It’s often assumed that men and boys instinctively understand how to keep their genitals clean or they had someone explain good hygiene to them when they were growing up. That’s not always the case, so it helps to get a refresher on the dos and don’ts of washing downstairs. Here’s what you need to know about how to clean your penis and the signs your hygiene habits need some work.
So, how do you wash your penis?
You should wash your penis every day with warm water. If you do want to use soap, choose a low irritant option designed for sensitive skin. Avoid colognes, deodorants, body washes, lotions or moisturisers that contain alcohol and perfumes.
How do you clean your foreskin?
If you have a foreskin, keeping it clean will help prevent inflammation or infection. When washing, gently pull back your foreskin and rinse the head of your penis and underneath the foreskin.
The foreskin should not be pulled back using force as this can cause injury and sometimes scarring, which can lead to further complications.
When it’s time to dry off, retract the foreskin again so you can gently dry the head of the penis with a towel. Then pull the foreskin forward to its normal position.
Read more: Your guide to foreskin pain and problems
What is smegma and how do you get rid of it?
Smegma is a substance made up of dead skin cells and oily secretions that looks like thick, whitish discharge, and it can collect under the foreskin in uncircumcised men. This is natural, but if too much builds up it can produce a pretty unpleasant smell and make it difficult to pull the foreskin back, so it’s important to keep on top of cleaning it.
Excess smegma also encourages the growth of bacteria, which can lead to infections. If the smegma has hardened, you might not be able to pull your foreskin back all the way. Don’t force it — this can cause a tear that could lead to infection. Wash normally and avoid harsh scrubbing.
Other hygiene tips
- Don’t forget to clean the base of your penis and the scrotum — this is a good time to do a quick Testicular Self Examination (TSE) to check for any changes to the area
- Change your underwear after exercising
- If you're sexually active, always give yourself a good clean after having sex.
What to watch out for
If you notice itchiness, pain, tenderness, discharge or a rash around the head of your penis, it could be balanitis — a common infection that can happen when you don’t keep the inside of your foreskin clean. Phimosis is another common problem that can result from poor hygiene, which can cause constriction of the foreskin, making it difficult to pull back. If you notice any changes to your penis, your scrotum or its contents, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.