How something gets clean isn’t important as long as it gets clean, right? Well, when it comes to cleaning your buttocks, the “how” is actually really important. “If you’re not careful when wiping, you can accidentally introduce bacteria into places that it’s not supposed to be,” says Ashley Wood, a registered nurse.

The most common result of wiping the wrong way is the development of a urinary tract infection (UTI). If you’ve never had a UTI in your life, consider yourself extremely lucky. UTIs are the worst – you may experience pelvic pain, an increased urge to pee, a burning sensation when you try to pee, and sometimes blood may be present in the urine. The good news is, you can decrease your risk of developing one by wiping the correct way.

So how exactly should you wipe? “It’s always a good idea to wipe front to back,” says Wood. This helps keep any germs or bacteria from coming in contact with your urethra, the duct that transmits urine from the bladder to outside your body. It’s especially important for women to do this as women have shorter urethras than men, which explains why UTIs are much more common in women than men.

Furthermore, you should be mindful of how much pressure you apply when wiping. Wiping too hard, especially with a dry and scratchy toilet paper, can cause small abrasions and anal itching. If you’re someone who chooses to use wet wipes, be gentle. “Do not use them to the point that they irritate the area because this can make it easier for bacteria to enter,” says Wood. “Keep in mind that wipes that have a fragrance are more likely to be irritative.”

While it may seem silly, the direction in which you wipe really does matter. If you want to stay healthy down there, be sure to go from front to back.

xx, The FabFitFun Team

P.S. Doctors share their best advice for avoiding a UTI.