Health

You Might Be Cleaning Your Penis Wrong

You’re an adult. It’s time to wash your junk like one.

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Last week, we published a pretty extensive set of instructions for cleaning your vagina. And in awesome BuzzFeed commenter fashion, many of you requested a penis-cleaning version. Well, ask and you shall receive…

So, in case you didn’t know, you should be cleaning your penis pretty much every day.

Or, you know, any day that you exercised, had sex, masturbated, or moved enough that you got at all sweaty below the belt, Dr. Darius Paduch, urologist and male sexual medicine specialist at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells BuzzFeed Life. So yeah, pretty much every day.

That’s because your groin can be a dark, damp breeding ground for bad bacteria, which makes it just as likely to cause a foul odor as your armpits. And with your penis being in such close proximity to all that bacteria, you’ll probably want to keep it clean. So, every day, use warm water to clean your penis, groin, and testicles.

Now, let's talk about soap.

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If you notice a smell down there or you feel the need to get fresher after a workout or having sex, you should soap up the area. Just make sure to create a lather in your hands to wash your penis (rather than putting soap directly on it).

But don't overdo it: Your skin down there is delicate, and overwashing it with your usual soap can be irritating. This is especially true if you're uncircumcised, since that means you have a mucus membrane on the head of your penis that’s extra sensitive, says Paduch. Soaping up every other day or twice a week should be fine for most guys, he says.

When you do lather up, don’t just use your two-in-one shampoo.

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Most bodywashes like this are going to irritate your penis because they have tons of detergents and chemicals. Instead, use a simple, moisturizing soap with as few ingredients as possible. And you really don’t need antibacterial formulas, Paduch says. Just stick with regular soap.

So what if you don’t shower every day? When/how are you supposed to clean your penis?

Actually, science says you probably shouldn't be showering every day. That's convenient, but your penis probably still needs some freshening up on most days. In that case, a baby wipe or a quick below-the-belt rinse with some warm water should do it.

Always wash your penis before and after sex.

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Cleaning up before sex is important, because, manners. But washing up after sex can actually help you avoid an infection. You want to make sure you wash off any bodily fluids (from either you or your partner), since bacteria can grow faster when these dry out on your skin, says Paduch.

Obviously you don’t need to hop out of bed immediately and hit the shower — there’s a grace period (Paduch suggests cleaning your penis within 10–15 minutes, or at least before you go to sleep). Again, you can use a baby wipe or just quickly wash up with soap and warm water.

Washing your penis the right way can also reduce your risk of HIV and other STDs. Seriously.

The key is to make sure you're washing enough (ideally every day or every other day), but not too much. Lesions on the penis — which can occur from overwashing or having a reaction to a harsh soap — can damage the protective barrier on your skin and make it easier for bacteria, viruses, and STDs to enter, says Paduch.

"It is well established that any skin ulceration and infections, skin chaffing, and poor hygiene can increase risk of HIV transmission," he says.

Don't forget to wash up after you masturbate too.

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Sure, there are fewer bodily fluids in this case, but you still want to clean off any ejaculate. And if you're using a Fleshlight or any other toys, make sure to thoroughly wash and dry those too (with soap and water).

Attention uncircumcised readers: You have a little more work to do.

“Anyone who isn’t circumcised needs to pull the foreskin all the way down to see the entire head of the penis to wash it,” says Paduch. That’s because there can be a lot of bacteria and smegma (the substance that collects under the foreskin) building up around this area. It's especially important for uncircumcised people to wash up after masturbating, since dried semen can get trapped under the foreskin and harbor bacteria.

Also, if you're uncircumcised, you should really use soap sparingly, as it's more likely to cause irritation and inflammation on uncut penises.

Finally, make sure to take note of any irritation, spots, or discoloration on your penis.

I mean, obviously. It could be a sign that you’re washing too much, that you’re having a reaction to something you’re using, or that you have an infection. Switch to washing with just water to see if it goes away, but if it’s still there after a few days, call your doctor.