Great question! Let’s talk about the difference between vaginal and anal douching and their safety.
One of the many amazing things about your vagina is that it’s self-cleaning. If you’ve ever noticed a white, clear, or cloudy substance in your underwear at the end of the day, then you probably have a healthy vagina! This substance, called vaginal discharge, is a mixture of mucus, cells, and bacteria produced by your cervix, uterus, and vagina. Vaginal discharge cleans, moisturizes, and flushes out harmful bacteria from your vagina all at the same time. When you introduce soap and other cleaners to your vaginal environment, it upsets the healthy balance of vaginal bacteria or your acid/base balance (also called your pH) and puts you at risk for conditions like bacterial vaginosis. Use of cleaners inside the vagina also increases the risk of serious infections like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
It is good hygiene to gently wash your vulva, the genitals located on the outside of your body. The vulva, pictured below, includes the mons pubis, the inner and outer labia, the clitoris, the clitoral hood, the urethra, and the vaginal opening.
While you’re in the bath or the shower, you can use warm (not hot!) water and mild or unscented soap to wash your inner and outer labia, clitoral hood, and the outside of the vaginal opening (but not the inside). Make sure you have thoroughly rinsed off all the soap, and pat your vulva dry with a clean towel. And remember, your vagina is not supposed to smell like “summer rain,” “ocean fresh,” or “island vacation” – it’s supposed to smell like a vagina!
Anal douching, the process of cleaning out the rectum with water or saline (salt) solution before anal penetration, can be safe in moderation, but it’s not a necessary practice to have comfortable, pleasurable, and safe anal sex. Worries about poop generally motivate people to practice anal douching, but our bodies actually hold poop in the sigmoid colon (the bottom section of the large intestine) right up until we have to go. Your rectum, located below the sigmoid colon, does not contain poop unless you’re actually pooping.
If rinsing out the rectum makes you feel the most comfortable, use a gentle flow of warm (not hot!) water or saline solution. Avoid any and all of those fancy chemical washes you may see at the store or pharmacy – these can irritate your rectum, throw off your body chemistry, and increase the risk for certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Finally, remember to always use a condom while having anal (or any) penetrative sex to further reduce potential STI infection.
In short, AVOID products that advertise “freshness” but fill your body with harsh chemicals. Your body is pretty great at cleaning itself!