the vulva.
  • Clean the bikini line properly with the sponge. Don't rub it too hard.
  • Don't forget to wash perineum (the area between vagina and anus). This area is mostly airlocked and hence can have an accumulation of moisture with growing bacteria in it.
  • At last clean your anal area with the sponge (front to back) and then don't retouch your vagina with it as it may bring rectal germs.
  • Rinse off all the soap properly and pat dry with a soft towel.

It is always recommended to wipe your vagina front to back. This is because your anus doesn't just have excretory waste but some harmful bacteria also. Wiping back to front can transfer these bacteria to the vaginal area, leading to infections, itching, and irritation. You should also clean the sponge properly immediately after use. If left uncleaned, anal-bacteria or fungus can keep growing on it and infect your vagina the next time you use it.

  • Soap: Only mild, colourless and unscented soap should be used. Even baby soap should not be used as it has some scent in it. Scented soap can mess up with the pH balance down there, causing yeast infections. Cleansers with synthetic chemicals kill most of the bacteria including the ones required for a healthy vagina. Since the skin of your vagina is really delicate and absorbent, these chemicals can enter your body and lead to burning, allergy or itching.
  • Feminine wash or sprays: Female washes and sprays are two of the most hyped products when it comes to vaginal care. Though you might be amazed to know that these products are unnecessary as well as harmful. Not to mention the insecurities they create regarding the natural odour of your vagina. They have similar and sometimes more serious effects than synthetic soaps. They disrupt your vaginal pH and create severe problems in the long run.
  • Vaginal wipes: These products not just wipe off unwanted accumulated discharges but also remove the required bacteria. They also contain alcohol, which has a drying effect on the vagina and can hence be harmful to your vaginal health. These should only be used in severe conditions when one is unable to wash the vagina for a long time like while travelling.

All women are different, some are sensitive to even mild soaps and some don’t get affected even by most synthetic chemical products. But every woman needs care. No matter how much resistant your vagina is, chemicals will affect you in the long run. So it is important to switch to a product with the least chemicals.

Douching is a process of flushing or washing the vagina with a mixture of water and other chemicals. It is a bit different than your normal washing, in that, it washes the inside of the vagina. Specialized bottles are available in the market that you can use to squirt the prepacked liquid inside your vagina. Vaginal douches are easily available at pharma stores. But are douches really required?

Douching makes you feel really clean but it has very less medical benefits. In fact, douching does more harm than good for your health. Here’s how:

  • Vaginal infections: Flushing of chemicals affects the natural balance of vaginal flora. It makes the vaginal environment more prone to attack from pathogenic bacteria. Research studies indicate that women who don't use douche are at a lesser risk of vaginal infections or bacterial vaginosis than women who douche regularly.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: PID is an inflammatory condition that arises as a result of a vaginal infection. It may affect the uterus, fallopian tube and sometimes even ovaries, leading to scarring and tissue damage. If left untreated, it can progress to infertility. PID also leads to pregnancy complications. In a study, it was found that women who douche have 73 percent more chance of getting inflammation in their reproductive organ.

Douching may lead also to increased chances of an ectopic pregnancy i.e. implantation embryo outside the uterus. So, it is best to leave the internal cleaning of the vagina to itself and just wash around the vaginal opening.

Vagina is the outer muscular part of female genitalia, which includes the labia, vaginal opening, and clitoris. It is also the most sensitive part of a woman’s body and hence needs special care and protection. Vagina continuously produces a clear white and sticky discharge, which aids in maintaining the pH of the area along with clearing out any pathogenic bacteria down there. However, it creates a moist environment in your vaginal area that makes it prone to infections if not cleaned properly from time to time. Read on to find out the right way to clean your vagina and things to take care of for preventing the risk of infections. 

(Read more: Vaginal health)

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References

  1. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Vaginal thrush
  2. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Douching
  3. Girls Health. Vaginal infections. Office on Women's Health; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.
  4. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Personal hygiene
  5. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Vaginal yeast infections
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