We’re About To Give You a Very Good Reason To Hop in the Shower Today

Photo: Laurence Monneret/Getty Images
We get it. Sometimes you're just not in the mood for a rinse. It can be so tempting to get dressed asap and start the day (or climb into bed at the end of it) without taking a shower. But for the sake of your body odor (especially your vaginal odor), you'll want to make a daily shower a top priority.

Listen, it's normal for vagina smells to happen, and for vaginas to smell like...well, vaginas. But if you're skipping a suds session more often than not, it can lead to things like yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. So yeah. You're going to want to wash those lady bits once a day.

Here, an OB/GYN offers vaginal hygiene tips to keep things down there on the up and up.

Experts In This Article

How to wash your vagina

The general rule of thumb for proper genital washing is to keep things simple, explains OB/GYN and Love Wellness Advisor Jodie Horton, MD.

To clean the vagina correctly and safely, use warm water and a mild soap, and cleanse the area with your hands. "You want to avoid cleaning the inside of the vagina because it is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions," she says, adding that this can disrupt the pH in there and create an environment where bacteria and yeast can thrive (in other words, you'll do more harm than good).

Instead, when we say "wash your vagina," we really mean wash your vulva, aka the external genital area, which includes your labia (vaginal lips), clitoris, and vaginal opening. You'll want to gently cleanse the vulva, including the folds of your labia, and avoid getting any water or soap inside the vagina (and hey, wash your butt too, while you're at it). Then use a clean towel to pat the area dry.

What to avoid

For one thing, keep your loofah far, far away from the area. "Avoid using a loofah because it can abrade the delicate skin of the vulva," Dr. Horton says. "Loofahs can harbor mold, bacteria, and dirt that can do more harm than good for your vulva."

Steer clear of scented soaps, too. That might seem counterintuitive  (isn't the whole point to smell good?), but scented feminine hygiene products can also cause vaginal irritation, or even a rash, per the Mayo Clinic

If taking a full-blown shower isn't happening, at the very least you'll want to cleanse your vulva at the sink with some warm water and a mild pH-balanced cleanser to clear away the sweat and bacteria. But one method you shouldn't opt for is douching—that's another no-go. According to the Office on Women's Health, douching can chance your vaginal flora balance—that's the bacteria that live in the vagina and its natural acidic environment. Douching can also cause bacteria to overgrow, leading to yeast infection and increased risk of STIs.

Truly, the shower is the best place to get the job done, Dr. Horton says. "While taking a shower, the water can stop products from getting in the vagina and eliminating necessary bacteria." This built-in rinse factor can help you avoid irritation that can come from messing with your vaginal pH.

How to deal with vaginal odor

Look, it's not going to smell like flowers down there, and it shouldn't. But if you notice an abnormal smell coming from your vagina, there could be an issue. It's also normal for vaginal odors to slightly change sometimes from menstruation, pregnancy, and sex, per the Cleveland Clinic. But what isn't normal are strong, fishy odors with discharge—that could be a sign of an underlying problem like vaginitis.

If you suspect something is off, head to the doctor for an exam. They can take a sample of your vaginal discharge and test your pH levels. Most vaginal odor goes away on its own, but your doctor can also prescribe antibiotics that will treat the underlying cause.

Vaginal odor can also be prevented by practicing natural vaginal care. The Mayo Clinic suggests:

  • Good hygiene: Shower regularly and use mild soap with warm water
  • Avoid douching
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Practice safe sex by using condoms

How to deal with vaginal discharge

Just like mild vaginal odor, discharge is normal, too. It's usually a clear or whiteish color that comes out of your vagina, per the Cleveland Clinic. It's a natural fluid that helps clean and lubricate your vagina. It can also help with fighting off infection and bad bacteria. Determining what your "normal" amount of discharge is depends on a few factors like whether you're pregnant, ovulating, or on birth control.

If you notice a sudden change in your discharge—amount, smell, or texture, contact your doctor.

And if it feels like you have too much discharge (or you're sick of the wet feeling in your underwear), you can always wear a panty liner.

How to prevent yeast infections

The itch, burn, and irritation of yeast infections makes us shudder at the thought of having one. Yeast infections happen when the balance between yeast and bacteria in your vagina is thrown off, per the Mayo Clinic. Risk factors of yeast infections include:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • High estrogen levels
  • Unregulated diabetes
  • Compromised immune system

Simple, every day actions you can take to prevent contracting a yeast infection include:

  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing and underwear
  • Don't use scented feminine products
  • Limit going in hot tubs or taking hot baths
  • Change out of wet or sweaty clothes quickly
  • Don't use antibiotics for long periods of time


Are there specific products recommended for vaginal hygiene?

Safe feminine hygiene doesn't have to be hard or complicated. As Dr. Horton explains, all you really need is warm water and (optional) a mild, unscented soap.

How can I prevent irritation during vaginal washing?

"It's important to wash the outside of the vagina—known as the vulva—daily with warm water and a mild soap," Dr. Horton says. The vulva, she explains, describes the external parts of the female genitalia, and include the clitoris, labia majora, labia minora, and vaginal opening. You'll want to avoid washing inside the vagina to prevent infections or irritation.

As you may have heard growing up, you'll want to be sure to wash from front to back—never the other way around. "Washing your backside first may lead to bacteria from your anus to enter the vagina causing urinary tract infections and vaginal infections," Dr. Horton says. When you're finished cleansing, rinse the area thoroughly then pat dry.

What role does pH balance play in vaginal health?

pH balance plays a big role in vaginal health. The natural acidity of a vagina protects it against bad bacteria and germs. According to a October 2021 study in Diagnostics, a normal vagina pH level is somewhere between 3.8 and 5.0, but pH levels can change depending on age, overall health, and sexual intercourse. Unbalanced pH can lead to infections or irritation.

Want to know what a dermatologist keeps in the shower to wash the *rest* of her body with? Watch the video below.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Lin, Yen-Pin et al. “Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis.” Diagnostics (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,11 1996. 27 Oct. 2021, doi:10.3390/diagnostics11111996

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...