There’s no beating around this bush: Your penis should be sparkling clean before you go introducing that thing to a new friend. But it’s one thing to blast the sludge off with water and soap and quite another to douse it in cologne, Febreze or, as we heard recently, baking soda.
Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish gave men a little genital-cleaning advice recently that has us wondering just what the best practices are on penis upkeep. Haddish, currently making the promotional rounds for her role as a no-nonsense teacher in the film Night School, told The Late Late Show With James Corden that if she were a teacher in real life, she’d teach sex ed. First thing on her curriculum: keeping everything clean below deck.
“Lesson one would be hygiene, because good hygiene equals good sex,” Haddish began. “I would tell women, I would tell the young ladies in my class, ‘Look, you’re going to have to take a bath at least once a week, okay? You gotta drown it. Okay, you got to drown it. Put like a half a box of baking soda in there, get the pH right.’”
For the record, women have long been told to try home remedies like this for best vaginal maintenance, but the truth is, we don’t need to douche. The vagina is a self-cleaning oven, and squirting other chemicals up there messes with the natural flora.
But this was the first we’d heard anyone give men the same advice.
“Fellas, you need to go ahead and put that hot dog in some hot water,” Haddish said. “Soak that thing in some baking soda as well. You scratching? That’s yeast. That is not just jock itch. … Soak that dog.”
Okay, let’s ask an expert.
“There is no scientific evidence that this makes any sense,” urologist Dudley Danoff, author of The Ultimate Guide to Male Sexual Health, tells MEL by phone. “We might sometimes suggest baking soda in the place of maybe Johnson’s baby powder, because it has the ability to absorb a lot of moisture. So if you have a lot of moisture in your shorts, it might be helpful. But to soak it in baking soda is ridiculous.”
While it’s unclear how much peen soaking men may be doing already, or may do as a result of Haddish’s advice, we do know men need some instruction in this department in general. As Merritt K. investigated for us in a recent piece, smelly dick is a real problem. Nearly every woman has a story about such a run-in, whether it’s smegma, musty or moldy smells or outright infections.
As gross as that may be, the solution is pretty simple, and Merritt’s advice to use soap and water stands as correct:
A note on soap: I’m of the opinion that your cleansing products should, for the most part, be as utilitarian as possible. That means no fragrance and no skin-irritating ingredients. That goes doubly for sensitive skin. Please don’t reach for a bar of hand soap, and if you can, resist the allure of the musky men’s body wash. Something like CeraVe’s Hydrating Body Wash is perfect, and it even comes in a plain, degendered bottle. It’s clean and simple, and if you want fragrance, you can apply it afterwards without making it fight the lingering scent of your body wash for olfactory dominance.
I ask Danoff if using baking soda in this way could be harmful to men, as some people say it can be an irritant on the skin. Danoff says baking soda is pretty benign substance as substances go, so it’s unlikely to cause any damage. “It would be like dangling your penis in mustard,” he says. “It’s not going to help you, but it’s not going to harm you.”
Danoff’s best guess is that Haddish — who has a bad habit of offering totally unsubstantiated medical advice to her followers, like drinking turpentine — might be trying to make a joke about baking soda’s enlargement properties in baking working some kind of similar lifting magic on the penis. “It’s a joke and it sounds good as a joke,” he says. “Baking soda rises, implying maybe that if you soak your dick in baking soda, it gets bigger.”
Weirdly, that’s actually a thing on the internet. Multiple sites pitch the idea that men can soak their penis in a mixture of warm water and baking soda or scrub it with the mixture to make it bigger. “Even if the size remains the same, the erection will become more stable and prolonged,” one such site promises.
But, sadly, that is also not true. “Scientifically, there is no basis for that,” Danoff says.
“As long as you take a bath every day and use good soap and warm water, and wash your underwear, there’s no reason for it,” he says. “You don’t need a mini Jacuzzi to clean your penis.”