Hygiene on Your Period: Your Questions Answered
7 March 2023
Young girls just starting their periods need some guidance on ways to manage this change in their body. Up to now the vulva just needed a quick wipe after a wee and a rinse in the shower. Period blood can bring some pretty strong vaginal odor if the vulva is left unwashed and protection unchanged for too long which is why menstrual hygiene is important.
Over the years periods change in length, flow and regularity. Add in a touch of incontinence around child birthing or menopausal years and it can be useful to revisit your intimate hygiene routine.
Period poverty can make it harder for millions of girls around the world to maintain hygiene during their periods. UNICEF says "Gender inequality, cultural taboos and poverty can cause menstrual health needs to go unmet."
Here, we answer all your questions on hygiene around your period:
Good hygiene is important during your period because it will help to keep you clean, prevent infection, and stay more comfortable. Most period hygiene is common sense, to avoid smells, irritation and bacteria when you have your menstrual cycle be sure to stay clean and fresh, changing protection regularly and washing gently.
Internal menstrual products - especially tampons - must be changed regularly to avoid bacteria developing leading to toxic shock syndrome - read more on our blog here. Avoid internal protection overnight.
To maintain hygiene when on your period and stay comfortable and healthy:
- Wear lightweight, cotton underwear.
- Wash your hands before and after changing period protection.
- Change protection often and in line with your menstrual flow.
- Discard of disposable sanitary protection in a bin wrapped in toilet paper.
- Do not flush disposables.
- Keep your genitals clean.
- Wash with warm water morning and evening, more often if you feel uncomfortable.
- Remember your vagina is self cleaning.
- No need for douches, scented washes, soaps or lotions.
- Don't use internal protection overnight due to toxic shock syndrome (TSS)
- Drink plenty of water.
Opting for reusable period protection can be more hygienic than disposable pads with plastic layers and is definitely better for the environment. Menstrual underwear or reusable pads will keep your vulva cool whilst keeping you safe from leaks.
A cotton top layer next to your skin wicks moisture into an absorbent core, leaving you feeling dry, a waterproof layer of TPU prevents leaks and allows your skin to breath. Washable pants look like everyday underwear and leave you free to wear your normal clothes and carry on with regular activities.
"Cheeky period pants - Love the products and the swift delivery. I wanted to try reusable period pants for a long time but was always concerned by feeling dirty.
It’s absolutely the opposite. I’ve never felt more hygienic and supported. Would highly recommend" Trustpilot Nov '22
To clean yourself when on your period just use warm water and your normal soap or body wash. Shower in the morning after removing your overnight sanitary pads or other period protection. If you are using reusable pads or period pants, rinse them in the sink or in the shower with you and pop them in a wetbag or soaking box, and wash with your next load. You can follow our washing and care guide here.
If you wear a tampon or other disposable protection, wrap it and put it in the bin. Make sure to empty the bin in a timely manner as bacteria will build up on the disposable pad or tampon creating smells.
Do NOT flush anything down your toilet except the 3 P's - pee, poo, paper! Disposable sanitary ware can cause blocked drains, contribute to sewer fatbergs and end up in our seas hurting wildlife or polluting our beaches.
Carrying some reusable wipes can help to keep your vagina and vulva clean and fresh if you are out and about on your period. Just carry them dry and wet with water as you go and store alongside your used washable pants and cloth pads. Washable wipes make great replacements for toilet roll at home as well! SOOOOO much cleaner.
You shouldn’t clean the inside of your vagina as this can wash away healthy vaginal flora. Instead, your human reproductive system cleans itself by flushing out everything along with your period flow or vaginal discharge.
Yes, you can take a bath on your period, despite common misconceptions. Baths can really help with period cramps too!
Feminine hygiene products should be avoided. Feminine care products such as deodorants and scented wipes can cause vaginitis and upset your PH balance and may even be endocrine disrupting. There is no advantage to douches or special feminine washes for washing your vagina.
They can even have the opposite result causing an imbalance in your natural ph and good bacteria, leading to BV (bacterial vaginosis) or the fungal infection thrush. Please see your GP if you have unusual or thick smelly discharge.
The best product for intimate hygiene is plain old warm water!
It is safe and hygienic to swim during your period. Exercise can really help with period cramps and being weightless in water is great for your mental health. I daily dip in the sea all year round and there's no risk of sharks attacking even if you swim in the ocean!
If you don't want to or can't use a tampon or menstrual cup you can opt for period swimming costumes or menstrual bikini bottoms in the swimming pool. Menstrual swimwear works with water pressure to keep water out and your flow in so you can swim with confidence.
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As always, if you're unsure of what you need to make the switch to reusable sanitary products and period pads, please do drop the team a line or use the online chat function. The team all use the products themselves and just LOVE to chat pee poo and periods, all day long, nothing is TMI and we all love to overshare based on our own experiences...
About the Author: Kirstin Scriven is part of the Customer Experience team at Cheeky Wipes, which since 2008 has been selling the original reusable wipes kit. She is mum to 3 and loves the forest, the sea and the hills!
Along with the rest of our crack team, she spends most days talking about poo, pee and periods and loves a chance to overshare. The business was recognised with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2021, celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.