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Penis care

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Maintain good hygiene and care of your penis to reduce the chance of developing problems like skin irritations and some common infections.
  • Knowing how to wash your penis properly helps you maintain good penis hygiene.
  • Using a condom and a water-based lubricant can reduce your risk of catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during vaginal, oral and anal sex.

How do I maintain good penis hygiene?

Maintaining good hygiene and care of your penis reduces your chances of developing skin irritations and some common infections.

Make sure you wash underwear properly, and fully rinsed and dry before you wear it.

It is also important to be sure to wash your hands before you urinate (wee) or touch your penis. This is important if you have been handling anything that might irritate your penis, such as chemicals, chilli peppers or heat rub. Knowing how to wash your penis properly is also essential for good penis hygiene.

How do I wash my penis?

When it comes to washing your penis, the same basic principles apply whether you have a foreskin or have been circumcised.

  • Gently wash your penis each day. Carefully pull back and clean underneath the foreskin (if you're not circumcised), as well as the tip of your penis (the glans) — you only need to use water.
  • It is fine to use gentle soap, but using too much could irritate your penis. Don't scrub this sensitive area.
  • To dry, gently pat the tip of your penis, the area underneath your foreskin and the rest of your penis.
  • If you're not circumcised, replace the foreskin over the tip of the penis before putting on your underwear.

It is normal to have some thick, white discharge under the foreskin. This is called smegma. If you have a lot of smegma or it is smelly, you may need to wash your penis more often.

You should never forcibly pull back the foreskin on a child's penis. There is no need to clean underneath the foreskin in young children.

How do I prevent sexually transmitted infections?

There are several ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using a condom and a water based lubricant will reduce your risk of catching STIs during vaginal, oral and anal sex. Latex gloves provide barrier protection during sexual activity involving fingers and dental dams can be used during oral sex to protect against STIs.

Regular STI testing is also important to reduce STI transmission. If you are sexually active, you should be tested for STIs:

  • at least once a year
  • when you change partners
  • if you think you have come into sexual contact with someone who has a STI
  • if you have symptoms of an STI

Ask your doctor about which vaccinations they recommend, to help prevent some STIs. Vaccines are available to help protect against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Speak to your doctor to see if these vaccines are recommended for you.

Medicines are also available to prevent you from getting HIV. These medicines can be taken either before exposure to HIV or can be started within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV.

Using condoms and dental dams is recommended even if you're fully vaccinated. Condoms can help reduce your chance of catching and spreading STIs not included in the available vaccines.

When should I see my doctor?

If the head of the penis becomes painful, red or itchy, of if you have a discharge, you could have balanitis. Check with your doctor if you are concerned.

If you have symptoms of a STI or have been exposed to someone with a STI, see your doctor.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

See your doctor or a local sexual health clinic for advice on vaccination to protect against STIs.

To find your nearest sexual health clinic after-hours medical service, use the healthdirect Service Finder tool.

Resources and support

  • For more information about how to prevent STIs see SA Health.
  • Healthy Male provides information about foreskin hygiene.
  • Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for more information and advice.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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