by Caroline Fenker, OTD, OTR/L
Many women feel self-conscious about the cleanliness of their vulvas. They are concerned about odors, hair, and discharge. They may believe that their vulva and vagina are dirty. Social stigma can reinforce this idea that women—and their reproductive functions—are “unclean.”
For instance, the language we use to describe menstrual products (i.e. “sanitary pads,” “feminine hygiene products”) implies that menstruation is dirty and unhygienic. Religious teachings or practices may also give the impression that menstruation and women’s bodies are unclean.
The truth is this: women are not dirty unless they don’t bathe.
The vagina is wonderfully designed to be self-cleaning and despite the marketing campaigns, women do not need special feminine washes or douches to keep the vulva clean. We have created this short video to provide women with basic information on how to wash and care for their vulvas.
Today we’re going to learn how to Take CONTROL! of vulva hygiene.
So if we are looking at your vulva, this is your labia majora, and you want to wash this with gentle soap and water, make sure she gets clean. Use friction and water and soap to clean her.
The labia minora have no hair, and in between is your vagina, which should be washed with a stream of clean water or a rubbing oil.
You don’t want to put soap in here, just like you wouldn’t put soap in your nose. It’s a mucus membrane and we want to treat her right, so make sure [to use] just clean water or rubbing oil.
The important thing to remember, you are not dirty unless you don’t bathe!
The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven. She has a pH somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5, which means she’s acidic and anything that comes in she can clean out on her own.
So it’s just your job to wash her daily with clean water so that she can maintain that good pH, and then you’re good to go.
Even a menstruating woman who has a regular cycle of discharges is clean.
The vagina takes care of herself.
Caroline Fenker, OTD, OTR/L, is a recent graduate of Huntington University. She completed her doctoral capstone at You’re In CONTROL! during the spring of 2022 and has devoted her career to moving women to take control of their bodies.