So Fresh and So Clean

Santa Maria Novella Intimate Wash
Organyc Natural Intimate Wash
Calla Lilies on Red, 1929
Light Iris, 1924
Black Iris III, 1926
Jack In the Pulpit, 1930
Black Iris, 1926
Red Canna, 1924

I am writing this article specifically because it has never occurred to me to sit down next to another woman and go “Hey gurrrrrl! What soothing essential oils are you swabbing your labia majora with these days?” In fact, my general philosophy is that douches... are douche-y (see: this patronizing, racist Summer’s Eve ad). Thus far, I have gone about my business without a cervix redolent of mulling spices or rainstorms or freshly laundered towels, and have yet to receive complaints about perceived lack of ambiance.

So you might say I was highly skeptical when several women we interviewed brought up their fondness for intimate wash. Lady bits rinses are, of course, different than douches in that you don't put them inside you and they're not made of Lysol. But the feminine hygiene industry also has a history of making women feel broken in order to sell questionable products (not douching will destroy your life, apparently), and I prefer to keep my reproductive organs chemical-burn-free.

However, before I climbed any higher onto my tiny sex-positive soapbox or started chucking Susan B. Anthony commemorative coins and copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves at my frightened coworkers, I thought it would be prudent to see what, exactly, people were talking about. And thus began an intellectual, physical, and emotional journey. A Vagina (Inner) Monologue, if you will.

The first thing I realized upon further consideration—TMI, as is this entire story—is that I, personally, am profoundly grateful when individuals requesting a certain something that rhymes with “schmowjob” try to make administering said “schmowjob” a pleasant experience by keeping the affected area clean and free of debris. So similar female politesse in such matters, I reasoned, would not be 100% evil.

The second thing I realized was that I was actually gonna have to try the stuff in order to write this damn post. But as Ms. Frizzle, Magic School Bus driver and arch mage (why, again, was a wizard teaching science?) always said, "Take chances! Make mistakes! Make...even more mistakes!!" Once I'd secured the actual rinses, though, the mechanics were still a little vague. I mean, they're liquids, but what's the preferred delivery method—hand towel? That's a great way to be super disrespectful to whatever sweet, elderly relative gave them to you as a graduation gift. Cotton pads, maybe? I am open to suggestions, dear reader. Oddly, I couldn't get anyone on the record for this piece, so I guess we'll never know what substrates various global tastemakers use to wipe down their external genitalia.

As a result, I have to nominate Sweet Spot Wipes as best all-around, simply because they do not confuse me. They are towelettes, come in little individual packets, and should have a radio ad that's like, "Radio announcer: Are you about to get some? Person: WHEEEEEE! Announcer: When was the last time you showered? Person: ... Announcer: Sweet Spot! They're like Mentos for your labia." These will also give you immediate street cred because they suggest you have crazy spontaneous trysts in real life, probably with male models named Damien or Sven, as opposed to spending long, torrid nights with Catfish reruns and Tinder.

I've also heard that Santa Maria Novella Intimate Wash is a popular one among ladies in the know. Rachel Antonoff once very wisely noted that you cannot use Irish Spring soap in your no-fly zone because horrible, terrible, no good, very bad things will happen. Which is why something like Santa Maria exists. It has a low pH, so it's supposed to be antimicrobial and gentle, and if you're the sort of person who likes having separate products for literally.every.part. of her showering/bathing ritual, it is probably just delightful.

I even managed to find an all-natural version from Organyc, for next-level crunchies who have no qualms about putting cottonseed oil next to and around areas responsible for The Miracle of Life™.

Really, though, with all these products you have to ask what you're looking for and why. Also maybe why you're not just using Cetaphil and Wet Wipes. Liberated chicks in the '70s were doing yogurt masque vajacials, Gen X had grunge bush; I would say that perhaps baby wash for your baby maker is just the vaginal equivalent for Millenials, except that I hate the word "Millenials."

Regardless, as long as you're not putting anything up there—again, douching is terrible—using one of the cleansers in question doesn't merit getting your Feminism Club card cancelled, nor are they an anti-woman plot by The Man as far as I can tell. So feel free to, ya know, do what you gotta do.

—Lacey Gattis

[1-3] Photos by Mathea Millman, [4-9] Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Ailyn Koay

    i agree about the douche part, not good. but how did the wipes go?

    • ITGLacey

      They're good! One girl we interviewed takes them with her literally everywhere because they're so convenient & not irritating. The Basil Grapefruit ones smell kinda like Jo Malone Basil Mandarin #ProTip

      • Guest

        Basil Grapefruit?? Yeats was right about that "crazy salad!"

  • Holly

    I really enjoyed your writing style. Great humor! It's a great atest to the writers at ITG that I'm willing to click on an article about vagina washes, just because I know I'll enjoy reading it.

    • maria

      Too right

  • le cose + bellissime

    Hey have you tried Femfresh? cheap, easily available (I always buy it at Superdrug), not aggressive.. Actually i thought it was the only one sold in UK drugstores !

  • Lydia

    Oh God, thinking of Irish Spring in this context makes me cringe!

  • Guest

    two words - unscented baby wipes.

    • Guest

      whoops, make that three words.

  • The Fashion Informer

    This is the funniest article I've read in a long time. Thanks for making me nearly spit my tea out through my nose. (Hey, maybe we can patent that as a new kind of nasal beauty wash! Herbal tea only, of course. I'll call Origins and Tata Harper, stat.)

  • Katy

    You're really only supposed to run some water over your vagina in the shower/bath (it is a self-cleaning system with a delicate pH level unique to each woman), but I don't see much harm in using wipes. Especially since you should be using baby wipes after you poop 'cause your shits gonna stink if ya don't.

  • Lola

    Lactacyd hands down best find in Scandinavian drugstore

  • Carlene Vitale

    I snort laughed at "debris"

  • Balsam Elajouz

    I loved this article! Super funny, and I am one of those product-crazy lassies you referred to who have a hygiene/beauty routine involving a routine for just about every body part :P

  • MyVagSmellsFine

    The one and only time I was using a feminine hygiene wash (which I got sent to review, as a journalist) is also the one and only time I got thrush. My gynae said not to use any products - warm water in the shower is just fine, so that's what I do. It has not been a problem for any of my partners. All these special products are just designed to make us feel like there's yet another part of our bodies to "fix" so we will keep buying useless crap.

  • Guest

    Ivory soap. Plain white washcloth. Bidet. End of story. (Well, unless there's no bidet -- how very uncivilized -- in which case Ivory soap, plain white washcloth, and whatever water source is available.

  • Katie

    The phrase "arch mage" is hilarious. You're a great writer!

    I clicked on this article because I've never fully understood feminie hygiene washes. Maybe I'm lucky in that I've never had particularly smelly lady parts, but it seems like pure nonsense... Trying to sell women yet one more unnecessary product masquerading as an essential item. Remember that Dove deodorant (for women, of course) that promised to resolve the apparently ubiquitous and confidence-defeating issue of underarm discoloration? If it ain't broke...

  • Ooops

    Stay away from anything with peppermint oil, such as Dr Bonners! Yikes

    • ITGLacey


  • Alexandra

    I loved this article, hilarious!! I'm interested to know if you felt the washes were more effective or worth while than, say, normal soap (NOT Irish Spring)? Like perhaps did your friend who asks you for things that rhyme with "shmojob" offer you things that rhyme with (well F, what rhymes with that? but I think you get the picture) many hours after your last shower and exclaim, "my your lady bits smell glorious today, my dear!" or something of that nature? Because only then am I really interested. I know, personal question, but really, see topic above.

    • ITGLacey

      I'm a disembodied internet presence & clearly would know nothing about that, but... YEP. Worked like a charm.

  • Erin Lukas

    You made me enjoy reading about vagina washes... a bit too much.

  • Guest

    The best practices are to wash with plain water in the shower twice daily and use unscented baby wipes after using the bathroom ( great during your period and on your bottom too, after you poo ). No need for all the fancy stuff that can cause more harm than good. That area is meant to naturally take care of itself with simple maintenance.

    • Laura

      I gotta know, who carries around unscented baby wipes with them all of the time, everywhere? I didn't know I was supposed to be doing this and no one I know does this either. Hmmmmm.

  • Ainsley Hellrud

    Hilarious AND informative.

  • E


    Hunt this down: Lactacyd Feminine Wash. Best.

  • Loulou

    Which isle has the wipe down penis clothes for men "about to get some"? Coming down (however tentatively) on the side of vagina washes to improve smell (none of these products improve vaginal health) is antifeminist in this woman's book.

  • KitKat

    How could you not mention Saforelle? It's like those Sweet Spot wipes, but French so you know it's more sophisticated.

  • Arosebyanyothername

    Why is wanting to be clean antifem? What gene did these people inherit that makes them free of odour? Seriously...

  • The Sentimentalist

    This is some very funny writing about vaginas. I think all natural is best but I found this to be entertaining nonetheless!

  • Sotengelen

    Douching? I don't think we do that here in the cold north...

  • Tania

    You should put soap only on the skin that has hair on it.. For the rest: clear water only and please please nothing inside, never ever. Many infections come from excessive wash. Crazy to take antibiotics because of too much cleaning, right?
    Doctor speaking!

    • Mia003

      What about the inner labia? It can get sweat and bacteria on the inside