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Girl wearing a towel.

The vagina actually cleans itself on the inside with natural fluids. The best way to clean the outside of your vagina is to wash with warm water and gentle, scent-free soap during a bath or shower. Products you might see on TV or at the drugstore, such as feminine hygiene soaps, powders and sprays, are not needed. And they may even be harmful to you.

Douching is rinsing or cleaning out the vagina by squirting water or other fluids (solutions made with vinegar or baking soda that you can buy at the drugstore) into the vagina. Women sometimes douche to rinse away blood after their periods and to generally feel cleaner.

But most doctors say not to douche. That’s because douching changes the balance of natural chemicals and healthy bacteria in your vagina and can make it easier for you to get dangerous infections.

If you have any of the following problems, tell your doctor right away:

  • Itching in and near your vagina
  • Burning or pain in your vagina
  • Pain when you urinate
  • Discharge, or fluid, from your vagina that is not normal, such as thick and white (like cottage cheese) or yellowish-green and bad-smelling. Normal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle, but may normally look clear, cloudy white, and/or yellowish. If you are not sure if the discharge or fluid is normal, have your doctor check you out.


Content last reviewed October 13, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.