Can Lube Cause A UTI? (And Ones That Won’t)

More often than not, a UTI is caused by sexual intercourse and not your personal lubricant. To help prevent UTIs use lube with safe ingredients and a balanced pH.
Painting Of Bare-Legged Woman Clutching Abdomen With Toilet In Background, Painful Urination Concept

Personal lube could cause a UTI (urinary tract infection) — especially if it contains ingredients that disrupt the natural microbiome and lead to bacterial overgrowth — but generally speaking, penetrative sex itself is much more likely to cause a UTI.

Here’s why:

  • UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra, which is located near the vaginal opening. Once inside the urethra, the bacteria multiply, causing inflammation and pain.
  • The urethra is short, having a minimal distance between its opening and the bladder. For this reason, bacteria can reach the bladder rather quickly, leading to a urinary tract infection.
  • UTIs are most commonly caused by bacteria that are found in fecal matter. Unfortunately, the urethra is in close proximity to both the vagina and anus, making it very easy for bacteria to make their way inside during penetrative sex.
  • Despite the fact that most UTIs are caused by sex, you still want to make sure that the lube you are using does not contain ingredients that disrupt your microbiome to help avoid them.

As anyone who’s had an infection of this nature before well knows, UTIs can be incredibly uncomfortable but they are also quite common.

If made from body-safe ingredients that don’t disrupt the genital microbiome, personal lubricant is unlikely to be the primary culprit if you develop a UTI after having sex — more often than not, it’s the sex itself.

Things To Know
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Getting A UTI From Lube

Can Personal Lubricants Cause A UTI?

While a personal lubricant could cause a UTI (urinary tract infection), the truth is that penetrative sex is more likely to result in this type of infection.

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How It Happens

How Can Lube Cause A UTI?

The genitals have a delicate microbiome that’s maintained naturally by the body, yet it’s one that can be easily disrupted by unsafe lube ingredients that cause irritation.

Additionally, a personal lubricant that has an imbalanced pH or osmolality can do the same.

Anything that causes irritation to the genital skin can increase your risk of infection by supporting the growth of bacteria on the skin’s surface — including the types of bacteria commonly responsible for UTIs.

But a lube’s pH is a major factor — especially when you consider that even the vagina’s natural pH can be problematic during certain stages of life.

One study notes that an increased vaginal pH resulting from menopause — a perfectly normal condition — can increase the risk of bacterial overgrowth (specifically Enterobacteriaceae), leading to UTIs.

Dr. Susan Milstein, a human sexuality health educator on our medical review board, said that as some women age, “they find themselves needing to use incontinence pads.”

“Using these pads can also increase the chances of getting a UTI,” Dr. Milstein said.

UTIs are infections of the urinary tract caused by bacteria (most commonly types found in fecal matter) that make their way inside the urethra and eventually, into the bladder.

The urethra lies in very close proximity to the vaginal opening and the anus.

During vaginal sex, bacteria from the anal area can transfer to the penis, fingers, or sex toy that’s penetrating the vagina, making direct contact with it and the urethra.

The distance between the opening of the urethra and the bladder itself is relatively short so once UTI-causing bacteria make their way inside, they only need to travel a short distance to reach the bladder.

When this occurs and the bacteria multiply, a UTI can develop.

As we mentioned earlier, however, penetrative sex is more likely to cause a UTI compared to lube.

That said, if a personal lubricant is made from ingredients that cause irritation or it has an improperly balanced pH or osmolality level that does the same, it can potentially lead to bacterial overgrowth — and a urinary tract infection.

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How To Avoid It

How To Avoid UTIs From Lube

The best way to avoid contracting a UTI while using personal lubricant is to make sure that it contains ingredients that are safe for your body and if water-based, that it has a pH and osmolality that’s compatible with the type of sex you’re having.

Additionally, it’s important to clean your genital area properly (including after sex) and make sure that any genitals, fingers, or sex toys that come into contact with the vagina have not first touched the anus.

This will help to prevent the transfer of bacteria from the anal area to the vagina and urethra.

To avoid getting a UTI from lube, you should: 

  • Select personal lubricants made from safe ingredients that will not cause skin irritation that could lead to infection
  • Select water-based personal lubricants that have a safe pH and osmolality for their intended use — with a pH between 3.8 and 4.5 for vaginal sex (although Dr. Milstein advises that women should use a lubricant with a higher pH after menopause) and 5.5 to 7 for anal sex and osmolality under 1200 mOsm/kg (ideally below 380)
  • Avoid lubricants that contain body-safe ingredients you are allergic to or sensitive to, as these can cause irritation on the skin and increase your risk of infection

One study found that both water-based and silicone-based lubes were “rarely associated with genital symptoms.”

Our editor-in-chief, Alison Huff, struggled with recurring UTIs as a result of menopause and personally favors silicones because they are the least likely to irritate her own skin.

Everybody is different — what matters most is that your lubricant is made from safe ingredients that are gentle to your skin and if water-based, has an appropriate pH and osmolality that won’t cause irritation.

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Best Lubes For Avoiding To UTIs

Best Lubes For Avoiding UTIs

Water-based lubricants are generally best for those that are prone to getting UTIs, provided they’re pH-balanced and have a safe osmolality level that won’t cause irritation.

We’ve included some of our favorites below — all of which have been personally tested by our team.

Editor's Note: When you purchase a product via an affiliate link (*) on our site, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. On behalf of our entire team, thank you in advance for your support!

→ For more, read: 4 Best & Safest Water-Based Lubes: Tested & Reviewed By Our Team

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If You Get A UTI From Lube

What To Do If You Get A UTI After Using Lube

If you find yourself experiencing a urinary tract infection after having sex (even without using a personal lubricant),  it’s important to understand what a UTI is and the symptoms to watch out for, and know when it’s time to call your doctor.

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What Is It

What Is A UTI?

A urinary tract infection (also known as a UTI) is a type of bacterial infection that most often occurs from E.coli or Enterobacteriaceae.

A UTI can occur anywhere along your urinary system, such as the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra (located near the vagina — and the place from where you urinate).

Most UTIs affect the lower urinary tract (urethra and bladder), however, they can travel further — affecting the kidneys and resulting in a more serious infection.

Those who are going through menopause or are pregnant may be more susceptible to UTIs due to fluctuating hormones and vaginal pH.

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Symptoms

Symptoms Of UTI

Once you’ve had one, you’ll know exactly what to look for but if you have a UTI, there is a long list of potential symptoms and sensations to be aware of.

It’s important to note that you may not experience all of them.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate, during the day or night (nocturia)
  • Passing small amounts of urine frequently, and feeling like there should be more
  • Feeling as though you have not finished urinating after doing so — you still feel like you need to pee
  • A noticeable burning sensation during urination
  • Cramping or a sensation of “spasms” in the lower abdomen during and immediately after urination
  • Feeling as though you have not finished urinating after doing so — you still feel like you need to pee
  • Passing small amounts of urine frequently, and feeling like there should be more
  • Urine that appears cloudy or milky
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink, or dark colored — which can be a sign of blood present in the urine
  • Traces of pink on the toilet paper after wiping — another sign of blood in the urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • General pelvic pain in women
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What Does It Feel Like

What Does A UTI Feel Like?

A urinary tract infection can vary in sensation from person to person depending on the severity of the infection, the location of the infection, and the length of time that has passed since the initial onset of symptoms.

Although the symptom list is long, you may not experience every single one.

For many women who are prone to recurring UTIs and know exactly what to look for, the first sign involves a sense of feeling slightly “off” in the lower abdomen.

“I almost never experience a burning sensation when I pee,” our editor-in-chief, Alison Huff, said of her recurring UTIs. She continued:

At this point, I can almost ‘feel’ one coming on before it even begins. It’s a sort of malaise in my lower abdomen…a twinge that something is wrong. 

And then it turns quickly. 

Within 24 hours, like clockwork, I’m dealing with intense bladder spasms whenever I sit down to urinate.”

For other women, however, the first symptoms often involve a burning sensation during urination, bladder spasms, and a frequent need to urinate — yet never quite feeling like they’ve “finished” doing so when they’re done.

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When To See Your Doctor

When To See Your Doctor

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of a UTI, especially if you’ve never had this type of infection before, or you are immunocompromised, call your doctor as soon as you can.

A UTI can spread to your kidneys if left untreated.

And yes, some UTIs will go away on their own if you drink enough water to flush the bacteria from your bladder, but that isn’t true for all of them.

A urine test (performed by a doctor or lab) will show the presence of bacteria (including the type), blood, or nitrites in the urine — all common markers of UTI.

The course of treatment generally involves antibiotics and plenty of water — which helps to flush bacteria that have colonized the bladder.

There are over-the-counter (OTC) urine tests available, although these are not 100% accurate and won’t tell you much beyond showing the presence of blood or nitrites.

At the end of the day, proper testing and treatment under a doctor’s care will help you to avoid complications and recurrence.

When To Seek Immediate Care

If you become exceedingly lethargic, feel achy all over, develop a fever, or feel pain in your lower back or the lower sides of your back, call your doctor immediately or head to an urgent care facility, as these can be signs of an advanced UTI or kidney infection and require immediate care.

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FAQs

FAQs About Lube And UTIs

Below, we’ll answer some of the most common questions associated with personal lubricants and UTIs.

Can You Use Lube If You Have A UTI?

Technically, lube won’t affect a UTI for better or worse, but sex definitely can.

If you currently have a UTI, it is best to hold off on sexual intercourse until your symptoms have cleared since penetration can put pressure against your urinary tract and friction can irritate your urethra.

Additionally, penetrative sex can also introduce new bacteria to the urethra while undergoing treatment.

In fact, it’s wise to wait until after you have completed your course of treatment and have gone for several days without any symptoms.

You might feel “fine” after just a couple of days of UTI treatment, but penetrative sex can exacerbate symptoms or cause them to flare up — often worse than they were, to begin with.

Does Lube Help Prevent A UTI?

Using lubricant may help to prevent UTIs by reducing friction and mitigating irritation of the urethra during penetration.

Using a small amount of lube during sex can prevent friction and reduce irritation, but it’s important to select one that is kind to the skin, made from safe ingredients, and pH-balanced with a safe osmolality.

Can Coconut Oil As Lube Cause A UTI?

No.

Any oil-based lubricant (including coconut oil) can increase the risk of vaginal infections — primarily yeast and bacterial vaginosis — however, UTIs are caused by bacteria found in fecal matter and the anus.

Does Glycerin In Lube Cause UTI?

Glycerin in lube won’t cause a spontaneous UTI to develop but it can lead to yeast infections or genital irritation.

Can Flavored Lube Cause UTI?

If made from unsafe ingredients that lead to genital irritation, flavored lube may cause favorable conditions for a UTI to develop, especially if you’re prone to recurring infections.

What Other Things (Besides Lube) Might Cause A UTI?

Some other causes of UTI other than lube include:

  • Not urinating frequently, as bacteria can multiply in your bladder if it isn’t being flushed out often enough
  • Not urinating right after sexual intercourse; peeing after sex can help to flush out any bacteria that may have made their way inside the urethra during penetration
  • For women, being mindful to wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating to avoid the transfer of bacteria from fecal matter to the urethra
  • Not keeping the genital area clean
  • Wearing jeans and underwear that are too tight and not made of breathable material (like cotton)

Is There Any Way To Prevent UTIs During Sex?

Always be sure to pee right after sexual intercourse to flush bacteria from the urethra and clean the genitals thoroughly afterward.

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Conclusion

In Conclusion

If you’re feeling stressed about getting a UTI from a personal lubricant, please know that you’re not alone.

The “good” news is that, more often than not, a UTI is caused by the actual sex and not the lube.

Following best practices when it comes to vaginal sex and self-hygiene and choosing a lubricant made from safe ingredients (with properly balanced pH and osmolality) can greatly help to prevent UTIs.

If you follow our guidance, you can still enjoy using your favorite lube with ease.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Everything Lube hub, an in-depth and evolving resource that comprehensively explores all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

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