Should You Use Soap To Wash Your Vagina?

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how to wash your vagina

I will never forget the first time I got soap in my vagina. I was just a little kid making myself a bubble bath, and I decided to pour in several heaping capfuls (okay, it was most of the bottle) of Head and Shoulders shampoo to make the foam that I craved. When the tub was full I pretty much jumped in! What I didn't know was that seconds later I would jump out again, hopping from leg to leg while clutching my lady junk in utter agony.

It was then I made a life-long vow to keep soap away from my vagina, and here I am, at 35, and never once have I had a yeast infection. Coincidence? Good genetics? Simple luck? Maybe. But I like to think it was learning the hard way that how to wash your vagina doesn't involve soap. Because not only does it mess up your vaginal pH, but there are so many other things that can go wrong.

Now, I'm not a scientist, but I am a cis-woman, meaning I'm straight and I've got a vagina. If you're anything like me (and you definitely are if you're here reading this missive on all things vaginal), you already know there are is a lot of competing information out there about the care and well-being of the vagina. It doesn't matter how well-versed you are, it can get confusing.

RELATED: 10 Foods That Are Surprisingly Great For Your Vaginal Health

We're given the message over and over again in marketing that our vaginas are bad, that they are stinky, that they are dirty. So is it any wonder that so many of us spend our time and money buying things like wipes, special vaginal cleansers, and the like? When the world keeps telling you that your vagina is a monster, it can be hard not to start to believe it.

While the vagina is a beast, it's only one in the best sense of the word. The vagina is powerful, resilient, and above everything else... clean, clean, clean! Women of the world, hear me now and check out my citations if you don't believe me (I've brought RECEIPTS, y'all).

While we live in a patriarchal and vagina-hating world (don't need receipts for that one, just look around), we also live in a world where more and more women and more and more doctors are speaking up about the best way to keep your vagina healthy. If you're thinking about using soap on your vagina, do the opposite of what you'd do in a prison movie: drop the soap.

Good. Now, instead of picking it up, here's what you need to know about how to wash your vagina and keep it clean the right way: 

1. Your vagina has its own pH.

You know those old Secret deodorant commercials? The ones where they say that the stuff is strong enough for a man but pH balanced for a woman? Turns out that wasn't just a pile of crap invented by a marketing department somewhere out there.

You've got a woman's PH and that's important! In the vagina, your pH should never drop down below 4.5. That's slightly acidic and that's the only thing that you need to worry about in terms of "cleanliness."

2. Your vagina cleans itself.


If you've ever had an oven that is NOT self-cleaning, then you know the terrible business of getting all up inside an oven, cleaning it out, and dreaming of the day when you will have a self-cleaning one. Turns out, if you're a cis-woman, you've already GOT the self-cleaning oven of your dreams — only, it doesn't help you where cookies are concerned.

When you start introducing things like dyes, fragrances, antibacterial cleansers, you are throwing the entire ecological system that is your vagina out of whack, and this can cause problems.

RELATED: 8 Big, Red-Alert Signs Your Vagina Is Seriously Unhealthy

3. Using soap in your vagina causes problems.

So you decided to stick some soap in your vagina. This was a bad idea. Sure, you thought you were going to get rid of the weird smell, but here's some news: your vagina is supposed to smell.

It isn't supposed to smell like soap or flowers or sugar cookies though. It is supposed to smell like a vagina. When you use soap, you trip your vagina up in the midst of doing its job. This can lead to vaginal dryness, yeast infections, and just general yickiness.

4. Use warm water.

Your vagina is cleaner than your mouth. However, it does usually spend the day far away from light, covered by panties, sweating and shedding skin cells. That's why it's the exterior areas surrounding the genitals that need cleansing, but even this must be done carefully and in a soap-free fashion.

The skin on your vulva, like the rest of your skin, has pores that secrete oils. To manage the sweat, the oil, and the dead skin cells of yore, just get in the shower and use warm water to gently flush the areas surrounding your vagina, paying extra care to flush the folds of skin thoroughly.

That's literally all you have to do. What's more, it's literally all you should be doing if you want a happy, healthy vagina in your life.

5. If you see something, say something.

If you think something is wrong downstairs — say, it feels different than usual, you're experiencing discomfort, or you happen to notice an unpleasant odor — put down the soap and go to the doctor. Atlanta OB/GYN, Dr. Jacqueline Walters (you'll know her best from Married To Medicine on Bravo, if you're a fan like me), points out that while a malodorous vagina is not something pleasant, neither is continually washing it down with soap as if it that is going to improve things. It won't.

Go to your doctor with any concerns. You and your vagina are going to be together for life. How you get along is between you both, and the first step towards peace in the proverbial kingdom is stepping away from the soap! 

RELATED: 9 Things Your Vaginal Secretions Can Tell You About Your Body And Your Health

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margo. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr