If you have a vagina, you may have heard that wiping from front-to-back is the best technique when cleaning up after using the bathroom. It might even be something you’ve practiced for as long as you’ve been sitting on the toilet. Wiping from front-to-back helps keep you and your vagina healthy.
According to Tamika K. Cross, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn based in Houston, it has to do with preventing the transfer of bacteria living in the urinary tract, vagina, and around the anus.
“I think it’s important to know that we all have bacteria in our body,” Dr. Cross explained. “There’s good bacteria and bad bacteria. The bacteria that lives in the vagina is not the same bacteria that’s in your bladder or urinary tract, and it’s not the same bacteria that is in your rectum or around the anus.”
When you wipe back to front (a method that is not recommended), you could possibly move bacteria situated around the anus to the vagina or urethra, which the Mayo Clinic explains could contribute toward vaginal infections and urinary infections, like UTIs.
This is why front-to-back wiping is so commonly stressed.
Of course, there are many other hygienic rules to follow when it comes to maintaining good vaginal health, including wearing breathable underwear. It’s also important to remember the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, so there’s generally nothing you need to do to clean that internal area. As for bathing and cleansing the vulva, some experts note that you generally only need warm water or warm water and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soap.
If you have any questions about wiping — or vaginal hygiene in general — never hesitate to reach out to your doctor for clarifications and advice.