Understanding the female body
First, let’s go back to basics with human anatomy. The vagina is the inner canal inside your body. The term ‘vulva’ refers to the outer parts around the vagina, including the clitoris, clitoral hood, and inner and outer labia (vaginal lips).
Your vagina is an excellent self-cleaning oven containing a lot of good bacteria, which maintains the ideal Ph balance in your vagina, making it hard for ‘bad’ bacteria to cause infections. When you try to wash your vagina, using soaps or sprays and even water, you disrupt the bacterial balance, leading to many problems like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and other irritations.
How do you wash your vulva?
While you should not wash your vagina, you should regularly clean your vulva. Washing your vulva should be simple and straightforward. Apply warm water and gently cleanse around the folds of your vulva, using a clean washcloth or your hands. It’s best to wash “front to back”, meaning wash your vulva first and then your anus to prevent bacteria from spreading into your vagina.
Say no to scented soaps and feminine sprays
Scented soaps and even unscented soaps are not needed when washing your vulva and are highly advised against, as they can cause irritation and infections.
If you’ve been using soap or regular shower gel to wash your vulva, it is safe to stop and wash with warm water instead. If you do want to use a product, try unscented, mild and colourless soap.
Many supermarkets recommend feminine washes and sprays to reduce odour and clean the vagina. Don’t buy these; they contain harmful and unnecessary ingredients that can lead to severe infections and irritation.
Worried about smell
If you notice an unpleasant or even iron-like smell from your vagina and you’re not on or close to your period, the cause may be coming soap or wash products.
Try going a few days without using products, gently washing with water instead, your vagina should go back to its natural smell. It’s important to acknowledge your vagina has a normal scent, and it’s helpful to know what that is.
To help your vagina smell (or even taste) better, you can use home remedies like drinking cranberry or pineapple juice and eating healthy. Remember, what you directly consume will impact the health of your vagina. If you follow these restorative steps, you’ll be left with a healthy vagina that smells and feels good.
If you’re concerned about a foul vaginal smell, it’s helpful to research different smells and symptoms. We’ve added some signs of the most common infections, how to recognize them, and what to do. If you’re still worried, visit a GP as soon as possible.