Including why you should always wipe front to back. Always.

By Paige Fowler and Elizabeth Bacharach
Updated November 19, 2020
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Considering the fact that you go to the ~loo~ multiple times per day, you'd think you've got this bathroom business down. Turns out, there are quite a few things that can go wrong during your trips to the latrine that may increase your risk of infection, irritation, and illness. (Hint: Like forgetting to wipe front to back.)

Ahead, five bathroom mistakes you may be making and how to correct them, according to docs.

Sitting On the Toilet Too Long

Spending some extra stall-time scrolling through your Instagram feed is one thing. But if you're actually straining, you could be putting yourself at risk for hemorrhoids — painful, swollen veins in your anus that can bleed, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

"If you're having a hard time having a bowel movement, get up, walk around, and come back," says Anish Sheth, M.D., a gastroenterologist and author of What's Your Poo Telling You?. "Walking around can stimulate the intestines to move things downstream and also help you relax so you don't have to force things out." If you regularly strain when going to the bathroom, take a closer look at your diet. Make sure you're getting enough fiber, about 25 to 30 grams per day, as well as ample water.

Not Wiping Front to Back

Since the day you mastered potty training (and your parents cheered out of sheer joy), you’ve been wiping down under without thinking twice. But, after peeing, many women still wipe in the wrong direction. So, welcome to ~how women should wipe 101~, where everyone gets a refresher on fun topics, such as "how to clean up private parts after urination." Let's begin...

"Always wipe from front to back," says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an ob-gyn and author of V is for Vagina. "Wiping from back to front can bring bacteria from the rectum toward the urethra and increase your chances of a urinary tract infection." And, since women's urethras are relatively short (men's run along the length of their penis), bacteria can easily travel into your bladder and boost your chances even further of developing a miserable UTI. (Tired of all this "wipe front to back" talk? You might want to ditch the TP altogether and start using a bidet attachment.)

Overwiping

When it comes to cleaning up down under, the conversation tends to focus on whether or not you should wipe front to back. And while knowing how women should wipe is important, knowing how much women should wipe is key, too. Next time you wipe, remember less is more — and not just because it keeps you from replacing the toilet paper roll every other day. "Overwiping can irritate the perianal skin and lead to small abrasions that trigger inflammation and itching," says Dr. Sheth, who adds that one or two wipes are all it takes.

If you need to wipe more than that, you may not have completely emptied your system or you could be constipated (in which case, up your fiber and water intake as you would to prevent hemorrhoids). If you still require more than a few wipes, consider switching to wet toilet paper or unscented baby wipes. "Moist wipes decrease the friction of wiping and cause less irritation," explains Dr. Sheth. (And they can also help you avoid an itchy butt.)

Using the Air Dryer

They might as well be called germ blowers: A 2014 study found that jet air dryers spread 27 times as many microbes as paper towels and nearly five times more bacteria than warm-air blowers. And a 2016 study suggests that hot-air dryers suck up the bacteria from the regular bathroom air (which are usually the result of "toilet plume" or fecal matter that's shot into the air upon flushing) and then blow it all over your hands. Your best bet: Grab a paper towel to dry off your mitts and head for the door ASAP to reduce your exposure to the swirling airborne bacteria. (Related: Toilet Seat Covers Don't Actually Protect You from Germs and Bacteria)

Cleaning *Too Much* Down There

Just because there are products that can make your lady bits smell fresh as a flower doesn't mean you should use them. (See: Stop Telling Me to Buy Things for My Vagina) "The vagina doesn't need to be excessively cleansed and refreshed with soaps, washes, sprays, and wipes, which can actually disrupt the normal pH balance and lead to itching, irritation, and rash," explains Dr. Dweck. Simply wash with mild soap and water when showering or bathing.

One tool that can help? A hair dryer to wick away excess moisture. "Use it on a low, cool setting after bathing if you're prone to infection or irritation," she adds. (See also: 10 Things to Never Put In Your Vagina)