Your vagina has an efficient, perfectly balanced way of keeping itself clean and healthy. It does this through vaginal secretions, as well as a mix of ‘good’ bacteria and carefully balanced pH levels. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to maintain good hygiene.

Here’s your essential guide to the dos and don’ts of vaginal hygiene.

Do wash every day

Washing your intimate area every day can help to clean away sweat. What’s more, you’ll feel fresh and clean down there.

Don’t use overly perfumed soaps, gels or wipes

Your intimate area has a delicate balance of pH levels and bacteria, but this can be disrupted when chemicals are introduced into the area. This is why it’s a good idea to avoid overly perfumed wipes, sprays, powders, soaps and gels when washing your intimate areas. Instead, opt for washes and foams that are specially designed for your intimate area.

Do wash more often during your period

It’s good practice to wash the area around your vagina more often when you’re having a period. Things can get messier down there at this time, so it can help you to feel fresher and cleaner if you wash with warm water a couple of times a day.

Do use a soft, fluffy towel to dry off

Be gentle with yourself when drying off after a shower or an intimate wash. A lovely fluffy towel is just the ticket, as anything rougher could cause irritation or dryness.

However, it is important to get your intimate area properly dry after washing, so be gentle but thorough with the towel.

Don’t get too hung up on odour

It’s 100% normal for your vagina to have a scent. Unless it’s overly strong or unpleasant - in which case you should make an appointment with your doctor - then there’s really nothing for you to worry about.

If you’re self-conscious about vaginal odour, it’s tempting to overcompensate with powerfully fragranced products. However, these soaps and wipes could potentially cause irritation and other problems. The best way to keep odours to a minimum is to wash regularly and dry thoroughly.

Do wipe from front to back

This is another crucial tip for intimate feminine hygiene. When you go to the toilet, always wipe from front to back with your toilet paper. Do it the other way around and you could risk spreading fecal bacteria from your anus to your vagina and urethra. This can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) and many other problems. If you don’t feel clean enough after going to the toilet, have a gentle wash of the area with warm water.

Do wear breathable fabrics down there

Unfortunately, fashionable underwear can sometimes cause a few problems when it comes to feminine hygiene. Overly tight-fitting thongs, tights and skinny jeans can restrict the flow of air around your genitals, as well as trapping in heat and moisture. This is made even worse when your underwear, tights or trousers are made from synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester.

These fabrics trap in moisture, which can create the perfect environment for infections such as thrush. Along with this common yeast infection, you could also risk getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) such as cystitis. You may even experience problems with a strong or unpleasant odour after several hours spent wearing skintight leggings.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to avoid these uncomfortable feminine health issues. For starters, you should aim to wear cotton underwear and natural fabrics where possible. Cotton is a wonderful natural material in that it is breathable, which means that the air can flow in this sensitive area. Excess moisture from sweat and normal vaginal discharge can evaporate. Even if your underwear simply has a cotton crotch insert, this is much better than pants made purely of nylon, polyester or even spandex.

You can also give your vagina room to breathe by limiting the amount of time you spend wearing tight clothing. Opt for loose pyjama bottoms and flowing skirts around the house, rotating them with your skinny jeans and tighter clothing. This will give your vagina a much-needed break, and hopefully limit the chances of creating an environment where infections like thrush can thrive.

Do use a condom when having sex

This last tip may not be related to washing or vaginal care, but it is just as crucial for feminine hygiene. Unprotected sex can cause unwanted bacteria and even viruses to enter the vagina, which can lead to other infections. Just a handful of the many sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) you could catch in this way include Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Genital Herpes and even HIV or Syphilis. If you use a condom every time you have sex, even if you’re using other forms of contraception, you can reduce your risk of catching these STIs.