Good Sexual Hygiene Habits for Before, During, and After Sex

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Sex may be messy. So, it’s important to know good sexual hygiene habits that can help keep you in tip-top intimate shape. 

Clean is Good

Sex often includes bodily fluids, sweat, and saliva. Transferring intimate liquids between partners has the risk of transmitting infections. Sharing sex toys may also lead hygienic concerns.

Studies have found a correlation between hygiene and health with regards to sexuality. Research found hygiene can be an expression of sexual values and that women in particular use a variety of practices to achieve a desired vaginal condition in preparation for sexual activities.

Overall, healthcare recommendations suggest good hygiene lowers a person’s risk for diseases and illnesses commonly spread through viruses and bacteria. A couple of examples of the health benefits of cleanliness are—flossing teeth to decrease the risk of gum disease and removing sweaty socks after exercise to avoid athlete’s foot.  

Interestingly, a study found household cleaning may be the key to great sex, which shows how being clean in your external and personal environments may factor into satisfying sex play. 

Pre-Sex Prep 

There are a few best-practices to try prior to having sex in order to help you have a better, healthier experience.

It’s a good idea to wash before any type of penetrative sex. Because genital skin is incredibly sensitive, I recommend using a mild, unscented soap on these areas. While washing won’t prevent the spread of infections, it may be helpful in making you feel more confident and prepared. And for those men who are uncircumcised, it’s important to clean under the foreskin as well. 

Genital skin is also susceptible to dehydration, which may lead to sensitivity, itchiness, and quite possibly dry, painful sex. Dehydration has also been linked to erectile dysfunction. For these reasons, it’s essential to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. 

Another recommendation is to change underwear on a daily basis to help avoid infections, irritation, and odor. Cotton is a great breathable material, which gives bacteria less opportunity to grow.

Be aware of your body and any possible changes. This means making it a habit to visibly check for redness, bumps, or anything that looks out of the ordinary and may be worth bringing to the attention of your physician. 

Cleaning your sex toys is an important practice. I recommend properly and thoroughly cleaning pleasure products before and after each use with cleaners specifically made for cleansing sex toys. Ensure the toy is completely dry before storing in an individual storage container. 

Dr. Sunny Tip: I suggest storing sex toys individually in clean cotton socks, which will discourage bacterial growth. 

While a report by the World Health Organization found most people believe douching protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), this is not the case. Douching should be considered for hygiene and not for infection prevention purposes.

Throughout the world women have unique intimate care rituals. Studies found that to maintain vaginal health and well-being, women in Indonesia, Thailand, Mozambique, and South Africa reported using specific soaps, tonics, and methods to clean and prepare for sex. This research found that women use vaginal cleanliness practices to achieve their desired personal grooming, sexual enhancement, and intimate health and wellness goals. Women’s primary objectives were cleanliness and condition of their vaginas using folk medicine, household ingredients, and traditional pharmaceuticals in order to better enjoy sex with their partners. 

Cleanliness + Sex

When it comes to sex and safety, my number one rule is never switch from anal to vaginal intercourse, which could introduce unhealthy bacteria into the sensitive vagina. This pertains to oral sex as well—moving from analingus to vaginal play is not recommended.

This is also a good rule for sex toy usage.  Consider placing a condom over toys during penetration play. This way condoms can be removed and replaced when moving between anal, oral, and vaginal areas. 

Plus, I recommend using liberal amounts of top-quality lubricant. While you may not think this relates to cleanliness, it actually does since every time a woman has penetrative sex there is the possibility for micro-tears. Micro-tears have a tendency to happen during sex when the vagina isn’t properly lubricated and these tiny openings can make it easier for bacteria to enter the body and possibly cause infections. Using plenty of lubrication can help prevent micro-tears

Après Sex 

It can be helpful after sex to clean your genitals to eliminate as much bacteria as possible. Keep in mind, the vagina is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions, but external washing is also helpful. 

It’s also a good idea to put on a pair of clean, dry, breathable underwear.  As previously mentioned, cotton is an ideal material that is soft, absorbent, and allows air to flow through to help prevent the growth of bacteria in the genital area. Synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester, may trigger sweating and chafing. 

If you experience urinary tract infections (UTIs) that are commonly associated with sex, it’s a good idea to contact and discuss options for medication or supplements with your physician. Urinating after sex, while won’t prevent an infection, but will help flush bacteria out of the urethra. 

Routine check-ups can help keep you sexually healthy. Make sure you’re honest with your doctor about your sexual history and any concerns you may have. Annual appointments are recommended even if there are no visual symptoms. 

Do you have an intimate healthcare routine? Do you practice hygiene habits for your sex life? I would love to hear from you! Have a question about sex or sex toys? Let me know. I am here to help.

Dr. Sunny does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.


  • Hi @Grandma,

    I’m so happy for your question. It’s actually the subject of one of my upcoming articles!

    While there are mainstream vaginal moisturizers, such as Replens, many of them have a side effect of a residue or discharge after the initial use. This brown, spongy discharge may make some users feel uncomfortable.

    But there are other options.

    According to research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, vaginal moisturizers can help rehydrate dry mucosal tissue by mimicking natural vaginal secretions.

    Satin Glycerine-Free Natural Lubricant is formulated for mature women and has a formulation that can be used as a vaginal moisturizer to combat intimate dryness. (@Grandma, I use this myself.)

    System JO’s RENEW Vaginal Moisturizer is another excellent choice –

    One last word of advice @Grandma, drinking plenty of water can help keep all the tissues of the body better hydrated as well.

    I hope this helps.

    Dr. Sunny

    Dr. Sunny
  • You mentioned dryness in your article. Is there a moisturizer for dryness? Or perhaps a moisturizing lubricant?

  • Hello @Chummy,

    Excellent question! Let’s start with the gag reflex.

    There is a medically advocated way to reduce or eliminate a gag reflex. This is by getting your soft palate accustomed to being touched. In order to do this, a soft toothbrush is touched on your tongue until the area is reached that makes a gagging feeling start. That means the toothbrush has gone too far. But this is also the area that needs some “conditioning”.

    Each day, softly brush this area of the tongue for about 15 seconds. This can be repeated until the tongue is desensitized. Research shows that it normally takes about one month for this process to have a noticeable effect.

    Another option to try is a trick used by dentist offices. Research by the American Dental Association has shown that a gag reflex can be relaxed by distracting your brain. This study had people with gag reflexes form a fist with their right hands and squeezing their left thumb inside this fist. This move seems to disable the gag reflex.

    For an almost instant effect @Chummy, you may want to consider trying a throat numbing spray, such as Deeply Love You Throat Relaxing Spray –

    How to give a splendid and satisfying oral sex experience is a much longer conversation @Chummy – so I’ve decided to make this topic the subject of one of my April articles! Please check back in April to learn more.

    Dr. Sunny

    Dr. Sunny
  • How do I give a splendid BJ and not gag?

  • Hello @Jbjr,

    Thank you for your question. It sounds like you may be experiencing premature ejaculation. This can be a common occurrence depending on what is going on in a person’s life and can also be a byproduct of some types of medication.

    There is a product that I recommend to help extend erection time and that is a simple cock ring.

    Cock rings, also called erection rings and penis rings, are made to help restrict blood flow from leaving an erect penis and aim to help delay ejaculation.

    For non-vibration, a stretchy round version for beginners should be considered –

    I also have to share that there are vibrating cock rings that may make sex play more enjoyable for your partner as well. Check out this PinkCherry Happy Penis vibrating ring here – This can be used with or without vibration with the flip of a switch.

    Once an erection is attained, the erection ring is placed around the base of the penis. To avoid friction, Medical News Today recommends adding lubricant to the cock ring. Cock rings should not be worn for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

    Additionally, adding a second cock ring around the scrotum may help delay ejaculation even further.

    Pay attention to your body and its responses. And again, please note that cock rings should not be worn for longer than 20 minutes at a time and there should be a minimum of an hour between uses.

    Dr. Sunny

    Dr. Sunny
  • How can i prolonge ejaculation? I seem to cum very fast no matter what sexual activity I am doing. Thanks


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Dr. Sunny does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.