How To Get Rid of Vaginal Odor

Rule No.1: Unlearn everything about scented vaginal products

The intensity of vaginal odor may vary during a person's menstrual cycle, after exercise, during pregnancy, or after having sex. It's normal to experience mild vaginal odor, but a strong, foul smell could signal an underlying problem. Different conditions, including infections, can cause a potent vaginal odor that gives off a "fishy" smell.

If you have an infection, you might also notice other symptoms, such as burning or discharge. You should see a healthcare provider for proper treatment. However, if you want to reduce the intensity of an odor not caused by an infection, you can perform some simple techniques at home.

This article discusses how to get rid of vaginal odor, signs of an infection, and when to see a healthcare provider.

A woman applying moisturizer after taking a shower

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7 Ways to Get Rid of Noticeable Vaginal Odors

Following certain hygiene practices and avoiding behaviors that disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina can help reduce vaginal odors.

But First, Healthy vs. Unhealthy Odors 

Every vagina has a unique scent. How a vagina smells may depend on its pH levels, which are measures of the vagina’s acidity. Different types of bacteria live in the vagina to help regulate acidity levels. Unbalanced pH levels may prompt unpleasant smells.

Changes in vaginal odor may be due to hormones or diet. Many times, these odors will go away on their own. Vaginal odor can be considered normal if you don’t have any other symptoms.

An infection could be the culprit if the vaginal odor doesn’t go away and gives off a strong scent that’s fishy, sour, or rotten. Other issues, such as itching, burning, irritation, and discharge, may accompany this persistent odor.

Learn Proper Vulva Hygiene

To maintain proper hygiene, use warm water to gently clean around the opening of the vagina (the vulva). You can also use mild or unscented soap, but it isn’t necessary. Never place soap or other products directly in the vagina.

Difference Between the Vagina and Vulva

The vulva refers to the outer portion of a woman’s genitals, including the clitoris, labia, and vaginal opening. The vagina is the internal area of a woman’s genitals that connects the vulva with the cervix and uterus.

Wear the Right Clothing

Tight-fitting clothing or undergarments can trap sweat and bacteria, which can contribute to an unpleasant odor. To prevent odors and vaginal infections, wearing loose, cotton underwear and clothing is best.

Don't Wait to Shower

Sitting in damp undergarments can promote bacteria buildup. Shower immediately after exercising or swimming in a lake or pool.

Stay Hydrated

Vaginal odor that has a strong ammonia smell could be due to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can keep you hydrated and lessen the intensity of this smell.

Daily Recommended Water Intake for Women

Women should consume about 11.5 cups of fluids daily from both food and beverages, including water. About 20% of the water you need comes from food, so women need to drink about 9 cups of fluid per day.

Use Tampons or Menstrual Cups

To avoid unpleasant vaginal odors, you may want to use a tampon or menstrual cup during your period. Pads and pantyliners can trap more moisture next to your skin.

Try a Probiotic

Some research suggests taking a probiotic supplement may promote a healthy pH balance in the vagina and reduce odor. Probiotics are also found in foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut.  

Change Your Diet

Try changing up your diet if you notice that certain foods are triggering unpleasant vaginal odor. You can keep a food diary to better pinpoint possible food triggers. Slight alterations to what you eat could help lessen the smell.

Foods that Trigger Vaginal Odor

Some foods that may change how your vagina smells include garlic, onion, spices, broccoli, and asparagus.

Tips for Smelly Discharge 

Pay attention to your vaginal hygiene, water intake, clothing choice, and diet if you notice a smelly discharge. You may want to alter some habits to see if they produce changes.

Ruling Out the Cause of Vaginal Odors

If your vaginal odor is persistent, very strong, or accompanied by other symptoms, you must rule out other causes. Some common infections that can cause vaginal odor include:

Additionally, a tampon left in the vagina can give off a strong smell if you forget to take it out. In rare cases, vaginal odor can also be a symptom of cervical cancer.

When to See a Healthcare Provider 

You should see a healthcare provider when you have other symptoms (burning, itching, irritation, discharge) along with vaginal odor. It’s also a good idea to get checked out if the smell is foul, doesn’t go away, or bothers you.

The Myth About Vaginal Hygiene Products

You may have seen products that claim to decrease vaginal odors, but research shows these remedies may worsen the issue.

In one study, women who used feminine products, such as wipes, washes, sprays, creams, or powders, in or around their vaginas were three times more likely to experience some vaginal health problem, like an infection.

Douching can also promote an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina, leading to infections or other problems. Experts recommend avoiding douching.


Vaginal odor is usually harmless. The scent may fluctuate depending on your hormones, diet, hygiene, or other factors. Sometimes, a foul-smelling odor could indicate an infection or health problem. That’s why it’s important to see your healthcare provider if the smell is intense or if you also have other symptoms. Proper hygiene, wearing the right clothing, and paying attention to your diet can help control vaginal odor. But douching or using other feminine products can make matters worse.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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