Post-sex, you and your partner likely want to lounge in bed and bask in that sexual glow or just fall fast asleep. But immediately after sex is actually a critical moment for something highly unsexy. Yes, we’re talking about bacterial growth. (Yuck.)
Developing healthy hygiene habits after sex is important for keeping germs and infections at bay. So even if the last thing you want to do is leave the bed, start getting into the postcoital routine of washing up. Here’s a checklist of what you need to do.
1. Wash Your Hands
Even before you hop into bed, make sure your hands are clean, says acupuncturist Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics who frequently counsels clients about sexual health. You don’t want to touch someone with grimy paws — or be touched with icky hands either. After sex, give those hands another good scrubbing.
“Hands are bacteria magnets both before sex and during sex, which means you’re going to want to make sure you’re not transferring bacteria to your genital area during sex or from your genital area after sex,” Backe says. Can’t argue with that logic.
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2. Clean Up Down There
In addition to your hands, make sure you also give your genitals a wash. For men, Backe says that proper cleansing — especially underneath the foreskin — is essential. “Pull back the foreskin and wash the glans and inner skin with warm water and a mild soap. And be thorough,” he says. “Circumcised men should similarly be sure to scrub their genital area properly.”
As for the ladies, Dr. Ronald D. Blatt, obstetrician and chief surgeon and medical director of the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery, suggests dabbing the outer vaginal area with a washcloth with soap and water to stop bacteria from spreading. Too lazy for that? “At the minimum, splash the area with some warm water,” he says. “Then pat it dry.”
3. Avoid Fancy Lotions and Perfumes
Before hopping back into bed, you may be tempted to get a little too clean by spraying on something scented. Instead, just keep it simple with mild soap and water. “Harsh soaps with strong paerfumes can irritate the delicate skin and make it more susceptible to infection,” says sexuality educator Jules Purnell. (By the way, this suggestion also applies to sex products like lubes. It’s best for your body to stick with the unscented and unflavored stuff.)
Purnell adds that women should also skip the douche following sex. “Douching is not only bad for the pH balance of the vagina, but it can flush STIs into the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries,” she explains.
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4. Use the Bathroom
Peeing after sex has been recognized as one of the most effective ways to avoid a UTI, health and wellness expert Caleb Backe says, so it’s definitely worth getting out of bed and flushing out your urethra if you can. (While UTIs are more common with women, men can also get them.)
However, Dr. Blatt says that you don’t need to force it. “Waiting a little while until you have to go is OK,” he says. You don’t want to strain yourself: Just be sure to go before hitting the hay or going on with your day.
5. Swish Some Mouthwash
If you’ve engaged in any oral action, sexuality educator Jules Purnell suggests washing out your mouth. “Some recent studies indicate that using mouthwash after oral sex can help inhibit the spread of bacterial infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia,” she says. She also notes that you actually shouldn’t do any brushing beforehand. “Tiny cuts in the mouth can make it easier to contract STIs,” she adds. Good to know.
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6. Swap Your Undies
There’s nothing like putting on a nice pair of clean underwear after sex. But here’s another reason to grab a new set of drawers. “Particularly if your foreplay involves dry-humping, you’re not going to want to re-wear anything that contains bacteria or other sex-related fluids lest it cause an infection,” health and wellness expert Caleb Backe says.
While it could be tempting to pull on those wadded-up boyshorts or boxers when you’re absolutely spent, resist by putting a fresh pair on your nightstand so you can easily grab them post-sex.
7. Note Any Discomfort
After sex is a good time to check in with your body to make sure everything feels as it should. “Make a mental note of any discomfort that is abnormal or write it down,” Dr. Blatt says. “If the discomfort continues after more sexual intercourse, you will want to see your doctor to diagnose any problems that may exist. If the discomfort is not tolerable, of course, call your doctor immediately.”
This is the best time to take a body scan because you may not remember the physical sensations later or where exactly you felt pain. Paying attention now could mean catching something important early on and getting any necessary treatment sooner.
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8. Soap Up Your Accessories
If you used lubrication or any toys during sex, you’ll also want to clean those in order to prevent any germs from spreading. “Cleaning toys and lube bottles with warm water and soap is a perfectly fine line of defense in most circumstances,” sexuality educator Jules Purnell says. “Many silicone toys can be boiled or popped in the top rack of the dishwasher — just be sure to check the manufacturer specifications so you don’t melt your expensive toy.” She adds that some toys with a motor may not be waterproof, so be careful not to submerge these toys completely when cleaning.
9. Change Your Sheets
Experts agree that sheets should be changed after every sexual encounter — particularly if any bodily fluids got on them. “The best rule of thumb is wash them every time if possible,” Dr. Blatt says. “Washing your sheets will help get rid of any bacteria if sex was messy, especially with anal. Period sex can also be a reason to strip the bed after stripping down,” he adds
But all that laundry may sound like a lot of work. “If you’re feeling abnormally lazy — or don’t want to get stains on your nice sheets or bedspread — you can get a specific ‘sex sheet’ you lay on top of your other sheets,” Purnell suggests. Another option she recommends is to get medical disposable pads that you can lay down on the bed and toss afterward.
What Do YOU Think?
What healthy habits do you practice after sex? How important is it to clean up afterward? What do you like to do after sex? Let us know in the comments!
Journalist Natasha Burton has written for Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Maxim, Cosmopolitan.com, and WomansDay.com, among others. The author of "101 Quizzes for Couples" and "The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags," she is regularly called on as a relationship expert by various media outlets around the world.