You may think you have a pretty good idea of how to clean your butt — after all, it’s been with you from the very start. But things can get a little messy back there from time to time. And with the rising popularity of bidets and Japanese toilets, it’s understandable to have questions about how to clean your butt the right way — and if there’s a chance that you may be doing it wrong.
Failure to clean yourself properly can raise your risk of developing a urinary tract infection, anal discomfort, and more, making this something you want to get down pat. So, what’s the right way to clean yourself down there? Doctors break it down.
How to Wipe Your Butt
You’ve probably heard this plenty of times since you were a kid, but it never hurts to repeat it. “The proper way to wipe is thoroughly from front to back,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD. Why? Wiping from back to front raises the risk that you’ll push fecal bacteria forward, where it could cause an infection.
You’ll want to grab toilet paper that’s ideally unscented and soft (otherwise you run the risk of irritation) and either fold or bunch it up before wiping from front to back, says urologist David Kaufman, MD, director of Central Park Urology, a division of Maiden Lane Medical.
“If bowel movements are particularly messy, take a shower and use a handheld shower head to directly clean the perineal region,” he says. That, of course, is provided you’re at home. Another option, if you find this is a regular issue for you, is to invest in a bidet, which basically shoots water at your rear to achieve the same thing.
“It just needs to be well-maintained and cleaned regularly because bacteria can get into the nozzle and it can cause infection if it comes in contact with the skin or enters the human body,” Dr. Wider says.
The final step, per Dr. Wider: “Wash your hands.” Not only does this help keep your hands clean, it lowers the risk you’ll spread fecal germs around to things you touch.
How to Clean Your Butt
Wiping after you go No.2 is important, but you also want to clean your backside on a regular basis.
You don’t need to go wild back there, but it is a good idea to cleanse the area when you’re in the shower, Dr. Wider says. “Gently washing the anal area with soap and water works,” she says. Keep in mind that this area is sensitive, and an unscented soap is best, if you have it handy.
Also, you want to be gentle when you suds up down there. “Don’t spray vigorously or you can spread bacteria,” Wider says. (Another pro tip: Make sure you don’t use the same wash cloth that you used on your butt on your face or other areas of your body—this raises your risk of a skin or eye infection.)
While you can let your shower or bath water simply run over the area to rinse it, Dr. Kaufman says that a handheld shower head can also help you get a targeted clean.
Do You Need to Use Wet Wipes?
It depends. Despite all the ads that frame wet wipes as the best way to get a good cleaning, doctors generally agree that these disposable cloths aren’t really a necessity. That said, there are a few situations where you might want to reach for these.
If you’re struggling with itchiness, redness, or irritation, fragrance-free wet wipes may help you get a gentler clean than you’d experience with regular toilet paper, Dr. Wider says. (Just make sure to steer clear of perfumed options, since these can raise your risk of irritation.)
Another time you might benefit from wet wipes? After a messy BM, Dr. Kaufman says.
Odds are, you’ve been wiping yourself just fine for years now. But, if you find that you’ve been struggling with anal irritation or a series of urinary tract infections that aren’t explained by anything else, it doesn’t hurt to check in with your doctor, just to make sure everything is OK down there.