The One Body Part Women Might Not Be Washing The Right Way

Okay, let's get this straight once and for all: The vulva has many parts. It houses the vaginal opening, labia, clitoris, and the opening to the urethra. The vagina itself is a tube and it connects the vulva to the cervix and uterus.

Though the vagina is just 3 to 6 inches long, it's much more than some anatomical highway that links the outside and inside world. The vagina is a smart muscle, and it is for myriad reasons. According to Healthline, it grows 1 to 2.5 inches wide when you're turned on, it doesn't let anything but a baby pass the cervix threshold (so, no, your tampon can't get lost), and it even cleans itself.

Yes, the vagina is self-cleaning. So when questions arise about how to best clean the vagina, it's likely that what's really being referred to is the vulva. And, chances are, you're not washing it correctly.

Why you may notice an odor

Dr. Kim Langdon, and OB-GYN, told Livestrong that all the vulva needs is to be rinsed with warm water and patted dry. She said that unscented diaper wipes suffice when you're in a rush. If it's a smell that has your panties in a bunch, though, remember that vaginal odor is normal. Gynecologist Mary Jane Minkin told Healthline that a tangy, fermented odor or a robust, sweetish odor is actually caused by healthy bacteria. She also said it's normal to have a copper-like smell during your period or after sex. 

When the vagina produces a foul odor, however, it's telling you that something is off. It could be anything from emotional stress to diet changes to a forgotten tampon, infection, or STD. Whatever the reason, it shouldn't just be covered up with a soapy loofah and ignored. Medical News Today says a fishy smell indicates that you need to call your doctor, especially if it's accompanied by itching, pain during urination or sex, burning, chunky discharge, or colored discharge.

Medical News today also warns against putting soap into the vagina and says there's no need to douche since it's self-cleaning. In addition, forgo the feminine deodorant sprays, perfumes, detergent soaps, and soaps containing perfumes. In terms of vaginal steaming, there is little evidence to suggest that it's effective.