29th March, 20215 min read

Hygiene during your period – your questions answered

Medical reviewer:Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author:Daniel Piggott
Last reviewed: 29/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Feeling unwell?

Try our Smart Symptom Checker, which is trusted by millions.

When you have your monthly period (menstruate), hygiene is important. There are even awareness campaigns, such as menstrual hygiene day, to help ensure everyone who has periods can manage them hygienically.

But whether you’re having your first period or you’ve had them for years, you might have some questions about menstrual hygiene management. So read on to learn the answers and get menstrual hygiene tips to help you stay healthy and comfortable.

How often should you wash during your period?

Whether you’re having your period or not, you should wash your genitals and bottom once a day. This includes the area around your vagina (vulva), anus and in between (perineum). It’s best to use a gentle, unperfumed soap and water.

During your period, you may want to wash more than once a day. Period blood can create an environment for bacteria to grow, and washing can also help you feel more comfortable.

However, there’s no need to wash inside your vagina, as it cleans itself with natural discharge. Washing it can actually disrupt its healthy balance of bacteria and lead to irritation.

A bar of white, natural and gentle soap in a dish

Should you use wipes or washes during your period?

Feminine wipes and washes can also disrupt your vagina’s healthy balance of bacteria, particularly if they contain perfumes. That’s why washing with plain soap and water is generally the best way to keep the area around your vagina (vulva) clean during your period.

If there are times when you need to use wipes – such as when you’re out and about – look for products that don’t contain any fragrance or alcohol and have a balanced pH, to minimise the chance of irritation.

Can you have a bath during your period?

There’s generally no reason to avoid having a bath during your period – just remember not to have the water too hot, as heat can bring on heavier bleeding.

For the best hygiene, it’s a good idea to make sure the tub is clean and to rinse your genitals (such as with a shower hose) before sitting down in the water.

Yellow rubber duck in bath water

Do you really need to wash your hands before and after changing a tampon or pad?

It’s important to wash your hands before changing any sanitary product – especially if it’s a tampon or menstrual cup, which you insert into your vagina. Using clean hands will reduce the risk of introducing germs to your vagina or genital area, which could cause infections.

Washing your hands after changing a sanitary product is also important, to avoid transferring bacteria from your genitals or bottom to anything you touch afterwards.

Can you use a tampon and a pad at the same time?

If your blood flow is heavy or you’re worried about leaks, you can wear a pad as well as a tampon for back-up protection.

However, if your bleeding is often so heavy that you need to use 2 types of sanitary product at the same time, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor. Very heavy periods can sometimes be a sign of a health condition.

It’s generally a good idea to alternate between using tampons and pads during your period. This is because tampons are associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS) – a rare but serious condition where bacteria release toxins into your bloodstream.

The risk is low and not wearing tampons all the time during your period (using pads at night, for example) will further reduce your risk. For the same reason, you should never wear more than 1 tampon at a time.

Two tampons, a pad and a menstrual cup lined up on a pink background

What about extra-absorbent tampons or pads?

Extra-absorbent sanitary products can be helpful if you have heavy periods. But you should always use a product that has the lowest absorbency you need for your flow. This will help to avoid the risk of bacterial growth, which can lead to infections.

Extra-absorbent tampons may increase the risk of TSS and soak up more of your natural vaginal fluids, which isn’t great for the health of your vagina.

Regardless of the absorbency you use, you should always change your tampon or pad regularly – at least every 4 to 8 hours.

Do you need to change your tampon or pad during the night?

You can wear a tampon for up to 8 hours, so if you don’t sleep for longer than this you can wear one overnight. It’s best to insert one just before you go to bed and replace it as soon as you wake up.

You can safely wear a pad overnight, as your blood flow slows down while you sleep. Some people prefer to use a pad at night, to avoid the possibility of having to get up to change a tampon.

Menstrual cups, which don’t absorb any of your natural vaginal fluids, are also safe to use overnight.

Key points

  • it’s important to look after your health with good hygiene during your period
  • wash the area around your vagina (vulva) at least once day with gentle, unperfumed soap and water
  • don’t wash inside your vagina – it cleans itself and washing it can disrupt its natural balance
  • always wash your hands before and after changing a sanitary pad or tampon
  • use the lowest absorbency of tampons or pads for your flow and change them every 4 to 8 hours
  • you should never leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours
Was this article helpful?

We include references at the end of every article, so you know where we get our facts. We only ever take evidence from medically-recognised sources, approved by the UK National Health Service's The Information Standard, or certified by Health On the Net (HON). When we talk about popular health trends or claims, we'll always tell you if there's very little or no evidence to back them up. Our medical team also checks our sources, making sure they're appropriate and that we've interpreted the science correctly.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.