There’s no way around it. Between the kissing, the sweating, and the other bodily fluids that make an appearance during outer- or intercourse, sex is an inherently messy process.
And the chances of yourself, your partner, and your bed (or wherever else you decide to have sex) getting anything from stains to watermarks are high.
After sex, your first thought might be to immediately hop out of bed to clean things up — especially yourself.
But it turns out that’s not entirely true. For the most basic intercourse, Los Angeles-based, multi-certified sex educator Anne Hodder says, “There are no medical reasons that I am aware of for why someone would need a special hygiene routine for after sex.”
Of course, this also depends on what happens during sex, your hygiene preferences, and infection risk. So, while there’s apparently no pressing medical reason to hop out into the shower following sex, it’s still good to have a post-romp protocol in mind.
Here are your most pressing post-sex hygiene questions, answered:
This is a trick question, really. When it comes to cleaning out the vagina, there’s no such thing. The vagina is perfectly capable of cleaning itself following sex — even if there’s sperm inside. Plus, trying to take matters into your own hands can actually do more harm than good.
“Never... [use] products that claim to ‘clean’ the vagina or vulva, especially no douches!” Hodder says. “The vagina is a beautiful biological machine, and there is absolutely no reason to disrupt the process (or the microbiome inside the vagina) with soaps, sprays, or other products.”
What about the penis?
- The rule of thumb for the vagina also goes for the penis. You don’t have to rush to the bathroom immediately, but do gently wash by morning. However, if your foreskin is still intact, you’ll want to give the area a gentle warm wash to prevent any semen buildup or infection risk. Unscented baby wipes can also do the trick until morning.
Just stick to rinsing the vulva and let the vagina manage its own cleaning. But if stains bother you, keep unscented baby wipes on hand.
Or keep a towel nearby and place it under you before things get too hot and heavy. Avoid relying on your top sheet, since fluids may soak through.
That being said, if you’re a person who’s prone to irritation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), or yeast infections and cleaning up after sex will give you peace of mind, a gentle rinse is fine.
“It couldn’t hurt to gently wash the vulva with warm water,” Hodder says.
If a shower seems like too much work (which after a good sex session, it can be!), peeing could work as another way to help lower the chances of vaginal infection or UTIs.
Although studies about this method are slim or show no significant evidence, many people do swear by this tactic.
The theory is that as your body rids itself of fluids, any bacteria that might have been introduced into the urethra during sex may also be flushed out. It doesn’t hurt to pee after sex, especially if it eases your mind.
Still, you don’t have to race to the bathroom the second you finish up. “You can take a few minutes to enjoy the post-sex glow,” Hodder says.
As long as you pee within a reasonable amount of time (there’s no set limit, but 30 minutes is a fair estimate), you and your urethra should be fine.
Pro tip: Keep a glass of water by bed. Drink it before, during, or after sex, whenever your body needs it. This can help with going to the bathroom after sex.
Anal sex can cause microscopic tears to your sphincter. And if the bacteria from your anus (including fecal matter) gets into those tears, it can cause an infection.
If you’ve had anal sex, make sure to shower afterward. Also rinse your genital area to get rid of any lingering bacteria.
For people with penises that have foreskin, be sure to pull the skin back so you can clean the entire head of the penis. It’s common for semen to dry under the skin or for bacteria to get trapped under there.
For people with a clitoris, gently pull back the vaginal folds and lift the clitoral hood toward your belly button to clean. Use warm water and a gentle soap or cleansing wipes, like these ones from Good Love. It’s best not to get soap in the vaginal area.
If you and your partner use sex toys, you want to make sure to clean them after sex. Not only will this remove any bacteria and make sure they’re ready for your next go around, but it’ll also make sure they stay in tip-top shape.
But how, exactly, do you clean them?
“Each sex toy is going to have specific instructions depending on the material it’s made of and whether or not it has a motor or batteries,” Hodder says.
“Platinum-cured silicone products (without motors) can be boiled or put in the dishwasher to be cleaned. Products that are labeled 100 percent waterproof can be washed with liquid antibacterial soap and warm water. Splashproof products can be cleaned the same way, but be sure not to submerge them.”
And if your sex toy doesn’t come with cleaning instructions?
“Any product that you’re unsure of or doesn’t have cleaning instructions on the label, wash the part of the product that made contact with bodily fluids or skin with liquid antibacterial soap and a washcloth soaked in hot water,” Hodder says.
Those moments after sex are a great time to connect with your partner and enjoy the rush of feel-good endorphins pulsing through your body — so don’t get too caught up in cleaning everything up (and taking yourself out of the moment in the process).
It’s perfectly fine to sleep in your natural, post-sex state (bodily fluids and all!). And who knows? It might just make you more game for a follow-up session of morning sex!
PS: Ask your partner about their preferences, too! Sex has long been a taboo topic, so it’s not a surprise if someone feels uncomfortable vocalizing their cleaning habits or has been taught one way and never another.
If the mess bothers you or prevents you from post-coitus cuddles, there’s definitely ways around it.
Keep these items in your bedroom for easy and hassle-free sex
- Towels. Lay them on the bed (or whatever surface you’re having sex on) to make sure sweat or other bodily fluids don’t leave stains.
- Unscented baby wipes. Great for wiping down the body after sex and getting rid of any bodily fluids.
- Mattress protectors. If you’re concerned about sweat or other bodily fluids seeping through the sheets and into your mattress, a mattress protector can create a barrier.
- Deodorant or body spray. If you’re concerned about sweat, keeping deodorant or body spray on hand can help eliminate any post-sex odor. Don’t put it on your genitals, though.
Above all, don’t forget to keep a glass of water nearby. While it’s not necessary for clean up, all that sweat and fluid loss during sex can make one thirsty! And for folks who love to cuddle immediately, it gives one less reason to get out of bed.
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Deanna deBara is a freelance writer who recently made the move from sunny Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. When she’s not obsessing over her dog, waffles, or all things Harry Potter, you can follow her journeys on Instagram.