How To Clean Your Vagina After Sex, Because They Just Don't Teach You The Useful Things In School

We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your questions to tips@bustle.com. This week’s topic: how to clean your vagina after sex.

Q: I just start having sex a year ago. I really like it — but sex with men is so messy! I’ve been taking a shower immediately after sex and scrubbing my vulva and inside my vagina to get rid of the mess down there, but my friends say I’m a clean freak and I don’t need to do that. Do I need to clean up my vagina after sex, and if so, how?

A: My middle school health teacher used to say that “it’s the slippery juices that make sex feel good” (I was lucky and grew up in Berkeley), and when I became sexually-active, I had to admit that he was for sure correct about that. But all that vaginal self-lubrication, any synthetic lube you may add, and semen (if you have sex without a condom to catch that stuff) do add up to something of a mess in the vagina afterwards. What to do?

I’ll come right out and say it: In the vast majority of circumstances, you don’t need to clean your vagina after sex. Your body made that vaginal fluid all by itself, so having it up in there isn’t going to hurt you. It’s similarly totally natural to have semen in your vaginal canal — that’s, like, its dream location.

In fact, as I've written about before, you actually don’t need to clean your vagina at all — it’s a self-cleaning entity! You know that stuff that ends up in your panties all the time called vaginal discharge? That’s your body’s way of cleaning out anything that shouldn’t be up in your vagina — which includes semen and lube, along with any bacteria or other things that got up in there during daily life.

This is true most of the time. However, as most people with vaginas will attest, it’s not that difficult to get out of balance down there. In these cases, adhering to some prevention practices is a good idea. Here are the main ways it’s a good idea to pay attention to the post-sex cleanup of your most tender of parts.

Dry Off Your Vulva And Labia

This is a big one if you are prone to yeast infections. Your vagina is happiest and healthiest when it’s dry. In contrast, yeast (which lives in your vagina all the time, along with a number of other healthy bacteria) likes warm, wet places. The fact of the matter is that your vagina is always going to be warm, so you have to help it out by not leaving it super-wet. Keeping your vagina dry helps prevent a yeast infection, so that you don’t end up itchy as hell with clumpy vaginal discharge.

If you get yeast infections often, you may already know to wear cotton panties (because cotton is breathable and stays dry) and not to stay in your wet swimsuit for a long time after you get out of the ocean or pool. Well, similarly, if you put your dripping vulva and labia (vaginal lips) right back into panties, you could be giving your naturally-occurring vaginal yeast exactly what it needs to take over and cause you discomfort! So it’s a good idea to pat yourself dry after sex.

Always Pee After Sex

This is specifically to clean out your urinary tract to protect you against urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can be very painful and dangerous if not treated. The best way to prevent a UTI is to pee after sex. This is because during sex, bacteria can end up in your urethra (the tube you pee out of). This is totally natural and normal and not something to stress about, but good self-care after sex includes peeing so that you can flush out any wayward bacteria.

Peeing also flushes out a lot of the sex juices you will have accumulated in your vagina during intercourse (and wiping yourself after will take care of the rest). So if you don’t enjoy that squelchy feeling that comes from having lots of lube and semen up in there, peeing (and letting gravity help you out over the toilet) is a great way to deal with that. You can also use a bidet (like the Tushy) to get up in there a bit more for a deeper, squeakier clean.

If You Do Shower, Don’t Wash With Scented Soaps

While it's not necessary, some people do like to feel clean after they get it on (I mean sex can make you sweaty all over, it’s not just about your vagina) and may want to shower or bathe afterwards. To each their own!

If this sounds like you, that’s awesome, but make sure you don’t use soaps or body washes that have perfume in them — at least not on your genitals. These chemicals are bad for your vagina. They knock your tender balance out-of-whack and can cause yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis, neither of which you want (I’m assuming). So if you do like to soap down after a romp, make sure you’re using scent-free soap options (this includes unscented vaginal wipes).

Always Pee And Clean Off After Anal/Vaginal Cross-Contamination

While nothing that comes out of a penis can hurt your vagina (both semen — and yes, even urine — are totally fine to end up there), the same is not true of poop. If you’re engaging in anal sex, the reality is that butt stuff can end up places you didn’t intend it to. Getting your own poop germs into your vagina can cause a UTI (which is why you should always wipe front to back), and this is also the case with someone else’s poop germs.

So if you think you’ve been in a situation where this might have happened, definitely pee afterwards — and this would be a good time to sponge off with some gentle soap, just to make sure you get any germs far away.

The Bottom Line

The good news is that, while sex is messy, it’s not inherently medically dangerous. I mean if it was, the human race would be struggling a lot more, right? That means it’s up to you to figure out what feels good for you to do in terms of post-sex clean-up. Maybe you hate the sticky feeling between your legs and can’t wait to leap out of bed to shower immediately after the sex is over, maybe the stickiness annoys you but snuggling (after a quick pee break) is more important, or maybe the mess turns you on. To each their own! If you remember to follow these simple tips (there are just a few of them, I know you got this) you should be all set.

Images: Pixabay; Giphy

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