You are here

Why You Shouldn't Use Soap on Your Private Parts

Over the years, I have found that many people aren't aware that soap should not be used to clean the vaginal opening, the tip of the penis (urethral opening), or the anal sphincter.

Regularly applying soap to these areas can cause the mucosal lining in these areas to become dry and unhealthy. A chronically dry mucosal lining can lead to a number of uncomfortable health conditions, such as anal fissures, lichen sclerosus, chronic inflammation, and a tendency to experience infections.

If you use soap to clean your body, you should limit its contact to your skin. Your skin is lined with sebaceous glands that secrete an oily substance called sebum, which serves to keep your skin waterproof and resistant to infection by undesirable microorganisms.

Typically, the presence of sebum prevents soap from drying out skin to a point where significant health challenges can arise. Still, unless you work with grease and oil, it's best to use soap sparingly - just enough to remove objectionable odors and to feel clean and refreshed.

The mucosal linings of the vaginal opening, the penile opening, and the anal sphincter don't secrete sebum to offer protection against the drying effects of soap. Actually, the labia minora does contain some sebaceous glands, but in most women, there aren't nearly enough sebaceous glands in this region to keep the vaginal opening healthy if regularly washed with soap.

So how do you wash the vaginal opening, the penile opening, and the anal sphincter? Ideally, with warm or hot water. And when more intense cleaning is desired, you can use warm or hot salt water.

I've worked with enough people who have experienced health challenges from using soap in the private areas to know that this advice is worth heeding. Please share this information with family and friends, as my experiences have led me to believe that most people aren't aware of this issue.

Addendum on November 9, 2008:

This health tip is especially important for parents whose children are still young enough to require help with bathing. I've encountered a number of cases where regular use of soap on the mucosal linings in a child's private areas has created chronic irritation, almost always with the parent(s)and child involved being unaware of this connection.

In my opinion, avoiding soap when cleaning a child's private areas is essential guidance that all new parents should receive, as infants and some toddlers can't clearly signal discomfort in these areas, and in many such cases, I suspect that the source of the child's discomfort is never identified.

Addendum on October 6, 2009:

From Our Mailbag:

Good morning Dr. Kim,

One quick question with respect to Dr. Ohhira's Probiotic Soap - In the back of my mind when I was reading (about it) was your mention in an article some time back about avoiding the use of soaps on private parts, so my question is:

Can this soap be used over the ENTIRE body (from head to toe) without exception? I would appreciate clarification on this.

Susan S.

Dear Susan,

Though Dr. Ohhira's probiotic soap is more mild than the vast majority of commercial bar soaps on the market, I still don't recommend using it regularly on the anal sphincter area or so that it comes into regular contact with the inner walls of the vagina or the urethra in males and females.

(The urethra is the tube through which urine exits the body.)

These areas have specialized mucosal linings that shouldn't be dried out with any type of soap - warm or hot water is all that should be used in these areas.

The rest of one's private areas can be washed with soap without ill effects. It's the mucosal lining that is inside of the areas mentioned above that should be protected.

If the anal sphincter is washed with a mild soap, then one can apply some natural moisturizer to this area right after washing - coconut oil or something similar works well for this purpose. In fact, for clients who are suffering with an anal fissure, I regularly recommend application of coconut oil to the anal sphincter three or more times a day.

I hope this helps.

Ben Kim


Join more than 80,000 readers worldwide who receive Dr. Ben Kim's free newsletter

Receive simple suggestions to measurably improve your health and mobility, plus alerts on specials and giveaways at our catalogue

Please Rate This

Your rating: None Average: 4.4 (240 votes)
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Related Posts



I mainly do not use soap down there because I am Extremely prone to yeast infections. And I have not noticed any offensive smells in this area since doing this, and I wear alot of tight fitting stretchy pants to work and around the house. And I also cleans 2X per day, and after I work out 5 days per week.

This is a very good article and I wish all parents of babies and children would read it. Excessive washing of the penis of male babies & small children results in severe irritation which is subsequently cured by...wait for it...circumcision!

Oh, if only all parents had access to Dr. Kim's common sense approaches!

Exactly right here.
So many parents in the U.S are uneducated on foreskin. All you've got to do to an infant's foreskin is wipe clean with a baby wipe or wet cloth. Easy. Circumcision is so unecessary, especially since so many parents use it as a shortcut to avoid having to 'pull back the foreskin', which is never needed in the first place and is actually very damaging to the infant's penis.

When I was born in a hospital, my Dad, who had assisted his father, a physician, to deliver my earlier siblings, did not know that hospitals no longer allowed fathers to be present in delivery rooms.
He was threatened by two large orderlies (what male nurse aides used to be called) and was escorted out.
He told me that being circumcised, at the age of 12, was the worst pain that he ever experienced.
Both he and my mother told me that they did not give permission for me to be assaulted and brutalized. It apparently was standard practice then.
The obstetrician was president of the state medical association.

Over-washing and wearing tight fitting clothing can cause more infections. The vagania has good bacteria that fight off the bad bacteria and over-washing will get rid of them faster. A good probiotic will help restore good bacteria, putting good quality yogurt down there works too.

I agree I had some problems with itching and dryness for months and one dab of yogurt that I used 2 times gave immediate relief and I have not had any further issues for a while now. Cheaper and better for you than over the counter products.

I just had surgery for a rectocele. It was repaired ten days ago, I'm doing well. Unfortunately I managed to get a UTI three days after surgery and have been on antibiotics 8 days now. two days to go! When I went to see my fabulous colo/rectal surgeon, she said I was doing well. I know this question was not in her department, but I asked her if she had any idea of how I could prevent these frequent UTI's, I get, two or three a year. She said, "Are you overly clean down there?" My husband was also in the office and he said, "is she ever! We have a bidet and she washes with soap and water a lot!" (My thinking was I only used a quart of soap, better use a gallon, kill those nasty e coli!) The surgeon said, "STOP!!" No soap. No soap ever!! I said "for the rest of my life?" She said "yes!" Never, ever use soap. I asked her about the anal area!! "No soap there either! Only water. Water will clean you fine!!" I have had the hardest time not using it, but I have been following her advice 3 days now. Seems so strange. Happy to see this article, this is helpful.
Since I can't use it "down there!" I have also scrubbed in the shower with just water on the rest of my body.
So, do you really think this will help me keep from getting the UTI's? Incidentally she put me on very powerful probiotics. I started to take them yesterday, but see that I should wait until I am finished with the antibiotic. At $49.95 a bottle of 60, don't want to waste them. Thanks!

Arlene, would you mind giving the name of the probiotic your doctor suggested? Thanks

Sorry it took me so long, didn't see your question until just now.
She suggested VSL#3, high potency probiotic Medical Food, must be used under medial supervision according to the package. However, you don't need a prescription for it!
I ordered it from my Walgreen's pharmacist, they had to order it and it must be refrigerated. They don't keep it in stock for that reason.
a packet contains 450 billion live lactic acid bacteria. It comes in capsules as well as caplets.

I don't know if it will help my frequent UTI's or not, I am hopeful. I just don't get why some women get these all the time.

My sister-in-law suffered from frequent UTI's. After many years of suffering with this, she finally found that she really has Interstitial Cystitis.

"IC can be easily confused with many different bladder diseases, such as a UTI, because the symptoms of frequency, urgency and/or pain are common to most bladder conditions. In fact, many IC patients and/or their physicians may mistakenly assume that they have recurring bladder infections despite the fact that their urine cultures are usually negative."

If you suffer from frequent UTI's, you may want to ask your doctor about the possibility of having IC.

I thought I had that, but nope it was cause by soap, made my urethra become inflamed ,with UTIs symptoms but no infection detected,but then sometimes turn into infection due to the skin being irritated by the soap. I suffered on and off for years. Obgyn/ urologist no help. I then suffered for 6 months with uti symptoms ob tested me for everything, came back negative. She told me to use dove soap. Tried it didn’t help. I decided to use no soap. That was the ticket, after about a week all symptoms went away, I no longer suffer, Thank the Lord.

Hi Arlene, thanks for sharing. I have recurrent irritation in the anus and I have been using soap to wash that part of my body for more than 15 years. I feel I won't be able to give up to the soap washing, would you think that instead of washing with soap, I wash with coconut oil, it will help to clean well that part and moisturize it too?

I suffer from irritation of anus and use coconut oil (organic-) and it works fine. Soap is an irritant used in enemas years ago!

Hi. I just want to ask a question about that. Are you cleaning with warm water or water that is more hot then warm..? Are you rinsing the area or cleaning throughly? Wouldn't you sweat more when working out... So how can the area be really clean?

In addition avoiding soap, fabric softener, either liquid or dryer sheets even if they are perfume or dye free, can be very irritating. I always launder mine and my daughters undergarments separately so they don't get mixed in with things that do get dryer sheets. If you have unexplained irritations, this could be something to look at as well.

My foreskin and glands get red if I haven't washed in a day or so and to keep from using soaps I have tried a few no-rinse cleansers and some seem to help keep my glands and foreskin clean. The best is like a cleansing cream but it isn't a brand I can find in shops anywhere. I was on vacation when I bought it. I tried Baby Magic No Rinse foam but it isn't as effective in getting rid of the reddness. Cetaphil seems to be the least effective one I have tried.

Surprised that a bidet/istinjah has never been recommended. In Europe/Middle East, that means thoroughly rinsing ones privates with water after urinating and/or defecating, then wiping dry. In America, many Europeans and Muslims keep small spay bottles of water in their toilets because of the lack of bidet systems. Some install portable bidets into their toilets.

If you want to be clean, use some type of mild soap on all body parts along with a wash cloth. The mild abrasion of the soap and cotton cloth help remove dead skin, i.e. dirt. Washing alone with a little soapy scrubbie will referesh you, but will not get off the dirt. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Gently apply a little organic oil (olive, argan, jojoba, Hot Six) of your choice to the lady and man parts if you find your skin gets very dry.

You will see an amazing difference in your health and personal comfort if you follow this very simple hygiene rule.

For 30 years or more, I had frequent bladder infections about every 6 weeks, always on antibiotics. Three years ago I read about D-Mannose, which is concentrated cranberry powder I read. I use 1/3 tsp. per day in a glass of water, it has no taste at all, and is very reasonable in cost. I get it a health food store or online. I buy the pure powder, with no other ingredients, but the D-Mannose. It has been over three years since I had an infection. My friends use it just when they have an infection. I use it as a precaution.

Many pediatricians in America still prescribe circumcision for UTIs in boys rather than tell the parent to stop using soap on his penis. They also prescribed circumcision for preputial adhesion, which is a normal condition of boys under about 18 years old. Many parents think that the prepuce must be slid back for cleaning under it, so the physician encourages circumcision to "treat" adhesion.
Jews are gradually rejecting circumcision, especially radical circ. The ancient "circumcision" (mûl) actually was a shortening of the prepuce, not total removal. Only the loose part that projects past the tip of the flaccid penis' glans was removed.

Is is helpful to rinse urine off vulva after urination for chronic inflamed vulva?

I'm sorry, this isn't my area of expertise. I would imagine that a thorough cleaning with warm or hot water once a day would be enough to ensure that cleanliness is not a root issue with a chronically inflamed vulva. I hope that you are able to find help from someone who knows more about this issue.

I didn't see anyone addressing the question of bubble baths. Is the human anatomy sufficient to keep the soap in the water away from these parts you are so concerned with?

I have the same view of bubble baths, Michael. I think that the objective should be to avoid regular heavy use of soap and soap-like products on mucosal linings. Occasional use as needed, say, 2 or 3 times a week, can likely be tolerated by most people. Ultimately, I encourage everyone to honor the feedback that their bodies give them, and to make choices accordingly.

Is it safe to use a soap-substitute like aqueous cream on the private parts?

I think when deemed necessary for cleaning, yes, moderate use should be fine. And even a plain soap can be used here and there when truly needed for cleaning that isn't well accomplished by hot water alone.