Most women are aware of the importance of hygiene. For more information on the importance of hygiene for women, read on. 

What is hygiene?

Hygiene is the practice of cleaning parts of the body and is related to good health. Hygiene practices vary greatly from culture to culture and indeed from family to family. Hygiene is often mentioned in relation to health and hygiene, oral hygiene, food hygiene and personal hygiene.

Examples of hygiene include hand washing, bathing or showering, oral hygiene and hygiene around food preparation and serving.

Why is hygiene so important to women?

Women’s hygiene is so important for many reasons:

  • Our own personal health depends upon a level of cleanliness to keep us free from disease, such as skin diseases, respiratory diseases or gastro intestinal diseases
  • Factors such as sweating, menstruation (having your period) and vaginal discharge make personal hygiene vital, to prevent body odour and to maintain health
  • As carers, women prepare food for others, clean for others and carry out personal hygiene for children. This means that women are at risk of spreading germs and hence disease.

What about hand washing?

Hand washing is vital, particularly to mothers. We need to wash our hands many times during the day, so a good habit should be established, which maintains personal and family hygiene, as well as caring for your hands.

We need to wash our hands:

  • After using the toilet
  • After changing a nappy
  • After cleaning dirty areas
  • Before and after food preparation, particularly raw meat
  • Before meals or feeding little ones
  • After playing outside with children
  • After gardening

… and many more times during the day.

As a minimum a hand wash involves:

  • Wetting your hands (any temperature water that is comfortable is okay, there is no benefit of hot over cold water)
  • Applying soap and rubbing all over the hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Don’t forget the thumbs and finger tips and between fingers and thumbs
  • Rinse well
  • Dry well with a clean towel
  • Apply a moisturiser occasionally through the day if the skin on your hands is dry.

And here’s another tip – a nurse at a study day once recommended that women do a couple of pelvic floor muscle exercises every time they turn on a tap!

See a link below to find out more about pelvic floor exercises.

What are the benefits of good hygiene?

Hand washing – prevents spread of germs and disease.

Menstrual hygiene – changing tampons and sanitary towels every 4 hours during menstruation and washing at least daily prevents body odour, infection and skin irritation.

Daily washing – either a bath or shower, or even a strip wash, removes stale sweat from areas such as the groin, underarms and feet. This again prevents body odour, infection and skin irritation.

Oral hygiene – this is vital to prevent bad breath, gum disease and dental carries (resulting in fillings). Cleaning teeth and gums daily involves brushing teeth, gums, tongue and inside of cheeks for 2-3 minutes, dental flossing and possibly a mouth rinse too. Ensure you brush just before bed to prevent build up of plaque (the sticky substance on the teeth that causes decay) through the night

Clean clothes – are also important as sweat will be absorbed into clothing and turn stale. Cotton underwear is best, as its natural fibres are less likely to smell or irritate.

What are the risks associated with poor hygiene?

There are many risks to poor hygiene. Here are a few common conditions:

  • Gastro intestinal bugs (diarrhoea and vomiting) from poor hand washing techniques – supervise your young children’s hand washing and do spot checks occasionally as they get a bit older. Keep finger nails clean and short
  • Skin irritation and infection
  • Body odour
  • Poor hygiene around menstruation and tampons (not changing them frequently enough) can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but dangerous bacterial disease
  • Dental problems, particularly gum disease, resulting in fillings or teeth extractions
  • Poor foot hygiene can cause odour, Athlete’s foot (a fungal infection between the toes) and skin irritation. Toe nails should be cut straight across and kept short and clean too.

Some great hygiene tips

  • A daily shower or bath – a shower is even more hygienic as you are rinsing the water off as you go and usually uses less hot water so it’s great for the environment too!
  • Take particular care of your hygiene during your period and change your towel/tampon every 4 hours
  • Brush and rinse your mouth twice daily and visiting the dentist at least once a year
  • Foot care is vital – keep them clean, look after your toe nails and soak your feet occasionally too – it’s great stress therapy. Pop some kiddies’ marbles in the dish too for a free foot massage.
  • Wear cotton underwear always
  • Change your underwear daily and other clothes that may be sweaty, particularly after sport or activity
  • Most importantly … Insist on thorough hand washing from the whole family – and any little friends who come to visit!
In this fully revised edition, a naturopathic physician shows women how to use the latest in natural therapies to heal your body and promote good health. This essential illustrated natural health resource for all women shows how women can use nutrition, lifestyle and natural therapies to keep themselves fit and well.

Useful articles

To learn about pelvic floor exercises visit our article on Tips for Healthy Perineums.

For more information on healthy eating habits, visit our article Women and Diet

For some great ideas about getting active, visit Women and Exercise, our great, new Kiwi Families article

Women need time out in order to function effectively in their many roles in life – click here to read more about it.


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Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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Well it was really helpful reading this article, thanks for sharing.

Superior, healthier hygiene for women = the Hand Bidet Sprayer. Washing with water conveniently at the toilet is 10X cleaner than using Toilet Paper. Better than a Bidet and fits in any size bathroom without new plumbing.

Jessica Michelle

This is an amazing article and really reminds women the importance of maintaining good hygiene–especially around that special time of the month. Paula, something that I have recently found for proper disposal of feminine hygiene products is something called Scensibles Bags. They are eco-friendly, scented, discreet disposal bags that not only minimize odor, but protect you and others against harmful blood-borne pathogens. I never knew until recently that a big issue with the receptacles in bathrooms–are they harmful blood-borne pathogens that we can come into contact with. What do you think and have you tried or heard of Scensibles Bags?

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