Adopting good post-sex hygiene habits may limit the risk of infections and allow a person to feel fresher. Typically, this will involve gently cleansing the genital area, drinking water, and urinating afterwards.

It is especially important to clean sex toys to reduce the risk of pathogens on these items. Some other post-sex considerations include cleaning up after anal sex or when trying to conceive.

This article will explore some of the best ways to clean up after sex.

two men changing sheets on their bed as that is how to clean up after sexShare on Pinterest
It is advisable to wash bedsheets if there are any obvious signs of soiling following sex.

There is typically no need to clean up immediately after sex. People may decide to clean up minutes or hours after sexual activity, or they may wait until the morning. However, it is important to clean up at some point afterward.

How long a person waits to clean up may depend on:

  • their hygiene preferences
  • their risk of infection
  • what happens during the sexual activity

Maintaining good body hygiene can reduce the risk of unpleasant odors, skin irritation, and infections. Begin by washing the hands with soap and water to stop the transfer of bacteria to other parts of the body.

It is then a good idea to clean the genitals. The following sections provide some information on best practices.

Vagina care

The vagina is self-cleaning, but there are some things that people can do for a healthy vagina and vulva. The American Sexual Health Association advise that people:

  • Wash the vulva and outside of the vagina with a mild, unscented soap before rinsing well and patting dry.
  • Avoid douching, as this upsets the natural bacterial balance of the vagina.
  • Wipe the vagina and anus from front to back to avoid the transfer of microbes from the anus to the vagina, as this could cause infection.
  • Wear cotton underwear (or do not wear any while sleeping) to reduce moisture around the genitals, as this increases infection risk.

Learn more about cleaning the vulva safely here.

Having sex during menstruation can sometimes be messy. To make this experience more comfortable, try:

  • laying down a towel to cover the bed or another surface
  • having sex in the shower
  • finding a comfortable position, such as lying on one side
  • using a condom
  • removing any tampons before sexual activity
  • keeping wet wipes or a damp washcloth nearby to clean up afterward
  • talking with sex partners to ensure that everyone is happy and consenting

Learn more about sex during menstruation here.

Penis care

To maintain a healthy penis, people should:

  • Gently wash the penis with water and a mild, unscented soap. Those with a foreskin should gently pull it back and clean underneath to remove semen buildup and smegma.
  • Rinse the area well, pat dry, and replace the foreskin.
  • Wear clean underwear that is fully dry (or do not wear any while sleeping).

The skin inside the anus is thin and delicate. Having anal sex can cause small skin tears and bleeding, which increase the risk of infection and microbe transfer.

For these reasons, it is important to take a shower after anal sex. Rinse the area with mild soap and warm water to flush out bacteria.

People may also wish to lay down towels or have anal sex in the shower to minimize mess.

As with other forms of sexual activity, people should wash their genitals with mild, unscented soap after receiving oral sex.

Those who performed the oral sex may also choose to wash their face, mouth, and teeth afterward.

Unwashed sex toys can harbor bacteria, viruses, and fungi, all of which can increase infection risk. To prevent infection, clean sex toys after each use, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If it did not come with instructions for cleaning, carefully wash it with soap and wipe off with a warm, damp washcloth. Do not submerge sex toys unless they are fully waterproof.

Also, avoid sharing sex toys with others. If people do wish to share them, they should cover the toy with a new condom before each use. Even with a condom, however, it will still be necessary to clean the toys between uses.

It is advisable to wash bed sheets roughly once per week. Washing them will remove any sweat, semen, and other bodily fluids, as well as oil and dirt. It also reduces allergy and infection risk.

However, if there is obvious soiling following sex, it is probably best to wash them more frequently. Always wash bed sheets between sexual partners.

Research indicates that it may be most effective for infection control to wash textiles at 60°C (140°F) and tumble dry them afterward.

To reduce the risk of staining and soiling, lay towels on the bed before having sex. Also, a mattress protector can prevent bodily fluids from leaking through the sheets and damaging the mattress.

People who are trying to conceive should be extra careful about avoiding douches, because they can:

  • make it harder to conceive
  • increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • increase the chance of premature birth

It may also be helpful to lie down for a few minutes after sex, to allow the sperm to travel toward the egg. A 2009 study of 391 couples found that if a female lies down after male ejaculation into the uterus, it increases the chance of conception.

In fact, the researchers found that 27% of the females who laid down for 15 minutes after sex became pregnant, compared with 18% of those who got up immediately afterward.

Cleaning the vagina after sex is not a method of pregnancy prevention, as it does not remove all semen from the body.

Learn why it is not possible to remove semen from the vagina here.

Those who do not wish to get pregnant should take preventive measures such as birth control. People can discuss their options with a doctor.

To reduce the chance of pregnancy following sex without a condom or other prevention method, people may consider taking the morning-after pill.

Delaying post-sex cleanup may increase the risk of infection for some people.

To avoid urinary tract infections, which affect 10 in 25 women and 3 in 25 men during their lifetime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend:

  • drinking plenty of water (throughout the day and after sex)
  • urinating regularly, including before and after sex
  • taking showers instead of baths
  • not douching
  • using the correct technique to wipe (front to back)

Practicing good genital care and wearing loose, cotton underwear can help prevent yeast infections. Sexual partners can pass yeast infections to each other, so it is important to seek testing and treatment and avoid sex until the infection clears up.

To reduce the risk of transmitting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), individuals should:

  • Remain vigilant for STI symptoms.
  • Seek regular testing for STIs.
  • Use a barrier form of contraception.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs, as these practices can increase the chance of risky sexual behaviors.
  • Use a water-based personal lubricant with condoms to make sex (especially anal sex) safer.

For convenience, it can be helpful to keep a post-sex cleanup kit. Useful items include:

  • clean towels
  • mattress protectors
  • unscented baby wipes
  • mild, unscented soap
  • clean, cotton underwear
  • clean washcloths, to wipe down sex toys
  • deodorant or body spray
  • a glass of water

Other important items include barrier methods, other forms of birth control, and water-based personal lubricants.

Cleaning up after sex does not have to be a chore. Taking simple steps — such as gently cleansing the genital area, drinking water, and urinating afterward — can go a long way toward reducing the risk of infection and helping people feel fresh.

To stay healthy, people should wash the genitals after anal sex and clean sex toys thoroughly.

Anyone who thinks that they may have an infection should see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment.