Anal sex is a common sexual practice across genders and sexualities. Cleaning up before and after anal sex can help all parties feel more comfortable and less inhibited. It may also prevent the spread of infection.

Anal sex is a sexual practice that involves inserting the penis, fingers, or another object, such as a vibrator, into the anus for sexual pleasure.

A 2007 study found that a third of both males and females reported having anal sex. A 2009 study suggests that 19–32% of women have had anal sex in the past 6–12 months.

Although anal sex is a relatively common sexual activity, it is important that people are aware of the best practices for anal sex and how to reduce the risk of infection.

However, the best way to prevent infection is to use a condom.

This article discusses how to clean the anus before and after sex and how to prevent infection.

A pile of bed sheets on a bed. A person is preparing to clean the bed sheets after having anal sex.Share on Pinterest
Image credit: Maria F. Gonzalez / EyeEm / Getty Images.

Some people may choose to clean their anus in the shower immediately before anal sex. They may also consider wiping the rectum with wet wipes to ensure there is no stray fecal matter.

A high-fiber diet can help keep stools firm and regular. This helps keep the anus clean and reduces the risk of an encounter with poop during anal sex.

In most instances, this should be all that a person needs to do.

Douching

However, some people may also consider anal douching. This involves inserting water into the rectum and anus to clean them, which can help anal sex feel more comfortable.

Not everyone agrees that douching is a good idea because it can damage the lining of the rectum, cause bowel movement issues, and increase infection risk.

Although douching does reduce the risk of encountering feces and the bacteria it harbors during sex, it does not reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection STI.

It is also essential to use the correct liquid, such as saline solution, although it is OK to use tap water for douching from time to time. Always use lukewarm water, as hot water can also cause damage.

Enema

Some people may prefer an enema. This also cleans the rectum and empties the bowels but involves inserting liquid into the large intestine. Typically, doctors prescribe enemas for specific medical conditions.

However, home enema kits are available. Always follow the instructions carefully. Do not add any solutions to the kit or force more water into the rectum than recommended. Use lukewarm tap water or a saline solution that comes with the enema kit.

A 2014 article also highlights the concern that an enema may increase the risk of infection. However, it also recommends the development of a non-damaging enema for use in anal sex.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anal sex presents the highest risk of contracting and transmitting HIV and AIDS if either partner has HIV, and they do not use a condom.

The receptive person might be at risk because the rectum’s lining is very thin, which means HIV can enter. The insertive partner may also be at risk because HIV can enter the body through the urethra or cuts or scrapes on the penis.

Always use a condom when practicing anal sex.

Anal sex without a condom may also spread other infections, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, and giardiasis.

Cleaning up before and after anal sex will not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It may, however, reduce exposure to dangerous bacteria and some parasites.

Feeling clean before anal sex can also help all parties relax and enjoy the experience.

Cleaning the penis will not prevent the spread of infections. However, cleaning sex toys and other penetrative objects can reduce the risk of spreading certain bacteria.

While some sex educators indicate that cleaning sex toys might slow the spread of infection when a person uses the same sex toys with multiple partners, some research undermines this claim.

A 2014 study followed women with vaginal human papillomavirus HPV who used a sex toy and cleaned it. The results showed that in some instances, HPV was still present on the vibrator 24 hours later.

This suggests that sex toys can carry bacteria and spread infections. The most significant risk may be when a person uses the same sex toy with different people during the same sex session or within a short time frame.

Cleaning sex toys may remove some bacteria. It can also rinse off lube and bodily fluids. The right cleaning strategy depends on the type of sex toy:

  • Glass and stainless-steel toys: Clean with soap and water.
  • Hard plastic: Wipe with antibacterial wipes or wash with antibacterial soap.
  • Silicone: Boil for 5–10 minutes or wash in the dishwasher. Antibacterial soap or wipes can also clean silicone.
  • Electrical toys: Unplug the toy, and clean according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure not to submerge the cord or any electrical parts in water. Allow the toy to dry thoroughly before using it again.
  • Porous material toys: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. People can use soap and water on some materials, such as leather and nylon, whereas a person should only use water for vinyl products.

Be sure to wash all parts, including cloth attachments. For example, wash a cloth strap-on harness in the washing machine if the label indicates it is safe to do so.

Clean each toy after use and avoid storing dirty toys, since this encourages the growth of bacteria.

It is safe to use condoms on many sex toys, reducing the need to clean them and lowering the risk of spreading infections.

Anal sex is not usually very messy. Lube and bodily fluids may wet the sheets. Some people notice small traces of fecal matter. If a person has a bowel movement accident or notices large quantities of feces during anal sex, this may signal a health issue.

To reduce mess, try putting down an old towel or sheet.

To clean up afterward, remove any sheets or blankets. Pre-treat stains, then wash immediately.

People who enjoy anal sex can assemble a simple kit to ensure they are always ready. Try putting the following in a bag:

  • old sheet or towel that is easy to clean
  • water wipes for wiping down hands and surfaces
  • antibacterial wipes for cleaning sex toys
  • an enema or anal douche kit
  • condoms

Anal sex is safe for most people. It is a myth that frequent anal sex will damage the bowels or intestines. As long as partners use lubricant and do not force anything into the anus, the risk of injury is very low.

To enjoy anal sex:

  • Take PrEP beforehand if one or more parties are HIV-positive or do not know their status.
  • Use a condom to reduce the risk of transmitting infections.
  • Always use a lubricant. The anus does not make its own lubricant. Dryness increases the risk of pain and tears, so use as much as necessary.
  • Work up to anal sex. Some people become more comfortable by beginning with fingers and toys, then graduating to accepting penetration with larger objects.
  • Practice open communication and ensure all parties enthusiastically consent to anal sex.
  • Go slowly. Sometimes a person needs time to adjust to the sensations of anal sex. Moving slowly allows the muscles to relax.
  • Breathe deeply and bear down as if having a bowel movement to help relax the muscles.

Anal sex presents a higher risk of infection than other sex acts but is safe if all parties are cautious, choose STD testing, and use condoms.

While it is not necessary to clean the anus before anal sex, doing so may make all parties feel more comfortable and facilitate more satisfactory sex.

People who experience pain or other issues during anal sex should discuss this with a doctor, who may be able to identify the source of the problem.