Luckily, we have erased this horrible falsehood over the years — and only use Lysol for what it should be used for: disinfecting nonliving surfaces. So now let's talk about the correct way to cleanse your precious lady parts. To get the answers, BuzzFeed spoke to Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, who is a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University's School of Medicine.
First, we wanted to know if women even need to clean their vaginas at all. "Women never need to institute a 'cleaning' regime for their vagina, as long as they aren't having any problems," said Minkin.
Minkin said the vulva and the vagina are the most sensitive tissues in the female body, so you don't want to use any irritants on them. "The vagina normally has a lot of good bacteria that you don't want to wash out of it," she added.
But what if you are having problems down there?
"Odors can be caused by infections or an imbalance of 'good guy' and 'bad guy' bacteria," she said. "If a woman does note an odor or is feeling some irritation, she may be dealing with an imbalance of the organisms inhabiting her vagina. One thing that she can easily and safely do is to try to rebalance her vaginal pH. Using a gel — like RepHresh — will help acidify her vagina and make the environment more hostile to nastier bacteria."
So, what would cause weird vaginal odor? "If they have an unusual odor, something might be going on. The first question to ask is, 'Did I leave a tampon in after my last period?' If there is a tampon stuck inside, your [health care] provider can remove it. (That is one situation where a douche might be helpful afterward.) The person could also have vaginitis. Your health care provider can investigate and do a culture if necessary," explained Minkin.
Should you be cleaning your vagina after sex? Not necessarily. You can rinse it with water, but the vagina is self-cleaning, and it is perfectly capable of cleaning itself following sex — even if there’s sperm inside.
Minkin ended by saying, "Women are always asking, 'What should I be doing?' when it comes to caring for their vagina. The answer is, if everything feels fine and smells fine, you probably don't need to do anything. But if it doesn't feel fine or smell fine, you may want to try some of the interventions above. And if the problem persists, don't be embarrassed to check in with your provider. Lastly, never be embarrassed by a retained tampon — all of us OB-GYNs take out several a year, so it's a very common problem!"