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FAQ: What’s the deal with douching?

What is douching? Is it safe? What are the consequences of douching for your body?

Douching is flushing the inside of your vagina* with water or other substances in order to feel “fresh” and “clean.”

One of the reasons we put “fresh” and “clean” in quotes is because while douching does flushing out the inside of your vagina, what it also ends up doing is disturbing the natural bacterial balance of your vagina. This can lead to:

The other reason we put “fresh” and “clean” in quotes is because vaginas are already self-cleaning! There’s no need to clean it out with products, because your vagina already does that with natural vaginal fluids and discharge. The only cleaning people should do is on the outside, the vulva, with warm water during a shower.

It’s true that vaginas do have a bodily smell, and the douching is also supposed to eliminate that. But having a smell is totally normal! Every part of your body has a smell. Having a smell doesn’t mean that a part of your body is dirty or needs to be cleaned. You only need to be concerned about your vagina’s smell if it’s smelling bad (different from what it usually smells like), smells fishy, or if you have greenish discharge. In that case, we recommend checking in with your doctor. Douching is not the solution, and could possibly aggravate or mask whatever is currently going on with your body.

For more information on the natural cleaning fluids that your body produces, check out our Vaginal Fluids! blog post [Link].

Douching: A (very) Short History:
  • 1832: American physician Charles Knowlton officially sanctioned douching as a contraceptive. We now know it’s not effective as such.
  • 1900: Women used household disinfectants to douche. It had to be marketed really vaguely by Lysol as something that would leave a person “feeling fresh”, without ever mentioning it’s connection to birth control. This is because it was illegal to advertise contraceptives.
  • Today: Douching is now only marketed for feeling “clean” and “smelling good”. This type of product and advertising encourages people to feel ashamed of the natural smells and fluids that their body produces, which leads to a lot of body shame and stigma.

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]

*We know that these aren’t the words everyone uses for their bodies (eg. trans folks), and support you using the language that feels best for you.

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