When we think about sex, we often think about physical intimacy — but hygiene is just as important.
Sex hygiene refers to health-focused behaviours that people should do before, after and during sex. Ideally, we would all engage in the best sexual health practices possible.
“One of the top best practices is knowing what’s normal for your specific body,” said Samantha Bitty, a Toronto-based sex educator.
“Sex hygiene isn’t just about genitals and mouths; it’s about all the parts of our bodies.”
So how can you practice good sex hygiene? Here, five things you should keep in mind.
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Care for your emotional well-being
Sex hygiene isn’t just about physical health; it includes emotional health, too. Bitty says that looking after our emotional well-being can contribute to more positive sex outcomes, and help us develop a healthy relationship with sex.
“When people are fearful around sex, whether that’s the transmission of STIs or it’s pregnancy … anything we can do to navigate or mitigate those anxieties is going to contribute to our emotional sex hygiene in a really positive way,” she explained.
This means being tested often, communicating with sexual partners and making informed decisions about your relationships. It may also mean asking your healthcare provider any questions you have in order to develop a good understanding of sexual health.
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Clean sex toys
Whether you’re using a sex toy by yourself or with a partner, it’s important to clean them after every use, Bitty says. Fluid can build on toys, so it’s a good idea to wash them regularly.
Planned Parenthood points out that infections can spread if sex objects are shared and someone using the toy has an infection.
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“Maybe you pass out after you’ve used your vibrator, but you can always wash it the next morning.”
Depending on what the toy is made out of, you can either use soap or a special sex-toy cleaner. Certain products can even be washed in the dishwasher, but it’s best to read the toy’s packaging for proper care tips.
Washing hands is an important thing to keep in mind when it comes to any form of sexual activity. While you may get carried away in the moment, ensure your partner cleans their hands, too.
Bitty says that bacteria may be on hands, which can then get into the urethra, vagina, mouth or anus. You also want to clean under nails and trim them if they’re sharp.
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Safe sex can help prevent the transmission of STIs and pregnancy, and can be used for oral, anal and vaginal sex.
It’s also important to note that you should never go from anal sex to vaginal sex without changing a condom first and washing your genitals. Bacteria can travel from the anus to the vagina and cause an infection. (The same goes for fingers and sex toys.)
Get regular check-ups
Getting tested regularly for STIs is not only important for your health, but also for the health of others. Bitty says the stigma around STIs can often prevent people from being tested, but catching and treating STIs helps stop them from spreading and becoming more serious.
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Bitty says you should communicate with sexual partners and ask when their last check-up was.
“I often say that communication is the best method to help prevent the transmission of STIs because you can be tested, but if you’re not telling anyone what’s going on, you can’t make informed decisions,” she said.