Your vagina doesn’t require a special cleaning routine

By Suzannah Weiss

The other day, an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line, “Lo Bosworth Gets Candid About Feminine Health.” It was from a PR person pitching “an entire line of vitamins, probiotics, topical cleansers, and wipes to target specific issues that address a woman’s unique biology.”

It reminded me of another email I got back in February advertising DeoDoc’s vaginal washes, wipes, and deodorants. “Let's be honest: armpits are not the only body parts that sweat,” the company’s website warns.

Products like these seem to be everywhere, from good old-fashioned douches to the vaginal steams Gwyneth Paltrow raves about. There are even tutorials online on cleaning vaginas with cucumbers

But here’s the thing: You don’t need to clean your vagina any more than you need to clean any other part of your body. Vaginas aren’t any dirtier than any other body part. If anything, they’re cleaner, since they clean themselves. 

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“Think of your vagina as a self-cleaning kitty litter box for your pussy,” says OB/GYN Aimee Eyvazzadeh. “Your vagina doesn’t need any special cleaning agents. Your vagina already has its own built-in roomba system that runs all day and night.” 

If you want to give your vagina a bit of extra help warding off infections, all you have to do is wear white 100% cotton underwear, avoid waxing and shaving, spread your legs wide apart when you’re  peeing, wipe from front to back, take a probiotic, and go to an OB/GYN every year, says Eyvazzadeh. “If things are out of balance, see your GYN because you may be making things worse by taking things into your own hands,” she adds. “No pun intended.” 

What about washing? 

As far as washing goes, all you have to do is gently wash the outside of your vulva with mild soap and water. There are some rare cases when you need to give it a special bath, like before a C-section and before a vaginal hysterectomy, says Eyvazzadeh. But even then, you’ll use chlorhexidine or providone iodine, not douches, vaginal washes, or wipes.

And contrary to the Lo Bosworth pitch, which makes it sound like women are all walking around with dirty, infected vaginas, your vagina balances its own pH. You don’t need to do anything special to prevent infections.

In fact, many products allegedly geared toward improving vaginal health can actually harm it. Over-cleaning your vagina can kill off healthy bacteria that keep the area pH-balanced to fight off infections. Douching has even been shown to increase risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, cervical cancer, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Using a douche or special vaginal cleaning product sporadically probably won’t do any damage, but chronic use can, says Eyvazzadeh. 

Vaginas are already unfairly stigmatized 

On top of encouraging practices that are bad for your physical health, vaginal cleaning products are bad for women psychologically. They make vaginas sound like accidents waiting to happen, which can cause unnecessary anxiety about vaginal health, as this blog post by OB/GYN Jen Gunter points out. 

These products also add to the stigma that vaginas already face. Vaginas have an undeserved bad reputation as unsanitary and providing more ways to sanitize them adds to this stigma. You don’t hear about penis wipes and washes, after all. Instead of targeting “specific issues that address a woman’s unique biology,” as Lo Bosworth’s line promises, we need to question whether “a woman’s unique biology” is an “issue” in the first place.

Vaginas don’t need to be washed, scented, shaved, or anything to be clean, presentable, or attractive. They are perfect in their natural state. They were built to provide pleasure and give life. And that’s what they do every day without any assistance.

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