July 25, 2022/Women's Health

Why You Should Never Douche

Your vagina does a good job of cleaning itself

A woman's body alongside a douche bottle.

Many of us are in a constant battle with body odor. We’re showering, using scented body wash and then layering on deodorant and fragrant body lotion all in the name of smelling fresh and clean.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But when it comes to vaginal odor, we may be doing too much.

If you’ve tried douching, then you may be shocked to learn that this practice of cleaning your vagina with a solution may be doing more harm than good.

Nurse practitioner Molly Gumucio, CNP, explains why we should avoid douching and the best way to keep “down there” clean.

What is vaginal douching?

Douche is a French term that means “wash” or “shower.”

“Vaginal douching is when you use a solution and insert it into the vagina to flush it out and to help clean it,” explains Gumucio.

Sometimes, people will use just water or add vinegar, soap, baking soda or a fragrance. Douche kits are sold online and at stores. They typically contain an antiseptic solution and a bag or bottle to help distribute the solution at a high pressure.

People claim that douching not only cleans their vagina, but also helps eliminate any odor and prevents infection.

Is douching safe?

“People choose to douche because they don’t feel clean enough,” notes Gumucio. “They have an odor and they’re trying to get rid of it. Or after intercourse, sometimes, they want to use it.”

But douching isn’t safe and isn’t recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Advertisement

“What douching does is that it removes the good bacteria and the good flora that’s naturally in your vagina,” explains Gumucio. “And then, when your body goes to reproduce more of bacteria, it overproduces, which can lead to an infection.”

Much like your gut has a microbiome filled with different bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses, so does your vagina. There are about 50 different microbes living inside of your vagina. And if those microbes get out of whack, it can cause problems like infections.

Those infections can include bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by the overgrowth of your normal vaginal bacteria. A yeast infection happens when candida, a type of yeast, is out of balance in your body.

Both types of infections can cause a vaginal discharge, while a yeast infection can also cause an itchy sensation, redness, swelling and a burning feeling when you urinate.

What to do instead of douching

It’s simple — just clean with soap and water. And opt for a soap that’s gentle and sensitive.

And where you clean is important, too. Most people tend to think of all their genitals as their vagina. But in fact, the outside area is known as your vulva, which includes your clitoris, urethra and labia.

Your vagina is your birth canal, which connects to your cervix.

“People tend to clean their vagina and vulva too often,” says Gumucio. “Try to avoid using scented body wash and just stick to warm water and gentle soaps that usually don’t strip away all that good bacteria and flora.”

Advertisement

Cleaning down there during your daily bath or shower is fine. But avoid cleaning your genitals multiple times a day.

And don’t be tempted to buy and use feminine hygiene powders, sprays or wipes to keep you fresh.

“Some of the over-the-counter products can tend to make your symptoms worse or irritate your skin,” says Gumucio.

When to see your doctor about vaginal odor

If your symptoms persist for more than a week, then it’s time to call your doctor.

Some symptoms may include:

  • Smelly vaginal discharge.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Discomfort or pain during sex.
  • Redness, burning and or swelling in or around your vagina and vulva.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and may take a sample of your discharge to test. They may prescribe antibiotics, which can be taken as a pill or applied as a cream.

But overall, don’t stress out too much about keeping your vagina and surrounding areas clean. A less-is-more approach will do the trick.

“Our vaginas are self-cleaning,” says Gumucio. “It’s something that we really don’t need to take extra special care of. Just showering once a day using warm, soapy water is sufficient.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

A person on a virtual call with a doctor.
July 24, 2022/Women's Health
Brown Discharge: 4 Causes and What It Means

It usually happens when blood mixes with vaginal fluid, but not always

pensive woman sitting on bed
June 9, 2021/Women's Health
Feminine Odor Problems? What Every Woman Needs to Know

How to tell when odor is a warning sign

Couple in bed touching
January 2, 2019/Women's Health
Vaginal Odor? It Could Be Bacterial Vaginosis

This common infection is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina

Healthcare provider holding prescription bottle talking with older female
April 12, 2024/Women's Health
What Does a Hot Flash Feel Like?

Heat starts in your chest and moves up to your neck and face … and then, the sweating begins

Female sitting in chair with hot waves coming off their head
April 9, 2024/Women's Health
8 Myths and Truths About Menopausal Hot Flashes

While they may not burn calories or cause fevers, these heat waves can make you miserable — but you don’t have to just grin and bear it!

Plate full of colorful and healthy fruits, veggies and grains
April 8, 2024/Women's Health
6 Ways To Boost Breast Health

Taking precautions like eating healthy, stopping smoking and getting regular screenings can help protect against breast cancer

Female awake in bed at night
April 5, 2024/Women's Health
What To Expect in Each Stage of Menopause

It’s a natural part of aging, starting with perimenopause and eventually leading into postmenopause

Female sitting in chair at home staring into the distance, phone in hand
April 3, 2024/Women's Health
Why Is My Period Lasting So Long?

From medications and stress to PCOS and STIs, there’s a wide range of reasons Aunt Flo may overstay her welcome

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad